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2013 Workshop

Confirmed workshops:

Marine predators and high energy environments: challenges and solutions to understanding behaviour

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Organisers: Dr Mary-Anne Lea ( and Dr Ben Wilson (, 01631 559 346)

Details: Marine predator (bird, mammal, fish, reptile) use of high energy and ephemeral environmental features such as eddies and tidal currents and fronts has been little studied and so poorly understood. The fine-scale spatial and temporal nature of such features, the difficulty in accessing these sites and a requirement for high resolution telemetry equipment and remote
sensed data sets has limited the effective measurement of predator interactions. These deficiencies have come to the fore in recent years with both the growing need for a better understanding ( with drivers such as offshore renewable energy) and the opportunity provided
by a significant improvement in animal-borne and sensor technologies. This workshop aims to 1) showcase current research being undertaken in high energy/ephemeral marine systems in Scotland and further afield and 2) identify technological needs, opportunities for exchange of methodologies between studies of different taxa and 3) consider MASTS relevant collaboration opportunities.

Expected Outcomes/Outputs:

  • A review of recent/leading research on marine predators behaviour in high energy environments. 
  • A wishlist of technologies needed to effectively study marine predators in high energy, ephemeral environments.
  • Kick-start collaboration discussions for combined funding opportunities.
Interdisciplinary approaches to the study of marine connectivity and its applications to MPA network design and fisheries management

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Organisers: Prof Oscar E. Gaggiotti (01334 463513 and; Dr Alejandro
Gallego (01224 876544 –; and Dr Peter J. Wright (01224 295436 –

Details: Dispersal is one of the most important processes driving the dynamics and structure of marine communities, local adaptation of species, and maintenance of genetic diversity. Thus, a thorough understanding of the drivers and pattern of exchange of life-stages among subpopulations, the so-called demographic connectivity, is essential for the effective spatial management of fisheries and the design of marine protected areas (MPAs). However, inferring connectivity patterns in marine species remains a challenging task.

Several approaches and types of data have been used to study connectivity. Genetic approaches typically estimate rates of gene flow while micro-chemical fingerprinting is used to assign individuals to regions. More recently it has been possible to obtain estimates of connectivity from biophysical models of ocean circulation and larval transport. However, all methods are challenged by the large spatial scale at which dispersal in marine species takes place and by the sheer size of populations of marine organisms. No single method or data type can fully elucidate the nature of connectivity and there is a clear need for modelling approaches that combine all available sources of information to understand this process.

This workshop will provide an overview of the latest advances in the study of marine connectivity and their applications to the design of MPA networks and fisheries management. More importantly, it will identify the main difficulties involved and the potential strategies to overcome them. We seek to attract talks from marine scientists from a wide range of disciplines including biology, chemistry, physical oceanography, and behavioural ecology. Contributed talks do not need to present completed studies; they can also be devoted to the presentation of recently funded research projects.

The workshop will consist of invited and contributed talks of 15 minutes each. The last 40 minutes will be reserved for an open discussion about strategies to foster interdisciplinary collaborations among Scottish marine scientists interested in the study of connectivity.

Expected Outcomes/Outputs: The workshop will bring together the community of marine
scientists in Scotland interested in the study of marine connectivity and its application to the design of Marine Protected Areas and fisheries management.  Its main objective is to discuss the possibility of organising a MASTS network on marine connectivity similar to those existing in other countries (e.g. in France). Such a network would foster interdisciplinary collaboration on marine connectivity among scientists in Scotland, including among other things the co-supervision of PhD students, submission of grant proposals, and organisation of courses in the context of the MASTS Graduate School.

Researching Scottish Elasmobranchs – opportunity for a combined approach?

