Today Professor Richard Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, attended the launch of a three-way agreement which will bolster marine scientists’ conservation work.
A HARBOUR-side research station will become a base for studies aimed at boosting understanding and conservation of the marine environment under this new collaboration.
Scottish scientists will use St Abbs Marine Station to study the complex interactions between the sea and humans as part of a partnership between a charity and Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Napier Universities, members of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS).
It is hoped that the state-of-the-art facility in Berwickshire, which is particularly well suited for climate change-related studies, larval research and studies on life-cycles and rearing techniques, 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.
Dedicated to marine science, conservation and education, it boasts a laboratory, offices, a 275m2 research area for aquaria and a separate 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.
Stephen Nesbitt, Chairman of the Trustees of St Abbs Marine Station, will further the charity’s conservation and education objectives by signing this tripartite collaboration agreement with Professor Andrea Nolan, Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, and Professor Richard Williams, Principal of Heriot-Watt University.
The agreement will see senior research staff from the academic partners, Dr Karen Diele from Edinburgh Napier and Dr Bill Sanderson from Heriot-Watt, being seconded to the marine station as Co-Directors of Research to develop an innovative and challenging research programme for the facility.
The marine station is already giving PhD students opportunities to conduct research, and undergraduate and postgraduate students engaged with marine biology at the two universities will also benefit hugely from the collaboration.
The station will also offer other MASTS members opportunities to engage in research at St Abbs.
Stephen Nesbitt 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 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.”
Dr Bill Sanderson from Heriot-Watt said: “This new centre provides a wonderful opportunity to develop the sustainable management of marine resources.
“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.”
Professor David Paterson, Executive Director for the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland, said: “MASTS is delighted to see this collaboration. This tripartite arrangement is an innovative example of structured co-operation between publicly and privately funded marine science bodies.”
Dr Karen Diele from Edinburgh Napier said: “The station is a jewel for scientists and students alike, and I am very much looking forward to developing ambitious and exciting research with my partners here at St Abbs. Our future research programme will aim to provide the scientific basis for the conservation and sustainable use of the fascinating marine environment at our doorstep.”