The Marine Station at Millport is the oldest extant marine station in Scotland, dating back to the late nineteenth century when Sir John Murray (he of the Challenger expedition fame), moved a converted lighter The Ark from its original mooring place in Granton Quarry (Edinburgh) through the Forth-Clyde canal to Millport Bay in the spring of 1885. There it formed a base for the investigation of the rich local marine flora and fauna. He selected Millport due to its relatively sheltered situation and the fact that the esteemed "Cumbrae naturalist" Dr David Robertson lived on Cumbrae (at "Fern Bank", in Kames Bay).
The Station was originally run by the Marine Biological Association of the West of Scotland, but in 1914 that became the Scottish Marine Biological Association (SMBA). Under the SMBA the Station had a long and distinguished history as a research laboratory with many world-famous scientists visiting Millport to work on their specialist projects. Particular mention should be made of Dr Sheina Marshall FRS who spent her entire working lifetime at Millport and was responsible, with her co-worker Dr A. P. Orr for classic studies on the planktonic copepod (water flea) Calanus finmarchicus, the principal foodstuff of the herring.
When the SMBA moved to Oban in 1970 the Universities of London and Glasgow took over the running of the facility. Glasgow University pulled out in 2011, and London at the end of 2013, when the Station was handed over to the Field Studies Council. So a long tradition of resident research in marine science will cease but the equally important tradition of fieldwork teaching in marine biology will continue, albeit on a different basis.
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