Marine Scotland blog

News from Marine Scotland

July 31, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Life on a research vessel – sampling on the MRV Scotia in the Faroe Shetland Channel

MRV Scotia

MRV Scotia

Ever wondered what it’s like being on a research vessel? We’ve just added a new film to our Youtube channel to give you an idea of just that.

Filmed over a number of years, this short programme shows some of the research work that is carried out by the Marine Scotland scientists on board the MRV Scotia.

The featured plankton research is part of ongoing investigations looking at the abundance of over-wintering calenoid copepod (Calanus finmarchicus) populations in the Faroe-Shetland Channel.

This particular work has been happening each winter since 1998, and sporadically before then as early as 1993. The reason for this sampling programme is that Calanus finmarchicus appears not to be able to persist in the North Sea without annual re-stocking from ocean areas beyond the continental shelf edge. The main centre of offshore abundance which supplies the North Sea, is in the Faroe-Shetland Channel.

Watch the film

More information



July 29, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Ocean Literacy Survey

Work is currently ongoing to gather information on “Ocean Literacy” in the UK -  understanding the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean.

A survey has been created, that is part of a research project and based on a framework developed in the United States, that intends to assist institutions in the UK in improving their techniques for imparting ocean related knowledge to the public. The survey contains 35 multiple choice questions and will take around 10 minutes to complete.

They are looking for as wide a range as possible of responses, so if you are interested in the oceans and finding out more, please get involved:


July 27, 2015
by Ruth Allen

MASTS Deep Sea Collaboration Project (Survey 0915S) – last update 27th July 2015

Here’s the last update from the Deep Sea Survey 0915S:

Day 9

We continue to work away. The baited lander is retrieved for the last time  and the pictures are downloaded successfully. Rather than risk further misfires with the maxicorer we switch gear to the less sophisticated, but more reliable Van Veen grab to get our seabed samples. There is clearly a difference in sediment type and infauna between the faults and the plates. It’s pretty much flat calm and whales are seen spouting on the horizon. The TV camera is deployed and follows a second line of multibeam track further confirming what we saw yesterday. By mid-night it’s time to heave it back up and start our long passage back home to Aberdeen.  It’s been a very interesting and challenging cruise. Both the MASTS scientific team and the Scotia team have worked hard to pull it off and we are going back with many interesting observations, data and sample material. Time will tell what it all means.

Francis Neat, Marine Scotland Science

Further Information:

Further Information:

July 24, 2015
by Ruth Allen

MASTS Deep Sea Collaboration Project (Survey 0915S) – update 24 July 2015

The latest update of the MRV Scotia Survey 0915S….

Day 4.

After yesterday’s tantalising glimpses of what might have been the cold seep, Jim Drewery, leads the watch in which we begin to deploy the more conventional  seabed sampling gear. The first samples suggest we are indeed in the right area. Graham Oliver who did the formal identification of the new species is aboard and he confirms that the specimens are the same species we found 3 years ago.  The lander is retrieved, but something is very strange – the bait has not been touched, all the pictures are black and the ‘feet of the lander’ are covered in a sooty substance. We decide to core the site to see what the seabed consists of. As the maxicore comes up, it’s clear it  has only partially worked with 5 out of 8 cores containing samples. The most noticeable thing is a sulphurous pong, but when we decant the cores the overlying water is more like a slimey ooze. The core appears to contain very little in the way of life. Baffled we process the samples and preserve them. By evening time we get the TV going again and we fly straight back into the blizzard. So it seems to be typical of conditions down there. Eventually we come out it and we are back into the greenish ripple features. There are plenty of fish about. Its appears that in the very bottom of the trench is some extreme environment perhaps only inhabited by bacteria -  but as you get further away life begins to get going again and there diverse ecosystems.

Day 5.

