Scottish Association for Marine Science


(Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory)

Scottish Association of Marine Research Laboratory, Dunstaffnage
©2021 Gazetteer for Scotland

Scottish Association of Marine Research Laboratory, Dunstaffnage

A research facility located quarter-mile (0.5 km) north of the village of Dunbeg (Argyll and Bute) on the shores of Dunstaffnage Bay, the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is a world-class research facility. It is a partner in the federated University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), hosting undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. SAMS runs research ships, which operate around the globe, and is involved in a range of projects in marine science, oceanography, the coastal environment, biodiversity, climate change, and human impact on the oceans and marine ecosystems.

The Scottish Association for Marine Science was founded in 1884, as the Scottish Marine Station, by oceanographer Sir John Murray (1841 - 1914) who had been a member of the Challenger Expedition (1872 - 76), the first to explore the world's oceans. The first laboratory was in Granton (Edinburgh), in a converted barge funded by the Scottish Meteorological Society. The industrialist Laurence Pullar (1837 - 1926) donated their first research ship the Medusa. A purpose-built laboratory was begun in Millport on Great Cumbrae in 1894, sharing a site with the University Marine Biological Station. Becoming the Scottish Marine Biological Association in 1914, state funding of the facility began in 1922 and responsibility passed to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in 1966. The organisation moved to Dunstaffnage between 1967 and 1970, occupying the site of a former military base. In 1993, the organisation changed its name once again to the Scottish Association for Marine Science and continued to work alongside the NERC-owned Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory on the same site. The facilities were unified under a single Director two years later and the NERC laboratory and staff were finally transferred to SAMS in 2002.

The Institute employs more than 150 scientists and support staff and has an annual turnover of around £11 million. The Dunstaffnage facility was greatly extended with a new £10 million laboratory officially opened by the Princess Royal on 6th April 2004.


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