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Department of Biogeochemistry and Earth Science



Sampling sediments from a core at the SMIWelcome to the web pages of the Department of Biogeochemistry and Earth Science at SAMS. We are a multidisciplinary department comprising of 15 staff and four postgraduate students including geologists, geochemists, biogeochemists, and radiochemists.

The group has experience in surveying, sampling, analysing and interpreting a huge variety of marine waters, sediments and depositional environments from oceanic deep-water basins to the continental shelf. We are also engaged in a diverse range of public outreach, educational activities and commercial work.


Dr John Howe
Head of Department



The department's research aims encompass the investigation of rates, patterns and frequencies of natural and man-made change in the marine environment at scales from longer term (100ka) to short term (annual, seasonal, diurnal and even tidal).

Our research areas include

  • Marine sediments and processes as archives of man-made or natural change (<1 - 100,000 y timescales) (Dr John Howe)
  • The role and efficiency of dissolved organic matter as a transport vector of trace metals across salinity gradients in Scottish sea lochs (Dr Kirsty Crocket)
  • Benthic sediment processes via emphasis on different respiration pathways, animal-sediment relationships (Professor Ronnie Glud) and metal dynamics (Dr Tracy Shimmield)
  • Development and application of microsensors in biogeochemistry (Professor Ronnie Glud)
  • In situ technologies to measure the biogeochemistry of benthic marine environments (Professor Ronnie Glud)
  • Influence of natural and human-induced contaminants in the marine environment (Dr Tracy Shimmield)
  • Development of techniques using the seamount-influenced sedimentary deposits for the palaeo-reconstruction of key aspects of fluid dynamics in the deep sea (Dr Robert Turnewitsch)
  • Use of naturally occurring radionuclides as 'tools' for quantifying certain biogeochemical processes and particulate-matter dynamics (Dr Robert Turnewitsch and  Dr Tracy Shimmield)
  • The partitioning behaviour of dissolved seawater rare earth elements into coral skeletons to establish their potential as proxies for the marine carbonate system (Dr Kirsty Crocket)
  • Sources, sinks and cycling of dissolved seawater rare earth elements in the NE Atlantic to identify how seawater acquires its composition (Dr Kirsty Crocket)


Biogeochemistry and Earth Science facilities

To deliver its ambitious scientific programmes the Department of Biogeochemistry and Earth Science is equipped with some excellent sampling, technical and analytical facilities. Please follow the links below for more in depth information:

Contact us
Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA
T: 01631 559000
F: 01631 559001