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    West coast: an adventurer's paradise
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    Outstanding research infrastructure...
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    SAMS supervisors: world-leading experts
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    Marine biodiversity:
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Find a PhD at SAMS

We are currently recruiting for 3 funded Phd Projects:

The application of machine-learning to establish baselines and assess change in sensitive marine habitats

This is an exciting and unparalleled opportunity to join an international team of researchers using automated (machine-learning) based image analysis to map benthos on the Greenlandic shelf and shelf edge. The project is primarily based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban, Scotland but you will also be based at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR) in Nuuk, Greenland, and will attend at least one offshore research cruise on the Greenland shelf. You will develop: 1) data analytical skills in automated benthic image analysis, 2) experience in polar and subpolar field work and, 3) a deep understanding of Arctic benthic ecology. 

Supervisory Team:

Dr Tom Wilding, SAMS UHI

Dr Joseph Marlow, SAMS UHI

Dr John Halpin, SAMS UHI

Dr Nadescha Zwershke, Greenland Climate Research Centre (part of Greenland Institute of Natural Resources)

Application Deadline: Thursday, 16 May 2024, 2024

Click here for further details


Combined effects of climate change and cadmium exposure to physiological adaptation in early life stages of Christmas Island land crabs in wetland ecosystems

Christmas Island is unique as it is dominated by tropical land crabs which act as keystone species, including in wetland areas which are recognised internationally by the Ramsar Convention. Two of the major threats to these wetland systems and species are pollution and climate change. This project seeks to study the combined impacts of changing climatic conditions (e.g. warming) and presences of metal contaminants on the early life stages of land crabs inhabiting the wetlands of Christmas Island. 

Director of Studies/Lead Supervisor: Dr Helena Reinardy,

Supervisory Team:  Ms Isabella Gosetto, Prof A Boxall, Dr Lucy Turner

Application Deadline: Monday, April 29, 2024

Click here for further details


Adaptation in the extreme: transgenerational impacts of multistressors in rockpool environments

Intertidal supra-littoral wetland ecosystems are defined by extremely dynamic and variable environmental conditions driven by tidal, climate, and terrestrial input cycles. They are increasingly exposed to multiple human-induced stressors of global climate change and pollution. In this project, we will use the rockpool copepod Tigriopus brevicornus as a laboratory model to examine the short and long term impacts of such stressors and the ways in which extreme intertidal species might adapt under future climate change scenarios.

Lead Supervisor/Director of Studies: Dr Helena Reinardy,

Supervisory Team: Prof Jason Weeks, Dr Victoria Pritchard, Prof Michelle Jackson

Application deadline: Monday, April 29, 2024

Click here for further details


Discuss your SELF-FUNDED PhD idea with a SAMS researcher

We are open to talk to prospective students who have an idea for a PhD research project that sits well within our research areas and who are able to fund the project themselves.

Here is some advice on the best way to pitch your idea to us:

> Firstly, learn more about our research areas and the research currently being conducted at SAMS. Decide which area your idea is relevant to and consider how it could enhance our research efforts.

> Look at the individual researcher pages over on our “People” page and identify who may be a suitable PhD supervisor for your research idea.

> Finally, make initial contact. There are two ways to go about this:

> Get in touch with our PhD team first to discuss your ideas and get advice about the costs of a PhD before going direct to the researcher. Send an email to phd@sams.ac.uk making it clear to the team that you have means to fund the project yourself. A member of staff will then be able to help advise on potential supervisors and may even be able to pass on your idea and enquiry to the relevant people.

> Go direct to the researcher. If you have full confidence in your research idea and have researched suitable supervisors, then contact them, preferably via email, with a summary of your idea, making it clear that you have means to self-fund the project. Please bear in mind that our scientists are very busy and may not reply straight away.

> Good luck!


Looking for self-funded PhD project ideas?

