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Coring the Scotia on-board the Scotia

Fri, 2019-08-16 10:00

Charting a course to the Scanner SAC

It is 0300 in the morning and the MRV Scotia is steaming to the eastern section of the Fladen ground, in the central North Sea. We have received the go-ahead to run a short survey over the giant Scanner and Scotia pockmark complexes. These large conical shaped depressions found occasionally in the North Sea and on the seabed around western Scotland form through the release of gas produced within organic rich sediments or deeper hydrocarbon stores. They represent an important pathway for the cycling of carbon from the seabed to the ocean – sometimes known as ‘blue carbon’. These particular pockmarks are some of the largest within Europe and have been sporadically studied, since being discovered in 1983. But are they still actively releasing gas? This region has been designated by the European Commission as a Special Area of Conservation due to these gas seepage structures, of unknown age, and the presence of rare Methane Derived Authigenic Carbonate (MDAC). Very few marine sites are recognised at this level on the basis of their geological significance.

The ship carefully cruises over the Scanner pockmark at half speed, five knots. Within one of the containers on the hangar deck that serves as our lab, we observe the precise shape of the seabed.  The screen shows live data from the ship’s single-beam echosounder – acoustic reflections from the seabed and within the water column. Typically these include fish, clouds of plankton, turbulence from the ships thrusters, and bubble plumes. The Scanner pockmark looms into view, its profile clearly visible as a pronounced depression on the seabed – but there is no trace of any unusual acoustic signals within the water column, no sign of any gas. As the ship maintains its course north towards Scotia pockmark, over the flat ground of the North Sea, tension grows as I eagerly hope for any signs of activity. The data on the screen moves painfully slowly – each second seemingly longer than the last. Then the depths begin to increase. One hundred and fifty metres, one hundred and fifty one, one hundred and fifty two – this must be Scotia. And there, projecting like an ‘acoustic pillar’ on the seabed, is the clear signature that can only be associated with gas erupting from the seabed. A 50-m high, flame-shaped cone on the echogram, like nothing else we had seen on the cruise, originating from the pockmark. “That’s it. It has to be. It’s gas. It’s still active!” I exclaim. “Are you seeing this?!”, Tom Bradwell, my supervisor, says as he comes smiling into the lab – having just watched the same footage from the bridge. We take a few more phone pictures of the plume and do some celebratory backslapping before the hard work begins.

Image from the ER60 echosounder showing the plume of gas from Scotia

We have been given permission to sample the seabed within the Scotia pockmark, onboard the MRV Scotia, providing we do not disturb any of the rare MDACs. First we lower the CTD on a cable to measure the physical properties of the seawater five metres above the pockmark and collect a sample – to be later analysed for methane content. Then we carefully lower a multi-corer rig with a HD video camera and lights attached. The beaming light slowly descends into the darkness of the sea. Its eerie glow like the lights of captain Nemo’s Nautilus in 20,000 leagues under the sea. Once safely recovered, we excitedly look at the footage. The video shows no MDAC within this locality, and no clear signs of bubbles, but there seem to be unusually strong bottom currents as sediment particles flow hypnotically across the screen. With no signs of precious MDAC, the gravity corer is prepared and dropped in exactly the same location – using the ship’s precise dynamic positioning thrusters to full effect. The gravity corer, a 3-m long metal pipe with a lead weight, weighing over a tonne, collects a sediment core from the deepest part of Scotia pockmark. As it is brought back on deck, I immediately remove the core liner to see what has been collected. The muddy sediment is dense, sticky and yet doesn’t really smell; I would have expected a gas-rich core to smell sulphurous or eggy. We cap the core, measure its length and store it away. The Scotia does a second pass with the echosounder, this time perpendicular to the previous track. The results again show a clear gas flare billowing from the centre of the pockmark. There is no doubt that the Scotia pockmark is actively venting gas! It remains to be seen what the sediment core will show.

The lights of the multi-corer being lowered into the sea

Before the cruise, we knew that these giant pockmarks existed, we had their exact coordinates – and yet tonight’s discovery of active venting feels like a real discovery – real exploratory science. I’m sure that this late-night experience will stay with me, echoing throughout my PhD research and perhaps beyond. It’s this deep sense of exploration and adventure miles out at sea that is pushing me further into my academic research in the search for answers. What is the history and formation mechanism of the giant Scotia pockmark and others like it? How much gas does it produce and what is its fate? And how does it impact life on the seafloor? Answering these questions will shed light on the complex carbon cycling process currently ongoing from seafloor to ocean and atmosphere. Until then, I would like to thank the crew of the MRV Scotia, my colleagues on the ‘Blue Carbon 2019’ cruise and Marine Scotland for making such an endeavour possible.

by Allan Audsley

Further Information:

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Vacancy: Mechanical Engineer, closing date 16 September

Wed, 2019-08-14 10:00

We are currently seeking applications for a Mechanical Engineer within the Directorate for Marine Scotland based in Aberdeen. This is a permanent and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the essential criteria below will be invited to the assessments.