The sampling continues. One haul of the Agassiz trawl yields nearly 1 tonne of mud! We are all a mess after that, but there are some interesting specimens to be catalogued. The lander again comes up in a similar state as yesterday – no evidence of fish or much else other than bacteria in the slimey ooze at the centre of the trench. We move it further toward to edge of the trench and redeploy. We’ve had a few issues with the maxicoring today – misfires and wire tangles, but eventually we got 4 perfect cores which are carefully sectioned and preserved. Heather Stewart from BGS has had more success with deploying the gravity core which has done the business every time and we’re building up a good sample. Each core drives some 2.5 m into the sediment reaching down to deposits laid down before the last ice age. Tonight TV operations switched focus to a second deep basin area just a mile to north, separated by a ridge. Here the visibility was much better (no blizzards) and similar features were seen.

Day 6.

Overnight a camera tow was made along the east side of the trench and revealed a completely different environment – coral gardens and boulders that had presumably rumbled down the steep sides of the trench wall to the east. It was a busy morning with Agassiz trawl – a very diverse haul from the side of the trench. Problems with the depth sensors on the sampling gear meant we were unable to deploy SAMS’s epibenthic sledge. We continued with the Agassiz trawl – this time in the middle of the trench. A fraction of the bulk and diversity this time – only 1 km from the previous haul. There are some very steep environmental gradients here. After lunch we retrieve the lander. Tom Linley, a PhD student from Oceanlab is clearly relieved to see the bait has been eaten. The pictures are downloaded we finally see something – deepwater sharks, skates and cut-throat eels all attacking the bait. Also plenty of amphipods swarming around. Then its onto coring which goes well – finally we get a full set of cores from the green potential seep habitat we have been seeing on the video. There is a thick carpet of green slime sitting on top of very white and fine sediment. Above the slime the water is clear and normal, unlike the smelly ooze we encountered before. The wind is freshening and the forecast is for a 24 hour storm. We get 30 minutes of TV deployment, but by 21:00 the wind is gusting 40 knts and we abandon operations and get the chariot safely back on board.

Day 7

Well it wouldn’t be Rockall with a bit of rock and roll. 60 knt gusts overnight and a big old sea is now stopping us from doing anything more than opportunistic mapping of the seabed using the ship’s Olex system.  Conditions moderate enough by 18.00 to resume work and we got going with the last gravity core deployment in the potential cold seep area. The baited lander was recovered and we did one final TV tow in the area before moving further west to the Hatton-Rockall basin Marine Protected Areas site.

Francis Neat, Marine Scotland Science

Further Information:

July 23, 2015
by Ruth Allen

Get interactive with Wild Fisheries Reform

The consultation on the proposed conservation measures to introduce a licensing system for the killing of any wild salmon in Scotland together with associated carcass tagging regulations and baits and lures regulations closed on 30 April. The proposed measures would apply solely to salmon and not to sea trout.

Over 600 replies to the consultation were received. Analysis of the responses is being carried out. Responses (if permission has been given by the respondent) will be published on the Marine Scotland website in due course.

The proposal for a “kill licence” was one of the recommendations of the Wild Fisheries Review (WFR) report published in October 2014 and part of the wider on-going Wild Fisheries Reform programme which is set out in the current consultation on the Scottish Government’s response to the WFR.

Ministers advertised their intention to create a licensing system and carcass tagging regime as well as a prohibition on the killing of salmon out-with estuary limits through regulations. In doing so , this provides an opportunity for interested parties to make any representations and objections within 28 days.

To assist that process we are launching this week-long interactive discussion  (ending Wednesday 29 July) on the detail of the scheme and some of the common messages and themes emerging from the consultation process. This is an open forum where you should feel comfortable to share and discuss your views on these important issues. While we will look to ask some specific questions which are contained within the various idea boxes, we anticipate the discussion will develop into different issues directly related to this proposal. In those circumstances, further idea boxes can be created using the “submit an idea” box on the right hand side of the page.