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Organiser: James Thorburn ( or 07793 950325)

Details: Currently there are many groups researching various aspects of Scottish Elasmobranch biology and ecology within Scotland. There is a real opportunity to bring this expertise together into a working group that could benefit from a wider scope of input. This is on the back of a proposal by the Scottish Shark Tagging Program to begin a Europe wide program. While mainly citizen led, there is a real opportunity for academics to be involved in many aspects in and around this program as well as working together in other areas of elasmobranch research.

Expected Outcomes/Outputs: Setting up a working group on Scottish Elasmobranchs from a
wide background of expertise. This will allow a more structured approach to elasmobranch research within Scotland, and increase Scotland’s involvement in Europe, if not world-wide elasmobranch research.

If you are unable to attend this workshop in person, then why not listen in to the webinar – Reserve your webinar seat now at:

To remove or not to remove? The challenge posed by man-made structures on the Marine Environment: considerations for the O&G community

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Organiser: Karen Seath, Business Development Manager, SOI Group (01334 466901 / 07841 894351 or

Details: The marine ecosystem is today populated by numerous anthropogenic (man-made) structures.  Every structure has an environmental footprint – some are small and have localised impact (both positive and negative), others are large with far-reaching influence.  Many of the most significant structures, such as hydrocarbon platforms, are now so well-established that they are themselves part of the ecosystem within which they sit. “To remove or not to remove” is a major challenge posed to both the Regulatory and Oil & Gas sectors – a challenge which the scientific community is exceptionally well placed to help with.   

The North Sea has a history of over 40 years of hydrocarbon exploitation with a legacy of pipelines, risers, exploration and production (E&P) platforms. E&P is ongoing, whilst some of the older platforms are now at the end of their life and are being decommissioned. The OSPAR Convention governs the decommissioning of offshore structures in the North Sea region, and Decision 98/3, which came into force in February 1999, effectively bans the disposal of offshore installations at sea. Derogations may be granted for structures in place prior to 1999 (such as removal to footings), but anything in place after this time must be completely removed for reuse, recycling or disposal on land. Options such as “rigs to reef”, used extensively in the Gulf of Mexico, are not currently an option for the North Sea.

Decommissioning of E&P platforms from an environmental perspective is a major challenge. For many platforms (pre 1999) there is no pre-installation survey – without robust baseline monitoring data how can the true impact of removal be assessed? Platforms with their exclusion zones can act as nursery grounds, and platforms themselves can act as artificial reefs – assessing the scale of these effects is key – how will their removal impact the ecosystem which has established itself? What will be the noise impact of the cutting techniques used? Which cutting technique will be the least impactful? 

Evaluating the ecological impact (both positive and negative) of these platforms, and their potential future impact if they remain in the system or are removed, represents a significant challenge, practically, scientifically and socially. Understanding the impacts, and thus being in a position to manage the impacts, will only be achieved through a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the whole system in which the structures sit.  

The OSPAR regulations will be reviewed again in 5 years’ time (2017), meaning we have a 2-3 year window in which to find answers to the challenges posed, with a 1-2 year period for any subsequent lobbying which may ensue. The time for action is therefore now!

This workshop seeks to pull together delegates from across the Scientific, Regulatory and Oil & Gas communities (program to TBC). Expert speakers from across all three communities will share their extensive knowledge and experience of the environmental challenge from their different perspectives, with hearty interactive debate from the floor being encouraged to ensure the optimal flow and exchange of ideas. Networking is highly encouraged during the breakout sessions in our exhibition and poster area, with exhibitors including Liquid Robotics (Wave Glider), SMRU Instrumentation (telemetry tags), St Andrews Instrumentation (PAMBuoy™) and PhotoSynergy (optical fibre “light ropes”). (Other exhibitors TBC.)

By working, thinking and debating together, we can find solutions together.

Expected Outcomes/Outputs:

  • Expected: The Oil & Gas community will have an improved understanding of the environmental impacts of their activities on the marine environment.
  • Hoped for: The Regulatory and O&G communities will be aligned in the need for R&D funding for identified projects, to determine the impact of removal, or not, of E&P platforms on the North Sea marine environment.