The Engineering Group would like to employ a B1 Mechanical Engineer in a business critical service area of Marine Scotland Science. This will allow us to continue to deliver the group’s objectives and the support provided to MSS in areas of work including:

  • Management of Marine Protected Area conservation objectives;
  • Fulfil our EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive requirements for Descriptors 1 and 6;
  • Renewables installation and interaction with the marine environment;
  • Commercial fish stock assessments; and
  • Consequences of oil and gas infrastructure decommissioning.
Qualifications Required:

Candidates must hold a Mechanical Engineering qualification or equivalent.

Other qualifications equivalent to these may also be acceptable, if you are in any doubt please contact to discuss.

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be automatically sifted out.

Essential Criteria:
  1. Proven, practical, time-served workshop experience in Mechanical Engineering
  2. Candidates should have proven experience in working effectively within a team of mechanical engineers, with the capacity to work independently in the workshop if required
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with all aspects of a Mechanical Engineering facility, including use of machine tools, welding, fabrication and basic materials technology.
  4. Effective communication at all levels
Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find below. To apply, you must fully complete and submit an online application via this website before the closing date. To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Neil Collie who can be reached at or 0131 244 3669 or Brian Ritchie at or 0131 244 2866.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact the Resourcing Team on 0131 244 5739 or via

Further information for this job:

Person Specification and Further Information for Applicants

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Vacancy: Offshore Chemical Risk Assessor – closing date 10 September

Tue, 2019-08-13 15:00

We are currently seeking applications for an Offshore Chemical Risk Assessor within the Directorate for Marine Scotland based in Aberdeen. This is a 18 month fixed term and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the essential criteria below will be invited to the assessments.

The post-holder will work within OEEAG at MSS to contribute to the requirements of the SLA. This will be achieved through the provision of recommendations, and the assessment and evaluation of chemical permits relating to offshore oil and gas exploration and production with regards to their physical and chemical impact on the marine environment

To underpin this advice, the post-holder will ensure that the best available information is included in assessment decisions, through maintaining a working knowledge of best practices and technologies developed in the oil and gas sector and by application of appropriate modelling techniques.

The post-holder will need to be able to maintain and develop good working relationships with relevant staff in external organisations, including BEIS, Cefas, and the Oil & Gas Industry and consultancies. There will be a requirement to ensure that the post holder continues to develop their skills and knowledge through understanding the relevant literature and continuous professional development. This will be a varied and interesting post in a highly applied scientific field, which will be suited to someone who has the ability to successfully handle competing priorities.

Qualifications Required:

Applicants must hold a scientific based degree or equivalent

Other qualifications equivalent to these may also be acceptable, if you are in any doubt please contact to discuss.

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be automatically sifted out.

Essential Criteria:
  1. Demonstrable ability to interrogate and assess information provided in applications to identify discrepancies and provide solutions.
  2. The ability to work independently with good organisational skills and the ability to prioritise workload.
  3. Excellent written and oral communication skills, including the ability to explain scientific concepts to varied audiences, maintain good working relationships and proactively support colleagues.
  4. Experience of reviewing and summarising environmental data/information with a good working knowledge of standard scientific computer packages (e.g. Microsoft Office) and spreadsheets.
Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find below. To apply, you must fully complete and submit an online application via this website before the closing date. To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Margaret McCann who can be reached at or 0131 244 2623.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact The Resourcing Team on 0131 244 5739 or via

Further information for this job:

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Scotia and Carbon

Tue, 2019-08-13 10:00

The 1019S Scotia cruise (21–31 July) was a 10 day long oceanographic research cruise focusing on the role of carbon within the marine environment, primarily within the water column and marine sediments. I took part in this cruise in order to gather samples for use in my PhD research project from hot spot fishing grounds around Scotland.

Removing pore water from a core

There has long been research focusing on the influences of bottom trawlers on the biodiversity of seabed communities (e.g. how does trawling change what kind of marine species we can expect to find in an area); however a research gap remains in terms of understanding how long term carbon stores might be influenced. For my PhD research project, I am focusing on how bottom trawling and seabed disturbance might influence the amount of carbon that is stored within marine sediments.

Due to my research interests, I wanted to collect samples from areas which we know are active fishing grounds. The first stop on our cruise for my research was in the North Minch which is an active Nephrops fishing ground. I collected samples from two sites in this area. We deployed a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) profiler, collected a grab sample, and deployed the multicorer. The multicorer was set up to allow for 4 short cores to be collected at a time. Of the multicores collected in the Minch at my sites, one core was sliced up and frozen for analysis back in the lab, while the other was taken into the ship lab where I could then remove the pore water (the water that makes the mud wet) for future analysis.

Multicorer out at the Fladen grounds

The other main area for my research was the Central Fladen fishing grounds out in the middle of the North Sea. Here, I had 4 main research sites – two in the north of the Fladen grounds and two in the south of the grounds. The sample sampling routine was done at these sites as was done in the Minch, with the exception of an extra core for pore water removal at each site.

