Posted on June 02, 2020

NERC research grants for INSITE projects announced

The Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS) have announced 7 INSITE projects set to receive £5million of funding over the next 3 years.

The awards come after an Announcement of Opportunity from NERC in 2019 inviting researchers to submit proposals for a new programme of science in support of the INSITE objectives. Peer reviewed by an international panel of independent experts, the projects have been granted funding until 2023.

This programme will build on INSITE’s Foundation Phase and aims to tackle the critical gaps in scientific understanding of the role that man-made structures play in marine ecosystems. The overarching question that the programme is looking to answer is “How critical are man- made structures (MMS) in the North Sea to ecosystem structure and function?” This will be addressed through three challenges:

  • Understanding the role of man-made structures as an inter-connected hard substrate network in the North Sea.
  • Understanding the role of man-made structures as artificial reefs in the North Sea.
  • Ecological monitoring and assessment of man-made structures as whole systems in the North Sea ecosystem.

The research projects, focusing on the North Sea region, will be led by scientists across a number of UK-based centres of excellence including universities and marine research institutions.

Richard Heard, INSITE Programme Director said: “The Foundation Phase of INSITE research has made significant in-roads to our understanding of the role of MMS and the objective of this new programme is to further that understanding.”

“The purpose of the INSITE Programme has always been to provide a substantive resource for decision making and the scale of funding that this new programme has attracted is an indication of its importance in informing strategy for MMS in the marine environment. We congratulate all of the teams that have had their grants confirmed and look forward to supporting them.”

Alongside the NERC grants, INSITE continues to support research with additional funding and in-kind support from a number of industry sponsors. This support will further enhance the development of INSITE Interactive the ground-breaking data portal developed by INSITE in response to the expressed need from scientists for improved access to industry held ecological data.

The successful projects are:

Project NameGrant Holders
Autonomous Techniques for anthropogenic Structure Ecological Assessment (ATSEA)Dr Daniel Jones, National Oceanographic Centre and Dr Blair Thornton, University of Southampton
Decommissioning - Relative Effects of Alternative Management Strategies (DREAMS)Dr Paul Somerfield, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Dr Antony Knights, Plymouth University and Dr Michaela Schratzberger, CEFAS
Functionality and Ecological Connectivity of Man-Made Structures (FuECoMMS)Dr Natalie Ruth Hicks, University of Essex
EcoSTAR: Ecosystem level importance of STructures as Artificial ReefsDebbie Russell, University of St Andrews and Silvana Birchenough, CEFAS
Connectivity of Hard Substrate Assemblages in the North Sea (CHASANS)Dr Joanne Porter, Heriot Watt University and Dr Michela de Domenicis, National Oceanographic Centre and Professor Michael Elliot, University of Hull
Aggregation, production and spillover: the cumulative effect of man-made offshore structures on fishPaul Fernandes, University of Aberdeen and Dr Douglas Spiers, University of Strathclyde
Application of novel 3D imaging techniques to quantify biomass and secondary production associated with North Sea artificial structures.Dr Thomas Wilding, Scottish Association for Marine Science