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Research Partners Collaborate One Last Time

Wed, 2020-05-20 14:15

Earlier this year our colleague and Spatial Ecologist Dr Grant Campbell attended the final EU ATLAS General Assembly meeting in Edinburgh.  26 multidisciplinary partners and leading organisations, including Marine Scotland, attended the conference both in person and via video call to discuss their combined knowledge and understanding of the marine environment in the North Atlantic.

Here Dr Campbell tells us what was discussed and what the next steps are following the completion of the EU ATLAS Project.


EU ATLAS (“A Trans-Atlantic Assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based spatial management for Europe”) is a research and innovation action funded under the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, and is the largest integrated study of deep Atlantic ecosystems ever undertaken.

I am fortunate enough to be involved and represent Marine Scotland Science (MSS) interests in terms of providing an improved knowledge on how effective systematic conservation planning can achieve various social, economic and environmental objectives in the North Atlantic.

The final EU ATLAS General Assembly opened with a welcome message from Edinburgh University’s Sir Peter Mathieson and also the ATLAS outline video, which can still be viewed here.

Professor Colin Moffat, Chief Scientific Advisor Marine for Scottish Government

Professor Colin Moffat, Chief Scientific Advisor Marine for Scottish Government

Several keynote talks opened proceedings, including the dynamic and effervescent Professor Colin Moffat, Chief Scientific Advisor Marine for Scottish Government. Professor Moffat gave an interesting, in-depth talk about how continued work within ATLAS can help to:

  • shape policy,
  • increase science and
  • bolster discussions between stakeholders.

Completing the keynote talks was Hermione Cockburn from Dynamic Earth who talked to us about the legacy that ATLAS will have on society, particularly focussing on how understanding deep Atlantic Ecosystems could help influence education and outreach both now and in the future.

Four Key ATLAS Objectives

Talks over the first two days were centred around the four key ATLAS objectives, which are:

  • Advance our understanding of deep Atlantic marine ecosystems and populations
  • Improve the capacity to monitor, model and predict shifts in deep water ecosystems and populations
  • Transform new data, tools and understanding into robust ocean governance
  • Scenario test and develop science-led cost effective adaptive management strategies that stipulate Blue Growth.
Advancing our understanding of deep Atlantic marine ecosystems and populations

Our first objective of the conference was ‘Advancing our understanding of deep Atlantic marine ecosystems and populations’. This was chaired by Stuart Cunningham (SAMS) and hosted varied discussions on themes such as: fluxes with subpolar transatlantic circulation measurements, Atlantic Palaeo-Circulation, and societal values for deep Atlantic ecosystem services.

Improve the capacity to monitor, model and predict shifts in deep water ecosystems and populations habitat suitability modelling (HSM)

Habitat Suitability Modelling (HSM)

We then moved onto talks centred around the second objective to ‘Improve the capacity to monitor, model and predict shifts in deep water ecosystems and populations’. Chaired by David Thornalley (UCL), talks in the sessions comprised of discussions such as: changes in biodiversity distribution under IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scenarios and a talk from my colleague, David Stirling, where he presented the habitat suitability modelling (HSM) work developed from existing data and new ATLAS data for Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems indicator taxa and key deep-sea fish species under current environmental conditions, by each case study area.

The day ended with a poster session in Edinburgh University’s Playfair Library Hall where events also took place the following day and attendees discussed the third objective ‘Transform new data, tools and understanding into robust ocean governance’.

Transform new data, tools and understanding into robust ocean governance

Presentations covered ATLAS GeoNode (a central hub that enables project stakeholders the opportunity to discover, visualise and download ATLAS geospatial data) to the publics views based on an ocean literacy survey in the Azores and policy implications of ATLAS research and recommendations for ocean governance under changing deep-sea dynamics.

The second half of the day comprised of work connected to the final objective on ‘Scenario test and develop science-led cost effective adaptive management strategies that stipulate Blue Growth’.

Scenario test and develop science-led cost effective adaptive management strategies that stipulate Blue Growth

Dr Grant Campbell – Spatial Ecologist for Marine Scotland Science

Talks in this session varied from marine spatial planning activity in the Flemish Cap, valuing deep sea ecosystems across Europe and North America and scenario based simulations in Rockall (which was presented by yours truly!)

My talk at the ATLAS GA discussed how we can utilise scenario based simulations to improve the Systematic Conservation Planning at Rockall Bank. For around 200 years, Rockall Bank has been used as a fishery and has recently been identified as an attractive area for oil and gas exploitation. This new research will aim to examine the environmental and economic effects activities like fishing and oil and gas exploitation would have on marine ecology and the economic value at Rockall, long and short term.

The day ended with a discussion on Horizon Europe, a planned 7-year European Union scientific research initiative to succeed the current Horizon 2020 programme, and a perspective from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on ATLAS and a look ahead to the UN Ocean Decade.

The second half of the week involved many of the conference participants taking part in a communications hub to write papers for the project and to continue discussions between others on many ATLAS related topics.

