Dr Tom Adams

        Image of Dr Tom Adams on a rocky shore with barnacle encrusted rocks

Ecological Modeller

An ecological modeller and mathematician with a primary focus on management issues. I investigate marine connectivity and population dynamics of aquaculture parasites and benthic organisms, and statistical methods for estimating ecosystem function in mudflats and saltmarshes.

Contact details:

Tom’s principal interests are in ecological population dynamics and their dependence upon external forcing, either from natural or human sources. His work focusses on the application of mathematical and computational approaches to gain insights into how fundamental individual level processes (reproduction, dispersal, growth and mortality) drive population structure and its dynamics in both space and time. He is interested in the management issues that arise from human exploitation of, and intervention/infrastructure in, the natural environment.

His current work includes two main strands. The first of these is marine larval connectivity and its implications for population dynamics of organisms inhabiting the coastal waters of the UK. In particular, Tom’s work has studied sea lice (a parasite of salmon, which affects mariculture activities), and benthic organisms (both invasive and native species).

Tom is also interested in spatial statistical methods and currently uses these to investigate the ecosystem functions (climate regulation, coastal protection and habitat provision) provided by mudflat and saltmarsh habitat.

Current research projects

AquaSpace. Funded by EU FH2020. 2015-18

COMPASS: This project links hydrodynamic modelling efforts in Irish and Scottish waters to understand population connectivity for marine protected areas (MPAs), helping understand, develop and manage the network. Funded by EU INTERREG VA. 2017-21

Selected previous projects

Coastal Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (CBESS). Funded by NERC. 2013-17

Loch Fyne and North Minch sea lice dispersal (2 projects). Funded by EFF. 2011-14

Marine Renewable Energy and the Environment (MaREE). Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Scottish Funding Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. 2010-13



Peer-reviewed publications

van Sebille, E, Griffies, SM, Abernathey, R, Adams, TP, Berloff, P, Biastoch, A, Blanke, B, Chassignet, EP, Cheng, Y, Cotter, CJ, Deleersnijder, E, Döös, K, Drake, H, Drijfhout, S, Gary, SF, Heemink, AW, Kjellsson, J, Monika Koszalka, I, Lange, M, Lique, C, MacGilchrist, GA, Marsh, R, Mayorga Adame, CG, McAdam, R, Nencioli, F, Paris, CB, Piggott, MD, Polton, JA, Rühs, S, Shah, SHAM, Thomas MD, Wang, J, Wolfram, PJ, Zanna, L, Zika, JD (2018) Lagrangian ocean analysis: fundamentals and practices. Ocean Modelling, Vol 121, 49-75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocemod.2017.11.008

Paterson, R.F., McNeill, S., Mitchell, E., Adams, T., Swan, S.C., Clarke, D., Miller, P.I., Bresnan, E., Davidson, K., 2017. Environmental control of harmful dinoflagellates and diatoms in a fjordic system. Harmful Algae 69, 1–17. doi:10.1016/j.hal.2017.09.002

van Sebille, E., Griffies, S. M., Abernathey, R., Adams T. P. et al. (In review). Lagrangian ocean analysis: fundamentals and practices. Ocean Modelling.

Adams, T.P., Wilson, B., Hastie, G.D., Lepper, P.A. (In review). Sticking together: simulating movement of marine mammals and response to underwater noise. Ecological Modelling.

Adams, T. P., Aleynik, D. & Black, K. (2016). Temporal variability in sea lice population connectivity and implications for regional management protocol. Aquaculture Environment Interactions 8, 585-596. DOI: 10.3354/aei00203.

Adams, T.P., Proud, R. & Black, K. (2015) Connected networks of sea lice populations: dynamics and implications for control. Aquaculture Environment Interactions 6, 273-284. DOI: 10.3354/aei00133.

Adams, T., Miller, R., Aleynik, D. & Burrows, M. (2014) Offshore marine renewable energy devices as stepping stones across biogeographic boundaries. Journal of Applied Ecology 51, 330-338. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12207

Adams, T., Aleynik, D. & Burrows, M. (2014). Larval dispersal of intertidal organisms and the influence of coastline geography. Ecography 37 (7), 698-710. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2013.00259.x.

