SAMS news room

Letting go is never easy

After 14 years as Deputy Director of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dr Ken Jones is retiring and is succeeded in the post by Professor Axel Miller.

Both men have long histories with SAMS although Ken’s 35 years of employment at the laboratory is rivalled by a mere few. Axel joined the team in 1998 and was awarded a professorship by the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) in 2008.

In the past 12 years, throughout Ken’s deputy directorship, SAMS has undergone significant change and development on all levels: from the transfer of management to organisational restructuring; from the “New Build” project that rejuvenated SAMS’s science facilities to science education provision and the imminent opening of the new Ocean Explorer centre, in all of which Ken has been highly involved. Now Ken leaves one of the leading marine research centres in the UK and Europe with a reputation for high quality science with impact.

Speaking of Ken’s contribution, SAMS Director Professor Laurence Mee said: “Ken Jones has made an extraordinary contribution to SAMS, first as an innovative scientist and more recently as its Deputy Director. At SAMS, the Deputy Director has the responsibility for all day-to-day operations but Ken’s role was much greater than this; he took overall responsibility for the construction of the two beautiful buildings where most of the research and teaching takes place and also ably directed SAMS during the long period between the departure of Graham Shimmield as Director and my own arrival. Ken’s legacy at SAMS and contribution to the economy of Argyll is immense and we look forward to his continued involvement in SAMS after retirement.”

Ken's main scientific interest is the biological oceanography of fjords, shelf seas and ocean margins of NW Europe and in particular what affects phytoplankton production and population dynamics. He has contributed to major UK national and European research programmes on harmful algal blooms and their effects in European coastal seas. Ken has led a range of commercial studies on the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration and aquaculture in the UK and overseas and has also lectured undergraduates, supervised and examined Masters and PhD students.

In overview of his entire 35 years at SAMS Ken has watched and experienced the roller coast change in fortunes of the lab as staff numbers have yo-yoed and the organisation and site has had its name changed six times.

“Thirty five years at SAMS has been like a roller coaster ride – overall an experience that has been thoroughly stimulating, rewarding, exciting (at times frightening) and enjoyable. Experiences of delight at getting on board in the first place; periods of intense enjoyment and satisfaction when you reach the highs of doing your science (and management) in fantastic places with terrific people and achieving your objectives; periods of sadness anxiety and trepidation during the lows, when you see valued colleagues and friends depart or fear that you or the organisation might leave the rails at any time; times when you think your world is moving too fast but you just have to hang on and hope there is a safe course to be steered; finally the surprise of reaching the end of the ride more or less unscathed, not understanding how it now seems to have been over in a flash when during the ride it felt like it would go on for ever.

“I feel extremely proud and privileged to have been a member of the SAMS family for so long and to have been a part of its, perhaps, most exciting phase of development during the past 12 years. SAMS has always had a unique culture which we all value and outsiders envy, and this, combined with the hard work of the Council and team of talented Directors, scientists, technicians and administrators, has greatly contributed to its external recognition as a confident and successful organisation having real leadership and impact in UK and international marine science. I am certain Laurence and Axel will continue to keep SAMS special and lead the organisation along a successful track in the future.“

Ken’s successor Professor Axel Miller has in recent years seen a meteoric rise in his career path. He attributes this to attaining an MBA in Higher Education Management (2011) funded by the UHI.

Although trained as a analytical chemist working in marine and estuarine environments, since his early days at SAMS Axel has been involved in academic administration, management and governance, largely through the UHI. He is the longest serving member of UHI’s Academic Council and has spent time on the Board of Governors.

Axel’s main role at SAMS has been to develop the education portfolio, including undergraduate, masters, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes and field courses. His most recent position has been Associate Director (Education) and Dean of the MASTS Graduate School. On assuming his new post of Deputy Director, Axel expressed his appreciation for what’s been achieved and the challenges to come.

“I am absolutely delighted to follow in Ken’s footsteps and build upon his excellent work. In the fifteen years since he became Deputy Director, he has firmly established the importance of the role to SAMS in supporting its delivery of world class research, and the education and consultancy services which flow directly from it.

“For its size, SAMS is an incredibly complex organisation, which works continually with a very wide range of key stakeholders. Underpinning our growing success is a truly world class campus, state-of-the-art equipment and an exceptional staff base. As the impacts of financial crisis bite further into our funders’ pockets, it poses an exciting challenge to further enhance the reputation of SAMS as a provider of marine environmental science in a global context.”

Although now officially retired, Ken Jones will remain involved in various projects at SAMS. Just for the love of it.

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