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Scottish Association for Marine Science
Scottish Association for Marine Science logo.png
Type Research institute
Established 1884
Administrative staff
ca 150
Students 160
Undergraduates 100
Postgraduates 30
Location ,
Campus Dunbeg
Director Prof N Owens
Affiliations UHI

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is one of Europe's leading marine science research organisations, one of the oldest oceanographic organisations in the world and is Scotland’s largest and oldest independent marine science organisation.

Sited on the Dunstaffnage peninsula, beside Dunstaffnage Castle and near Oban, Argyll on the Scottish west coast, SAMS marine research and teaching portfolio is diverse in topic and discipline, global in outlook and relevance, and delivered in partnership with academic, business, government, regulatory, voluntary and civic society colleagues.

Advanced research is carried out in the marine environment, including polar research in the Arctic and Antarctic, climate change and marine biological research.

SAMS is an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands and delivers BSc, Masters and doctorate] programmes in the marine science field. It is also a member of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS), and one of its staff is the director of the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES).


The Association was founded in 1884 by Sir John Murray following the landmark Challenger expedition. The Scottish Marine Station, as it was then known, was established in Granton outside Edinburgh and was the first marine research station in Scotland. It grew quickly and over the next 10 years began a gradual transfer of activities to Millport on the isle of Cumbrae on the west coast. In 1914 the association was incorporated as a not-for-profit company and renamed the Scottish Marine Biological Association

After 80 years of investigations of the Firth of Clyde area and an island location, the Association relocated to the mainland in 1967 and built new facilities near Oban where it has easy access to a variety of oceanographic environments. In 1992 the Association was renamed as the Scottish Association for Marine Science.

The research laboratories at Dunstaffnage were rebuilt and re-equipped in 2004 and new teaching facilities were provided in 2010. The Ocean Explorer Centre, at Dunbeg, allows visitors to learn about the marine environment and the academic research going on at SAMS.

In 2014 the Ocean Explorer Centre was opened by Michael Russell MSP, then Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, to serve as a visitor and outreach facility for SAMS.


SAMS science focuses on three major and urgent challenges which humankind and our natural world must face:

  • to discover the physical, chemical, geological and biological processes that drive the marine system so that we have the knowledge needed
  • to describe and quantify how our coastal environment, where more than half the human population resides, responds to ever-increasing man-made pressures such as climate change, habitat destruction, pollution and resource overexploitation and to work with society on developing and testing mitigation and adaptation measures and finally
  • to develop a sustainable blue economy so that we can use the marine environment for the benefit of people without degrading its health and productivity
  • to address these major challenges SAMS science is multi-disciplinary, drawing on the expertise from physicists, mathematicians, biologists, geologists, chemists, social scientists, computer scientists, technologists, engineers and communicators.

In addition to marine research, in the fields of marine processes and climate change, renewable energy, the Arctic, marine prosperity and sustainability, and mining impacts, the institute has a commercial branch and an education department.


SAMS Research Services Ltd (SRSL) is the wholly owned trading subsidiary of SAMS and is also based at the Scottish Marine Institute, Dunstaffange. SRSL has been a part of the SAMS Group since 2002. The subsidiary delivers specialist marine consultancy and survey services, underpinned by the scientific research taking place at the research institute. SRSL aims to mitigate the risks involved in industry interaction with the marine environment, while promoting sustainable and productive oceans. SRSL provides environmental services to multiple industries, including aquaculture, renewable energy, marine mining, oil & gas (decommissioning), seafood security and marine biotechnology. The company also manufactures devices for autonomous snow and ice measurement used in polar environments.


Robotics facility

Using a multitude of flying and diving robots, the experienced and skilled staff and students at SAMS' Scottish Marine Robotics Facility develop, adapt, deploy and operate latest smart technologies to answer pressing environmental science questions. These new technologies drive marine science forward and the new knowledge enables people to plan how we interact with the marine realm more sustainably. The facility has an exceptional range of capabilities that support academic, regulatory and commercial projects. From aerial mapping to surface fluxes and the properties of deep water, the Scottish Marine Robotics Facility has technologies that span the atmosphere, ocean and ice.

Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa

The CCAP is the most diverse collection of algae and protists in Europe. It supports SAMS' research, currently with a focus on algal diseases


SAMS offers students a complete educational pathway from undergraduate through to PhD studies.


Undergraduate studies at SAMS offer three Bachelor's degree options to incoming students:

  • Marine Science BSc (Hons)
  • Marine Science with Arctic Studies BSc
  • Marine Science with Oceanography & Marine Robotics BSc


Postgraduate studies at SAMS offer three master-s degree options for incoming students:


SAMS offer differing PhD studentships over the course of the year when projects or funding becomes available. There is also the opportunity for students who want to self-fund a PhD project.

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