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Find a PhD at SAMS

We have currently six funded PhD opportunities:


Dynamic spatial modelling and forecasting of sea lice abundances

Parasitic sea lice pose a persistent challenge to the salmon aquaculture industry in all regions in which it operates, with both ecological and economic impacts (Costello, 2009; Ford & Myers, 2008). Developing a better understanding of their population dynamics, the factors leading to outbreaks, and improving methods of control are a current priority for industrial, regulatory, academic and external stakeholders (Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, 2017). Detection of the early stages of lice infestation is difficult, as the small size of the juvenile lice means they may be missed in routine sampling. Chemical treatments may therefore be applied in a reactionary manner, requiring greater concentrations than would be needed if applied earlier, or if the threat had been avoided by other means such as deployment of physical barriers.

This PhD project will link the outputs from computer models, describing coastal currents and potential dispersal of sea lice in Scottish waters (Adams, Aleynik, & Black, 2016; Salama et al., 2012), with models of lice population dynamics on aquaculture sites themselves (Adams, Proud, & Black, 2015). This will be validated using site lice count data, in order to take the steps necessary to provide a prototype forecasting tool for parasite abundances.

At the present time, we are able to forecast physical conditions (meteorology and current patterns), and resulting dispersal patterns of larval lice, but a lack of site data has prevented development of understanding of the mechanisms for sea lice population dynamics. Over the last year, Marine Harvest have published this data on a monthly basis for their sites.  Working with this data will allow parameterisation of a predictive model for lice abundances, including environmental and management factors. This will allow the development of a forecasting tool that may be used to forecast lice abundances at a regional scale and at fine temporal resolution. Development and validation of such a model would represent a huge leap forward in terms of our understanding of the parasite, but would also offer huge potential benefits to the industry in the longer term, allowing reduced treatment costs and lower environmental impacts.

Deadline: June 28, 2018 @5pm BST

Start date: October 1, 2018 

Supervisor: Dr Thomas Adams

Students must be domiciled in the Highlands and Islands transition region during the course of their study to be eligible for funding. Applicants must possess a minimum of an Honours degree at 2:1 and/or a Master’s Degree (or International equivalent) in a relevant subject. 

To apply please complete the standard application form, attaching supporting documentation and send to: phd@sams.ac.uk


Assessing dynamic seabed change on the UK-Irish continental shelf

Supervisors: Dr John Howe, SAMS and Dr Annika Clements, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute NI

Deadline: 22 June 2018 at 5pm (BST)

For more - follow this LINK


Ecology and recovery potential of flame shells (Limaria hians) to disturbance

Supervisors: Dr Clive Fox, SAMS; Dr Annika Clements, AFBI-NI; Dr John Howe, SAMS

Deadline: 22 June 2018 at 5 pm BST

For more - follow this LINK


Industrial wastewater bioremediation using algae for bioenergy production

Supervisors: Dr Michele Stanley, SAMS; Dr Pamela Walsh, Queens University QUB

Deadline: 22 June 2018 at 5 pm BST

For more - follow this LINK


Pasive acoustic monitoring of gadoid fish

Supervisors: Dr Denise Risch, SAMS; Maarten van Walstijn, Queens University QUB; Dr Clive Fox, SAMS; Prof Ben Wilson, SAMS

Deadline: 22 June 2018 at 5 pm BST

For more - follow this LINK


Optimisation of data for use in planning marine energy developments

Supervisors: Prof Paul Tett, SAMS; Rachel Shucksmith, NAFC Marine Centre UHI; Dr John Doran, LYIT Letterkenny

Deadline: 22 June 2018 at 5 pm BST

For more - follow this LINK

Below are some ideas put forward by staff for students who want to self-fund a PhD project:

  • >Using microalgae to strip contaminating phosphates and nitrates from water supplies with (Dr Michele Stanley and Prof John Day)
  • >The genetic stabilit of microalgal strains used in biofuel production (Dr Michele Stanley and Prof John Day)
  • >Modelling the hydrodynamics of large scale macroalgae cultivation (Dr Michele Stanley and Prof John Day)
  • >Oyster culture in Scotland (Drs Adam Hughes and Michele Stanley)
  • >The war of the marine worlds: Do pathogens contribute to the resilience of marine ecosystems against biological invasions? (Dr Claire Gachon)
  • >Genomics of algal defenses against their pathogens (Dr Claire Gachon)
  • >The evolution of pathogenicity among oomycetes: a comparative genomics approach (Dr Claire Gachon)
  • >Implications of large offshore renewables arrays for fisheries (Dr Clive Fox)
  • >Prey selection by gadoid larvae (Dr Clive Fox)
  • >Behaviour of the marine predatory copepod Euchaeta norvegica (Dr Clive Fox)
  • >Reproductive behaviour of a southern copepod in the changing environment of the west of Scotland (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)
  • >Fine scale passive acoustic tracking of harbour porpoises: investigation of echolocation behaviour and practical applications (Professor Ben Wilson)
  • >Arctic wide zooplankton migration behaviour (Professor Finlo Cottier and Dr Kim Last)
  • >Developing a fjord box model for high latitudes (Professor Mark Inall and Profesor Finlo Cottier)
  • >How does vertical mixing influence ocean-glacier interactions? (Professor Mark Inall and Professor Finlo Cottier

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 IRO £14,500 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 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 6.5 (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.

Gradschool guide for applicants 2017

To apply, you will need to submit the following::

  • >Completed application form (Gradschool application form 2017)
  • >Copies of all official qualification certificates and transcripts. If your official certificates/transcripts are not in English, this must be accompanied by a fully certified translation provided by a professional translator/translation company
  • >For applicants whose first language is not English, an English language test certificate (IELTS or eqv.) is required and the certificate must have been gained within the past 2 years
  • >A copy of the photo page of your passport if you are not a UK national. Also include any pages which indicate a right of abode in the UK.
  • >Copy of all your official degree transcripts (BSc & MSc - as appropriate). If you have not yet completed your degree, please send a transcript showing all your modules and grades.
  • >Two references. Send the Gradschool reference form 2017 reference request form to each referee and ask them to return them to phd@sams.ac.uk before the application deadline

These documents should be sent to reach us by the deadline advertised on each advert.

By post
Fiona Tindall (Academic Registry Officer Post Graduate)

The Scottish Association for Marine Science
Argyll PA37 1QA


By Email

Interview information

The best candidates on paper will be invited for face-to-face interview. Applicants who cannot attend an interview in Oban may be offered Skype interviews.

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 registry officer, Fiona Tindall:

E: PhD@sams.ac.uk T: +44 (0) 1631 559 000 (reception)
T: +44 (0) 1631 559 427 (direct)

The SAMS graduate school is convened by marine deep-sea ecologist, Dr Bhavani Narayanaswamy:

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