Rebecca Weeks

        Photo of SAMS PhD student Rebecca Weeks

PhD student

My interests have been fairly widespread, varying from saltmarsh and sediment studies to marine mammal behaviour. In general, I am concerned by human induced environmental impacts which are imposed on the marine environment, and particularly enjoy field and lab work which involves state of the art technology, which has led me to this specific PhD project.

Contact details:

Development of a miniaturised, unmanned aerial vehicle-mounted spectrometer for monitoring of ocean reflectance, with particular regards to harmful algal blooms

The use of remotely piloted aircrafts (RPAs) is potentially a means of remotely sensing coastal water constituents, in particular phytoplankton, including harmful algal blooms (HABs). RPAs make it possible to take measurements in areas which are otherwise difficult to access or are frequently obscured from satellites by cloud cover. The potential also exists for higher resolution imaging than is possible via alternative remote sensing techniques. This project will utilise a spectrometer initially, hopefully followed by a multi- or hyper-spectral camera, mounted on an RPA to investigate the potential to remotely identifying the presence of phytoplankton and other suspended and dissolved matter within coastal waters.

Within the lab, a selection of harmful and benign species have been cultured for analysis of their inherent optical properties, chlorophyll-a concentration and cell counts. These measurements are being used to parameterise ‘Hydrolight’ (Sequoia Scientific) radiative transfer simulations to predict reflectance characteristics for each species under a variety of bio-optical conditions, and identify threshold concentrations required for detection against a typical background spectrum produced by local coastal waters. Generating such a test-bed will determine whether it is possible to optimise remote detection of HABs by selecting specific wavelengths of interest, either pre- or post-flight.

In situ measurements firstly required the integration of a suitable miniaturised spectrometer system into the custom-built RPA. During spring/summer 2016, this was run alongside a pair of radiometers to collect data just above and just below the water surface from a ship, and water samples were also collected for optical characterisation and constituent analysis to ground truth the spectra generated by the RPA-mounted spectrometer. If time allows, surveys will be carried out during HAB events via opportunistic flights, using SAMS’ boats for launch and recovery.


Dr Philip Anderson, SAMS

Professor Keith Davidson, SAMS

Dr David McKee, University of Strathclyde




University of the Highlands and Islands / University of Aberdeen

Peer-reviewed publications

Lefering, I., Röttgers, R., Weeks, R., Connor, D., Utschig, C., Heymann, K. and McKee, D., 2016. Improved determination of particulate absorption from combined filter pad and PSICAM measurements. Optics express24(22), pp.24805-24823.

Conference talks

Macdonald, F, Howe, J, Jones, S, Weeks, R & Houpert, L 2016, 'The Scottish Marine Robotics Facility: Use of unmanned vehicles for environmental measurement, monitoring and decision making'. in IFAC-PapersOnLine : 10th IFAC Conference on Control Applications in Marine SystemsCAMS. 23 edn, vol. 49, Elsevier, Norway, pp. 482-485., 10.1016/j.ifacol.2016.10.452

Data publication

Paterson, D.M., Hope, J.A., Wade, K., Kenworthy, J., Defew, E.C., Weeks, R.J., Wyness, A. (2015). Coastal Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS) sediment stability by Cohesive Strength Meter (CSM) in salt marsh and mud flat habitats. NERC Environmental Information Data Centre

Professional activities

Deputy PhD rep on the internal EQAC committee

Fieldwork experience

Experience from prior to my PhD is described in detail on my LinkedIn profile. My PhD has allowed me to add to this with fieldwork both on and off research vessels using an RPA-mounted spectrometer to look at ocean reflectance.

Media coverage

Professional training courses

NCEO Field Spectroscopy Facility: Field Spectroscopy Course


Jan-Mar 2013  Research Assistant. SERG, St Andrews University

Sep-Dec 2012  Research Assistant. SMRU, St Andrews University

Jun 2011-Jan 2012  Displays Assistant. St Andrews Aquarium

Jun-Sep 2011 Video analyst. SMRU, St Andrews University

May-Jun 2011  Research Assistant. Scottish Oceans Institute Ltd

Jun-Sep 2010  Research Assistant. SERG, St Andrews University


2012 MRes (with Distinction) Ecosystem-Based Management of Marine Systems. University of St Andrews (and SAMS)

2011 BSc (Hons - first class) Marine Biology. University of St Andrews