OBAN became the focus of the UK’s Arctic science community during a three-day research conference hosted by SAMS and the NERC Arctic Office.
The biennial UK Arctic Science Conference welcomed 125 scientists to the town's Corran Halls, where the multi-national gathering discussed urgent issues such as increased sea ice melt, rising temperatures and a rapidly changing ecosystem.
The conference gave scientists an opportunity to share ideas and research in how to better predict, and prepare for, extreme changes in the climate across the northern hemisphere.
Held between Tuesday and Thursday this week (September 19 - 21) the conference included a public lecture by BBC broadcaster Tom Heap, a familiar face to viewers of Countryfile. The lecture on Tuesday evening was attended by around 250 people and addressed the historical and current relationship we have with the Arctic region. Delegates were also treated to a ceilidh at the Skipinnish Ceilidh House on the Wednesday night.
In welcoming the delegates, SAMS Director Prof Nicholas Owens borrowed Oban's tagline of 'Gateway to the Isles' to suggest it was now the 'Gateway to the Arctic' for UK science, given SAMS' work in the region and the proximity of the Scottish Highlands to the Arctic circle.
Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara opened the conference with a speech welcoming the delegates
Describing himself as a ‘devotee’ to Arctic causes, he told attendees about a recent trip with an all-party group to Ny-Alesund in Svalbard.
He said: “The potentially catastrophic effect of climate change is arguably the most important issue facing the planet right now.
“On my recent visit to the UK's Arctic Research Station on Svalbard I saw at first hand how rising temperatures are diminishing the levels of sea ice and shrinking back the glaciers.
“It is a looming crisis and we are extremely fortunate to have an organisation like SAMS here in Oban working locally for a global solution.
“We in Argyll and Bute are extremely proud of SAMS and they are rightly regarded as being one of the jewels in Scotland's academic crown, an opinion that I found on my recent trip to the Arctic was universally shared by the international scientific community.”
Henry Burgess, Head of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Arctic Office, which co-hosted the conference, said: “The UK Arctic conference is a fantastic opportunity for researchers to share their latest findings and make new connections. It's a real pleasure to be able to support and promote this event here with SAMS - an organisation at the leading edge of Arctic research.”
Arctic scientist Dr Finlo Cottier of SAMS chaired the conference’s local organising committee and said delegates had enjoyed Oban as a venue.
He added: “It was a very successful conference and the feedback I received was that delegates really appreciated the west Highland hospitality and the unique nature of a conference in Oban.
“I would like to thank the Corran Halls and the local organising team at SAMS for hosting an extremely professional event.”
The event was supported by the University of the Highlands and Islands, BID4Oban, VisitScotland Business Events, Canadian Science Publishing, Planet Ocean and the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES) and Back of Beyond Broadband.