Copies of the presentations:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Micro-plastic litter in the marine environment: sources, sinks, effects and impacts

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Organiser: Dr Marie Russell (01224 295388 or

Details: There are two main sources of micro-plastic litter in the marine environment:- 1) Pre-production plastic pellets, shot-blasting abrasives and cosmetic facial scrubs and 2) Fragmentation of macro-plastic litter already in the marine environment

The global rise year on year of plastic production gives the potential for more plastic litter ending up in the marine environment, which in turn will mean an increase of micro-plastic particles.

It is known that plastic litter causes harm to marine wildlife by entanglement and ingestion. Research has also shown that micro-plastic particles can be found in the tissues of various
marine organisms such as blue mussels.

Due to their large surface to volume ratio micro-plastic particles can accumulate persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic contaminants (PBTs) such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) or PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers – flame retardants).

Potential effects of micro-plastic particles include desorption of PBT contaminants from the
micro-plastic particles, leaching of additives from the micro-plastic particles and physical harm due to ingestion.

Contributions are invited from researchers in the broad field of plastic marine litter (but particularly micro-plastic litter) and its effects on marine wildlife and the marine environment. Talks will be around 15 mins each and posters are also welcome. Please contact Dr Russell if you would like to talk or bring a poster. This workshop will give researchers the opportunity to discuss research and methods with other marine scientists.

Expected Outcomes/Outputs: This workshops hopes  to bring together recent research and
researchers on micro-plastics in the marine environment. The workshop will provide a forum to
1) discuss ideas for new technologies and methods or improvements on ‘old’ ones, and 2) form collaboration on how to best use current research to target areas for future research.

Aquatic Food Security – Scotland’s role for a global market

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Organiser: Prof Rachel Norman (01786 467466 or

Details: Food security is a complex issue both nationally and internationally. Sustainable production must take into account the need to provide sufficient quantities of highly nutritious food that is fully accessible to satisfy the growing global demand. The complexity is further compounded when considering the economic, environmental and trade issues related to food
production.  Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector in the last 40 years and is the only food sector that is currently able to grow faster than the human population.  If we look at the success of Scottish salmon as “Scotland’s largest food export” there is an obvious role for aquatic food sources within international food security.

The newly formed Stirling Aquatic Food Security (StAFS) group at Stirling University are undertaking research on food security, microbial safety and sustainability of products produced from aquaculture systems globally.  The aim of the workshop is to launch this group and to start to develop a Scottish-led network for researchers interested in or already involved in any aspect of AFS.  Prof. Rachel Normal, chair of AFS at Stirling University will provide an introductory presentation followed by open discussion and networking.

Expected Outcomes/Outputs: The expected outcomes of the workshop include the identification of the current knowledge gaps and how aquaculture research activities in Scotland are contributing towards global food security. Initiation of a Scottish-wide research network in AFS is an intended output from the workshop.

Role of genomics in aquaculture development

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Organisers: Dr Sam Martin, University of Aberdeen ( or Tel: 01224 272867) and Prof Brendan McAndrew, University of Stirling ( or Tel: 01786 467884)

Details: Genomics underlies many of the economic traits for aquaculture production.  In recent years there have been a number of key technological advances in genomic analysis that are now being utilised by the aquaculture community.  Not only is there generation of large datasets, but the interpretation of these by bioinformatic approaches is central to gaining maximal benefit from this research.  This workshop will be an opportunity for those researchers in Scotland to get together to share their recent work.  The MASTS Genomics “community project” was the salmon genome, but participation from other areas of aquaculture is encouraged.

Expected Outcomes/Outputs: Expected outcomes from the workshop is an overview of the state of expertise in aquaculture genomics across Scotland.  We will also identify gaps in  knowledge that need to be addressed and targeted for future research strategies.  It will also address how the Aquaculture genomics community in Scotland can maintain interaction both nationally and internationally.

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