University marine research unit nets Queen’s prize

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A UNIVERSITY research unit specialising in marine mammals has scooped a Queen’s Anniversary Prize.

The Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrew’s University was named among the winners in the diamond jubilee round of the prizes for higher and further education.

A total of 18 universities and colleges received awards in a ceremony attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Buckingham Palace.

The prizes honour excellence in higher education and research and the Sea Mammal Research Unit was included for its contribution to protecting the oceans.

Staff at the unit and its graduate team research marine mammals, mainly seals, whales and dolphins, using “innovative” monitoring techniques. Unit director Professor Ian Boyd said: “Marine mammals are a bit like the canary in the cage. If we know how to read their behaviour and populations we can minimise the effect of our resource exploitation on the ocean.

“Although we need to exploit the ocean, we also need to find ways of doing this sustainably. Marine mammals have a capacity to tell us when we are reaching the limits.”

He added: “My colleagues and I are delighted that our institution has been recognised in this way. It is truly a privilege to work with such magnificent animals and to have the job of translating their importance into information the public can use.”

Prof Boyd, and senior research scientist Dr Ailsa Hall were among those at the ceremony.