Further Information:
  • Led by the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK) ATLAS brings together 25 partners (and one linked third party) from 10 European countries, the USA and Canada. For more information on the ATLAS project, please visit or follow the project on Twitter @eu_atlas| Facebook @EuATLAS | LinkedIn ATLAS – Deep Discoveries| YouTube: EU_ATLAS
  • EU ATLAS Brochure
  • Thanks and acknowledgement to Alex Ingle and Murray Roberts for their work on the ATLAS outline video.

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Recent Marine Scotland Science Programme Publications

Wed, 2020-05-06 12:15

Marine Scotland Science, as a core Scottish Government (SG) Division, is working to support SG’s overall COVID-19 response. It also continues to sustain critical marine science delivery and has over the last month produced the following notable publications:

  • Auer, S.K., Bassar, R.D., Turek, D., Anderson, G.J., McKelvey, S., Armstrong, J.D., Nislow, K.H., Downie, H.K., Morgan, T.A., McLennan, D. & Metcalfe, N.B. (2020). Metabolic rate interacts with resource availability to determine individual variation in microhabitat use in the wild. The American Naturalist (pre-print on-line).
  • Burton, T., Rollinson, N., McKelvey, S., Stewart, D.C., Armstrong, J.D. & Metcalfe, N.B. (2020). Adaptive maternal investment in the wild? Links between maternal growth trajectory and offspring size, growth, and survival in contrasting environments. The American Naturalist, 195(4), pp.678-690.
  • Gallagher, M.D., Karlsen, M., Petterson, E., Haugland, Ø., Matejusova, I. &  Macqueen, D.J. (2020). Genome sequencing of SAV3 reveals repeated seeding events of viral strains in Norwegian aquaculture. Front. Microbiol., 11:740.
  • Gibb, F.M., Régnier, T., & Wright, P.J. (2020). Inferring early larval traits from otolith microstructure in the sandeel. Journal of Sea Research, 158, 101872.
  • Moriarty, M., Murray, A.G., Berx, B., Christie, A.J., Munro, L.A. & Wallace, I.S. (2020). Modelling temperature and fish biomass data to predict annual Scottish farmed salmon, Salmo salar, losses: Development of an early warning tool. Preventative Veterinary Medicine, 178, 104985.
  • Murray, A.G., Munro, L.A. & Matejusova, I. (2020). The network of farmed Pacific oyster movements in Scotland and routes for introduction and spread of invasive species and pathogens. Aquaculture, 520, 734747.
  • Rijnsdorp, A.D., Hiddink, J.G., van Denderen, P.D., Hintzen, N.T., Eigaard, O.R., Valanko, S., Bastardie, F., Bolam, S.G., Boulcott, P., Egekvist, J., Garcia, C., van Hoey, G., Jonsson, P., Laffargue, P., Nielsen, J.R., Piet, G.J., Sköld, M. & van Kooten, T. (2020). Different bottom trawl fisheries have a differential impact on the status of the North Sea seafloor habitats. ICES Journal of Marine Science, fsaa050.


Additional Information

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Supporting Salmon

Fri, 2020-05-01 10:00

Recommendations on measures to address the interactions between the farmed and wild salmon sectors have been presented to the Scottish Government.

The Salmon Interactions Working Group has published its report which sets out more than 40 recommendations under 5 key themes including the regulation and licensing of fish farms, the collection of data and the commission of further research.

The Scottish Government will consider the report’s findings and set out next steps in due course, including whether some of the recommendations can be taken into account as part of the development of the Wild Salmon Strategy, a Programme for Government commitment.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“We value the contribution the farmed and wild salmon sectors make to the Scottish economy and I congratulate John Goodlad and the wider membership of the Salmon Interactions Working Group on the publication of this report which is a pivotal step in moving forward the dialogue on the often contentious issues involved.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“The Scottish Government recognises the importance of safeguarding our iconic wild salmon while supporting the sustainable growth of the Scottish aquaculture and recreational fisheries sectors. We welcome this report which has brought both sectors together to discuss the challenges of managing farmed fish while reducing the potential impact on our wild salmon stocks and we look forward to considering these recommendations”

Julie Hesketh-Laird, CEO of Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said:

“The Scottish farmed salmon sector remains a devoted steward of the marine environment. This report shows our commitment to continue in that role and be good neighbours to Scotland’s rural communities and others who use and enjoy our coastlines and rivers.

The discussions over the past 18 months or so have been tough and complex but through our deliberations we have jointly developed a framework that demonstrates our determination to work with all those who genuinely have an interest in protecting, preserving and reviving wild Atlantic salmon stocks around Scotland’s coasts.

It is in our interests as salmon farmers to find out what is really happening to Scotland’s wild salmon stocks so we welcome the extra effort which will now be directed towards strengthening research into the decline in wild salmon numbers and improving habitats. We are also pleased that the report has acknowledged and embedded many of the existing principles and procedures which our salmon farmers already practise. We look forward to a stronger, more collaborative working relationship with the wild salmon sector as a result.”

Dr Alan Wells, Chief Executive of Fisheries Management Scotland, said:

“We welcome the publication of the report of the Salmon Interactions Working Group. This report sets out a comprehensive suite of recommendations that will put the protection of wild salmon and sea trout at the centre of a reformed regulatory system.

