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 processes (currents; biogeochemistry; ecosystem function; Arctic seas); 2. changing 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

  • Research vessels: two hard-hulled and supporting rigid inflatable boats with a comprehensive range of pelagic and benthic sampling (e.g. nets, grabs and corers) and non-invasive (e.g. CTD and fluorescence, side scan sonar, ADCP) equipment
  • Unmanned Vehicle Fleet: sea gliders, ROV, remotely piloted aircraft providing access to offshore surface and sub-surface habitats for ecosystem and shoreline surveys
  • Ship- and shore-based sampling equipment and capability


Biological resources

  • Culture Collection for Algae and Protozoa 
  • Marine model macroalgal species (including Ectocarpus) for research and development purposes
  • Marine and brackish aquarium facilities for holding and/or experimenting with algae, invertebrates and fish
  • Two seaweed farms, operating under license
  • Benthic macro and mega fauna (preserved and archived from across the globe)
  • Vertebrate fish otolith and gonad collections (Northeast Atlantic)


Experimental facilities and technology platforms

  • Advanced microscopy: light, confocal, ambient,
  • SEM and TEM
  • Wide range of analytical instrumentation: e.g. ICPMS, GCMS, HPLC, nutrients, oxygen and spectrophotometry Indoor and outdoor aquaria
  • Temperature- and light-controlled tank systems (including capacity for chemical dosing and monitoring)
  • Microbial and Molecular Biology platform with laboratories and expertise enabling culturing, sequencing and microscopy (including confocal and SEM) and flow cytometry 
  • Cryopreservation technology and expertise
  • Modern laboratories (20–271m2) with laminar flow and fume hood and equipment for molecular biology and biochemical analysis


Associated services

  • License held for experimentation on marine vertebrates (subject to additional controls)
  • Staff in CCAP provide expert taxonomic advice for identification of micro-organisms
  • All platform access units can provide training in the use of equipment and techniques
  • Cluster service for online data analysis
  • Data management platform, with scope to develop ad-hoc modules for specific data types
  • Safe storage: 60TB storage server supported by back-up regime

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:

Website developed and maintained by Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) | Privacy Policy