Marine phytoplankton: the good, the bad and the not so ugly

This is the title of a public lecture at the Scottish Association of Marine Science [SAMS] in September. It is the first in a series of free, public lectures organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Marine phytoplankton – commonly known as algae, get a pretty bad press since their presence is regularly responsible for shutting down sea lochs in Argyll and preventing the harvesting and eating of shellfish.

But there is another side to their story.

Professor Keith Davidson, a leading microbial expert and head of the microbial and molecular biology department at SAMS, aims to present the two faces of marine phytoplankton, to create a more balanced perspective of the impacts of algae, vital for and harmful to life.

The tiny organisms form the base of the marine food chain and are crucial to the global climate. However, some marine phytoplankton species, often called harmful algae, produce biotoxins that can be dangerous to humans and other mammals and can have a negative impact on coastal aquaculture like shellfish.

Professor Davidson says: ‘I am honoured to be invited to present the first of the university’s inaugural professorial lectures to be given at SAMS. I hope the lecture will provide some insights into the fascinating world of marine microbes.’

It will be the first public talk he has given since being made a professor of the university earlier this year.

Professor Davidson’s inaugural lecture takes place from 5:15pm to 7pm at SAMS, Dunstaffnage, Oban, on Monday 9th September.

Everyone interested is welcome. To book a place or find out about video conference facilities in your area, contact the UHI’s events team on 01463 279 344 or at

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