Atlantic salmon and sea trout populations in Scotland are approaching crisis point and it is vital that Scotland’s Government and regulatory authorities do everything in their power to safeguard these species in those areas where they can make a difference. The SIWG report was agreed unanimously and both Fisheries Management Scotland and the fish farming industry have jointly committed to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in full. We therefore urge the Scottish Government to support the delivery of the recommendations as soon as practicably possible.”

  • The Salmon Interactions Working Group is comprised of members from the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors, local government, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Environment.
  • The group was established by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing and Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham in June 2018 as part of a wider workstream looking at mitigating pressures on wild salmon.

The post Supporting Salmon appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Celebrating World Book and Copyright Day

Thu, 2020-04-23 11:02

To celebrate UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day we have a guest blog post to share with you from our very own Librarian, Helen McGregor.  Take it away Helen!


Books are your ticket to the whole world. The library is the key.
That is where the escape tunnel is.
All of the knowledge of the world is there.
The great brains of the world are at your fingertips”. – Billy Connelly

Today, 23 April 2020, marks UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day, an annual celebration of books and reading.

Marine Scotland Science (MSS) is lucky enough to have two libraries – one at the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen and one at the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory near Pitlochry. We have a collection of books and journals in these libraries that, as librarian, I have the privilege of looking after.

As the Billy Connelly quote at the top of this blog says, libraries provide access to knowledge. They help tell the story of how science and understanding have developed over time. They tell us where we are today and where we could go in the future.

I’ve always loved reading, and that was a big part of why I became a librarian. Of course, I don’t get to spend my days reading at work – and I’m not sure that I would choose to read a scientific textbook to relax anyway! Books and reading tell us so much about the world, they can chime with our own experiences or offer us something so completely different that we couldn’t have imagined it without reading it first. We also read to expand our knowledge and learn, which is vital for the scientists working at MSS.

The books in the MSS library collections are, unsurprisingly, focussed on Scottish fisheries literature but we have books on many diverse subjects, ranging from environmental law to the Loch Ness monster! We have books in the collections dating from the 1700s right up to the present, and have books about all sorts of animals, plants and environments from all over the world.

Stephen King has said that ‘books are a uniquely portable magic’, and e-books and audio books make this even more true today when one device can hold many different books. No longer do I need a bag just for books when going on holiday!

Keen eyed readers will have noted that today is also about copyright. Copyright exists to protect the rights of authors and to ensure that they get recognition and, where appropriate, payment for their work. Here at MSS, as part of government, we publish the results of our work under Crown copyright. This means that we allow these results, where possible, to used and reused by anyone for any purpose as long as the source is acknowledged and the copyright remains with the Crown. You can find copies of MSS reports on our website, maps on Marine Scotland Maps and datasets on Marine Scotland Data.

The libraries at the Marine and Freshwater Laboratories are open to the public (by appointment), but we’re not open during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you’re interested in our collections you can have a look at the library catalogue to see what we hold.

Further Information:

Previous blog posts about our library:

The post Celebrating World Book and Copyright Day appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Marine and Fisheries Guidance

Thu, 2020-04-16 14:37

To make sure that you can access the funding, guidance and assistance you need in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) we have pulled together some of the available support from Marine Scotland and most pertinent announcements on Marine and Fisheries.

We will be continuing to keep this updated and under review.

Marine and Fisheries Information for Business   Other Useful Information

The post Coronavirus (COVID-19): Marine and Fisheries Guidance appeared first on Marine Scotland.

COVID 19 – Letter of Support for the Aquaculture Industry

Wed, 2020-04-08 13:32

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism
Fergus Ewing MSP
F/T: 0300 244 4000


Aquaculture Sector

8 April 2020

I am acutely aware of the significant challenges you face in your day-today lives just now.

So, first of all, I want to thank you for keeping the supply lines open, for making sure that the Scottish salmon, trout and shellfish reared around our coasts has been grown, harvested, packaged, shipped and delivered to customers all across the country every single day, despite the barriers this crisis has placed in your way.

All of you have played a part: from the fish farmers to the hauliers, from the vets to the processors and from the divers to the wellboat operators and entire supply chain – everybody involved in Scottish aquaculture has shown how important they are, continuing to deliver more than one million healthy meals to people throughout Scotland and the UK, every single day.

I know there has been some confusion about what constitutes an essential business during this time of crisis.

The Scottish Government’s view is clear: food is part of our national critical infrastructure and businesses like yours can continue to operate, but only if you adhere strictly to the guidance in place for social distancing and abide by strict health and safety guidelines. This is the responsibility of employers, not employees.  And I would encourage employers to also apply the fair work principles we published and keep talking to employees to address concerns and give them reassurance. The new guidance from Food Standards Scotland for food processing might also be helpful in this regard.

Our top priority will always be to protect the health and wellbeing of the Scottish population: we will do everything possible to protect people’s lives and keep our people safe. Companies in the food production, supply and distribution sector can continue to operate and keep our country fed, but only if they adhere to the new rules.

