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Find a PhD at SAMS

We currently have one fully funded PhD vacancy:

Development of a platform for the genetics and breeding of the red seaweed Palmaria palmata for high value bioactive compounds

Supervisors: Prof Wayne Powell (SRUC), Dr Eva Ramos-Morales (SRUC), Prof Michele Stanley, Dr Phil Kerrison

Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is a red seaweed distributed around the lower tidal and subtidal zones of American and European North Atlantic coasts. It has been collected for human consumption and for animal fodder for centuries. There are now developing markets focused on its nutritional value, on extracting high-value bioactive compounds for use in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, as a substrate for biofuel production, and as feed additive for ruminants. Recent studies have shown the potential of red seaweed to reduce methane emissions (up to 99%) which could promote higher growth rates and feed conversion efficiencies in ruminants. This antimethanogenic effect has been attributed to the presence of bioactives such as bromoform and dichloromethane. 

A major contribution to the development of cultivated dulse will be to understand the genetics of its antimethanogentic effects and of high value biochemical traits. This will lead to improvements in identifying locations for off-shore production with locally collected germplasm and for genetic improvement of stock for cultivation on-shore.

Dulse is not currently cultivated commercially, though that will be necessary as greater demand results in higher pressures on wild stocks. Experimental production in the sea on ropes and on land in tanks, is under investigation. This project will initiate this process by developing molecular markers for dulse, surveying genetic variation around the UK and N. Atlantic coasts, developing mapping populations and detecting QTL for biochemical traits within those populations. Objectives of the Research are to:

Develop a marker platform and genetic maps in dulse

Survey molecular diversity for dulse

Establish populations for trait mapping

Detect and map QTL for bioactive compounds of economic importance

Evaluate effects on methane production, estimate genetic variation and map QTL



The student will be registered at the University of the Highlands and Islands and must have a minimum of a 2:1 honours degree or Masters degree in a relevant subject.

The student will be expected to have a strong foundation in molecular genetic analyses. It would be desirable that the student is well versed in laboratory skills such as biochemical assay techniques.

The cross-institute and cross-discipline nature of this project will equip the student for employment in aquaculture or in terrestrial plant breeding. The student will learn a unique combination of skills that are ideal for subsequent employment in research and development of seaweed aquaculture.

This studentship will be based at SRUC in Kings Buildings in Edinburgh but will be expected to spend time at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) near Oban to work on the experimental/laboratory aspects of the project.

SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, delivers comprehensive skills, education and business support for Scotland’s land-based industry founded on world class, sector leading research, education and consultancy. SRUC’s joint submission with the University of Edinburgh to the Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science subpanel of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) ranks top in the UK on research power.



The student will be registered at the University of the Highlands and Islands and receive an annual student stipend of £15,099 at the 2019/20 rate.

This studentship will fund to pay the tuition fees at home fees rate only. International students must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the higher international student tuition fee level (approximately £10,800 per year would be required).


How to apply

Application deadline: 20 Aug 2019 5 pm BST

Interview date: 28 Aug 2019 in Edinburgh

Expected start date (negotiable): 1 Oct 2019

To apply click on the advertised PhD studentship on the SRUC website and complete the application and equal opportunities monitoring forms on there,

Completed forms and questions should be sent to the SRUC Postgraduate Administrator at rg.research@sruc.ac.uk quoting reference SRUC/Dulse/Powell

PhD genetics and breeding of dulse for high value compounds - further particulars

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

  • >The genetic stabilit of microalgal strains used in biofuel production (Dr Michele Stanley)
  • >Modelling the hydrodynamics of large scale macroalgae cultivation (Dr Michele Stanley)
  • >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.

PhD application guidance SAMS 2019-20

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

  • >Completed application form.
  • >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.

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

By post
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, Anna Kane:

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)