Edinburgh Research Explorer

Murray Roberts

Chair in Applied Marine Biology and Ecology

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Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

Research Interests

I am a marine biologist who studies the biology and ecology of deep-sea or cold-water corals. These organisms vary from single solitary corals to large reef framework-forming scleractinian species. The latter, and long-lived octocorals and black corals, form structurally complex habitats on the continental shelf, slope, offshore banks and seamounts where studies over the last ten years have shown them to form local centres of species diversity and important archives of palaeoceanographic information.

My current research goals can be summarised as ‘working to advance understanding of the biology and ecology of cold-water corals and provide the information needed for their long-term management and conservation’. 


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. Before this he 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.

Wider roles include: Contributing Author IPCC 5th Assessment Report Chapter 6 ‘Ocean Systems’; Member Convention on Biological Diversity’s Expert Group on ocean acidification; Member Expert Panel United Nations Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects; Member Pool of Experts of the Regular Process United Nations World Ocean Assessment; Member ICES Advice Drafting Group on Ecologically & Biologically Significant Areas (NE Atlantic); Founding member ICES Working Group on Deep-water Ecology; Member Clyde Scientific Trust (Scotland); Member Board St Abbs Marine Station; Editorial Board Nature Scientific Reports. 


Find out more about cold-water coral research and conservation on the Lophelia website.

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