We have already put in place a range of measures to support businesses and I would encourage businesses to use those if they are needed. But I am deeply aware of the difficulties smaller business are now facing with industry leaders advising UK funds could come too late.  We will continue to press the UK Government for earlier release of funds and meantime will consider what else we can do in Scotland to support you. I would strongly encourage employers not to lay off staff but to use the Job Retention Scheme where appropriate.

Beyond finance, we are working with key aquaculture representatives to ensure the entire sector remains viable and that there will continue to be highly skilled and well paid jobs once this pandemic ends. Measures we are taking include looking at how we can protect our key workers, managing aquaculture stock by, for example, enabling fish to stay longer in the water whilst ensuring their health and welfare are maintained; and, looking further ahead, working to maintain domestic demand and re-establishing exports to critical overseas markets.

I hope this reassures that I and the Scottish Government recognises that you are doing an extremely important job and we will do what we can to support you to continue playing your key role in the supply of food in the weeks and months ahead. All we ask in return is that all businesses and employers change their practices where needed to adhere to the social distancing guidance to keep everyone working in aquaculture safe, to help protect lives, protect the NHS and stop the spread of the virus.

Yours sincerely


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Time for Some Marine Themed Fun

Thu, 2020-04-02 14:07

If you’re stuck for some fun, educational things to do at the moment then look no further than our Marine Education Zone.

Below, our Comms Team has recommended some of their favourite Marine Scotland themed resources to keep boredom at bay – so check them out and share your creations.

You can tweet your finished article tagging @marinescotland and using #MShomeschooling Or you can send them directly to us using the address and we’ll share them on Twitter.

  • Our You Tube channel has a range of great video clips including a virtual tour of one of our research vessels, the Scotia (best experienced via VR headset).
  • Or see what it was like to be on a trawler back in the 1950s by checking out this video footage onboard the Explorer.
  • Both vessels appear in our booklet which takes a look at the Marine Scotland vessel fleet through the ages.
  • If you don’t have the sea legs for any of that, why not head over to our Marine Education Zone to build one, or all of, our vessels out of Lego – there’s step-by-step instructions for each one.
  • You can check out our Fishy Facts for answers to big questions such as “Do fish ever stop swimming?” and many more.
  • Or download some of our factoid sheets so you can colour and learn at the same time. Did you know there is more DNA in a bucket of seawater than in a human body?!
  • You can turn yourself into a fish using our handy instructions on how to make a fish hat!
  • Or get creative with Sheena salmon and Tavish trout.
  • Pirate Fishface is also in need of some help to find the missing items in his wordsearch.
  • And last but certainly not least we have some newly designed colouring sheets on our Flickr site, including one where you can see how many pieces of litter you can find and cross out.
Further Information:
  • The Explorer was in our fleet from 1955 to 1984 and is now being restored by the Explorer Preservation Society to be used as a floating museum in Leith, Edinburgh.
  • More marine themed fun can be found on our website.

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New Reports looking at Sea Lice Dispersal around Scotland

Mon, 2020-03-30 14:00

Two new science reports have been published investigating sea lice dispersal between finfish aquaculture management areas around Scotland. The peer-reviewed article published in Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science looks at modelling output at a regional scale with some specific examples. The report for the Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science (SMFS) series provides more in depth information for each region.

Although modelling studies examining sea lice connectivity in Scotland have been published before, this is the first study that looks at the whole coast and islands, instead of individual water bodies, or a relatively small subset of areas. This was done using the Scottish Shelf Model, and its sub-models, to highlight and analyse the large-scale dispersal between Farm Management Areas. These are areas defined by the aquaculture industry primarily to coordinate practices to control parasitic sea lice, which have a large economic impact on the industry and raise significant wild fish conservation and farmed fish welfare issues.

The results of these studies provide information which can help develop more effective parasite control strategies.

Key Headlines from Model Simulations:
  • We find a general northward flow of particles representing sea lice from mainland farm management areas, aligned with the prevailing circulation.
  • Some regions (Loch Linnhe/Sound of Mull) can be classified as net exporters of sea lice and some (east coast of the Western Isles, the north-west coast) as net importers, according to our simulations.
  • A few regions show far reaching connections, for example between the Scottish mainland and the Western Isles.
  • Other areas, such as Shetland, appear to be self-contained but internally well inter-connected.

These results were based on an ‘average year’ simulation. Extreme events and year-specific conditions would most likely introduce additional variability and would potentially result in new connections or the absence of some others identified in this study.

(Main image: Graphical abstract describing the main outcomes of our studies (Rabe et al., 2020))

Further Information:

Partners in this project were: National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool and Jacobs Engineering (formerly CH2M).

Further Reading on Marine Scotland Information website

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Monitoring the Sights and Sounds of Atlantic Cod

Mon, 2020-03-23 12:28

Many marine organisms, such as whales, dolphins and seals produce sound whilst they are under water. Maybe you’ve heard the clicking noises made by dolphins. But did you know that this is also the case for fish too?

