Marine Science Department

Heriot Watt University

Scientific Diving Team

The Scientific Diving Team comprises five members of staff as well as suitably qualified students (qualifying courses are offered as an option). The School has its own diving equipment administered by a dedicated Diving Officer. Diving projects include ecological and conservation studies, mapping of sub-tidal biotopes, analysis and remediation of man-made damage (for instance to biogenic reefs) and development of underwater monitoring techniques, such as video transects. Student projects may also involve diving, for those suitably qualified. Diving work has been funded from various sources, including Research Councils, SNH and various industrial partners. The Diving Team is available for commercial contracts.

Research Vessel (RV Serpula)

RV Serpula is a custom built vessel commissioned in 1999, based on an 8 m LOA GRP Kingfisher hull. She is equipped for scientific sampling and diving work, including grabbing, benthic coring, beam trawling and deployment of remote sensing equipment (e.g. side-scan sonar; drop-down video). Most sampling gears can be supplied in-house. RV Serpula is supported by 3 inflatable craft. The vessel has been used for work all over Scotland, including Barra, North Uist, the Firth of Tay and locations around her base in Loch Creran. She also provides a focal point for field course-work on both B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees. The boat, with skipper, is available for commercial contracts.


The aquarium is a central facility for the Marine Biology group. It comprises 3 rooms with seawater, filtered freshwater and air on-tap. The aquarium is built around flexibility, allowing any system to be stripped out and remodelled as required. This avoids constraints in infrastructure compromising experimental design. Sea-water systems are recirculating, using real seawater supplied by tanker. Freshwater systems are either recirculating or flow-through, as required. In addition to the aquarium, there are also 6 Constant Temperature rooms, allowing simulation of natural conditions throughout the year.

Environmental Analytical Research Laboratory
This analytical suite underpins analysis of marine environmental contaminants within the School. It comprises equipment for Gas Chromatography, GC/LC Mass Spectrometry, HPLC, Atomic Absorption Spectrometry, Ion Chromatography, UV/Fluorescence Spectrometry and Microtox analysis (a biological effects analysis technique).

Primarily used for characterisation and identification of oil residues, this suite is available for commercial contracts as well as being widely used in postgraduate projects and research.

Elemental Analyser
Set up for analytical determination of Carbon and Nitrogen, this equipment allows measurement of the body composition of organisms, as well as the abundance of these elements in, for example, sediment samples. Such information contributes to work on growth and productivity of small organisms (e.g. plankton), as well as characterisation of nutrient distribution in sediments and water.

This facility is available for commercial contracts.

Marine Science Department

Heriot Watt University Blog

September 8, 2019

Getting DEEP into summer! – A summer of surveys

A number of the Heriot-Watt Scientific dive team have been working tirelessly this summer on the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project, DEEP for short. The work this summer has been done in support of the main restoration project […]
August 27, 2019

Capturing the underwater world – Orkney

A month into the academic year the new cohort of master students convene at our Orkney ICIT Campus for a week of work focusing on renewable energies and blue growth. During this week the students […]
March 27, 2018

Ghosts of Scapa Flow…

Heriot Watt Scientific Divers Dr Joanne Porter and Jack Sheehy were members of the Ghostfishing 2017 expedition in Scapa Flow. In this cool video you can see what the team members got up to and […]
January 27, 2018

Molecules Meet Fossils…

The second leg of the Leverhulme Trust Molecules Meet Fossils fieldwork to collect marine Bryozoa from Tasmania, was every bit as successful as the first leg at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef. The Tasmanian fauna is very different […]