Sarah Swan

        Photo of Sarah Swan in lab coat and safety goggles conducting a chemical water analysis

Phytoplankton Monitoring Programme Manager

Monitoring the potentially harmful phytoplankton around Scottish coastal waters, to ensure the safety of commercially harvested shellfish.

Contact details:

My role

I manage the operation and delivery of the regulatory monitoring programme for biotoxin-producing phytoplankton, conducted by SAMS on behalf of Food Standards Scotland. We report the concentration of potentially harmful phytoplankton from around 40 sites every week.

Some phytoplankton can produce toxins that accumulate in bivalve molluscs, which leads to human illness if the shellfish are consumed. Monitoring the development of phytoplankton blooms can therefore act as an early warning system for toxic events.


Employment history

Since 2005 Phytoplankton Monitoring Programme Manager. SAMS

1992-2005 Support scientist. SAMS



1988 BSc (Hons) Physics. University of Southampton

Davidson K, Whyte C, Aleynik D, Kurekin A, Gontarek S, McNeill S, Miller PI, Porter M, Saxon R, Swan S (2021) HABreports: Online early warning of harmful algal and biotoxin risk for the Scottish shellfish and finfish aquaculture industries. Frontiers in Marine Science 8, 350

Bresnan E, Arévalo F, Belin C, Branco MAC, Cembella A, Clarke D, Correa J, Davidson K, Dhanji-Rapkova M, Fernández Lozanoi R, Fernández-Tejedor M, Guðfinnsson H, Carbonelli DJ, Laza-Martinez A, Lemoine M, Lewish AM, Mamán Menéndez L, Maskrey BH, McKinney A, Pazos Y, Revilla M, Siano R, Silva A, Swan S, Turner AD, Schweibold L, Provoost P, Enevoldsen H (2021) Diversity and regional distribution of harmful algal events along the Atlantic margin of Europe. Harmful Algae 101976

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

Coates L, Swan S, Davidson K, Turner A, Maskrey B and Algoet M (2017). Annual report on the results of the Biotoxin and Phytoplankton Official Control Monitoring Programmes for Scotland – 2016. FSA 199 Cefas contract report C5666-C5667, 52pp

Holtrop G, Swan S, Duff B, Wilding T, Narayanaswamy B, Davidson K (2016). Risk assessment of the Scottish monitoring programme for the marine biotoxins in shellfish harvested from classified production areas: review of the current sampling scheme to develop an improved programme based on evidence of risk. FSS/2015/021. 218pp

Davidson K, Baker C, Higgins C, Higman W, Swan S, Veszelovszki A and Turner AD (2015). Potential threats posed by new or emerging marine biotoxins in UK Waters and examination of detection methodologies used for their control: Cyclic imines. Marine Drugs, 13, 7087–7112; doi:10.3390/md13127057

Swan SC and Davidson K (2015). Alexandrium and risk management within the Scottish phytoplankton monitoring programme. A. Lincoln MacKenzie (Ed). Marine and Freshwater Harmful Algae. Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Harmful Algae, Wellington, New Zealand, 27 - 31 Oct 2014. Cawthron Institute, Nelson, New Zealand and International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae (ISSHA). pp 266-269

Whyte C, Swan S and Davidson K (2014). Changing wind patterns linked to unusually high Dinophysis blooms around the coast of the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Harmful Algae 39: 365-373

Shutler JD, Davidson K, Miller PI, Swan SC, Grant MG and Bresnan E (2011). An adaptive approach to detect high biomass algal blooms from EO chlorophyll-a data in support of harmful algal bloom monitoring. Remote Sensing Letters. Volume 3 Issue 2, March 2011

Davidson K, Miller P, Wilding TA, Shutler J, Bresnan E, Kennington K and Swan S (2009). A large and prolonged bloom of Karenia mikimotoi in Scottish waters in 2006. Harmful Algae, 8, vol 2, 349-361