An estimated 30,000 km2 of the marine environment worldwide is host to manmade infrastructure and recent studies have shown that in addition to structural changes at these sites the abundance and diversity of sea-life is also modified.
After a successful foundation phase of research, the INSITE Programme is committed to developing a deeper understanding of the impact and role of man-made structures in the marine environment, specifically that of the North Sea.
INSITE projects have been undertaken across several European centres of excellence for marine science.
This extensive body of research has included data taken from across North Sea sites, the current second phase of research will continue until 2023.
Dickon Howell is Professor of Practice at Newcastle University School of Natural and Environmental Science as well as director and founder of Howell Marine Consulting. He is an expert in policy development with a track record of bringing together regulators, scientists and politicians to find solutions on sustainability within the marine environment and has advised governments on biodiversity conservation and many other issues affecting offshore activity
The Programme Advisory Group (PAG) is responsible for determining the scientific direction of the Programme. The PAG is made up of the following members.
Professor Sir Ian Boyd is currently a professor at the University of St Andrews and Chair of the UK Research Integrity Office.
He was Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government on Food and the Environment (2012-2019).
He is a marine and polar scientist and previously served as the first Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute at St Andrews. He is and a director of a number of trusts and companies.
Murray Roberts is Professor of Applied Marine Biology & Ecology in the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh where he moved in October 2016. He is Head of the Changing Oceans Research Group and Coordinator European H2020 ATLAS & iAtlantic projects.
Murray Roberts studies marine ecosystems and their response to changing environmental conditions and human activities in order to enhance plans for their long term management and conservation. He has worked with the offshore energy sector including oil and gas since 1997 with projects active along the Atlantic margin and in the North Sea
Murray was Professor of Marine Biology and Director of the Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology at Heriot-Watt University. He studied Biology at the University of York before a PhD at the University of Glasgow examining nitrogen cycling in the Anemonia viridis symbiosis. Since 1997 his work on cold-water corals and deep-sea biology has taken him to sites off the UK, Norway, Ireland and the SE United States. Murray is senior author of the ‘Cold-water Corals’ (Cambridge University Press), a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report and co-lead editor of a 2014 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity report on ocean acidification. He is Adjunct Faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where he was a Marie Curie Fellow 2007-09. From 2012-15 he co-ordinated Heriot-Watt University’s role in the Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology. The £30M Lyell Centre is a collaboration with the British Geological Survey and Heriot-Watt University that opened in 2016. He has led or participated in 23 offshore research cruises.
Professor John Shepherd is Emeritus Professor of Earth System Science within the Ocean and Earth Science department of the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Science, University of Southampton, at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. He served on the INSITE Advisory Board in the first, foundation phase of the Programme.
John’s specialism is Earth System Science & Modelling, Climate Change
He has led the delivery of marine policy and management solutions and institutional change for national and regional governmental bodies in the UK and overseas across all areas of the Blue Economy such as marine biodiversity conservation and Marine Protected Areas, offshore wind, maritime transport, oil and gas, marine minerals, fisheries, marine spatial planning and marine infrastructure licensing. This has included advising government ministers and senior officials in the UK and overseas and being requested to appear in front of parliamentary select committees.
A key member of the leadership team that set up the Marine Management Organisation in England Dickon held positions as Chief Scientific Advisor, Director of Marine Development and Head of Marine Licensing. He was responsible for providing marine science advice to UK government as well as delivering the practical legislative interpretation underpinning marine spatial planning and marine infrastructure licensing in England, including offshore wind.
He has directed the development and delivery of national ocean policy and marine spatial planning to support the Blue Economy and the institutional change required to deliver in many Small Island States and continues to advise governments and public bodies across the world on the Blue Economy, marine policy, management, marine science and the institutional barriers to delivery in a complex policy environment.
Professor Rachel Mills is Dean of the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Southampton, and is a member of the University Executive Board. Over her career she has developed and delivered undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Ocean and Earth Science. More recently Rachel has led the development and delivery of a free online course ‘Exploring our Ocean’ that has had global reach with learners of all ages and impact on societal understanding of sustainable oceans. She regularly provides advice and direction for a range of international and UK organisations and high-profile projects.
Rachel is a deep-sea oceanographer who works on the chemistry of the deep seafloor and its impact on life in the sea. She has led research expeditions using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to remote and deep, unexplored parts of the ocean. Her research focuses on metal cycling at the seafloor, the formation and alteration of deep-sea mineral deposits and the dispersion of metals in the ocean.
Beth Scott has a multi-disciplinary background in marine ecology, oceanography and fisheries. Her approach focuses on the functional linkages between fine scale bio-physical oceanographic processes, flexible individual life history traits and population dynamics of a range of fish and seabird species through both empirical data collection and modelling approaches. Her focus has been the spatial and temporal identification of critical marine habitats where mobile predator and prey species interact. Recently her research portfolio has been focused on the understanding of the effects of marine renewable energy systems on multi-trophic interactions and the methods for co-developing a Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) decision-support system with a range of stakeholders (industry, government, NGOs) to better incorporate ecosystem service knowledge and values into effective policies.
Scott is currently a Co-Director for the EPSRC Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Supergen Hub, a member of the Scottish Government Offshore Renewables Research (ScotMER), part of the Advisory Group for the Scottish Biodiversity Programme Board Advisory Group and on the European Marine Board Working Group on Marine Renewable Energy. She was a member of the Ministerial DEFRA Marine Protected Areas Science Advisory Panel (2009-12) as well as the Forum Coordinator for Marine Renewable Energy Forum, MASTS (2012-19).