This is what PhD student Monika Kosecka has been studying as part of her project on fish acoustics. Usually based in Oban, at the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) campus, Monika came to Aberdeen to conduct acoustic and behavioural trials using the fish behaviour aquaria at Marine Scotland.Fish Trials - four views on CCTV

Conducting Trials

Monika monitored nine fish during the trials, recording all sounds they produced whilst also compiling video footage of their behaviour. The aim of the trials was to record sounds produced by Atlantic cod during spawning which could then be used to create automatic detectors for spawning cod.

These could potentially allow analysis of large amounts of underwater sound recordings collected in the wild to help search for important areas for cod spawning in their natural environment.

Monika is now preparing to link specific sounds to particular fish behaviour, which will help us to understand in which situations cod are using sound to communicate.

Speaking about her project Monika said: “I have chosen the Atlantic cod as a species of primary interest, mainly due to its Fish trials - cod and acoustic deviceeconomic importance and the fact that the stocks are in decline. I am hoping I can develop a method to find cod sounds in acoustic data, that may be helpful in the search for cod spawning grounds around UK waters, and hopefully inform stakeholders when implementing appropriate conservation measures.”

The fish successfully spawned during the study period which took place in February, due to the expected spawning time of cod, and, based on the first screening of data, they were vocally active.

Further Information:

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Acoustic Tracking of Salmon and Sea Trout in Torridon

Wed, 2020-03-18 11:30

A two-year project has helped to track the movement of salmon and sea trout smolts in the Loch Torridon system, Wester Ross.

During 2018 and 2019 Marine Scotland Science fitted migrating salmon and sea trout with acoustic transmitters to track them through a grid of 80 acoustic receivers across Upper Loch Torridon, Loch Shieldaig and most of Outer Loch Torridon. With each of the receivers spaced around 800m apart, the movements of individual fish could be tracked around the study area.

Over the two years smolts were tagged in each of the three main rivers emptying into the system:

  • Torridon (35 salmon, 53 sea trout),
  • Balgy (85 salmon, 50 sea trout), and
  • Shieldaig (274 sea trout)

More than 2.5 million pings from fish tags were detected.

Some of the initial findings showed:
  • Salmon from both the Torridon and the Balgy showed marked variation in time taken to leave the area, indicating potential differences in individual exposure to hazards encountered in the inshore environment.
  • Variation in sea trout movement patterns – from fish that remained in the area surrounding their river mouth, to fish that moved to a non-natal river mouth. For example, one fish from the Shieldaig spent several days in the sea pool of the Applecross (where a lone receiver had been stationed) before returning to Torridon.
  • Predation was frequently identified as a source of mortality for sea trout. Predation events could be identified through pronounced changes of tag behaviour and speed of movement in the array and, for data tags, increases in reported temperature and associated changes in depth patterns.
  • Non-lethal tag ejection events were detected by a tag being recorded as stationary on the sea bed, while the fish it had been inserted into was subsequently recaptured in the Shieldaig fish trap, recognised by its secondary tag sea trout depth-use varied between day and night (deeper in the day) which could be due to a change in food availability or a response to a change in predation risk.

In 2020 MSS will again be tagging fish in the three rivers and deploying an array of acoustic receivers. This year however, the array’s design will be modified in an attempt to discover the fate of the fish that are never detected at sea, and to shed further light on the night-time ‘disappearance’ of sea trout. We also aim to collect further information on the ‘escape times’ of salmon, and to perform an analysis of genetic material collected from the fish.


Further Information:

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Speculative Harbouring: Living Landscapes

Wed, 2020-03-11 11:30

As we celebrate British Science Week we’re delighted to bring you an update from Indian artist and researcher, Sonia Mehra Chawla, with whom we worked closely with during the research phase of her two year project.

Sonia’s installation, which focuses on issues around the North Sea, will be open to the public from April 4, 2020 at Edinburgh Printmakers and is presented as part of Edinburgh Science Festival 2020 and the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 Partner Programme.

Below, Sonia has given us some excerpts from her working notes – where we see her begin to explore living systems and the phases of growth and decay. We hope you enjoy this insight into how creative thoughts and ideas begin to form and grow and how the juxtaposition between science and art becomes more apparent.


Constructing Living Vessels

“Back in the laboratory, we decided to construct devices for culturing a rich diversity of microorganisms, unique miniature microbial ecosystems or microbial gardens.  The structure of a microbial community is the result of environmental factors, evolutionary processes, and neutral or stochastic processes. Once prepared, the column is a self-sustaining, enclosed ecosystem dependent only on input of light as an exogenous energy source.

The column provides a whole range of environments in one small setting, a microcosm enabling many types of organisms with different requirements to grow in different sections of the column.

Over time and space, microbial activity and abiotic processes result in chemical and environmental gradients from top to bottom and surface to interior of the columns, resulting in diverse niches for microbial growth.

The prepared columns were observed over several months for development of layers, smell, colours, and zones.  As the microbes in the soil photo-synthesize pigments, we are exposed to the processes of growth and decomposition of various species of bacteria within this ecosystem, with variations in populations observed through waves of colour.

