• Students on board our coastal research vessel deploying sediment traps
    Amazing fieldwork for your students
  • Well camouflaged fish in coastal environment
    Access to diverse habitats
    lochs, mud flats, salt marshes, beaches, deep water, forests, hills
  • Large laboratory image
    Attractive and well-equipped facilities
    For groups from 5 to 60 students
  • Beautiful image of SAMS research vessels moored on our pontoon in stunning weather with mountains in the background
    Resources of a marine research institute

Centre for Field Studies

Diverse and spectacular environments on our doorstep

The Centre for Field Studies enjoys on-site access to a range of muddy and rocky shore habitats; sandy beaches and salt marshes within three kilometers; and outstanding access to a variety of sheltered and offshore marine environments down to depths of over 200m. We are also perfectly located for coastal and terrestrial field research with access to forests, hills and mountains.

The waters around SAMS are home to marine mammals, basking sharks and biogenic reefs. Local sea lochs provide diverse physical, geochemical and biological environments in sheltered (i.e. largely weather-independent) settings.

Modern teaching facilities

We believe that high quality hands-on marine science training should be at the core of the student experience. And to support excellent teaching we have developed a new, spacious and attractive education facility: The Sheina Marshall Building offers excellent field studies facilities for visiting groups and is the home campus for marine science undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The Sheina Marshall Building comprises

  • >four well-equipped, modern teaching laboratories for between 12 and 60 students
  • >seven modern lecture and seminar rooms for between 10 and 100 students
  • >two computing suites
  • >a large dedicated study room
  • >wireless network throughout
  • >self-catering canteen 'Cafe Camus' with spectacular views and balcony
  • >access to a cafe serving hot and cold food and drink 10 am - 4 pm (Mon - Fri) in the Ocean Explorer Centre. Cafe operators can be booked to provide course catering.

Optional facilities and services

  • >coastal research vessels with capacity for up to 12
  • >oceanographic sampling equipment
  • >modern seawater aquarium with indoor and outdoor tanks
  • >temperature controlled rooms
  • >research library
  • >video conferencing facilities
  • >microscopy and image analysis
  • >technical support
  • >teaching support


  • >Water sampling rosette and Seabird CTD
  • >ADCP current meters
  • >Multibeam and sidescan sonar
  • >Benthic corers and grabs
  • >Gulf VII high-speed plankton sampler
  • >MIK frame trawl (1m2)
  • >Ring-nets for plankton sampling
  • >Submersible plankton pump
  • >2m research beam trawl
  • >Research otter trawl

Accommodation & transport

SAMS currently does not have sufficient on-site accommodation for visiting groups. Nearby accommodation in hotels, hostels and local campsites is available. We are happy to recommend suitable providers. Most visiting groups organise their own group transport but there are regular buses from Oban and nearby villages to Dunbeg, and some all the way to SAMS.

Sheina Marshall Building

The Sheina Marshall Building was opened in 2011 and is dedicated to teaching and education. Arranged over two floors the building is serviced by a lift.

Teaching laboratories (ground floor)

There are four teaching laboratories that are supported by the latest audiovisual technology including smart boards. Large preparation facilities are also available:

  • >The John Gage Laboratory can support up 60 students. It is named after SAMS deep-sea benthic ecologist Professor John Gage (1939-2005).
  • >The James Gemmill Laboratory accommodates up to 24 students. James Gemmill, our first ever President 1901-06, was a groundbreaking researcher on larval development of marine animals.
  • >The Clifford Mortimer Laboratory is for up to 24 students. Clifford Mortimer was a former Director of SAMS (1957-68) responsible for moving the organisation from Millport to Oban and well respected researcher into freshwater dynamics.
  • >The Hugh Robert Mill Laboratory suits groups of up to 12 students. Hugh Robert Mill was the first chemist and physicist employed by the Association in 1884 and became influential in the development of meteorology.

All rooms include fume cupboards and sinks, and are serviced with distilled water and gas.

