Personal profile

Research interests

Research projects

INSITE Connectivity of Hard Substrate Epifaunal Assemblages across the North Sea (CHASANS)

Funded by Natural Environment Research Council 2020-2024.

A global demand for energy in parallel with concerns about global warming and energy security are motivating many nations to look for novel and sustainable sources of energy. At the same time the oil and gas industry is looking to decommission significant infrastructure as it comes to the end of its life cycle.

There is a clear transition underway which brings challenges of infrastructure management. Among the issues raised by the offshore industries are those arising from the biological colonisation of their structures.

The aim of the CHASANS project is to enhance our understanding of the connectivity of populations of marine fauna colonising artificial substrates across the North Sea (NS). Team expertise in epifaunal ecology, oceanographic modelling, and population genetics will be used to generate a multidisciplinary dataset to validate biologically realistic models of larval connectivity between sites in the North Sea. These models will be used to predict how networks of hard substrate in the North Sea function in the dispersal and metapopulation structure of marine epifauna. One of the outputs of the research is a tool which will predict how the distribution of epifauna is affected when specific artificial platforms are removed or added into the network. Such information will help to provide environmental evidence to decision makers regarding whether artificial platforms should be removed or remain in place, as well as allowing projection of connectivity based on future climate-driven scenarios.

The context described above leads to the following key research questions that motivate this project:

1. What are the best ways to capture data on the origins and patterns of settlement of epifaunal species on artificial structures in the NS, and what are the biogeographical, physical and ecological determinants?

2. How can we use this information to provide improved models describing larval dispersal (including invasive aquatic species) in the NS and the facilitating role created by the network of artificial structures?

3. What role does substrate type (i.e. natural vs artificial; historic vs recent) have on connectivity of epifaunal populations?

4. How will network connectivity be altered by future changes including the removal or addition of artificial structures following decommissioning and/or installations?


Project Sjogras/ North Isles Landscape Partnership Seagrass

Collaborative partnership between Heriot Watt University Orkney, Highland Park Whisky Company, NatureScot and Project Seagrass to generate evidence base regarding the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services provided by seagrass beds in Orcadian coastal waters.


British Council UK-Indonesia Going Global Partnerships 2022-24

Partnership project for student training and research development in 'Blue Energy for the Blue Economy'. This award winning programme involves hybrid delivery of teaching programme with international faculty and is interspersed with focussed student mobility opportunities using a Challenge Based Learning approach to develop solutions embedded within coastal communities of Indonesia. The collaboration partner in Indonesia is ITS Nopember.



Graduated with a BSc Honours in Marine Biology from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1994. Went on to read for a PhD with Professor John Ryland and Professor Gary Carvalho at Swansea University on ‘Speciation and Reproduction of Marine Bryozoa in the genus Alcyonidium (Lamouroux)’. This work involved using a combination of morphological and molecular techniques to investigate species diversity and taxonomy. Completed two NERC-funded Postdoctoral research posts working in the laboratories of Dr Peter Hayward and Professor David Skibinski, continuing studies into the molecular systematics and population genetics of marine Bryozoa. In 2003 moved to a lectureship at Aberystwyth University and during this period started to develop new research interests into the chemical biodiversity of marine Bryozoa and their bacterial symbionts. Joined the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in July 2009 as a lecturer in Marine Biology and in 2016 relocated to the Heriot Watt University Orkney campus to pursue research on biogenic reef habitats, biodiversity and interactions with activity of the Blue Economy. Hobbies include SCUBA diving, underwater photography, cycling, gardening and reading.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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