Incubating the column in available light for several months results in an aerobic/anaerobic gradient as well as a sulfide gradient.  These two gradients promote the growth of different microorganisms such as: Clostridium, Desulfovibrio, Chlorobium, Chromatium, Rhodomicrobium, and Beggiatoa, as well as many other species of bacteria, cyanobacteria, and algae.”


Further Information:

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Celebrating Women in the Fishing Industry on International Women’s Day

Thu, 2020-03-05 10:30

Ms Hannah Fennell, Senior Researcher in our Marine Analytical Unit

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are thrilled to announce that Ms Hannah Fennell, Senior Researcher in our Marine Analytical Unit, will be giving a talk at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther about her research into ‘The Unacknowledged Inputs of Orkney’s Fishing Industry’.

The ‘Women in the Fishing Industry’ event will begin at 1 pm on Sunday 8th March and will continue throughout the afternoon. Women from all areas of the fishing industry will be giving talks about their research, work and what it is like to be a woman in these industries.

Talking about her study Hannah told us: During my research for Orkney Fisheries I found that women have provided vital onshore support to the industry for hundreds of years. While the nature of women’s roles in the industry has changed due to advances in technology and women’s ability to enter the workforce, the activities of women still remain central to the industry.”

Hannah’s research concluded with a report detailing a number of suggestions to enhance the decision-making process. To find out more about Hannah’s research and to hear from other inspirational women in the fishing industry please sign up to attend the free event here.

Further Information:

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Scottish Apprenticeship Week – Mark Rennie

Tue, 2020-03-03 16:45

Scottish Apprenticeship Week is underway and this year’s theme is ‘talent without limits’. We hear from Mark Rennie, Marine Scotland Science, who successfully completed the Modern Apprenticeship programme and has who has been nominated for Engineering Apprentice of the Year.

Mark Rennie

Mark Rennie

“I applied for a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with the Scottish Government after being made redundant. When I joined Marine Scotland my role was split between manufacturing components within the mechanical workshop, which were deployed on our research vessels, and working in the oceanographic section. I maintained equipment and went on to deploy moorings and carry out ocean monitoring sampling.

“On completion of my apprenticeship I was nominated for ‘Engineering Apprentice of the Year’ by NESCol and subsequently moved into a permanent post as an Acoustic Engineer. My new role consists of maintaining the research vessels acoustic systems, fishing net monitoring system and various electronic equipment. I also go out on vessels to carry out acoustic surveys, assist with fish stock monitoring and surveys.

“Since starting at the Scottish Government my confidence, communication and problem solving skills have grown. I’m enjoying the challenge of my new position and look forward to a career with the Scottish Government.”

We wish him all the best of luck for the ceremony being held at NESCol on Thursday.


Further Information:

o Skills Development Scotland
o Apprenticeships in Scotland
o Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board
o UCAS Apprenticeships in Scotland
o Scottish Government Marine and Fisheries

The post Scottish Apprenticeship Week – Mark Rennie appeared first on Marine Scotland.

Detecting Weekly Changes in our Oceans using Seagliders

Fri, 2020-02-28 11:00

Marine Scotland Scientists have been involved in a series of three ocean glider data set peer-reviewed articles. The latest, titled ‘Weekly variability of hydrography and transport of northwestern inflows into the northern North Sea’ has recently been published in the Journal of Marine Science.

Collaborating with researchers from the University of East Anglia, colleagues from our Oceanography group used our marine research vessel MRV Scotia to deploy an underwater autonomous glider, called a Seaglider, to collect underwater observations in the northern North Sea.

This region is of great interest as coastal waters that flow clockwise around the Scottish coast and waters from the Atlantic Ocean enter the North Sea here. During summer time, parts of the northern North Sea also stratify when heat input from the sun is not fully mixed throughout the water column, and instead creates a layer of warmer water, near the sea surface. A thermal mixing front occurs where there is a transition from the stratified waters to those where the sun’s heat input is mixed throughout the water column all year round.

The deployment was part of the Brahan Project; an initiative led by Marine Scotland Science (MSS) to measure the speed and direction of ocean surface currents on an hourly basis and provide information about wave parameters as well.

In addition to the Seaglider observations previous measurements collected by MSS were also used by collaborator and lead author Peter Sheehan.

Analysing the Northern North Sea

During this work, Peter collected observations across an area of the northern North Sea and the analysis showed that salinity and water mass distribution are important controls on the location of the front, as well as surface heat input and mixing by tidal currents.

In the final of the three publications, Peter’s work analysed the two-month glider deployment to describe water mass properties and volume transport at a high spatial and temporal resolution (Sheehan et al., 2020). Traditionally, observations are collected three times per year during hydrographic surveys aboard MRV Scotia. The ocean glider occupied a significant part of the Joint North Sea Information System (JONSIS) section 10 times in two months.

The Seaglider is capable of collecting observations at a much finer scale than ship-based surveys and has highlighted the occurrence of several, strong narrow currents. These finer-scale patterns are important to understand the transport of water, and all of its contents (such as heat, salt and microscopic organisms), into the northern North Sea. Which can, in turn, provide additional context to the long-term monitoring that characterises the prevailing physical conditions in the area and how they change as a result of natural processes and a changing climate.