Now that we are back on dry land, the real work begins! Over the next few months a lot of time will be spent in the labs processing and analysing my samples for my thesis.


by Kirsty Black


Further Information:

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Nephrops on the East Coast

Fri, 2019-08-09 10:00

MRV Alba na Mara Programme


Survey 1319A

Duration: 8-24 August 2019



  • To obtain estimates of the distribution and abundance of Nephrops burrows in the Firth of Forth and the Moray Firth using underwater camera.
  • To use the TV footage to record the occurrence of other benthic fauna and evidence of commercial trawling activity.
  • To collect trawl caught samples of Nephrops for comparison of reproductive condition and morphometrics in each of the different survey areas.
  • If time permits, deployments of the sledge followed by the drop frame will be carried out on the same ground to compare Nephrops burrow density estimates obtained by using the two different methods.



Where possible, a random stratified approach will be adopted to investigate Nephrops burrow density in different regions of the study areas.  A list of proposed stations for the survey will be made available to the ship prior to sailing.


  1. TV Observations: At each station a video camera mounted on the TV sledge will be towed across the seabed, into the tide and for approximately ten minutes at approximately one knot.  Nephrops burrow abundance, other benthic fauna and signs of anthropogenic activity will be recorded on to DVD.  Distance traveled by the sledge, the depth at which the sledge is at and camera height from the seabed will be monitored and recorded automatically.
  2. Trawling: Fishing trawls of approximately 60 minutes duration will be made within each sediment type and within each survey area.  A range of biological and morphometric data will be collected on Nephrops caught.
  3. Drop Frame: The drop frame will be used where conditions are not suitable for using the TV sledge, recording similar data as to that of the TV sledge.
  4. Comparative work: Following on from work carried on previous surveys, on known Nephrops grounds the sledge will be towed along parallel tracks approximately 200 m in length (ten minutes towing time) and 100 m apart.  Video footage and all observed data will be recorded as usual.  Following this, the drop frame will then be drifted across the same area at 90o to the sledge tracks.  The frequency of this operation will depend on the weather and available time.



TV work will normally take place during daylight hours.


There will be a requirement for trawling to take place in the evening.  On days where trawling will take place, work patterns will be arranged so not to exceed WTR recommendations.


It is proposed that work will initially commence in the Moray Firth and then the Firth of Forth.

The exact date of the half landing will be weather, location and work dependent.


Further Information:

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Scotia Amongst the Fjords

Mon, 2019-08-05 09:00

1019S Blue Carbon Loch Nevis

I was one of 11 scientists on-board the MRV Scotia seeking to better understand carbon dynamics in the sediments and water column around Scotland. My personal goal was to sample sea lochs (fjords) around the northern and western coast of Scotland. Fjords are globally recognised as hotspots for the burial and storage of organic carbon over long periods of time and provide a climate buffering service by locking away carbon; which might be converted to carbon dioxide (CO2) and released to the atmosphere compounding the global climate emergency.

The first stop for my research was Loch Eriboll the most Northern fjord on mainland Scotland to undertake follow-up sampling at sites sampled during a survey on-board the MRV Alba na Mara (Survey 1118A). Last year we collected a number of grab samples and short multi-cores (2m). In total we collected four gravity cores; which will be used to reconstruct regional carbon dynamics over the Holocene (the last 11,000 years).

The second phase of my sampling was focused on collecting seabed sediments from the fjords around Skye. We collected surface samples (day grabs) and short cores (multi-cores) from Loch Eishort, Loch Nevis, Loch Hourn and Loch Na Dal.

In total I collected: four gravity cores, three multi-cores and 41 grab samples from across four fjords adding to the sample set covering seven fjords from the Alba na Mara survey last year. 

Now it’s time to get back to the lab and start analysing a lot of mud.

By Craig Smeaton

Further Information:

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Productive Crossings – A Guest Blog

Fri, 2019-08-02 10:45

Marine Scotland Communications Team is hugely excited to tell you about a recent collaboration we’ve been involved with.  As part of a research residency, supported by Edinburgh Printmakers and Creative Scotland, internationally renowned artist Sonia Mehra Chawla has been including some visits to our Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen to assist in the research for her latest work.

The outcomes from the residencies and collaborations will inform a solo presentation by Sonia in Scotland in spring 2020, in partnership with the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Sonia has kindly agreed to guest blog for us during the collation period where she explores the overlying relationship between science and art and reflects on the accumulated material whilst relaying her hopes and aspirations for her forthcoming installation.  We hope you enjoy getting to know Sonia and learning more about her project.


Productive Crossings On Art and Science Collaborations and Never-ending Possibilities by Sonia Mehra Chawla

As a visual artist and researcher working at the intersection of art and science, society and nature, economy and environment, I believe that interdisciplinary collaborations between the arts and sciences have the potential to create knowledge, ideas, and processes that are valuable and beneficial to both fields and society.


 “Science and art sometimes touch one another, like two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which is our human life, and that contact may be made across the borderline between the two respective domains.” M.C.Escher



While art forms celebrate scientific accomplishments and create new forms of scientific data, they also offer a platform for critique. Interdisciplinary collaborations and conversations help to re-envision and re-contextualize the familiar, creating interesting juxtapositions, as well as developing metaphors that can influence and alter the way we think about our own bodies, and our world. In addition, the beauty we encounter in scientific research celebrates life, cultivates curiosity, and incites an appetite for discovery, while probing essential questions about purpose and ethics and imagining both fantastic and terrifying futures.

