Professor Finlo Cottier

        Professor Finlo Cottier on an expedition in the Arctic in 2018 for the Arctic PRIZE project

Physical Oceanographer

An interdisciplinary researcher linking high latitude physical oceanographic processes with diverse ecological responses.

I have exploited the use of long term, multi-parameter marine observatories to investigate coupled processes in Arctic waters and now utilising robotic platforms that will transform marine research in the coming decades.

Contact details:

Research interests

  • >Physical oceanography of Arctic shelves; shelf-ocean exchanges, mixing processes
  • >Application of analytical models to high-latitude processes
  • >Use of tracers and proxies, particularly related to oceanographic roles of Atlantic Water and sea ice formation/melt in Arctic waters
  • >Application of geochemical and sediment proxies for interpretation of water mass histories
  • >Coupled biological-physical interactions in Arctic shelf systems

Current research projects

Active Productivity in the Seasonal Ice Zone (Arctic PRIZE). Funded by NERC. 2017-2021

Arctic marine ecosystems - Applied technology, Biological interactions and Consequences in an era of abrupt climate change (Arctic ABC). Funded by the Research Council of Norway. 2015-

ENabling Technology providing knowledge of structure, function and production in a complex Coastal Ecosystem (ENTiCE). Funded by the Research Council of Norway. 2016 -

Future Arctic Algal Blooms - and their role in the context of climate change (FAABULOUS)

Selected past research projects

Mare incognitum - ecological processes during the polar night. Funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Circadian rhythms of Arctic zooplankton from polar twilight to polar night. Funded by the Research Council of Norway.


Marine Science with Oceanography and Robotics BSc: Academic lead for this degree stream

Marine Science with Arctic Studies BSc: Academic lead for this degree stream

Marine Science BSc: Module leader for 'Marine Robotics' 3rd year module

Marine Science BSc: Lecturer for 'Polar Seas' 4th year module (4 lectures, 2 practicals)

Marine Science BSc: Project supervisor for 4th year double module 'Dissertation' 

I am also a regular contributor to undergraduate and graduate level courses at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) in the area of Arctic Geophysics and Arctic Biology.


List of current research students

Lewis Drysdale: Arctic fjords: modelling and the role of freshwater. PhD. 2013-17. UHI

Neil Fraser: Impact of variable ocean/shelf exchang on glacial dynamics in SE Greenland. PhD. 2013-17. The University of Edinburgh

Donald Slater: Investigating controls on flow variability in Greenland tidewater glaciers. PhD. 2013-17. The University of Edinburgh


List of alumni research students

Laura Hobbs: Pan Arctic Diel Vertical Migration. PhD. 2012-16. UHI

Sam Jones: Shelf edge exchange and the influence on coastal oceanography. PhD. 2012-16. UHI

Julie Grenvald: Diel vertical migration (DVM) of marine zooplankton in the polar night: who, how and why? PhD. 2012-17. University of Tromsø

Anne Goldsack: Oceanographic controls on glaciers in southeast Greenland. PhD. 2010-13. Swansea University

Heiko Mooseen: Palaeoclimate reconstructions from Arctic and Nordic shelf seas: development and application of multiple proxies. PhD. 2008-11. Glasgow University


Summer interns

Geoffroy M (2014) Investigating zooplankton distribution in the Arctic from AUV acoustic data. University of Laval

Fraser N (2011) Decadal variability of temperature and salinity in the Irminger Current. The University of Edinburgh

Johst K (2010) Computational techniques for processing ADCP data for zooplankton studies. University of Berlin.

Consultancy and industry experience

I have published 40 technical reports since 2011 supporting hydrographic surveys and assessments in Scotland, South Atlantic and Papua New Guinea.


Accessing consultancy services from SAMS

SAMS consultancy work is delivered through its wholly owned commercial subsidiary, SAMS Research Services Ltd. (SRSL). SRSL operates a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS) that is accredited to ISO9001:2008 standard, guaranteeing that all projects deliver the best possible service to our customers. All SRSL projects are planned by a professional programme manager who oversees a team of dedicated project managers, all of whom are focussed specifically on client delivery, and have scientific experience and technical expertise in fields relevant to their assigned projects.

