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Centre for

Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.

New Marine Research Base in Scottish Borders


Heriot-Watt University signs agreement with Scottish Borders marine station.

A Harbour-side research station will become a new base for scientific studies of excellence aiming at a better understanding, conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment.  A new collaboration agreement between private donors, Edinburgh Napier and Heriot-Watt Universities, members of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) allows scientists and students of the two Universities to study the complex interactions between the sea and humans at St Abbs, Berwickshire.

The clear coastal waters of St Abbs, part of the oldest voluntary marine reserves of the UK, are famous for their interesting seascape and rich marine biodiversity.  In spring and early summer, thousands of seabirds breed on the cliffs of St Abbs Head Nature Reserve.


It is hoped that the new state-of-the-art marine facility will become a key training ground for the next generation of marine scientists.  The marine station, a registered charity funded by private donors, is the culmination of four years of planning, development and construction work in the historic harbour village.  Stephen Nesbitt, chair of the board of trustees of the charity said "Building the station was a great effort involving the hard work and support of many people, not least in the local community.  I am now very excited to see see our next aim being achieved, the realisation of marine research on a wide range of matters of scientific interest and environmental concern, focusing on the wonderful marine environment here at St Abbs and the North Sea."  The station boasts a labortory, offices, a 275m2 research area for aquaria and a seperate 100,000-litre mesocosm tank.  All tanks are provided with a continuous supply of fresh seawater and are under a transparent roof, allowing natural light throughout the research area.  The marine station is particularly well suited for climate change-related studies as well as larval research and studies on life-cycles and rearing techniques.

The agreement will see senior research staff from the academic partners, Dr Bill Sanderson from Heriot-Watt and Dr Karen Diele from Edinburgh Napier being seconded to the marine station as Co-Directors of Research to develop an innovative and challenging research programme for the facility.  Dr Bill Sanderson said: "This new Centre provides a wonderful opportunity to develop the sustainable management of marine resources".  Dr Karen Diele said: "The station is a jewel for staff and students alike and our future research programme will aim to provide the scientific basis for the conservation and sustainable use of the fascinating coastal and marine environment at our doorstep".  The generosity involved in this unusual public/private partnership will provide the capacity to deliver sustainable conservation management in a changing world, especially, we hope, to the benefit of the local community and local biodiversity.

The marine station is already giving PhD students opportunities to conduct research, and undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in marine biologywill benefit hugely from the collaboration.  The station will also be offering other MASTS members opportunities to engage in research at St Abbs.  "MASTS is delighted to see this collaboration.  This tripartite arrangement is an innovative example of structured co-operation between publicaly and privately funded marine science bodies", said Professor David Paterson, Executive Director for the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland.

Enquiries: If you interested in working or studying with us at St Abbs Marine Station, please contact Dr Bill Sanderson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.