As individuals and communities, we have an impact on the Earth.  Today, there is an increased awareness that some of the impact is detrimental to the Earth’s systems – this includes our marine environment.  The criticality of marine to life on land is increasingly being recognised.  However, the impact of anthropogenically-forced climate change on our ocean will have consequences for both the habitats and species in the ocean and for life on land.  It is critical that there is an increased awareness of the impact that humankind is having on the ocean and the effect that this will have on humankind.


Above: Details from ‘Universe-In -Details’, archival prints from the artists’ ‘Critical Membrane’ series on the endangered coastal and mangrove ecosystems of India.


The enquiry, the process, and the product/creation, are three core areas in which both artists and scientists overlap in collaborative projects and processes.

The idea of just asking a question through an altered lens is imperative. While working on projects, I sensed a large gap between the scientific and cultural worlds. I feel that more often than not, scientific data is inaccessible and absent from our daily culture, and the general public .

Art practice can be seen as a form of intellectual and imaginative inquiry, which has the ability to inspire discourses, to envision ideas, to make the intangible tangible, to introduce and insert the issues into our mainstream culture.  Critical dialogues around art and science are often animated with these engagements and encounters:  self/other, nature/society, individual/society, nature/culture, reason/intuition, economy/environment, biosocial/biopolitical, technology/future imaginaries, aesthetics/functionality & purpose.  


“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”  Albert Einstein



Both scientists and artists are proficient at looking for the unexpected and the unforeseen. Both celebrate what they describe. That is an exclusive and exceptional shared skill each brings to the problem-solving experience. I think the significant question is, how can artists and scientists come together in collaborations that will benefit everybody, including the public? How can they offer an innovative space that can help rethink current notions of progress? How can art-science collaborations help us to notice, observe and appreciate our entanglements and enmeshment with our world? When both artists and scientists take a moment to step back from their disciplinary niches, they can comprehend and appreciate many approaches to understanding and unfolding our human experience.

Further Information on the Artist:

Sonia Mehra Chawla has an interdisciplinary practice as an artist, photographer, and researcher. Her artistic practice explores notions of selfhood, nature, ecology, sustainability and conservation. Her work spans across a variety of media including: photography, fine art printmaking, video, installation and painting. She often works in collaboration with non-profit institutions and scientific institutions.

Sonia is the recipient of the British Council India and Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship for Visual Arts. (2014-2015). She received the International Art and Science Grant Award from Khoj International Artists Association India, and Wellcome Trust UK/DBT India Alliance for 2017-18. She has participated in exhibitions and projects at the Institut Fur Auslansbeziehungen in Stuttgart (Institute For Foreign Cultural Relations Germany), British Council, New Delhi, India, Essl Museum of Contemporary Art, Austria, Yinchuan Museum of Contemporary Art, China, Tate Modern, London, UK, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China, CSMVS Museum, Mumbai, India, Goethe Institut, Mumbai, India, ET4U Contemporary Visual Art Projects, Denmark and 10 Chancery Lane Projects, Hong Kong.

She has recently been awarded a Fellowship and residency from the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany for the Art, Science and Business Program for 2019-20.  The artist lives and works in New Delhi, India.  Website:

Picture credits:

Installation view of Sonia Mehra Chawla’s video, ‘Altered Growth’, from ‘The (Un) Divided Mind’, International Art+ Science residency 2018, Khoj International Artists’ Association, New Delhi. Project support: International Art+ science Grant award 2018, Khoj + Wellcome Trust UK/ DBT India Alliance. (Department of Biotechnology, Government of India). Main Image credit: Khoj International Artists’ Association.

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Clicking with Marine Mammals

Wed, 2019-07-31 15:29

MRV Alba na Mara

Survey: 1219A

Duration: 25 July – 05 August 2019


Retrieve and deploy a series of acoustic release systems (22 subsurface moorings) with attached acoustic recording devices (22 C-POD, 7 sound recorder) as part of the ECOMMAS (East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study), JOMOPANS (Joint Monitoring Programme for Ambient Noise North Sea) and SSE Seagreen projects (see Tables 1 and  2 and Figures 1 and  2).


Alba na Mara will sail from Fraserburgh on the morning of 25 July and make for the first mooring position. The ultimate order in which the moorings are retrieved and deployed will be dictated by the current weather forecast and the likely shelter that can be provided by the east coast. Accurate position records will be kept detailing where the moorings are eventually replaced as this may differ from the planned position. If all the moorings have been retrieved and deployed before the scheduled end of the trip Alba na Mara will head to Aberdeen Bay to allow scientific staff to retrieve moorings with VR2 salmon detectors between Ythan Estuary and Findon Ness. (See Figure 3)

1219A Table 1: ID, name and geographic position of 17 ECOMMAS and JOMOPANS moorings


1219A Table 2: ID, name and geographic position of five SSE Seagreen moorings to be retrieved and redeployed


1219A Figure 1: Locations of the ECOMMAS and JOMOPANS moorings to be retrieved and deployed


1219A Figure 2: Locations of the five SSE Seagreen moorings to be retrieved and deployed


1219A Figure 3: Locations of the Aberdeen Bay salmon detector moorings to be retrieved. Locations marked in blue are the outer array; the inner array are marked in red.