Peter (shown right) is continuing his work with ocean gliders at the University of East Anglia, but is now using glider data to investigate water mass composition and air-sea interactions in the warmer waters of the Bay of Bengal.

Map of the North Sea. The location of the JONSIS line (cyan) and the approximate paths of the Fair Isle Current (FIC), East Shetland Atlantic Inflow (ESAI), Norwegian Trench Inflow (NTI), Norwegian Coastal Current (NCC) and English Channel Inflow (ECI) are shown. From Sheehan et al. (2020).

Further Reading:

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New Blue Carbon Resource for Marine Scientists

Mon, 2020-02-24 10:40

Two new science reports have been published today by Marine Scotland Science (MSS) that will be used to improve our understanding and management of Blue Carbon; carbon found stored beneath the sea in sediment, shells and living plants.

One is a collaborative project with University of St Andrews ‘Re-Evaluating Scotland’s Sedimentary Carbon Stocks’ and the other authored solely by MSS ‘A Compendium of Marine Related Carbon Stores, Sequestrations and Emissions’.

Using up to date information is important for all marine scientists working in the field of Blue Carbon. However, we found that many differing basic values were being used to describe Scotland’s Blue Carbon, as well as related marine emissions and sequestrations.

To help ensure more consistency, we have taken some time to assemble a base set of checked and improved published evidence, and make these available (along with links to the original sources) in a single report.

By using these new reports we can now see that:
  1.  Scottish marine stores of carbon (top 10 cm) are about 18 times as large as carbon stores in either Scottish peatland (top 10 cm) or forests (living trees) – this tells us that we must manage and protect marine stores of carbon so that they do not contribute to global warming processes in the future.
  2.  In order to manage and protect marine carbon we need to better understand:
  •    how carbon is removed from the marine environment, and
  •   what threats there may be for large stores of carbon in the marine environment such as: physical disturbance and climate change.


Further information Links to the two reports are below: Further information can be obtained from:





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Vacancy: Fishing Gear Technologist, closing date 17 March

Thu, 2020-02-20 10:00

The successful candidate will join the Fishing Technology Group within Marine Scotland based in Aberdeen and contribute to its broad spectrum of roles and collaborations both national and international. The core gear technology work of the group includes working with Scottish fishing industry to develop novel solutions to reduce unwanted fish by-catches, investigate fish behaviour in relation to fishing gears, monitor/report on fishing gear performance, catchability of survey trawl systems and designing new survey (fishing) gears to improve fish stock predictions. The group are responsible and expected to provide advice and represent Marine Scotland on all aspects of fishing gear technology both nationally and internationally.

Qualifications Required:

For jobs in Band B & C you must hold a minimum of 3 Highers 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.

You must also have a valid ENG1 medical certificate or have the ability to pass a medical.

Essential Criteria:

1. A proven ability to interpret net specification plans, experience of rigging fishing gear and demonstrate basic net rigging techniques.
2. To be a confident communicator with proven verbal and written communication skills and ability to present information/data clearly and concisely.
3. Good organisational skills, ability to plan and prioritise work, use own initiative and take responsibility for key tasks whilst maintaining a high degree of attention to detail.
4. Team working and proven experience of working on commercial fishing or research/survey vessels.

Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants“. 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 Robert Kynoch or telephone 01312443360.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact the recruitment team.

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Vacancy: Zooplankton Analyst, closing date 17 March

Wed, 2020-02-19 10:00

The main role of this post is to support the monitoring and research needs of the Ecology and Conservation Group at Marine Scotland Science in Aberdeen, currently made up of 12 people, through taxonomic analysis of zooplankton samples and field work. The post will also provide more general laboratory support.

The Ecology and Conservation Group provides ecological and conservation advice and underpinning science for the Environment Monitoring and Assessment, Planning and Environmental Advice and Coastal and Offshore Fisheries Programmes. The group provides advice on fishery closures, Good Environmental Status (GES) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and carries out ecological studies of macro-benthos, zooplankton and fish in order to support the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Scottish MPA Project. The group also answers questions about alien species, climate change impacts, fish movements and dynamics, vulnerability of priority marine species and trophic interactions.

Qualifications Required:

A qualification such as a HND or B.Sc. in biological or environmental science.
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. Experience identifying and enumerating marine zooplankton using light microscopy techniques.
2. Experience of fieldwork, performing sampling activities that can be applied to an inshore coastal ecosystem monitoring trip.
3. Experience compiling numeric data for inclusion in reports.
4. A methodological approach to work and good organisational skills, especially in a laboratory environment.

Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Applicants“.  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 email Dr Margarita Machairopoulou or call 0131 244 3213.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact

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Demersal Trawling with the Scotia

Mon, 2020-02-17 09:00

MRV Scotia Programme
Survey: 0320S
Duration: 16 February – 9 March 2020

  1. Demersal trawling survey of the grounds off the north and west of Scotland in ICES Subarea 6a.
  2. Obtain temperature and salinity data from the surface and seabed at each trawling station.
  3. Collect additional biological data in connection with the EU Data Collection Framework (DCF).
  4. Retrieval and re-deployment of COMPASS moorings located at discrete sites within the survey area.