Take part in the interactive discussion on these pages:

More Information

July 23, 2015
by Ruth Allen

It’s a Super Saturday with Marine Scotland Science

Super Saturday - Land and Sea

Earlier in July, Marine Scotland Science STEM Ambassador, Jane Mills, took part in Fraserburgh’s Super Saturday – Land and Sea event. The Super Saturdays run between May and December and have a different theme every month.

With the help of local skippers who have provided her with fish, Jane hosted a fresh fish counter where people could find out more about the fish and pick them up to have a good look.

Jane is no stranger to fresh fish counters and we wrote about some workshops she did earlier this year with Seafood in Schools.

Super Saturday’s

The remaining Super Saturday’s for this year are:

August 9: Farming

September 13: Food & Drink

December 9: Festive

More Information

July 22, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

ICES Science Fund success for MSS researcher

In our blog in May, we featured an article about the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) announcing seven awards for its 2015 ICES Science Fund Call.

Pablo Leon Diaz of the Phytoplankton Ecology Group in Marine Scotland Science was one of the winners with his proposal in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen entitled “Can pelagic gastropods be used to assess the impacts of ocean acidification?”. The fund provides 60,000 DKK (~5,700£) from June 2015 to May 2016.

Ocean acidification (OA) is a very topical issue in marine science. The increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide from anthropogenic activities and the subsequent uptake by the ocean is reducing seawater pH (increasing acidity and changing ocean carbonate chemistry). Identifying and assessing the impacts of OA on marine organisms is key to assessing the wider impacts of climate change on marine life, but there are currently few indicators to monitor for effects.

PLimacina retroversalanktonic calcifiers are important components of the plankton community. Some contribute significantly to marine primary production and play a key role in global biogeochemical cycles such as the pelagic calcium-carbonate flux. Laboratory experiments examining the impacts of OA on these organisms have shown mixed results and field studies are scarce. This project will trial the use of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of pelagic gastropod shells as a tool to assess the impacts of OA on the plankton community in the North Sea. The project will focus on zooplankton samples and sea water chemistry data collected at the Marine Scotland Science (MSS) monitoring site at Stonehaven on the east coast of Scotland.

Pelagic gastropods include the pelagic larvae of otherwise benthic gastropod species as well as truly pelagic species (holoplanktonic pteropods such as Limacina retroversa; see photo).

To assess the potential impacts of OA on this part of the plankton community, changes to pelagic gastropod shells will be examined using the SEM facilities at the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Aberdeen. This sensitive equipment can provide the high resolution images required to detect even the smallest changes on shell surface and allows additional X-ray microanalysis to be performed to look at changes in the chemical composition of shells. Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) equipment

The SEM results will be reviewed with carbonate chemistry measurements and environmental parameters  collected at Stonehaven to assess if any changes in structure (such as ‘dissolving’) or composition are associated with the environmental parameters monitored. The use of these techniques to produce a ‘tool’ to identify the impacts of OA on the plankton community will be evaluated.

More information:


July 22, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions – the ocean’s problem

We’ve all seen the banner headlines about CO2 concentrations increasing in the atmosphere, but did you know this increase is also impacting our seas and its inhabitants too?

There is a natural exchange of CO2 between the surface layers of the ocean and the atmosphere. The chemistry of seawater is complex, an imbalance as a result of absorption of atmospheric CO2, by oceans, has the potential of making the seawater more acidic, this is known as Ocean Acidification.Figure 1 CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere

It has been reported that a third of the CO2 from human activities (such as fossil fuel burning) produced over the past 200 years has been absorbed by the oceans, resulting in a decrease in pH level.  Changing the acidity of sea water may have an impact on many living organisms in the sea such as plankton.   Plankton are most active near the ocean surface (the upper 200 m), and this layer is likely to be the most affected by ocean acidification, and any impact on plankton may affect other parts of the food chain.

Some marine regions will be more rapidly affected, therefore it is important to routinely monitor for changes in CO2 concentrations.

What is Marine Scotland Science Doing?