Further Information:

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Marine Scotland Contributes to International Publication on Ocean Acidification

Thu, 2019-07-25 12:47

Concern is growing globally about the impacts of ocean acidification (OA) on the marine environment. OA results from a change in the carbonate chemistry of the ocean making it more acidic, primarily as a result of the increased uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increased acidity of seawater may negatively impact many marine organisms that live in it, including plankton, shellfish, fish larvae, seaweed and seagrasses, potentially affecting commercially exploited species.

There is a great concern about the potential impact of OA on calcifying plankton, microscopic organisms with outer skeletons made of calcium carbonate. Examples of calcifying plankton include the larval stages of many shellfish such as mussels and scallops, and pteropods, which are small marine snails commonly known as the “sea butterfly” (e.g. Limacina sp.). Increased seawater acidity would create more corrosive conditions that may dissolve their calcareous shells and make it harder to build them (figure 1).

Figure 1. Schematic of potential impacts of OA on marine organisms with outer skeletons containing calcium carbonate (left), and pteropod Limacina retroversa observed under light microscopy (right).

In recent years significant efforts have been made globally to monitor and research impacts of OA. Pteropods are thought to be especially vulnerable to OA. Their shell mineralogy (comprised of aragonite, a more soluble form of calcium carbonate) makes this group more sensitive to changes in the ocean chemistry. As a result of this sensitivity and wide distribution in the world’s oceans, pteropods have been suggested as a good proxy for assessing biological effects of OA.  The lack of scientific consensus on thresholds at which marine life respond to OA hinders our ability to interpret monitoring data and model outputs, as well as future projections on OA. Thresholds are also needed as the basis for regulatory decisions on ocean water quality management.

Dr Pablo Leon Diaz from Marine Scotland Science (MSS) was one of the international experts invited in September 2017 to participate in the workshop “Development of pteropod assessment endpoints for ocean acidification” (figure 2). Sponsored by the California Ocean Protection Council and hosted by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP).  This unique workshop gathered OA experts from around the world to synthesize thresholds of pteropod vulnerability to OA in response to US west coast Governors request. Specifically, experts worked on developing biologically-relevant management thresholds that could help the US west coast states to interpret monitoring and modelling data.

The MSS contribution focused on natural variability associated to some of the suggested OA indicators (e.g. seawater aragonite content), based on the data gathered at the Scottish Coastal Observatory (SCObs) monitoring site at Stonehaven (NE coast of Scotland), which is one of the few sustained monitoring sites of OA and plankton in coastal waters in the NE Atlantic.

Figure 2. Attendees at the “Development of pteropod assessment endpoints for ocean acidification” workshop.

The workshop outputs have been recently published in Frontiers of Marine Science (Bednaršek et al., 2019). This paper presents a global literature review and identifies descriptors (shell dissolution and calcification, growth, egg development and survival) and thresholds for OA impact on pteropods. MSS has recently completed a study investigating the impact of OA on pteropods at the SCObs Stonehaven monitoring site which will be published in the near future. Work examining the impacts of OA on plankton in Scottish waters is ongoing.

Further Reading:

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Funded Student Internships in Offshore Renewable Energy

Wed, 2019-07-24 13:08

Are you a postgraduate student interested in a research project on the environmental impacts of offshore renewable energy on fish ecology and commercial fisheries, to help inform government priorities? Then this funded internship programme with Marine Scotland might just be for you!

Marine Scotland invites postgraduate students (Masters and PhD), registered with any UK academic institution, to apply for a 3-6 month funded internship and undertake a research project addressing knowledge gaps in the fields of offshore renewable energy, fish ecology and commercial fisheries. You can come up with your own research idea or get inspiration from project suggestions in the provided documentation. Your internship can take place anytime between September 2019 and February 2020, and you can be based in Marine Scotland Science offices in Aberdeen, at your host UK institution, or at an affiliated third-party organisation.

Offshore renewable energy developments have an important role in helping to tackle climate change by contributing to the Scottish Government’s ambitious emissions reduction and energy strategy. However, these developments also have the potential to impact the marine environment and marine activities in the seas around Scotland. To improve understanding and assess the environmental and socio-economic implications of offshore renewable developments, and in line with the precautionary principle, Marine Scotland has established the Scottish Marine Energy Research (ScotMER) programme. ScotMER is an initiative that involves collaboration from industry, environmental NGOs, Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies, and other interested stakeholders, to facilitate the sustainable development of offshore renewable energy in Scottish waters.

As part of ScotMER, Marine Scotland has worked closely with stakeholders to map out the research gaps in scientific knowledge when assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of offshore renewable developments. Seven specialist groups were created, each focussing on particular impact receptors, including the Fish and Fisheries Specialist Receptor Group (FFSRG). FFSRG is made up of experts and stakeholders and has worked together to produce an “evidence map” that outlines and prioritises knowledge gaps in fish ecology and fisheries. More information can be found here.

We are now inviting postgraduate student applicants to propose a project idea in the fields of offshore renewable energy, fish ecology and commercial fisheries, addressing one or more of the ScotMER evidence gaps by the 29th of August 2019.

You can find out more about the University of Aberdeen, the host institution, and apply for this opportunity here.

