Heriot-Watt welcomes new Bicentennial Research Leader, Professor Paul Fernandes



Paul Fernandes
Professor Paul Fernandes

Newly appointed Bicentennial Research Leader, Professor Paul Fernandes, has begun his new role at Heriot-Watt University today (1 June).

Based within the Lyell Centre for Earth & Marine Sciences and Technology, a strategic partnership between Heriot-Watt and the British Geological Survey, and one of University's flagship GRIs (Global Research Institutes), Paul has over 25 years' experience in marine biology, fisheries and marine technology, spanning the globe from Antarctica to the Arctic, the Mediterranean and northern Europe.

Previously at the University of Aberdeen, he set-up the FEAST (Fisheries Ecosystems and Advanced Survey Technologies) research group, which focuses on the sustainable management of marine resources and development of advanced underwater survey technologies, notably advanced underwater acoustics, visual surveys and geostatistics to study marine fauna.

Paul is a pioneer in the use of uncrewed vehicles to study fish distributions, and is the inventor of the Smartrawl (patent pending), a technological device to reduce the wasteful practice of discarding fish at sea.  

He will bring these and several other exciting projects to Heriot-Watt, including those which straddle marine technology, engineering and autonomous systems, providing a link between the Lyell Centre and fellow GRI, the National Robotarium.

Paul said: “I am delighted to be joining Heriot-Watt University at this most exciting of times, particularly with the opening of the National Robotarium. 

“The corresponding ambitions of the Lyell Centre, to develop marine technology and provide fantastic opportunities to develop new methods, instruments and facilities, with those of the National Robotarium – who are revolutionising the development of autonomous underwater systems and AI - can make a real difference in how we manage our activity in the oceans under environmental change.” 


Paul Fernandes has a BSc and PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Liverpool's Port Erin Marine Laboratory. 

Before joining Heriot-Watt, he was at the University of Aberdeen for 11 years and, prior to that, he worked at the Marine Laboratory Aberdeen (now Marine Scotland Science) for over 16 years.  There he focused on fisheries surveys initially and, latterly, fish stock assessment, where he led the Sea Fisheries Group. 

His early career consisted of stints in Ireland, setting up their fisheries acoustics programme, and in Bolivia working on the artisanal fisheries of Lake Titicaca.

Heriot-Watt Bicentennial Research Leaders

The Bicentennial Research Leaders (BRL) were created to celebrate the University's 200th anniversary and mark the institution's achievements in the creation and exchange of knowledge for the benefit of society.

100 outstanding research academics were to be recruited to strengthen and complement Heriot-Watt's existing world-leading research, raising capacity to advance science and work in collaboration with international business and industry. The BRLs will establish the future strategic direction of the University, and access a truly global research community that believes in inclusivity and opportunities for all.


Louise Jack