For further information concerning commercial enterprise opportunities at SAMS, please contact SRSL by email ( or phone +44 (0) 1631 559 470.

Peer-reviewed publications

Jones S, Cottier F, Inall ME, Griffiths C (2018) Decadal variability on the Northwest European continental shelf. Progress in Oceanography, 161, 131-151

Johnsen G, Norli M, Moline M, Robbins I, Quillfeldt C v, Sørensen K, Cottier F, Berge J. (2018) The anatomy of an under-ice spring bloom in the Arctic Ocean. Polar Biology

Sundfjord, A, Albretsen J, Kasajima Y, Skogseth R, Kohler J, Nuth C, Skardhamar J, Cottier F, Nilsen F, Asplin L, Gerland S, Torsvik T. Effects of glacier runoff and wind on surface layer dynamics and Atlantic Water exchange in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard; a model study, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

Darnis G, Hobbs L, Geoffroy M, Grenvald JC, Renaud PE, Berge J, Cottier F, Kristiansen S, Daase M, Søreide J, Wold A, Morata N, Gabrielsen T. (Accepted) From polar night to midnight sun: diel vertical migration, metabolism and biogeochemical role of zooplankton in a high Arctic fjord (Kongsfjorden, Svalbard). Limnology and Oceanography.

Berge J, Geoffroy M, Johnsen J, Cottier F, Bluhm B. Vogedes D. (2016) Ice-tethered observational platforms in the Arctic Ocean pack ice. IFAC-PapersOnLine, 49(23), 494-499.

Vihtakaria M, Ambrose Jr WG, Renaud PE, Locke WL, Carroll ML, Berge J, Clarke LJ, Cottier F, Hop H. (2016) A key to the past? Element ratios as environmental proxies in two Arctic bivalves. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Online edition:

Geoffroy M, Cottier FR, Berge J, Inall ME. (2016) AUV-based acoustic observations of the distribution and patchiness of zooplankton during midnight sun. ICES Journal of Marine Science doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsw158

Grenvald J, Callesen TA, Daase M, Hobbs L, Darnis G, Renaud P, Cottier F, Nielsen T, Berge J. (2016) Plankton community composition and vertical migration during polar night in Kongsfjorden. Polar Biology, 39(10), 1879-1895

Last KS, Hobbs L, Berge J, Brierley AS, Cottier, FR. (2016) Moonlight drives ocean scale mass vertical migration of zooplankton during the Arctic winter. Current Biology, 26(2), 244–251

Inall ME, Nilsen F, Svendsen H, Cottier FR, Daae R. (2015) Shelf/fjord exchange driven by coastal‐trapped waves in the Arctic. Journal of Geophysical Research, 120(12), 8283-8303

Luckman A, Benn D, Cottier FR, Bevan S, Nilsen F, Inall ME. (2015) Calving rates at tidewater glaciers vary strongly with ocean temperature. Nature Communications 6, 8566.

Berge J, Renaud PE, Darnis G, Cottier FR, et al. In the dark: A review of ecosystem processes during the Arctic polar night. Progress in Oceanography, 139, 258-271

Berge, J., Heggland, K., Lønne, O.J., Cottier, F., Hop, H., Gabrielsen, G.W., Nøttestad, L., and Misund, O.A. (2015) First records of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) from the Svalbard Archipelago, Norway, with possible explanations for the extension of its distribution. Arctic, 68, 54–61.

Cohen, J.H., Berge, J., Moline, M.A., Sørensen, A.J., Last, K., Falk-Petersen, S., Renaud, P.E., Leu, E.S., Grenvald, J., and Cottier, F. (2015) Is Ambient Light during the High Arctic Polar Night Sufficient to Act as a Visual Cue for Zooplankton? PloS One, 10, e0126247.

Berge, J., + Multiple Authors (2015) Unexpected Levels of Biological Activity during the Polar Night Offer New Perspectives on a Warming Arctic. Current Biology, 25, 2555-2561.