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Blue Carbon in the Marine Ecosystem

Tue, 2019-07-23 15:05
MRV Scotia

Survey: 1019S Programme

Duration: 22-31 July 2019

  1. Sediment sampling in the Moray Firth (grabs and cores).
  2. Sediment sampling along transect from Moray Firth to Fladen Ground (grabs and cores).
  3. Sediment sampling on the Fladen Ground (grabs and cores).
  4. Sediment sampling along transect from Fladen to Pentland Firth (grabs and cores).
  5. Gravity coring in Loch Eriboll.
  6. Sediment sampling in North Minch and Sound of Sleat (grabs and cores).
  7. Sediment sampling in sea lochs east of Skye (Lochs Nevis, Hourn and Alsh).
  8. Water sampling at each grab/core station and on transit (surface and bottom).

This survey will carry out research affiliated to Scotland’s Blue Carbon Forum, a research area with significant ministerial support and referenced in the 2017-18 Programme for Government. The current focus revolves around measuring the ability for various habitats to sequester carbon, understand how it is stored for the long term, and builds an evidence base on the effects that human activities may have on these processes.

The majority of the work is seabed sediment sampling using grabs and cores, in various habitats and regimes of anthropogenic disturbance (e.g. fishing grounds, sea lochs).

Once the vessel has departed Aberdeen and, after all vessel drills have been completed, the vessel will head for the first sampling location in the Moray Firth.

The order in which each sampling location will be collected will be agreed each day with the Captain, Fishing Master, and Scientist-in-Charge (SiC).

Sampling will be undertaken as per the objectives above and as weather dictates.

Pockmarks – University of Stirling. Regions in North Minch and south of Skye are in range of this survey.

(Pockmarks represent an important marker for sites of blue carbon and act as gateways for it to re-enter the carbon cycle. More information about Pockmarks can be found on this blog.)



Further Information:


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Vacancy: Fishery Officer (closing date – 20 August 2019)

Tue, 2019-07-23 13:24

We are currently seeking applications for Fishery Officers within Marine Scotland Compliance, based at various coastal locations in Scotland.  This is a permanent and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the B1 pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the criteria below will be invited to the interview.

You must:

  • Be able to demonstrate a sound understanding of the Scottish fishing industry, such as how the Scottish fleet is structured, Scotland’s key fisheries, how they are regulated and the key challenges that they are currently facing.
  • Have excellent organisational skills to manage a varied workload and to meet targets in a flexible manner so to progress tasks with minimal supervision.
  • Show an ability to communicate effectively to colleagues and to a wide range of stakeholders

The post can involve significant office based administration work and use of a broad range of IT applications, including Microsoft word, excel and outlook in addition to some bespoke IT applications.

In addition, due to the remote locations of landing ports a considerable amount of driving is involved therefore a full valid driving licence that enables the candidate to drive in the UK is required. However, the Scottish Government will consider proposals put forward by the applicant to carry out the duties by other means.

Applicants should note that this role includes carrying out visits to various types of establishments in all weather conditions.  a willingness to carry out these visits is a pre-requisite for the posts.

Further information

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Getting to know the Herring and Sprat

Fri, 2019-07-19 15:21
MRV Scotia

Survey: 0919S Programme

Duration: 27 June – 19 July 2019

Sampling Gear:
  • Midwater trawls PT160 x 3
  • Demersal trawl (BT237)
  • Scanmar trawl eye sensor
  • SIMRAD FS70 net sonde x 2
  • RBR-Concerto CTD with Dissolved Oxygen probe
  • Water sampler for collecting water samples from bottom of CTD dips
  • GoPro cameras x 2 with underwater housings and lights and frame
  • Conduct an acoustic survey to estimate the abundance and distribution of herring in the north western North Sea and north of Scotland between 58º30’-62ºN and from the shelf edge to 2ºE, excluding Faroese waters.
  • Obtain biological samples by trawling with pelagic and demersal trawl for echosounder trace identification.
  • Obtain samples of herring and sprat for biological analysis, including age, length, weight, sex, maturity and ichthyophonus infection throughout the survey area.
  • Collect samples and data for stock identity determination of herring. Photos and otoliths for morphometric stock ID analysis for herring caught west of 4 ºW; tissue samples for genetic analysis from herring throughout the survey area.
  • Use GoPro cameras mounted in the net and on a drop frame to further aid in species identification in the echogram scrutiny process.
  • Obtain hydrographic data for comparison with the horizontal and vertical distribution of herring and sprat.
  • Obtain dissolved oxygen vertical water column profiles for comparison with occurrence of prominent 38kHz scattering layer as part of Aberdeen University Hons student project.
  • Collect near sea bed dissolved oxygen measurements for Marine Scotland Science (MSS) monitoring programme.

The vessel will depart Aberdeen and make passage to Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, where calibration of all echosounders will take place (approximately 8-12 hours at anchor).