General: A training haul will be undertaken during the passage north to ensure all fishing gear/sensors are working effectively. Scotia will then commence fishing operations the next morning on predefined stations off the north Scottish coast and west of 4’W with weather conditions thereafter determining the route taken on the survey.

Trawling: This is a random-stratified survey design with trawl stations being distributed within 10 predefined strata that cover ICES subarea 6A (see figure 1). A total of 62 primary and 45 secondary stations have been generated. The intention is for the 62 trawls to be undertaken on suitable ground as near to the primary station as is practicable.

Hauls will be of 30 minutes duration unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Where possible, fishing operations will be restricted to daylight hours. In addition to the routine sampling, biological data and samples will be collected for target species in line with the EU data regulation and other external projects.

Hydrography: A Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) cast will be taken at each trawl station, weather permitting. Top and bottom temperatures will be reported and in addition, a calibration sample will be retained from the surface.

Compass Moorings: Six acoustic moorings were deployed at sites within the 0320S survey area during the second half of 2019. Two days have been allocated from this survey in order to retrieve and redeploy these.

An acoustic release system will be deployed from the vessel to trigger each mooring; this allows the mooring to surface, where it can be retrieved then re-deployed again.

Figure 2 0320S

Figure 2: 0320S – Location of Compass moorings

Figure 1 0320S

Figure 1. 0320S (SCOWCGFS-Q1) – 2020 ICES Subarea 6a Survey Strata showing primary (bold face) and secondary trawling stations (red dot – plain face).




















Further Information:

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Smartfish H2020 collaborations

Fri, 2020-02-14 16:31

The third annual meeting of the EU H2020 SmartFish project has concluded in Aberdeen.

As highlighted in an earlier blog, SmartFish is an important collaborative four-year project on fishing technology, led by SINTEF (Norway) and featuring key contributions from Marine Scotland Science. The third annual project meeting was held 11-13 February in the Sir Ian Wood Building, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and was attended by 41 scientists from six countries.

The three days of the meeting were organised thematically, with day one focussing on summaries of project progress, day two continuing with this but adding a vital session on Intellectual Property Rights (essential in a multinational project), and day three featuring further round-ups and planning for the next year of work.

Continued involvement in EU projects of this kind remains very important for Marine Scotland Science, and the welcoming address by Dr Coby Needle, Chief Fisheries Advisor for Scotland, emphasised this.

Reflecting on the meeting he said:

“We extended a warm welcome to our visitors to Aberdeen, on the coldest week of the winter so far, and I was very happy to be able to say that we are continuing to work with European partners on work of critical value to the people of Scotland.

“The principles of innovation underpinning the project remain core to us, and we will remain part of all EU Horizon 2020 projects under the same conditions as pertained prior to the UK leaving the EU. This particular project is led by Norway, a non-EU country, and of the 41 participants in the meeting, 29 were from non-EU countries. Fish aren’t constrained by geographical boundaries, and important fisheries science such as this should be similarly unfettered.

“Our hosts at the Robert Gordon University were very accommodating and helpful, and I am pleased to say that our overseas visitors appreciated both the excellent meeting facilities and location, and the warm Aberdonian welcome – despite some chilly weather.”

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Vacancy: Shellfish Stock Assessment Modeller, closing date 10 March

Fri, 2020-02-14 14:00

Salary: £29759 – £34087
Location: Aberdeen
Hours: Around 37.00 per week
Closing Date: 10 March 2020 at midnight
Reference: IRC82515E


We are currently seeking applications for a Shellfish Stock Assessment Modeller within Marine Scotland based in Aberdeen. This is a 24 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 of Shellfish Stock Assessment Modeller in the Stock Assessment and Modelling Group will play a key role in supporting the advice provided by Marine Scotland Science (MSS) to the Scottish Government. The post holder will be responsible for developing approaches (for data compilation and stock assessment) to be used in support of advice on sustainable shellfish fisheries management.

The Stock Assessment and Modelling Group is part of the wider Fisheries Assessment and Advice Programme within the Coastal and Offshore Fisheries Network of Marine Scotland Science, based at the Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen. This post will report to the Stock Assessment and Modelling Group leader.


Qualifications Required: 

For jobs in Band B & C you must hold a minimum of 3 Highers 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. Evidence of strong numeric ability with experience of applying mathematical models to environmental, biological or fishery systems.
2. Good computational skills with proven ability to programme in a high level language (such as R), particularly with respect to data manipulation and analysis.
3. Excellent communication skills with experience of preparing reports.
4. Strong planning and organisational skills, able to manage their own workload and prioritise effectively, dealing with competing demands.


Further Information:

For further information on this vacancy please download and review the “Person Specification and Further Information for Job Applicants“. 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 Helen Dobby who can be reached at or 01312443001.

If you experience any difficulties accessing our website or completing the online application form, please contact the recruitment team via

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