Inall M, Murray T, Cottier F, Scharrer K, Boyd, T, Heywood, K, Bevan S (2014) Oceanic heat delivery via Kangerlugssuaq Fjord to the south-east Greenland ice sheet. Journal of Geophysical Research 119 (2). 631–645

Berge J, Cottier F, Varpe Ø, Renaud PE, Falk-Petersen S, Kwasniewski S, Griffiths C, Søreide J, Aubert A, Bjærke O, Hovinen J, Juul-Madsen S, Tveit M, Markkula S (2014) Arctic complexity: a case study on diel vertical migration of zooplankton. Journal of Plankton Research 36 (5): 1279-1297

Tarling GA, Cottier FR, Everson I (2014) Spatial patterns in the vertical structure of euphausiids in Gullmarsfjord, Sweden: identifying influences on bilayer formation and distributions. Marine Biology Research 10, 6, p. 537-553

Falk-Petersen S, Pavlov V, Berge J, Cottier FR, Kovacs KM, Lydersen C (2015) At the rainbow’s end – A case study of high productivity fuelled by winter upwelling along an Arctic shelf. Polar Biology, 38, 5-11. Doi: 10.1007/s00300-014-1482-1

Wallace M, Cottier F, Brierley A, Tarling G (2013) Modelling the influence of copepod behaviour on fecal pellet export at high latitudes. Polar Biology 36:579–592

Sole AJ, Payne AJ, Nienow PW, Christoffersen P, Cottier FR, Inall ME (2012) Increased glacier runoff enhances the penetration of warm Atlantic Water into a large Greenland fjord. Cryosphere Discuss., 6, 4861–4896, doi:10.5194/tcd-6-4861-2012.

Kwasniewski S, Walkusz W, Cottier F, Leu E (2012) Mesozooplankton dynamics in relation to food availability during spring and early summer in a high latitude glaciated fjord (Kongsfjorden), with focus on Calanus. Journal of Marine Systems

Ambrose WG, Renaud PE, Locke W, Cottier FR, Berge J, Carroll ML, Levin B, Ryan S (2011) Growth line deposition and variability in growth of two circumpolar bivalves (Serripes groenlandicus and Clinocardium ciliatum). Polar Biology, 35, 345-354: DOI: 10.1007/s00300-011-1080-4.

Howe JA, Harland R, Cottier FR, et al. (2010) Dinoflagellate blooms as a proxy for Recent Atlantic Water advection in Arctic fjords. In Fjords: Depositional Systems & Archives: Special Issue of British Geol. Soc.

Cottier FR, Nilsen F, Skogseth R, Tverberg V, Svendsen H, Skarðhamar J (2010) Arctic fjords: A review of the oceanographic environment and dominant physical processes. In Fjords: Depositional Systems & Archives: Special Issue of British Geol. Soc.344, 35-60

Wallace MI, Cottier FR, Berge J, Tarling GA, Griffiths C ,Brierley AS (2010) Comparison of zooplankton vertical migration in an ice-free and a seasonally ice-covered Arctic fjord: An insight into the influence of sea ice cover on zooplankton behavior Limnology and Oceanography, 55, 831-845

Berge J, Renaud PE, Eiane K, Gulliksen B, Cottier FR, Varpe Ø, Brattegard T (2009) Changes in the decapod fauna of an Arctic fjord during the last 100 years (1908–2007). Polar Biology, 32, 953-961

Berge J, Cottier FR, et al. (2009) Diel vertical migration of Arctic zooplankton during the polar night. Biology Letters, 5(1), 69-72

Nilsen F, Cottier FR, Skogseth R, Mattsson S (2008) Fjord-shelf exchanges controlled by ice and brine production: The interannual variation of Atlantic Water in Isfjorden, Svalbard. Continental Shelf Research. 28, 1838-1853

Willis KJ, Cottier FR, Kwasniewski S (2008) The impact of warm water advection on the winter zooplankton community in an Arctic fjord. Polar Biology. 31(4), 475-481.