Following calibration the vessel will go to the first transect to the east and follow a pattern of parallel transects running east/west, at normal steaming speed (10.5 knots), progressing northwards. The whole survey area is bounded by 58º30’-62ºN and 02ºE to the 200 m contour. Transect spacing is 15 nm. This may be adapted during the survey to maximize area coverage given the time available. The proposed survey design is shown in Figure 1.Transects-to-be-completed-by-Scotia-0919S

Acoustic data will be collected at four frequencies (18, 38, 120 and 200 kHz) between two and four times per day at any time between 03:00 and 23:00.  Fish shoals seen on the echosounder will be identified using either a pelagic (PT160) or demersal trawl (BT237) in consultation between fishing master and scientific staff.

Samples of all species caught will be measured for length to partition the echo integral amongst species and size classes for target strength functions. Individual herring, sprat and mackerel will also be weighed to establish a length-weight relationship. Otoliths will be collected from a sub-sample of the herring according to the following length stratified scheme to determine age:

  • two per 0.5 cm class below 22 cm;
  • five per 0.5 cm class from 22.5-27.5 cm; and
  • 10 per 0.5 cm class for 28.0 cm and above.

For each herring in the sub-sample the state of maturity, gonad weight, liver weight, whole and gutted weight, presence of food in the stomach as well as the presence of Icthyophonus infection will be recorded. The maturity scale used throughout the survey will be the Scottish eight-stage scale.

Genetic sampling of herring for stock discrimination purposes will be carried out on selected hauls throughout the survey area.

Where sprat is encountered five per 0.5cm length class will be sampled for age, weight, sex and maturity.

In the area west of 4ºW, in addition to the above, random sampling of 120 fish above 24 cm length will be carried out for each haul with photographs taken for morphometric stock identification analysis and a tissue sample taken for genetic analysis. Otoliths from these fish will, subsequent to aging, be made available for morphometric analysis. After photographing them, and where possible, these randomly sampled fish will make up part of the standard sampling for herring. Additional fish will be collected to ensure the relevant numbers of fish are collected per strata for acoustic data analysis.

A GoPro camera and underwater lights will be mounted in the trawl to aid species identification by delivering additional information on composition of the catch. A GoPro camera may also be deployed manually on a small drop frame to investigate the feasibility of using this technique to verify species composition of echosounder traces in untrawlable areas.

A vertical hydro dip to collect temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen measurements will be carried out immediately following trawls this is based on the requirement to achieve one station in each ICES rectangle.

Bottom water samples for calibrating salinity sensors will be collected using water sampler attached to the CTD wire and surface water samples will be collected from continuous flow tap in Fish house.  Water samples will also be collected separately for calibrating the dissolved oxygen probe at selected stations.


Further Information:


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Surveying in the Moray Firth Wind Farm Sites

Wed, 2019-07-17 09:00

Marine Scotland Science (MSS) colleagues and University of Aberdeen (UoA) postgraduate students set sail on the Alba na Mara to undertake a multi-disciplinary survey within the Moray Firth wind farm sites from the 8th – 12th of June 2019.  The aim of this survey was to characterise the distribution of the prey species (fish schools, zooplankton patches) across the Smith Bank; in relation to data available on top predator distribution. The data collected will complement the BOWL post-construction digital aerial surveys for seabirds (summer 2019) and UoA studies being conducted as part of the Moray Firth Marine Mammal Monitoring Programme (MMMP).

 Location of the sampling/surveying activities completed during the 0919A survey

Figure 1: Location of the sampling/surveying activities completed during the 0919A surveyTime permitting, this survey aimed also to sample plankton specifically in the vicinity of recent piling events.

The areas targeted by this study include:

  • Principally, the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd. (BOWL) which is fully constructed;
  • Moray East Offshore Windfarm (MEOW) which is under construction; and
  • Moray West Offshore Windfarm (MWOW) which is still to begin construction

Data collected during this survey will support and be analysed as part of one of the visiting student’s Marine Collaboration Research Forum (MarCRF) PhD thesis, entitled: “Assessing responses of top predators to offshore windfarm development”. MarCRF is a cross-disciplinary initiative developed between the UoA and MSS with the aim to facilitate evidence-based, relevant science that supports Marine Scotland policy.

A number of data collection approaches were used to capture the information relevant to predator and prey interactions within the wind farms:

 University of Aberdeen, 2019.

Figure 2: Seabirds roosting on one of the BOWL wind turbines during the 0919A survey. Photo credit: University of Aberdeen, 2019.

  • A pelagic fishing net (PT 154) was used to catch mid-water sandeels
  • A plankton sampling net composed of two separate 40 cm cylinders with different mesh sizes (200 µm and 68 µm), knows as the ‘bongo net’.
  • Hydrographic equipment to capture temperature, salinity and depth as well as water sampling equipment to investigate the phytoplankton at the bottom and middle of the water column.
  • Echo-sounder on three frequencies (38, 120 and 200 kHz) to capture acoustic traces of mid water fish species.
  • Visual systematic surveying for seabirds.

So, plenty of activity was planned for a short amount of time. Luckily the weather turned out to be ideal for the whole survey and each of the intended surveying activities were performed a number of times.

The final tally of sampling activities came to:

  • 5 echo-sounder transects completed;
  • One transect was repeated (transect 5);
  • 4 mid water fish hauls;
  • 15 plankton hauls (live/dead collection)
    (1 plankton haul during a piling event);
  • 9 seabed water samples;
  • 9 mid-water samples; and
  • 6 full seabird (including marine mammals when sighted) transects.

