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Heriot-Watt University’s Festival of Research – celebrating research excellence; enhancing research culture; building research capacity.

Chair – Prof Michel Kaiser, Chief Scientist and Professor of Fisheries Conservation, Heriot-Watt University

Dr Mark Hartl – Monitoring microplastic contamination in Scottish intertidal sediments

Microplastics, defined as pieces of plastic of < 5mm, are commonly found in the marine environment and originate either from consumer care products and plastic production plants or from the disintegration of larger pieces of litter. Our research has found similar concentrations of microplastics in intertidal sediments in both the central belt of Scotland and at relatively remote locations such as Orkney. This finding received extensive media coverage and was used as a case study in a parliamentary debate on “Stopping the Plastic Tide”. The Scottish Government has since implemented policies to reduce plastic litter which will also require better monitoring of microplastic contamination. Our latest research in the Firth of Forth highlights innovations and limitations in microplastic sampling and what that could mean for contamination prevention in the future.

Dr Alastair Lyndon - Magnetic attraction? Impact of electromagnetic fields on marine organisms

Offshore development, such as that related to renewable energy generation, is increasing the numbers of electrical cables on the seabed. These generate electromagnetic fields (EMF) which could potentially affect the behaviour and physiology of marine organisms. Our research on the commercially important brown crab, Cancer pagurus, has found adults being attracted by EMF but also potentially stressed by them. Observed alterations to egg development rates and increased deformity of larvae near EMF may have negative consequences on recruitment to the crab fishery. The effect of EMF on bacterial biofilms is also being investigated in a pioneering attempt to understand whether EMF could be used as an anti-fouling mechanism for cables and other man-made materials in the marine environment.

'Pioneering Research' Strand

From discovery to application, our pioneering research delivers impact, helping to transform society, stimulate economic growth, and change lives. Find out more about the award-winning, pioneering research being undertaken at Heriot-Watt University and why it is attracting academic and innovation interest worldwide.

Dr Dan Harries – Flame Shells and Fan-worms - rewilding Scottish reef habitats

Reefs, such as those in Scottish waters built by Flame Shells (Limaria hians) and Fan-worms (Serpula vermicularis), are regarded as being of conservation importance due to their rarity and the high levels of biodiversity associated with them. But significant deterioration of biogenic reef habitat (extent and condition) has been recorded at various sites over the last decade, potentially caused by both environmental and anthropogenic factors. Natural regeneration of the reefs appears to be possible but only over protracted timescales. Our research seeks to explore the potential for ‘rewilding’ of reef sites by intervening to promote and accelerate the regeneration of reef habitats, thereby ensuring conservation action for these unusual marine habitats.

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Research Futures Academy