We are involved in a number of projects to assess changes to Scottish waters as a result of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. Since 2009 water samples have been collected from two depths (one and 45 m) on a weekly basis (weather permitting) at the Stonehaven ecosystem monitoring site with the aim of providing a baseline for a coastal region in Scottish waters. Water samples collected between January 2009 and August 2011 were collected and analysed, by the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOC), as part of the Defra PH project and UK Ocean Acidification (UKOA) project. Since September 2011 water samples have been collected at Stonehaven as part of the Stonehaven ecosystem monitoring programme were we have collected monthly water samples for coccolithophore identification.

Figure 2 Emiliania huxleyi ACoccolithophores are microscopic phytoplankton which are covered in calcareous plates. Laboratory studies to investigate the impacts of OA on this part of the plankton community have given conflicting results. Understanding the seasonal control of Emiliania huxleyi diversity and calcification will contribute to a better understanding of the potential biological impact of OA on coccolithophores in Scottish waters.  Marine Scotland has just started a small project investigating if pteropods (small marine snails that live in the water column) can also be used to assess the impacts of OA on the marine plankton community.

The data from the coastal site continues to be of particular interest both nationally and internationally, as this is one of the few international long-term weekly baseline monitoring sites for OA studies. Linked with the biological data this site provides valuable information to help us understand and distinguish long-term anthropogenic signals from short-term spatial and temporal variability.

Pamela Walsham, Lynda Webster, Eileen Bresnan and Pablo Leon Diaz


Marine Scotland Science International Representation

Marine Scotland Science has international representation on a number of groups, we are network members of the Global Ocean Acidification – Observing  Network (GOA-ON) and were a member of the Joint OSPAR/ICES Ocean Acidification Study Group (SGOA 2012-2014).  A MSS staff member will be one of the conveners for Theme session H: Ocean acidification: Understanding chemical, biological and biochemical responses in marine ecosystems of the ICES ASC 2015.

Further Reading

July 21, 2015
by Ruth Allen

MASTS Deep Sea Collaboration Project (Survey 0915S) – update 21 July 2015

Our update of the Deep Sea survey continues…..

Day 2

Steaming west, passed the Butt of Lewis, the Flannen Isles, St Kilda, off the continental slope and into the Rockall Trough. The winds are easing and the sea state is improving all the time. Between construction of the multicore and final preparation of the lander,a sperm whale was spotted spouting in the distance. By midnight we were hovering in a depth of 1800 m about to deploy the whale bone lander. Alan Jamieson of Aberdeen University’s Oceanlab has designed to lander to study the rates and processes by which a group of specialist worms devour whale bones. Time lapse cameras will take pictures over the next year. A few last minute checks and over she went, the strobe beacon descending until its pressure sensors turned it off and it made its way 1800 m to the seabed. One of the graduate students aboard specialises in making 3-D digital images and has created a model of the whale skull, it can be seen here. She will make similar 3-D reconstructions of the creatures we find on the survey.

Day 3

Steaming to the Hatton Rockall Basin. The site sits at the base of Rockall bank – it’s a small trench 1200 m deep and some 2 miles long by half a mile wide. We arrive around midday and first up the Oceanlab team deploy their baited lander hoping to attract scavenging fish in the area to photograph. Next up we get the TV camera ready. Neil Collie and Mike Stewart of MSS remotely fly the TV ‘chariot’ over the seabed at a height of about 2-4 m taking HD video footage of the seabed. To begin with it is a familiar deep-sea floor – worm burrows and starfish, the odd seapen and sponge. Then suddenly the visibility begins to get poor due to particulate matter in the water. It like it’s snowing down there. Then suddenly some odd features are seen to snake their way across the seabed – greenish with white patches. The particulate matter gets heavier until it’s like driving in a blizzard, then all of a sudden its so thick we can’t see the seabed anymore and we’re only 1-2 m above it. Driving the chariot blind for another half hour we eventually bring the camera back. Very strange.

Francis Neat, Marine Scotland Science


Further Information: