Scottish Association for Marine Science

United Kingdom

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is Scotland’s largest and oldest independent marine science organisation, delivering marine science for a productive and sustainably managed marine environment through innovative research, education and engagement with society.

Based near Oban on the Scottish west coast, our marine research and teaching portfolio is diverse in topic and discipline, global in outlook, project locations and relevance, and delivered by a SAMS team with can-do attitude working in partnership with academic, business, government, regulatory, voluntary and civic society colleagues.

Our mission

... is to increase, communicate and use our understanding of the oceans for the public good by

  • creating new knowledge through transformational scientific enquiry
  • disseminating that knowledge through inspirational education and public outreach
  • deploying that knowledge to solve real-world problems

Our vision

We strive to be a world-class marine science enterprise that underpins regional, national and international policy, and societal action to secure healthy and sustainable oceans.

What do we do? We research how the marine environment works, how and why it is changing and how we could use and treat it better. Then we educate, communicate and promote what we find for the public good.

Why do we do it? To have healthy and productive seas and oceans that support life on Earth and continue to provide us with resources. Also to understand our planet and our place on it better.

How do we do it? We undertake research into all aspects of the marine system and exchange our new understanding with society, policy makers, business and the next generation, so that it can become useful and improve practices.

Science areas: Ocean systems (fundamental science in physical oceanography; biogeochemistry; ecosystem function; Arctic seas); dynamic coasts (research relevant to society to plan and manage the marine environment eg regarding climate change; marine conservation; society and the sea; industrial impacts) and blue economy (applied science eg related to aquaculture, marine biotechnology, ocean energy, fisheries)

Education programmes: Marine Science BSc (with Arctic Studies or Oceanography with Robotics streams); Aquaculture, Environment and Society MScAlgal Biotechnology, Biology and Ecology MResPhD

People: Ca 155 staff, 20 honorary research fellows, 160 full-time taught undergraduate and Master students, 40 full-time research students, 300 members, 11 trustees More...

Oban is a great place to live, study, work and visit.  

There’s more to Oban that you might think. A small coastal university town with around 8,500 people, Oban has a thriving tourist industry, particularly in the summer months. Its growing student population and its position as a rural hub in the Scottish west Highlands means the town provides more facilities and services than its size would suggest. 

Oban is connected via trains and buses to the main Scottish population centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh (both of which have international airports). A small airport at nearby Connel and the busy ferry port connect the town to many of the diverse Hebridean islands, which is why some people call this town the Gateway to the Isles.  

The town has a hospital, a high school, numerous primary schools, nurseries, a police station, a full-time fire station, a modern leisure centre, a choice of large supermarkets (including Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, M&S), a book shop, public library and many other shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. With its seaside location and unique access to the freshest of seafood, Oban is known as the seafood capital of Scotland with several seafood restaurants, fishmongers and seafood ‘shacks’ around the town.  

Oban is steeped in history and culture. The town is home to the world-famous Oban whisky distillery and the native Gaelic language is well represented through a dedicated civic centre and community choral singing and traditional music. The newly renovated Rockfield Centre is a new cultural hub in town offering a range of arts and heritage events, workshops and activities. You’ll often stumble across a ‘session’ of local musicians playing traditional Scottish music in various pubs too. The View is a new venue, bar and function room with a stunning waterfront terrace overlooking Oban harbour across to the Isle of Kerrera. It offers ceilidhs, live music, club nights and a programme of events and functions. 

The town hall (Corran Halls) hosts touring and local cultural performances, festivals, fairs and conferences. There is also a busy two-screen modern cinema screening a variety of films and events for all ages every week. Mossfield stadium hosts the traditional sport of shinty, as well as the annual Argyllshire Gathering, Oban’s Highland Games event, every year and has previously been home to Oban Live outdoor music concert.  

The stunning scenery offers access to many outdoor pursuits, from sailing, sea kayaking, diving, wild swimming and stand-up paddle boarding to rock-climbing and “Munro-bagging” which is climbing Scotland’s highest mountain ranges. Oban’s sandy beaches such as Ganavan, which is connected to Dunbeg near SAMS by a cycle path, and Tralee can be enjoyed year-round. But there are many more hidden beaches, rocky shores and coves to explore too!  

Just an hour’s drive north is Fort William where you will find the UK’s tallest mountain Ben Nevis and Nevis Range Mountain Resort, a family friendly destination offering skiing and snowsports, mountain gondola rides, tree adventure activities and excellent mountain biking. Fort William currently hosts the Mountain Bike World Cup every year. And just 45 minutes north from Oban you will find the Ice Factor climbing centre, the world’s biggest indoor ice climbing wall as well as indoor rock-climbing walls with 135+ routes.

Less than an hour south is Kilmartin Glen, with ca 350 Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments and with Kilmartin Museum interpreting and conserving both the archaeological and the natural heritage of the area (re-opening 2023).

Useful links

Love Oban 

Wild About Argyll  

What to do in and around Oban – SAMS Student Blog  

Argyll and Bute Council  

Wee Walk Oban  

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Key staff:

SAMS Director
Professor Nicholas J P Owens

        Head shot of the SAMS director, Professor Nick Owens


A marine scientist with experience of leadership of complex organisations engaged in research, commercial income generation and education in environmental science.

Inspired by the wonders of the natural world; committed to public service and the standards expected of the ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’.