Adams, T., Holland, P., Law R., Plank, M. & Raghib, M. (2013) On the growth of locally interacting plants: a spatial moment modelling approach. Ecology 94, 2732–2743. DOI: 10.1890/13-0147.1.

Adams, T., Black, K., MacIntyre, C., MacIntyre, I., & Dean, R. (2012). Connectivity modelling and network analysis of sea lice infection in Loch Fyne. Aquaculture Environment Interactions 3, 51-63. DOI: 10.3354/aei00052

Adams, T., Ackland, G., Marion, G. & Edwards, C. (2011). Effects of local interaction and dispersal on the dynamics of size-structured populations. Ecological Modelling 222, 1414-1422.

Adams, T., Ackland, G., Marion, G. & Edwards, C. (2011). Understanding plantation transformation using a size-structured spatial population model. Forest Ecology and Management 261, 799-809.

Adams, T., Purves, D. W. & Pacala, S. W., (2007). Understanding height-structured competition: is there an R* for light? Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274, 3039-3047.

Other publications 

Aleynik, D., Adams, T.P., Davidson, K., Dale, A., Porter, M., Black, K. & Burrows, M.T. (2018) Biophysical modelling of marine organisms: fundamentals and applications to management of coastal waters. In Handbook of Environmental Management of Marine Ecosystems. Eds. Islam, M.N. and Jorgensen, S.E. CRC Press. ISBN: 978-1-4987-6772-9 pp 65-98


Consultancy and industry experience

Dr Tom Adams is an ecological modeller with experience in varied fields, from intertidal ecology and larval dispersal, to spatial statistics and plant community dynamics. He is particularly interested in the interactions between human activities and management decisions and spatial and temporal ecological patterns.

A key focus in recent years has been the dispersal of sea lice between salmon aquaculture sites in the Scottish west coast region to investigate optimal strategies for management using the most up to date modelling approaches, and to allow recommendations on siting of new farms. He is involved in other projects using spatial data on ecosystem function of intertidal habitats to help assess the benefits they provide to society, and the role of physical and biological components of such systems in delivering this function. 

Recently, SAMS has been engaged to provide information to accompany a planning application for a new fish farm site. By estimating sea lice dispersal to and from the proposed location, this work helped to assess the level of risk posed by developing the site, both to other neighbouring sites and to the natural environment. Such work requires bespoke model simulations incorporating the range of weather conditions experienced in this environment, and SAMS in-house modelling capabilities and associated data collection/model validation means that it is ideally placed to carry out such work.

Accessing consultancy services from SAMS

SAMS consultancy work is delivered through its wholly owned commercial subsidiary, SAMS Research Services Ltd. (SRSL). SRSL operates a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS) that is accredited to ISO9001:2008 standard, guaranteeing that all projects deliver the best possible service to our customers. All SRSL projects are planned by a professional programme manager who oversees a team of dedicated project managers, all of whom are focussed specifically on client delivery, and have scientific experience and technical expertise in fields relevant to their assigned projects.

For further information concerning commercial enterprise opportunities at SAMS, please contact SRSL by email (info@srsl.com) or phone +44 (0) 1631 559 470.


Marine Science BSc: Module leader and lecturer 'Mathematics and Statistics' in year 1 / level 7

Marine Science BSc: Lecturer 'Marine Modelling' 

MRes: Lecturer 'Advanced Modelling'. 

IDCORE: Benthic connectivity lecture

Current research students

Nora Gilbertson: Spatial variation in coast poduction provided by saltmarshes and mudflats. MSc 2017. University of York

Alumni research students

Roland Proud: Dynamics of parasitic sea lice populations on salmon farms. MSc 2013, University of St Andrews

Christopher Lakey: The dynamics of sea lice in Scottish salmon farms. MSc 2015. University of York

Elise Depauw: Analysing spatiotemporal patterns in sea lice abundance in Scotland. MSc 2016. University of St Andrews

Employment history

2013-present: Research Associate - Ecological Modelling. SAMS

2010-13: Postdoctoral Research Associate - Ecological Modelling. SAMS


2010. PhD 'Reconstructing Scotland's Pine Forests. University of Edinburgh. Funded by EPSRC and CASE support from Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS) and Forest Research.

2006. MRes (with distinction) Mathematics in the Living Environment. Funded by NERC.  Research project in Pacala lab, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University. University of York

2004. BSc in Mathematics. University of Bristol