Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) | EMBRC

Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)


The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is Scotland’s oldest and largest independent marine science organization based in Oban on the Scottish west coast. It was set up in 1884 by Sir John Murray as a marine station in Edinburgh for training future polar explorers and scientists such as Fridtjof Nansen and William Speirs Bruce. It soon relocated to Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae where it remained until the organization moved to its current location in 1968/9. In 1901 the organization became a membership organization and has operated as a learned society ever since.

Mission and research:

The SAMS mission is to deliver world-class marine science that supports society with innovative solutions to developing a sustainable relationship with the marine environment. SAMS delivers this mission through research, education, services to business, learned society activities and public engagement initiatives. SAMS strives for a global reputation for excellence in marine science.

While administered through four departments (Ecology; Microbial and Molecular Biology; Biogeochemistry and Earth Science; Physics and Technology), much of SAMS research is highly multidisciplinary. This is reflected in the research themes, e.g. Arctic Science and Blue Energy, and the recent creation of three Research and Innovation Centres in Aquaculture, Marine Biotechnology, and Society and the Sea.

The Arctic programme has a long pedigree of multidisciplinary studies and field operations in polar regions. The Blue Energy Research Group focuses on dual renewable energy strands of environmental interactions and algal biofuel source assessment and development. Aquaculture at SAMS focuses on environmental interactions and invertebrate and macro-algae cultivation. The Marine Biotechnology centre provides a clear focus on natural products, bioremediation and algal bioenergy. The Society and the Sea innovation centre is based on innovative approaches to understanding the social and policy arena around the changing marine environment.

Marine facilities:

The 160 m2 Alan Ansell Research Aquarium offers excellent indoor and outdoor facilities for the culture of vertebrate and invertebrate organisms and large-scale experiments. SAMS operates two inshore research vessels and a fast inshore RIB. The marine facilities comprise sampling equipment and seagoing instrumentation, oceanographic AUVs, and benthic landers for deep sea biogeochemical studies.

The National Facility for Scientific Diving (NFSD) is located at SAMS and provides divers, equipment, training and scientific/technical support that underpins a wide range of interdisciplinary research in the underwater environment for SAMS and for universities and research institutes throughout the UK.

SAMS hosts the UK Culture Collection for Algae and Protozoa (CCAP), the world’s most diverse culture collection of 3000 strains of marine and freshwater algae and protists, provides cultures and advice on their growth, training, taxonomic and patent depository services as well as carrying out research on biodiversity, taxonomy, cryopreservation, biotechnology and food safety.

Laboratories and platforms:

The SAMS research laboratories were rebuilt and significantly re-equipped in 2004 and new teaching facilities were provided in 2011. The laboratories offer state of the art facilities and equipment for analytical chemistry, geology, microbiology and molecular biology and ecology.

In addition, there is an extensive library and excellent conference, meeting rooms and teaching laboratories and lecture rooms.

Main marine models:

Research programmes across SAMS are involved in a large range of marine organisms including marine microorganisms (microalgae, bacteria, protozoans, phytoplankton and other eukaryotic protists), macroalgae, marine invertebrates (cold water corals, annelids, echinoderms (sea urchin, sea cucumber), zooplankton and marine vertebrates (cold water marine fish, cetaceans).

Special partnerships:

SAMS European Centre for Marine Biotechnology currently houses two tenant companies. Commercial research and consultancy services are delivered by a wholly-owned subsidiary company (SRSL).

Collaborative Centre of UK Natural Environment Research Council; Delivery Partner of UK National Oceanography Centre; Partner of University of the Highlands and Islands; Associate of the United Nations University.

Research topics: 
  1. Arctic seas
  2. Dynamic oceans
  3. Marine renewables
  4. People and the sea