Tracy has over 30 years’ experience in environmental geochemistry. She obtained an MSc. From Strathclyde University and a Ph.D. from Edinburgh University. Her research interests include the investigation and assessment of human impacts on the marine environment through the monitoring of pollutants and the study of biogeochemical processes involved in their redistribution.
Tracy is the Director for the Lyell Centre, a purpose-built £21 m facility, which will enable the British Geological Survey (BGS) and Heriot-Watt University (HWU) to build on their individual and combined interdisciplinary expertise in land and marine conservation, geology and geoscience
She is interested in how science and innovation can come together to realise societal benefit and economic growth and was a member of the Scotland Can Do Forum set up by the Scotland’s Deputy First Minister. She also works with the Scottish CENSIS Innovation Centre.
The goal of the programme is to improve scientific knowledge of the effects of man’s activity on the ecology of the North Sea.
Some 98.5 percent of the North Sea is characterised by a sandy and muddy seabed, in contrast to the greater proportion of hard substrate (or rocky bottom) that existed in the past and is believed to have supported greater biodiversity of the marine ecology.
Man-made structures such as offshore platforms, pipelines and renewable energy installations are thought to have a role in increasing biodiversity, but research on this has previously been limited.
The National Environmental Research Council (NERC) invited proposals in 2019 for projects addressing the 3 established challenges of INSITE. These projects were awarded a share of funding to £5 million.
The Centre for Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS), in conjunction with NERC's announcement of opportunity is supporting the current cohort of projects with support of £600k towards staff research costs on NERC funded projects
The Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) Decommissioning Baseline Study Joint Industry Project (JIP) from 2011-2013 was the starting point for INSITE.
The INSITE Programme is created as a Joint Industry Partnership (JIP) with support from oil and gas operators with North Sea assets
The first call for proposals is issued to scientists inviting submissions for funding for projects addressing the two areas of research as set out in the INSITE foundation phase.
£1.8 million of funding is announced in support of INSITE foundation projects to conclude in late 2017
The first Structures in the Marine Environment Conference is held in Glasgow. Attended by over 100 scientists and industry representatives
NERC issues an announcement of opportunity for funding worth £5 million for projects addressing 3 scientific challenges of INSITE
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Dr Daniel Jones
National Oceanography Centre
Dr Paul Somerfield, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Dr Debbie Russell
University of St Andrews
INSITE is a programme of research which seeks to understand the influence of man made structures on the ecology of the North Sea.
|Under the current, second phase of the Programme, eight projects are being led out of UK institutions. |
These are funded under the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) Programme.
When established in 2014 the Programme was set up as a Joint Industry Partnership (JIP) with funding from a number of industry partners. This funding continues under that current phase.
The Foundation Phase of the Programme was funded by a group of eight international energy companies: BP, Centrica, CNR International, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Shell, Talisman–Sinopec and Total.
In the second and current phase of research is supported by Chevron, Total, BP, Taqa. ExxonMobil, Shell and CNRI
Companies interested in joining as sponsors are encouraged to get in touch with the Programme Director via the website.
In addition to financial contribution all of the supporting organisation have given ‘in kind’ support. This has included access for the researchers to industry held data and operational support for the acquisition of new data.
Under its foundation phase the INSITE Scope Framework was developed to encourage the scientific community to concentrate on delivering against the Programme’s objectives rather than a prescriptive scope of work.
How is INSITE ensuring that the science produced under the Programme is demonstrably independent rather than skewed to the sponsors’ potential interests?
The Program Advisory Group (PAG) chaired by Professor Sir Ian Boyd, is made up of leaders from the marine science community. This group is responsible for the scientific direction of the Programme. Biographies of all members of the PAG are available above.
The Foundation Phase concluded in December 2017. The findings and conclusions from these projects have informed the second Phase of the Programme awarded by NERC and are now underway (2020- 2022). Outcomes from phase 2 are expected in 2022. An additional INSITE PhD Scholarship Programme was launched in 2020 and is expected to run until 2023.
Seven projects, led out of UK institutions have been awarded grants in Phase 2. Details of these and Foundation projects can be found here.
INSITE is interested in the area known as ‘Region II, The Greater North Sea’ under OSPAR’s definition. It is the region which has the most man-made structures in it and excludes west of Shetland. The east Irish Sea may be included if it can be demonstrated that it is relevant to the Greater North Sea region. It includes all national jurisdictions within this area.
Meetings were held in December 2013 to gather feedback from a broad cross-section of stakeholders on the proposed scope framework for the Programme. This feedback has been included in the RfP and is available in the Downloads section, together with lists of the organisations which were represented at the meetings.
Structures of interest include steel and concrete oil and gas installations, pipelines and renewable energy structures. Shipwrecks are also considered relevant in providing an analogue of a structure of known age.
It is the responsibility of the Programme Advisory Group (PAG) to recommend funding awards from the proposals which it believes will best deliver on the Programme’s objectives. The PAG is responsible in ensuring that the Programme delivers the highest quality science.
The INSITE Programme is committed to seeing the outcomes from the research published in peer reviewed scientific journals in order to facilitate access to and use of the findings by all stakeholders. It is a requirement of the Programme that outcomes from all contracted research will be published in this way by the researchers. Publications from the Foundation Phase are available here.
INSITE is an entirely independent programme and has no links to any other programmes. Independence is of paramount importance to the validity of the outcomes from INSITE and the reputation of the Programme and those associated with it.
As the original concept for INSITE was facilitated by Oil & Gas UK, the core sponsor group to make the Programme viable was sought from its membership who had participated in previous studies. It is however recognized that the Programme is as relevant for renewable structures as oil and gas structures and we would welcome hearing from companies in the global renewable energy sector who may be interested in becoming sponsors of INSITE.