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Centre for Field Studies


Centre for Field Studies
Sheina Marshall BuildingModern Teaching Facilities

We believe high quality, applied marine science training should be at the core of the undergraduate and postgraduate student experience. 

In November 2010 SAMS opened a brand new, modern and well equipped education facility. The Sheina Marshall Building is used to deliver our short and higher education courses, and offers excellent field studies facilities for visiting groups.

It comprises four teaching laboratories, two lecture theatres, and three seminar/meeting rooms, two computing suites, a large study space, a student library and the Camus Cafe with spectacular views across Camus Bay.


Scottish Marine Institute aerialDiverse and spectacular environments on our doorstep

In addition to modern, custom-built field-course facilities, SAMS has on-site access to a range of muddy and rocky shore habitats; sandy beaches and salt marshes within three kilometers; and unrivalled access to a variety of sheltered and offshore marine environments.  Our research vessels and crew have a long history of supporting inshore and offshore student fieldwork experiences.


Well Connected Internationally

SAMS also hosts - as lead partner for the University of the Highlands and Islands - the MASTS Graduate School and has recently become the Associate Institute for Marine Science for the United Nations University.   Each contributes to the culturally and academically diverse community which can enrich the experience of visiting field course students.


Facilities and equipment
John Gage Laboratory 2Four well equipped, modern teaching laboratories

The Sheina Marshall Building has four teaching laboratories that are supported by the latest audiovisual technology including smart boards. Large sample preparation facilities are also available:

  • The John Gage Laboratory can support up to 60 users (left)

  • The James Gemmill Laboratory accommodates up to 24 delegates (below left)

  • The Clifford Mortimer Laboratory is for up to 24 users (below centre)

  • The Hugh Robert Mill Laboratory is for smaller groups of up to 12 users (below right)

James Gemmill Laboratory  Clifford Mortimer Laboratory  Hugh Robert Mill Laboratory

All rooms include fume cupboards and sinks, and are serviced with distilled water and gas.

Our lab store is stocked with standard lab equipment such as: different types of microscopes, camera attachments for microscopes, laboratory glassware, spectrophotometers, pH meters, balances, drying ovens, water baths, pipettes, a large 3D globe, a large ripple tank, and various chemicals. For further information about lab equipment and facilities, please contact Joanne Allday. Equipment can be included in your field station hire arrangement.


A.P.Orr lecture theatreA.P. Orr Lecture Rooms

On the ground floor adjacent to the Scottish Ocean Explorer Centre are two lecture rooms:

The A.P. Orr Lecture Room holds 60 delegates whilst the A.P. Orr Annex can accommodate 20 delegates.

Both rooms are equipped with projectors, delivery sympodia, video-conferencing facilities and white boards.

AP Orr Annex Lecture Room

The two adjacent rooms are divided by a movable partition and can thus be converted into a single large lecture room for up to 100 delegates.





Seminar rooms: Creran, Etive, Leven and Linnhe

There are three smaller seminar rooms for ca 12 users each on the first floor, all equipped with a 50'' LCD smart board with sympodium:

  • Etive Seminar Room (below left)
  • Creran Seminar Room (below centre)
  • Leven Seminar Room (below right)

Etive seminar room  Creran seminar room  Leven seminar room

The three can be turned into a single room - referred to as Linnhe Suite - for audiences up to 40 and serviced by an additional 92'' smart board (otherwise located within the Etive seminar room)


Computer suite 2Two computer rooms

On the first floor of the Sheina Marshall Building are two computer rooms, which are connected and can be used together for large classes.

  • Computer Suite 1 for up to 20 users with a 63" LCD smart board with sympodium and pen
  • Computer Suite 2 for up to 30 users with a 63" smart board with sympodium and dangling pen

Both rooms are equipped with state-of-the art terminals which run a variety of software (including Office, Matlab and R). Should you require additional specialist software, please contact us to discuss.


Rockall study roomRockall study room

The Rockall Room is furnished with tables and chairs for individual and group study, and with sofas for reading.

There are nine computer work stations.

This room is for quiet study or group work. There is soft seating outside the room for socialising.



There are two libraries at the Scottish Marine Institute. In the Sheina Marshall Building is an unstaffed student library with study resources, while the Charles Wyville Thomson library in the Sir John Murray Building is a research library supported by two librarians. To access either library, students and delegates will need to sign an access form. We operate an honesty system and delegates and students can only use books within the confines of the site.

Cafe CamusCafe Camus

This light-filled cafe provides hot and cold drinks throughout the opening hours of the building. The cafe is equipped with vending machines for snacks and provides reasonably priced meals during lunch hours. Microwave ovens allow users to warm up food. 

A large terrace - in the summer furnished with tables and chairs for up to 40 people - makes the most of one of the best views of any educational facility in the land...


smi vesselsHiring additional field equipment

Visiting groups can hire various field equipment, including:

To discuss any additional requirements please contact Dr Clive Fox.


Note: The Sheina Marshall Building was developed with funding from the EU's European Regional Development Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Funding Council. The original building was built with funding from the Millennium Commission. 



Our Changing Environment

Working on Calanus on Loch Fyne

Marine science training has developed enormously over the last thirty years.  Whilst marine biology is still of critical importance to the UK and our economy, there is an equal requirement to understand the interactions of physical and geochemical processes with biological systems.  As a result, SAMS offers a range of courses in marine biology, oceanography (e.g. Marine Physics of Fjords), and a range of interdisciplinary configurations (e.g. Marine Conservation and Policy), delivering multi-disciplinary content aligned with the future needs of industry, research, Government and other users of the marine environment.

