Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) | Assemble+

Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)


Based near Oban, on the Scottish west coast, the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is Scotland's largest and oldest independent marine science organisation. The founder, Sir John Murray, who was the naturalist on the great Challenger Expedition (1872–76) and editor of the 50-volume-expedition reports, opened the Scottish Marine Station in 1884: the first permanent – albeit floating – marine laboratory in the country. It grew quickly and evolved over the years, with the guiding articles being written in 1914 and a re-naming as the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in 1993. It has spawned several other major institutions, including the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science. The 'Sir John Murray' building houses the Association's major research laboratories and includes a wing dedicated to incubating marine biotechnology start-up companies: the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology. SAMS now sits at the heart of the European Marine Science Park – a technopole being developed through Highland and Islands Enterprise.

SAMS science covers: 1. Ocean Systems (currents; biogeochemistry; ecosystem function; Arctic seas); 2. Dynamic Coasts (climate change; marine conservation; society and the sea; industrial impacts); and 3. Blue Economy (aquaculture; marine biotechnology; energy from the sea; fisheries).


  • Clean offshore coastal waters, within the continental shelf
  • Atlantic rocky shore and sandy beach habitats
  • Immediate access to sheltered, restricted-exchange fjordic habitats, subject to periodic deep water oxygen depletion
  • Benthic system sampling through remote photography, grab, and coring


Ecosystem access

  • Coastal research vessels (On-site service)
    • Two hard-hulled and supporting rigid inflatable boats with a comprehensive range sampling equipment (see Sampling equipment)
    • Intertidal and subtidal areas in the Scottish West coast, Inner Hebrides & Clyde areas
  • Submersibles (On-site service)
    • Scottish Marine Robotics Facility (SMRF), offering 
      • Workshop area with overhead crane
      • Ballasting tank 3 x 1.5 x 1 m (fresh or seawater)
      • Computer room
      • Access to sheltered sea-lochs
      • Access to Sea of the Hebrides
      • Platforms & expertise
      • Seagliders 1K
      • Remus 600 AUV
      • Gavia Offshore Surveyor AUV
      • Mojave ROV
      • Remotely Piloted Aircrafts
  • Sampling equipment (On-site service)
    • Ship-based sampling equipment: pelagic and benthic sampling (e.g. nets, grabs and corers) and non-invasive (e.g. CTD and fluorescence, side scan sonar, ADCP) equipment
    • Additionally shore-based sampling equipment and capability


Biological resources

  • Culture collections (On-site and remote service)
  • Biobanks (On-site and remote service)
    • Access to SAMS historical collections, including
      • Benthic macro and mega fauna (preserved and archived from across the globe)
      • Vertebrate fish otolith and gonad collections (Northeast Atlantic)


Experimental facilities

  • Aquaria and tanks (On-site service)
    • Indoor and outdoor aquaria. More information at
      • Temperature- and light-controlled tank systems (including capacity for dosing and monitoring)
      • Establishment license held for experimentation on marine vertebrates (subject to additional controls)
  • Dry labs (On-site service)
    • Modern laboratories (20–271m2) with
      • laminar flow and fume hood
      • Coulter counter, flow cytometer, Flowcam
      • plate readers
    • Equipment for biogeochemical analysis and molecular biology
  • Wet labs (On-site service)
    • Lab for algae culturing, 10 to 50 litres volume and long term ecological studies
      • small experimental photobioreactors
      • climate rooms 
      • temperature and light-controlled incubators
  • Other (On-site service)
    • Two seaweed farms, operating under license (new) for long-term ecology monitoring


Technology platforms

  • Imaging (On-site service)
    • Microscopy: light, confocal, fluorescence, SEM, imaging
  • Molecular biology and omics (On-site service)
    • Thermal cyclers for PCR and qPCR
    • 1 and 2 D gel electrophoresis
    • In situ hybridisation
    • DGGE
    • bacterial and algal bioinformatics
  • Structural and chemical analysis (On-site service)
    • Wide range of biogeochemical analyses:
      • ICPMS and LA-ICP-MS (trace metal analysis)
      • MARS microwave digestion facility
      • Oxygen isotope MS
      • Carbon and nitrogen analyser
      • Inorganic nutrients analyser
      • HPLC (polysaccharides and pigments)
      • GC (trace gas)
      • GC (lipids)
      • Total carbon analyser

For more information, please visit: 

  • Other technology platforms (On-site service)
    • Cryopreservation technology and expertise
      • controlled-rater freezer, cryostore, liquid nitrogen generator



  • Computing and storage infrastructure (On-site service)
    • Safe storage: 60TB storage server supported by back-up regime
  • Data analysis tools and software (On-site service)
    • Cluster service for online data analysis
    • Data management platform, with scope to develop ad-hoc modules for specific data types
  • All platform access units can provide training in the use of equipment and techniques


SAMS also provides conference and teaching facilities, video-conferencing facilities, in-house cafeteria, dedicated marine-science library, including over 3000 journals and local accommodation advice and institute residence.


Scottish Marine Institute
PA37 1QA
United Kingdom
Liaison officer: Christine Campbell ( ), cc to: 

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