A £500,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation will help cement Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in marine research and animal conservation, and deliver a state-of-the-art research facility at the University of St Andrews.
The University is developing the design for a new £10 million research building and a ‘smart’ aquarium that will be the most technologically advanced in the UK and make St Andrews one of the top marine institutes in the world.
This new hub will maximise the opportunity for creativity, invention and innovation, allowing scientists to explore themes which have a global impact, including:
- Human impacts on the marine environment – human activities have an increasing effect on marine ecosystems and combine with demographic and climate change pressures; understanding the interrelated effects of these stressors is one of the main priorities for governmental marine science strategies.
- Genetic mechanisms of adaptation – understanding the evolutionary and developmental processes as species adapt to environmental changes will allow us to predict the effect of climate change on marine life, and to improve aquafarming processes.
- Management and conservation of marine resources – conservation scientists will be able to work with mathematicians to develop cutting-edge modelling tools to explore the effectiveness of marine protected areas; in addition a new link with social scientists will contribute realistic data on human activity in the marine environment and provide understanding of the social and economic consequences of differing policy options in marine conservation.
- Marine Engineering and Instrumentation – St Andrews scientists are world-leaders in methods to survey marine mammal populations using animal borne sensors and mobile technology; marine mammals are able to reach areas barely accessible to humans, such as deep waters around Antarctica which hold vital information on the oceans and global weather patterns. Building on this instrumentation expertise, scientists will be able to observe and explore the oceans in greater detail than previously possible.
Together this work will provide new information on the impact of human activity in the marine environment and the consequences of management policies.
The new facility will be the permanent base of the Scottish Oceans Institute which includes the world leading Sea Mammal Research Unit, and the executive office of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS).
The new aquarium will cater for extensive environmental monitoring and control of temperature, lighting, pH, oxygen, salinity, ammonia and nitrates.
Specialist rooms with climate control will allow electronic and optical equipment to co-exist with culture facilities supplied with running seawater.
Taking full advantage of the building’s prominent position, the entrance will open directly from the popular Fife Coastal Path. Display pools will help to illustrate the science taking place, and the design will also include a Collaboration Zone, to be used for events and visiting groups so that those with interest can learn more about the world’s oceans and the unique ecosystem of the North Sea.
Professor Garry Taylor, Acting Principal at St Andrews, said: “The Wolfson Foundation’s support is a seal of approval of the quality of the marine science which takes place in St Andrews. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to strengthen our international links and expand our research ambitions. The New Gatty will enable us to do this with confidence as we will have a building commensurate with the standard of work taking place within.”
Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “The Gatty has a distinguished history of making outstanding contributions to marine science, and we are delighted to be supporting this impressive and ambitious project, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration that will reinforce the University’s global reputation for marine research. The Wolfson Foundation supports outstanding research, and this year marks 50 years of our support to the University of St Andrews, during which time we have funded more than 50 projects.”
Notes to news editors
The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts & humanities. All awards are given on the basis of expert review. Over £800 million (£1.7 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 10,000 projects throughout the UK. Established in 1955, the Wolfson Foundation celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015.
The marine research carried out at St Andrews was rated to have the highest impact of all marine research in the UK in the last Research Excellence Framework assessment published in 2014.
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