Our lab store is stocked with standard lab equipment such as:

  • >different types of microscopes
  • >camera attachments for microscopes
  • >laboratory glassware
  • >spectrophotometers
  • >pH meters
  • >balances
  • >lab dancers, water baths, pipettes
  • >drying ovens
  • >a large 3D globe
  • >a large ripple tank

AP Orr Lecture Room and Annex (ground floor)

Adjacent to the Ocean Explorer Centre and its cafe are two lecture rooms:

The A.P. Orr Lecture Room for 60+ delegates is equipped with projector, sympodium and pen and has video-conferencing facilities.

The A.P. Orr Annex for 20 delegates is also equipped with projector, sympodium and VC capabilities.

The two adjacent rooms are divided by a movable partition and can be converted into a single lecture room for up to 100 delegates. The room is actually licensed for up to 200 people and has been used for such large numbers to host community groups.

The room is named after Andrew Picken Orr, a marine chemist who worked for about 40 years at the Association with Sheina Marshall on phyto- and zooplankton, its dynamics and nutrient dependency in and around Loch Striven and the Clyde.

Linnhe Suite (first floor)

The Linnhe Suite on the first floor is for audiences of up to 40 delegates and is serviced by a 92'' smart board and smaller smart boards for group work.

Creran Seminar Room (first floor)

This first floor room, named after our local Loch Creran protected for its serpulid reefs and horse mussel reefs, can accommodate 12 users for meetings or 9 for a lecture style arrangement. It is equipped with a 50'' LCD smart board with sympodium.

Etive Seminar Room (first floor)

This first floor room for up to 12 users is equipped with a 50'' LCD smart board with sympodium. It is named after local Loch Etive, where we conduct much research and which is notable for its very narrow and turbulent mouth (Falls of Lora), a 20+ strong colony of common seals, its substantial depth down to 150 m and the oak woods on its north bank.

Leven Seminar Room (first floor)

This first floor room, named after Loch Leven, accommodates up to 12 users. It is equipped with a 50'' LCD smart board with sympodium and is located opposite the Camus Cafe.

Computer rooms (first floor)

Computer Suite 1 is for up to 20 users with a 63" LCD smart board with sympodium and pen.

Computer Suite 2 is for up to 30 users with a 63" smart board with sympodium and pen.

The rooms are connected by a door and can be used together for large classes.

Study room (first floor)

A large, light and quiet study rooms encourages students to spend their day studying at SAMS. To catch up with friends or for noisy group work there are spaces in the upstairs lobby or in the Camus Cafe.

Camus Cafe (first floor)

Overlooking Camus Bay, this self-catering student cafe has the most spectacular views - and a balcony to sit on during the warmer times of the year. Some students claim the scenery stops them from studying as hard as they should...

Camus Cafe is beautifully furnished with sofas, tables and chairs and equipped with vending machine, coffee and tea making facilities, microwaves and toasters for students to prepare /warm up their own meals.

The groundfloor Cafe Scientifique in the Ocean Explorer Centre is staffed and offers a range of affordable cold and warm lunches, cakes, snacks and drinks.

SAMS runs and hosts a range of short courses.

Next training event

30-31 October 2018 Introductory Course in Algaculture for Biotechnology. Course free to UK PHYCONET members. Download details and application form: Algaeculture course CCAP 2018 For more info contact ccap@sams.ac.uk

Regular training on identification of harmful algae - for more information contact Dr Callum Whyte

Frequentily asked questions

How can I book your facilities?

Please contact our Education team with any enquiries regarding SAMS field station facilities: education@sams.ac.uk or via 01631 559 000.  We'll be very happy to discuss your requirements, provide a quotation for you and perhaps arrange a tour, so you can experience the modern facilities, beautiful local environment and diverse accommodation options for yourself.

How much will it cost?

