The University of Aberdeen has purchased the Cromarty Lighthouse to support its marine research and education work in the Moray Firth.
Twenty years ago, the University leased the Keeper’s cottage – adjacent to the lighthouse – and established the Lighthouse Field Station to provide a base for researchers to study seals, dolphins and seabirds around the north of Scotland.
Seven years ago the University expanded the Field Station by renovating the Old Buoy Store, providing new teaching and training accommodation. Since then, Aberdeen based undergraduate and postgraduate students have carried out project work in the Moray Firth each summer.
The Lighthouse and Keepers’ cottage were built by Alan Stevenson -the uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson - and the light was first lit in 1846 using sperm whale oil. The lighthouse became automatic in 1985, but the Northern Lighthouse Board withdrew it from service in 2006.
Professor Paul Thompson, Chair in Zoology at the University of Aberdeen, has directed research at the Lighthouse Field Station since it was opened in 1990. He said: “It was sad to see the light turned off after so many years, but purchasing the lighthouse has offered us a unique opportunity to use this iconic building to expand our work.”
Angus Donaldson, Director of the University’s Estates, said: “We were delighted to receive such widespread community support when we first considered the purchase. It may appear a slightly unusual step for a University to be considering buying a Lighthouse but for a number of reasons it made perfect sense, so we were encouraged that others agreed this would be an appropriate use for such an historic building”.
Professor Thompson added: “A lighthouse in the middle of the town is a clear reminder of Cromarty’s maritime heritage. We now look forward to exploring how we can best use the building to maintain that link, and provide new opportunities for locals and visitors to find out more about Scotland’s marine environment.”
1. Since 1990, the Lighthouse Field Station has provided a Highland base for the University’s research and teaching in marine ecology, underpinning long-term studies of bottlenose dolphins, harbour seals and seabirds. Together, these studies aim to understand how natural and man-made changes in the environment influence the biology of these populations, thereby supporting sustainable management both in the Moray Firth and in other coastal areas.
2. These interdisciplinary studies have involved extensive collaboration with scientists at a range of UK Institutes, and researchers in over ten other countries around the world. The Field Station also provides a base for post-graduate researchers that have worked on various other species, which have ranged from killer whales around Shetland to river dolphins in the Amazon. Field Station staff also maintain a satellite field station on Eynhallow, an uninhabited island in Orkney, where the University have conducted research on fulmars since 1950.
3. The Lighthouse Field Station typically houses 10-15 staff and post-graduate students, with an additional 75-100 students visiting Cromarty each year for short courses. Aberdeen-based undergraduates can attend annual Field Courses in Cromarty, and residential courses are held for Masters and PhD students. Honours and taught Masters students regularly undertake their 6-12 week research projects at the Field Station.
4. These studies have resulted in >100 scientific papers, and attracted >£3.5 million in research income since 1990. Results from this work have supported conservation and management programmes at home and abroad, and the Field Station has provided a wide range of scientific advice to organisations within and outside the Highlands.
5. Professor Paul Thompson, Director of the Lighthouse Field Station, is a Professor within the University’s School of Biological Sciences. He has been studying the ecology of marine mammals for over 25 years, and working in the Moray Firth since 1987. He is currently leading the Marine Predator theme within the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS).
6. Further information on the Lighthouse Field Station is available from website: www.abdn.ac.uk/lighthouse
Issued by the Communications Team
Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen
Tel: +44 (0)1224 272014
Contact: Kelly Potts
Issued on: 26 August 2009