A range of marine life was seen, and thanks to the eagle eyes of the Alba’s captain and his crew there were even a few minke whale spotted. The massive wind turbines within which we surveyed provided quite a unique backdrop for this trip.

Alba na Mara returned safely to Fraserburgh harbour on the evening of the 11th June, just before the weather turned bad. Timing really is everything.

 University of Aberdeen, 2019.

Figure 3: Visual seabird and marine mammal survey within BOWL wind farm. Photo credit: University of Aberdeen, 2019.

Further Information:

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Vacancy: Motorman 1, closing date 30 July

Tue, 2019-07-02 13:00

We are currently seeking applications for a Motorman within Marine Scotland based on board one of our Marine Patrol or Marine Research Vessels. This is a permanent and pensionable appointment and new entrants will normally start on the minimum of the pay range. Candidates with a disability who meet the essential criteria below will be invited to the assessments.

The Marine Patrol Vessels are Minna, Jura and Hirta. These vessels carry out patrols which normally last 21 days. The Research Vessels are Alba Na Mara and Scotia. Research cruises vary in length but generally are no more than 22 days. All vessels are double manned, and the work pattern is normally trip on/trip off basis.


Qualifications Required:

  • Engine Room Watch Rating Certificate of Competency
  • All STCW qualifications
  • Valid ENG 1 (Unrestricted)
  • Security Duties Certificate

Please note: If you fail to demonstrate how you meet the minimum qualifications as stated above, your application will be sifted out.


Essential Criteria:

  1. Experience in maintaining a high level of cleanliness in the engine room and external compartments.
  2. Familiarity with all engine room machinery and the daily checks required to maintain them in a safe and serviceable condition.
  3. Experience of working within a close knit engineering team, assisting with engineering tasks as required to ensure safe and efficient running of the engine room.
  4. Experience with assisting in bunkering fuel and lube oils, demonstrating an appreciation of the lSM system and appropriate anti pollution measures.

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants” which you will find below. To apply, you must fully complete and submit an online application via this website before the closing date. To learn more about this opportunity, Jim Cahill on 0131 244 3319 or by email

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact the Resourcing Team on 0131 244 8500 or via


Further Information for this Job:

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Mackerel and Horse Mackerel Egg Survey

Tue, 2019-07-02 10:00

MFV Altaire
Survey 0319H Programme


Duration: 1-23 July 2019


Fishing/Sampling Gear: Gulf VII plankton sampler, vessels own pelagic trawl.



  1. To carry out mackerel and horse mackerel egg survey (ICES Triennial Survey) within sampling Period 7 of the 2016 MEGS survey plan along the NE Atlantic shelf and slope in the area from approximately 47o N to 58o30N (see Figure 1).


  1. To collect adult fish samples, by trawling, for atresia and fecundity analysis back at the laboratory.



The vessel will be loaded from Ullapool late on the morning of 1 July and during the afternoon will proceed down through the Minch towards the first plankton stations west of Barra Head at 56o45N in time for early morning on 2 July.  Ideally, plankton stations will be taken west along the line until zero eggs are found and from there the vessel will continue surveying to the south.  This Period 7 survey represents the final survey in the 2019 schedule and will attempt to cover the whole of the spawning area for both mackerel and horse mackerel.  This is an extremely challenging task and as such the main priority will be to ensure that the remaining concentrations of spawning are sampled adequately.  Its extent will, therefore, be largely determined by the observed findings of the three vessels surveying in Period 6.  Figure 1 represents the area surveyed during this temporal period in 2016 and is likely to reflect pretty closely the area that will be covered during the forthcoming survey although just to reiterate the actual extent (longitudinal as well as latitudinal) will be dictated by the results received from the previous survey period that is currently being undertaken. Once these have been received a definite survey plan will be drafted that will aim to capture the bulk of any remaining spawning activity and within the time allocated to MSS for this survey.  Due to the size of the area latitudinal transect spacing will almost certainly be at 1o intervals with stations being sampled at 30′ intervals on the E/W transects normally at the 15’ and 45’.  Plankton stations will be taken using the Gulf VII sampler with mounted CTD which will record salinity and temperature during the tow.  The plankton stations will require the vessel to deploy the sampler at and maintain a speed of four knots.  The sampler will then be lowered at a steady rate (6m/min) from the plankton crane to within 5 m of the seabed or 200 m – whichever is shallower.  The sampler will then be recovered at the same speed.  Once aboard, plankton samples will be washed from the sampler net, fixed in formalin and scored for egg abundance.  Trawl samples will be taken at the discretion of the scientist in charge.  There should be a maximum of ten trawls for the whole survey, and will usually be taken on the continental shelf or near the shelf edge.


After completing the southernmost transects of the survey area Altaire will put in for a mid-survey break most likely in either Cork or Falmouth around 13/14 July.  Altaire will then proceed north and west to complete the remaining survey transects before returning to Ullapool for unloading on the morning of 23 July 2019.  All of the sampling gear as well as the samplers, sampling container and wire for deploying the sampler will also be unloaded and returned back to Aberdeen.

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