Our scientists have proposed some topics for self-funded students to consider. These are categorised into SAMS’ three core research areas:

Ocean Systems

>Arctic wide zooplankton migration behaviour (Professor Finlo Cottier and Dr Kim Last)

>Developing a fjord box model for high latitudes (Professor Mark Inall and Professor Finlo Cottier)

>How does vertical mixing influence ocean-glacier interactions? (Professor Mark Inall and Professor Finlo Cottier) 

Dynamic Coasts

> Prey selection by gadoid larvae (Dr Clive Fox)

> Feeding preferences of Nephrops larvae (Dr Clive Fox)

> Dispersal of early life stages of flatfish on the west of Scotland (Dr Clive Fox and Professor Michael Burrows)

> Using natural resources to remove microplastics from the marine environment (Professor Bhavani Narayanaswamy and Professor Michele Stanley)

> Evaluating and comparing the perceived versus real problem of litter on Scottish island coastlines (Professor Bhavani Narayanaswamy and Dr Andy Dale)

Blue Economy 

> Fine scale passive acoustic tracking of harbour porpoises: investigation of echolocation behaviour around artificial structures (Professor Ben Wilson)

> The genetic stability of microalgal strains used in biofuel production (Professor Michele Stanley)

> Modelling the hydrodynamics of large scale macroalgae cultivation (Professor Michele Stanley)

> Oyster culture in Scotland (Dr Adam Hughesand Professor Michele Stanley)

> Implications of large offshore renewables arrays for fisheries (Dr Clive Fox)






Many PhDs come with full studentships, which cover fees and living expenses, so that students can focus on their research and be expected to complete their studies in 3 or 3.5 years.

Self-funded students will require to have approximately £16,000 per year for living expenses to be in line with RCUK doctoral stipends on top of the fees.

For UHI PhD projects, click here for the current fees.

Most of our PhD projects are registered through the University of the Highlands and Islands, and this page outlines the application procedure for UHI PhDs. Please note that we have several other doctoral training partnerships - most notably with the University of Edinburgh, and applications to these programmes follow procedures by other universities. Information regarding these can be found on the individual project adverts.

We adhere strictly to equality and diversity policies during all phases of recruitment so that we find the most talented and motivated students to join us.


To be eligible to study for a PhD at SAMS UHI, who need to possess - in a relevant discipline and from a reputable institution:

  • A Master's qualification and / or
  • A Bachelor degree with first class or upper second class honours and / or
  • Another qualification or substantial experience that demonstrates your academic competence to complete doctoral training successfully (to be approved by the UHI Research Degrees Committee on the recommendation of the SAMS Director).
  • Additionally, international students whose first language is not English and who do not hold a prior degree obtained in English must hold an IELTS qualification with a score of 6 or over in every section with a minimum score of 6.5 overall (6+ in writing), gained within two years prior to your registration date.

How to Apply

Most importantly you need to have identified an approved PhD project (including a Director of Studies / supervisory team) that you are unquestionably excited by. This can be a ready made project advertised on these pages OR a proposal you have developed with a SAMS supervisor and have funding for.

If you wish to apply for an advertised studentship you will find this under the ‘Funded Projects’ tab. Please complete the application form provided in the advertisement.

Return your completed application to the email stated on the form, accompanied by your cv and any supporting documentation listed below. Please submit your whole application as one pdf. Your referees should use the reference form provided and also return it to the email stated on the application form.

Supporting Documentation Required

The following documents should be emailed with your application and CV as one pdf file:

  • Copies of all official qualification certificates and transcripts. If your official certificates/transcripts are not in English, they must be accompanied by a full certified translation provided by a professional translator/translation company.
  • If English is not your native language, an English language test certificate (IELTS or equivalent), gained within the past two years;
  • If you are not a UK national, a copy of the photo page of your passport. Also include any pages which indicate a right of abode in the UK;
  • 2 academic references. If references are not available at the time of submission, they can be excluded from the single pdf file, however applicants are responsible for ensuring their referees submit the references to the email given on the application form by the deadline.
  • If you wish to apply for more than one project, please submit separate applications.

Most PhD students will want to meet their potential supervisors to discuss the project, their personal suitability and to ascertain that they will be able to work together for a prolonged period of time.

For administrative issues, your first and main point of contact is the Postgraduate Academic Support Administrator who can be contacted by email to: phd@sams.ac.uk

The SAMS graduate school is convened by marine deep-sea ecologist and microplastic researcher, Professor Bhavani Narayanaswamy:

E: Bhavani.Narayanaswamy@sams.ac.uk T: +44 (0) 1631 559 305 (direct)