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Dr David Hughes



Principal Investigator in Benthic Ecology

My background is in benthic ecology and over the course of my career I have been lucky enough to carry out research in a wide range of marine environments including Scottish sea lochs, Caribbean coral reefs and the deep north Atlantic, Arctic and tropical Pacific oceans. My current interests include the effects of waste disposal and climate change on deep-sea ecosystems and the ecology and conservation of rare benthic communities in Scottish waters. 

At SAMS I am a member of the ...





Research projects

  • Impacts of Deep-Sea Tailings Placement in Papua New Guinea – Over the past years I have been part of a multidisciplinary team from SAMS carrying out the first detailed study of the impacts of mine tailings deposition on the deep-sea bed, carried out at three disposal sites around the coast of Papua New Guinea. I lead the benthic biology component of the project, involving seabed photography and replicated quantitative sampling of meio- and macrofauna.
  • Ecology and conservation of serpulid reefs in Scottish sea lochs: Reefs constructed by the tubeworm Serpula vermicularis are currently found in only two sea lochs in western Scotland and are considered of high conservation importance. My research has involved video monitoring of worm behaviour and use of the reefs by other organisms, and in situ measurements of tube growth and degradation rates. By broadening our understanding of the dynamics and ecological role of serpulid reefs these data will contribute to more effective management of these rare features. Click here for a summary of a past project on serpulid worms.


Review and consultancy

I am regularly contracted to write literature reviews and I have also carried out a large number of externally-commissioned research contracts at SAMS. Many of these have been concerned with survey and data analysis for marine biotopes of conservation importance, ranging from the coastal zone to the deep sea west of Scotland.

Recent examples include:

  • Strategic Environmental Assessment (2006-07) – Two contracts to analyse seabed photographs and video footage from the deep seamounts and banks of the northern Rockall Trough (SEA Area 7), including areas which have potential for designation as offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The work was funded by DTI and Geotek, and carried out in collaboration with Dr Bhavani Narayanaswamy (SAMS), Dr Murray Roberts (Heriot-Watt University, then at SAMS) and Drs Kerry Howell and Jaime Davies (University of Plymouth).
  • Recovering Scotland’s Marine Environment (2009) – A literature review of human impacts on Scottish marine ecosystems and the potential for recovery, commissioned by Scottish Environment LINK, and carried out in collaboration with Dr Thom Nickell (SAMS).
  • Analysis of sensitivity of Priority Marine Features (2010) – I have recently been an invited participant in a two-day workshop held at Natural England, Peterborough, organized to compile expert assessments of sensitivity of selected marine species and biotopes to a range of human impacts. These assessments will be used to guide selection and management of Priority Marine Features across the network of Marine Protected Areas planned for the UK.


Recent research grants

  • Hughes, D.J. & Poloczanska, E.S. 'Special Protection and Local Action for Species and Habitats (SPLASH). Distribution and environmental tolerances of reef-building Serpula vermicularis in Scottish sea lochs.'        Duration: 2004-2005 (Total £18,000); Funder: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Narayanaswamy, B.E., Hughes, D.J., Howe, J.A., Shimmield, T.M., Black, K.D. &Roberts, J.M. 'Strategic Environmental Area 7 Survey Objectives: Rationale and Methods. Duration: 2005-2006 (Total: £64,168); Funder: DTI/Geotek
  • Black, K.D., Narayanaswamy, B.E., Hughes, D.J., Roberts, J.M.& Davies, A., 'Overviews of Strategic Environmental Area 7 Benthic Ecology.' Duration: 2005-2006 (Total: £21,815); Funder: DTI/Geotek


Key publications
  • Narayanaswamy BE, Hughes DJ, Howell KL, Davies J & Jacobs C. (2013) First observations of megafaunal communities inhabiting George Bligh Bank, Northeast Atlantic. Deep Sea Research II. 92: 79-86
  • Hughes, D.J., Levin, L.A., Lamont, P.A., Packer, M. Feeley, K. & Gage, J.D., 2009. Macrofaunal communities and sediment structure across the Pakistan margin Oxygen Minimum Zone, north-east Arabian Sea. Deep-Sea Research II: 56: 434-448.
  • Hughes, D.J., Poloczanska, E.S. & Dodd, J., 2008. Survivorship and tube growth of reef-building Serpula vermicularis (Polychaeta, Serpulidae) in two Scottish sea lochs.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18: 117-129.
  • Hughes, D.J., Brown, L., Cook, G.T., Cowie, G., Gage, J.D., Good, E., Kennedy, H., MacKenzie, A.B., Papadimitriou, S., Shimmield, G.B., Thomson, J., & Williams, M., 2005. The effects of megafaunal burrows on radiotracer profiles and organic composition in deep-sea sediments: preliminary results from two sites in the bathyal north-east Atlantic. Deep-Sea Research I, 52: 1-13.
  • Hughes, D.J. & Gage, J.D., 2004. Benthic metazoan biomass, community structure and bioturbation at three contrasting deep-water sites along the NW European continental margin. Progress in Oceanography 63: 29-55.
  • Hughes, D.J., Atkinson, R.J.A. & Ansell, A.D., 1999. The annual cycle of sediment turnover by the echiuran worm  Maxmuelleria lankesteri (Herdman) in a Scottish sea loch.  Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 238: 209-223.
  • Hughes, D.J., 1992. Genotype-environment interactions and relative clonal fitness in a marine bryozoan. Journal of  Animal Ecology, 61: 291-306.


For a full list of Dave Hughes' publications please use the search box on the right.



External responsibilities

Editorial responsibilities

  • Joint editor of Oceanography and Marine Biology Annual Review
  • Regular reviewer of manuscripts for international journals including Deep-Sea Research, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology and Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK


Media coverage

•    BBC Coast feature on tubeworm reefs in Loch Creran. Broadcast 18 Aug 2010, 20:00 BBC2

•    BBC Coast feature on the RRS Challenger expedition, filmed August 2010




BSc (Hons) Marine Science programme (University of the Highlands and Islands)

  • Module leader: Deep-Sea Ecosystems (year 4)
  • Lecturer: Polar Seas (year 4)
  • Lecturer: Marine Zoology (year 3)
  • Lecturer: Marine Pollution (year 3)
  • Lecturer: Marine and Estuarine Systems (year 2)
  • Lecturer: Marine Resources (year 2)
  • Lecturer: Marine Field Course (year 1)


MRes Marine Systems Science (SAMS/University of St Andrews)

  • Lecturer: Marine Systems
  • Lecturer: Organisms to Ecosystems
My contact details

Dr David Hughes SAMS

Dr David Hughes


T: +44 (0)1631 559355

F: +44 (0) 1631 559001

Scottish Marine Institute

Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK

Publication List