Teaching Support

Specialist technical help is available to support the use of our range of sampling and analytical capabilities. Many of our scientists are available to support the lecturing requirements. Click here to read about the research activities at the Scottish Marine Institute.


Specialist Equipment


The facilities and research vessels at SAMS are fitted with modern equipment; from microscopes, to grabs, CTDs and corers.  In addition to the standard field course sampling kit you would expect, we can provide access to multibeam sonar equipment, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs); along with associated training and testing facilities.



The entire area of the Sheina Marshall Building is serviced by a wireless network. Users will need to sign our IT policy before a password will be issued. Please inform your host if you would like to have this service made available.


Printing and photocopying

A photocopier is located on the ground floor of the Sheina Marshall Building and parties who spend a few days with us can arrange for a code that allows them to make their own copies (6 p for a black and white copy, 15 p for colour). Accounts will be settled at the end of the stay.

The photocopier also operates as a printer. Additional printers are available in the Rockall study room and in the two computer suites.

The Communications team at SAMS can print A0 posters on demand.

Booking info

How to book field station facilities and services

The best way to experience SAMS is to pay us a visit - we would be more than happy to provide a tour of the facilities, local habitats and plethora of accommodation options for you and your delegates.

To arrange a tour, or for further details, please contact our Education team:


Frequently Asked Questions about our Field Courses
How can I book your facilities?

Please contact our Education team with any enquiries regarding SAMS field station facilities: or via 01631 559 000.  We'll be very happy to discuss your requirements, provide a quotation for you and perhaps arrange a tour, so you can experience the modern facilities, beautiful local environment and diverse accommodation options for yourself.


How much will it cost?

Prices vary depending on your specific needs; from the type of rooms / laboratories you plan to use and whether you require access to the research vessel, to the duration of your course, any teaching staff or expert operators required from SAMS and the standard of accommodation you would prefer.  We would be more than happy to discuss your requirements and budget and produce a proposal which delivers what you need.  Please contact us for further details.

Our pricing promise - We're committed to ensuring the UK continues to provide national marine field course facilities and exciting opportunities for developing skills which underpin marine science careers in the 21st century.  As such, our prices are as competitive as possible.


How do I find accommodation for our group?

Oban is a beautiful tourist hub, set around a pretty horseshoe bay and brimming with different accommodation options.  SAMS is lucky to be able to offer accommodation which best suits your budget and your students (from hotels and B&Bs to campsites and hostels) rather than being limited to University accommodation only. 

Take a look at our local information pages to identify the most suitable options for you. We're also happy to advise you regarding accommodation options and any special offers we may be able to access.


Can we use the facilities over the weekend or in the evenings?

Yes. If you are arriving at a weekend we will arrange for a member of staff to open the facilities for you and show you around. You can be issued with a pass allowing access at weekends or evenings.  Out of hours working requires compliance with SAMS Out Of Hours Health and Safety Policy, for example lone working is not permitted. Please ensure that the field work coordinator, Dr Clive Fox, is aware if you need out of hours access.


What catering options are there?

Through our on-site caterer, we can organise a range of catering options, from the usual buffet lunches, to packed lunches, BBQs and hot meals - again, to suit your needs, course activities and any special dietary requirements.

Alternatively you can join staff and students in our cafe and purchase a selection of hot and cold meals and snacks.

For meetings with regular refreshment breaks, tea, coffee and cold drinks can be pre-ordered.

If you would like to arrange evening meals in Oban for your group, we'd be happy to recommend suitable local restaurants. As the 'Seafood Capital', there are plenty of great options.  Please discuss your preferences with our team.


How do we get to SAMS?

SAMS is situated on the spectacular West Coast of Scotland.  The Institute is surrounded on three sides by water and is adjacent to the 13th Century Dunstaffnage Castle.  It is just two-three hours drive from the major cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness - although you often need to allow extra time for stopping to photograph the stunning scenery and local wildlife!  Please visit our 'Get Directions' page for further details.


What local transport is available?

SAMS is situated just three miles from Oban and benefits from plenty of local transport links; from buses and taxis to a cycle path which connects Oban with Dunbeg via a secluded track which runs over moorland away from the main road.  Minibuses from Oban to the site can also be arranged with prior notice.  Please visit the local information folder for further information.


What can groups do in the evenings or over weekends in Oban?

The area is an extremely popular tourist destination and Oban is known as the 'Gateway to the Isles', with ferries leaving for the West Coast Islands throughout the day.   The town itself is well serviced with restaurants, pubs, a community-run cinema, a ceilidh house and attractions such as Oban Distillery.  Trips can be arranged to visit the Islands, go seal-watching, take part in sea kayaking and gorge walking, or you can just sit, relax and enjoy the view.

The town calender lists many events that take place throughout the year. The area is particularly attractive for those with an interest in outdoor pursuits and traditional music and arts.

Visit our local information pages for details.


What technical support can we access?

We can provide a range of support from IT to laboratory and teaching expertise. You can hire our vessels with a range of sampling and analytical equipment, rent space in our research aquarium, or hire some of our analytical facilities/smart observation instruments.  Some of the more expensive and specialised equipment can only be hired with a SAMS operator but other equipment is available for you to operate yourselves. Please discuss your requirements with Dr Clive Fox.


Who deals with contracts and insurance at the Scottish Marine Institute?

Facility hire contracts are issued via either SAMS or SAMS Research Services Ltd. If you have specific inquiries regarding insurance, please discuss these with Dr Clive Fox.

contact details
Field station coordinator
Dr Clive Fox
Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK
T: +44 (0) 1631 559 423