Prices vary depending on your specific needs; from the type of rooms / laboratories you plan to use and whether you require access to the research vessel, to the duration of your course, any teaching staff or expert operators required from SAMS and the standard of accommodation you would prefer.  We would be more than happy to discuss your requirements and budget and produce a proposal which delivers what you need.  Please contact us for further details.

Our pricing promise - We're committed to ensuring the UK continues to provide national marine field course facilities and exciting opportunities for developing skills which underpin marine science careers in the 21st century.  As such, our prices are as competitive as possible.

How do I find accommodation for our group?

Oban is a beautiful tourist hub, set around a pretty horseshoe bay and brimming with different accommodation options.  SAMS is lucky to be able to offer accommodation which best suits your budget and your students (from hotels and B&Bs to campsites and hostels) rather than being limited to University accommodation only.

Take a look at our local information pages to identify the most suitable options for you. We're also happy to advise you regarding accommodation options and any special offers we may be able to access.

Can we use the facilities over the weekend or in the evenings?

Yes. If you are arriving at a weekend we will arrange for a member of staff to open the facilities for you and show you around. You can be issued with a pass allowing access at weekends or evenings.  Out of hours working requires compliance with SAMS Out Of Hours Health and Safety Policy, for example lone working is not permitted. Please ensure that the field work coordinator, Dr David Hughes, is aware if you need out of hours access.

What catering options are there?

Through our on-site caterer, we can organise a range of catering options, from the usual buffet lunches, to packed lunches, BBQs and hot meals - again, to suit your needs, course activities and any special dietary requirements.

Alternatively you can join staff and students in our cafe and purchase a selection of hot and cold meals and snacks.

For meetings with regular refreshment breaks, tea, coffee and cold drinks can be pre-ordered.

If you would like to arrange evening meals in Oban for your group, we'd be happy to recommend suitable local restaurants. As the 'Seafood Capital', there are plenty of great options.  Please discuss your preferences with our team.

How do we get to SAMS?

SAMS is situated on the spectacular west coast of Scotland.  The institute is surrounded on three sides by water and is adjacent to the 13th century Dunstaffnage Castle. It is just two-three hours drive from the major cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness - although you often need to allow extra time for stopping to photograph the stunning scenery and local wildlife!  Please visit our 'Get Directions' page for further details.

What local transport is available?

SAMS is situated just 3.5 miles from Oban and benefits from plenty of local transport links; from buses and taxis to a cycle path which connects Oban with Dunbeg via a secluded track which runs over moorland away from the main road.  Minibuses from Oban to the site can also be arranged with prior notice.  Please visit the local information folder for further information.

What can groups do in the evenings or over weekends in Oban?

The area is an extremely popular tourist destination and Oban is known as the 'Gateway to the Isles', with ferries leaving for the Hebridean islands throughout the day. The town itself is well serviced with restaurants, pubs, a community-run cinema, a ceilidh house and attractions such as Oban Oban Distillery.  Trips can be arranged to visit the islands, go seal-watching, take part in sea kayaking and gorge walking, or you can just sit, relax and enjoy the view. The town calender lists many events that take place throughout the year. The area is particularly attractive for those with an interest in outdoor pursuits and traditional music and arts. Visit our local information pages for details.

What technical support can we access?

We can provide a range of support from IT to laboratory and teaching expertise. You can hire our vessels with a range of sampling and analytical equipment, rent space in our research aquarium, or hire some of our analytical facilities/smart observation instruments.  Some of the more expensive and specialised equipment can only be hired with a SAMS operator but other equipment is available for you to operate yourselves. Please discuss your requirements with Dr David Hughes.

Who deals with contracts and insurance at SAMS?

Facility hire contracts are issued via either SAMS directly or through one of our commercial subsidiaries. If you have specific inquiries regarding insurance, please discuss these with Dr David Hughes.

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SAMS is Scotland’s largest and oldest independent marine science organisation, dedicated to delivering marine science.

SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute,
Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA

+44 (0)1631 559000


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