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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.


Honorary Degree for inspirational founder of HWU Marine Biology Courses

Murchison platform

Professor Cliff Johnston awarded degree of Doctor of Science

Professor Cliff Johnston was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science at Heriot-Watt University’s graduation ceremony on 16 November 2012. Cliff Johnston inspired generations of students in marine sciences and environmental protection and contributed significantly to the development of marine environmental protection, not just in Scotland, but worldwide.

Oil rig

He joined Heriot-Watt as a lecturer in 1964 and founded the B.Sc. degree in Marine Biology in 1972 just as the University was establishing its Department of Offshore Engineering and Institute of Offshore Engineering (IOE). His early work with Roy Halliwell on the environmental implications of the oil terminal on the Orkney Island of Flotta proved that good collaboration was possible between biologists and engineers and helped lay the groundwork for the development of the University’s Orkney Campus.

From 1979 he was Director of the Institute of Offshore Engineering seeing the Institute become one of the leading organisations advising on environmental protection in the North Sea and then in oil exploration further afield. The Institute was involved in advice on all major oil spills that caught the headlines such as the Amoco Cadiz and Exxon Valdez. In 1987 he initiated a new multi-disciplinary postgraduate degree in Marine Resource Development and Protection. This degree fused pure science from academic departments with industrial experience of Institute staff who also taught on it.

Oil rigsCliff retired from the university in 1997 and established his own consultancy in Orkney. It is a tribute to his inspiration that it is not the only one in the area. There are at least six marine and environmental companies in Orkney founded by former staff and students of IOE.