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SAIC to fund four PhDs

Atlantic Salmon Health Mussels +6 more

Today at Aquaculture UK, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) announced a new skills initiative and funding for four PhD projects worth over £500,000.

It’s the first time SAIC will fund PhD positions, each tackling an area of priority research for Scotland's aquaculture industry. Three will focus on fish health issues and one addresses the needs of mussel farmers. They are the first suite of SAIC PhDs and are part of a skills initiative closely allied with industry requirements. SIAC will provide £180,000 of funding to support the new programme, which is worth over £500,000.

One of the four SAIC-funded projects is investigating spat mortality in farmed blue mussels (Mytilus edulis)

The four projects are related to:

  • Dynamic spatial modelling and forecasting of sea lice abundances – ie predictive tools to understand where sea lice present the greatest geographical pressures – with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and Marine Harvest acting as partners.
  • Photoperiod and immune function: how critical lifecycle events in salmon impact on disease response and post-smolt performance – ie to better understand how photoperiod/artificial light regimes affect the salmon’s immune system through the critical transfer from freshwater to seawater – in which the partners are the University of Aberdeen and Scottish Sea Farms.
  • Environmental DNA for low-cost monitoring of disease in salmonid aquaculture – ie more efficient and cost-effective ways to monitor the presence of a range of pathogenic/dangerous organisms in the local environment of salmon aquaculture - eg Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus elongatus (the two species of sea lice found in Scottish waters) and Paramoeba perurans, the causative agent of amoebic gill disease (AGD). Partners: University of Glasgow, Marine Harvest, Scottish Sea Farms and Bioclavis.
  • Spat mortality in farmed blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) – ie understanding the causes of mortality in spat fall to enhance the productivity of Scottish mussel farms. Partners: University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture and Fassfern Mussels Ltd, with additional funding from The Fishmongers’ Company.

Responding to the news, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, who opened the Aquaculture UK exhibition, said: “Increasing the supply of talented scientists with an understanding of the commercial realities of farming fish and shellfish in Scotland was one of our key aims in setting up SAIC. Scotland needs to grow, develop and retain a talented workforce skilled in the science, biology and applied research that these four projects represent. I am delighted that four new PhD students will embark on industry-relevant research to help improve production capacity and I wish them every success.”