Dr David Hughes

        Image of Dr David Hughes teaching marine biology

Benthic Ecologist

A marine zoologist specialising in the ecology of benthic invertebrates. Research experience covers a wide range of habitats extending from coastal waters to the deep-sea bed, and from the Arctic to the tropics.

Contact details:

My research career began with work on the ecology and life history of bryozoans in UK coastal waters. This led to work on the bryozoan communities of Caribbean coral reefs during a postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. At SAMS I have carried out extensive diving fieldwork in Scottish sea lochs, including in situ measurements of bioturbation by large burrowing invertebrates and the growth rates of reef-building serpulid tubeworms. From 1998 onwards I have been involved in deep-sea biology at SAMS, participating in research cruises to the north-east Atlantic, the Arctic Ocean and the western tropical Pacific. Deep-sea research has included studies of habitat and community zonation across the continental slope west of Scotland, the effects of large burrows on radiotracer profiles in seabed sediments, and the ecological impacts of large-scale disposal of mining waste in Papua New Guinea.



Marine Science BSc (Hons): Module leader for 'Marine Zoology' (Year 3) - 20 lectures and 5 practicals

Marine Science BSc (Hons): Module leader for Marine Resources (Year 2) - 3 lectures and 1 practical

Marine Science BSc (Hons): Module leader for 'Marine Biology' (Year 2) - 5 lectures

Marine Science BSc (Hons): Lecturer for 'Deep-Sea Ecosystems' (Year 4) - 7 tutorials and 1 practical

Marine Science BSc (Hons): Field course tutor 'Field Course' (Year 1) - teaching benthic biological sampling


IDCORE: delivering 2 lectures: Life in the sea: an introduction for marine engineers; seabed habitats and communities of west Scotland


I am also the Year 2 Leader on our Marine Science BSc (Hons) programme.

Consultancy and industry experience

I have over 30 years research experience in a wide range of marine environments around the world. Work has ranged from assessing the environmental impact of anthropogenic activities (such as offshore development, waste disposal and climate change) on deep-sea ecosystems to the ecology and conservation of rare benthic communities in Scottish waters. I am an experienced provider of contract research reports and literature reviews concerned with survey and data analysis for marine biotopes of conservation importance, ranging from the coastal zone to the deep-sea west of Scotland. I also have considerable experience in identification and enumeration of flora and fauna from benthic samples and video/still photographs.

I am a very experienced scientific diver (>1000 logged dives) and am also comfortable working from ocean-going vessels. Over the last 20 years I have participated in research cruises to the north-east Atlantic, Arctic Ocean and tropical Pacific, including the 2007 and 2008 SAMS surveys in Papua New Guinea.

Recent consultancy projects include:

Lead benthic biologist for Project No. 8.ACP.PNG. 18-B/15 Independent Evaluation of Deep-Sea Mine Tailings Placement (DSTP) in Papua New Guinea.

Benthic Surveys for the West of Islay Wind Farm Environmental Impact Assessment, Scottish and Southern  Energy Renewables, 2012- (Technical Advisor).

Broadscale surveying of Priority Marine Features (PMF) and Marine Protected Area (MPA) search features within Lochs Linnhe, Etive, Leven and Eil; SNH, 2011-2012

Analysis of cold-water coral and soft biofouling on flexible risers, Schiehallion oilfield, west of Shetland (for British Petroleum and Shell, 2010.

Detailed ecological guidance sheets for large-scale features and associated communities: Shelf Deeps; SNH, 2010

Biotope Analysis of Archived Stills from the SEA7 Region of Scotland’s Seas. Report to JNCC from SAMS Research Services Ltd, June 2011. 56 pp. Hughes, D.J., Nickell, T.D. & Gontarek, S.


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.

Highlight publications (see Google Scholar for full list)

Tierney, K.M., Muir, G.K.P., Cook, G.T., MacKinnon, G., Howe, J.A., Heymans, J.J. Hughes, D.J. & Xu, S., 2017. Ecosystem uptake and transfer of Sellafield-derived Radiocarbon (14C) Part 2: The West of Scotland. Marine Pollution Bulletin 115: 57-66.

Hughes, D.J., Shimmield, T.M., Black, K.D. & Howe, J.A. 2015. Ecological impacts of large-scale disposal of mining waste in the deep sea. Scientific Reports 5: 9985.

Hughes, D.J., 2014. Benthic habitat and megafaunal zonation across the Hebridean Slope, western Scotland, analysed from archived seabed photographs. Journal of the Marine  Biological Association of the UK 94: 643-658.

Hughes, D.J., 2011. Where’s the “reef”? A five-year study of serpulid tube bioerosion in a Scottish sea loch. Marine Ecology Progress Series 430: 273-280.

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, Topical Studies in Oceanography 56: 434-448

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., 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., Ansell, A.D. & Atkinson, R.J.A., 1994. Resource utilization by a sedentary surface deposit feeder, the echiuran worm Maxmuelleria lankesteri. Marine Ecology Progress  Series, 112: 267-275.

Hughes, D.J., 1992. Genotype-environment interactions and relative clonal fitness in a marine bryozoan. Journal of  Animal Ecology, 61: 291-306.

Hughes, D.J. & Jackson, J.B.C., 1992. Distribution and abundance of cheilostome bryozoans on the Caribbean reefs of central Panama. Bulletin of  Marine  Science, 51: 443-465.

Hughes, D.J., 1989. Variation in reproductive strategy among clones of the bryozoan Celleporella hyalina. Ecological Monographs, 59: 387-403.


Other publications

Hughes, D.J., 2012. Chapter 15: Deep Sea. In Life at Extremes: Environments, Organisms and Strategies for Survival (ed. E.M. Bell), CAB International 2012, pp. 296-319.

  • >Joint Editor, Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review
  • >Editorial Board Member, Scientific Reports
  • >Regular reviewer of manuscripts for scientific journals

Employment history

2001-present: Benthic ecologist and lecturer. SAMS

1998-2001: Contract researcher. SAMS

1994-97: Higher Scientific Officer. Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory

1994: Assistant Project Officer. Scottish Natural Heritage

1990-94: Higher Scientific Officer. Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory

1987-88: Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


1987 PhD 'Experimental Study of Growth and Reproduction in Marine Bryozoans' University of Wales

1982 BSc (Hons) Zoology. University of Reading