Cottier FR, Venables, E (2007) On the double-diffusive and cabbeling environments of the Arctic Front, West Spitsbergen. Polar Research. 26(2), 152-159

MacLachlan SE, Cottier FR, Austin WEN, Howe JA (2007) The salinity:d18O water relationship in Kongsfjorden, western Spitsbergen. Polar Research. 26(2), 160-167

Cottier FR, Nilsen, F, Inall ME, Gerland S, Tverberg V, Svendsen H (2007) Wintertime warming of Arctic shelves in response to large-scale atmospheric circulation. Geophysical Research Letters. L10607 – Editor’s highlighted article.

Cottier FR, Tarling G, Falk-Petersen S, Wold, A (2006) Unsynchronised and synchronised vertical migration of zooplankton in a high arctic fjord. Limnology and Oceanography. 51(6), 2586-2599

Willis KJ, Cottier FR, Kwasniewski S, Wold A, Falk-Petersen S (2006) The influence of advection on zooplankton community composition in an Arctic fjord (Kongsfjorden, Svalbard). Journal of Marine Systems. 61, 39-54

Cottier FR, Tverberg V, Inall ME, Svendsen H, Nilsen, F, Griffiths C (2005) Water mass modification in an Arctic fjord through cross-shelf exchange: The seasonal hydrography of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Journal of Geophysical Research. 110, C12005

Janzen C, Inall ME, Rippeth TP, Simpson JH, Cottier FR (2005): Frontal controls on the cross-sill exchange of a broad fjord. Continental Shelf Research. 25(15), 1805-1824

Cottier FR, Inall ME, Griffiths C (2004) Seasonal variations in internal wave energy in a Scottish sea loch. Ocean Dynamics 54(3-4), 340-347

Inall ME, Cottier FR, Griffiths C, Rippeth TP (2004) Sill dynamics and energy transformation in a jet fjord. Ocean Dynamics, 54(3-4), 307-314

Cottier FR, Eicken H, Wadhams P (1999) Linkages between salinity and brine channel distribution in young sea ice. Journal of Geophysical Research 107(C7) 15859-15871


Other publications

Thomas DN, Cottier F, Brandon MA. Sea ice, ice drift and oceanic circulation. In: The International Encyclopedia of Geography. Edited by Richardson D, et al (2017) John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published DOI: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0395

Cottier, F., Steele, M. and Nilsen, F. (2017) Sea ice and Arctic Ocean oceanography, in Sea Ice (ed D. N. Thomas), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. (doi: 10.1002/9781118778371.ch7) pp195-217

Brandon M A, Cottier F R, Nilsen F. Sea Ice and Oceanography, in Sea Ice – an introduction to its physics, biology, chemistry and geology, Thomas D and Dieckmann GS (Eds.) 2nd edition

Cottier F, Inall ME, Miller R, Pond D, Wilson B, Owens N (2017) Written Evidence submitted to the Scottish Affairs Committee; Scotland and the High North Enquiry. pp7

Berge J, Renaud P, Cottier F (2015) Towards a contiguous Arctic. Pan European Networks: Science & Technology (17) p253

Findlay H, Cottier FR, + 8 others (2015) Priority Sheet on Future Directions of Arctic Science: Arctic Oceanography. Arctic in Rapid Transition, pp. 2.

Berge J, Cottier F, Last K. (2014) The light of co-operation. Pan European Networks: Science & Technology (13) p226

Multiple Authors (2011) Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System: Gap Analysis Synthesis Report. Ed Georg Hansen. The Research Council of Norway, pp44

Cottier, F, Hwang P, Drysdale L (2014) JR271 Physical Oceanography Analysis for Ocean Acidification Cruise. SAMS, pp31.

Berge, J, Cottier FR, Soreide J, Leu E (2009) The IPY in the NW Barents Sea in The integrated Arctic Observing System (iAOOS) in 2008. Ed. R R Dickson. p55-57

Leakey RJG, Cottier FR, Howe JA, Potts TW, Turnewitsch R, Meldrum DT (2008) Current Status of UK Arctic Research. Report commissioned by the Polar Regions Unit of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Howe J, Cottier FR (2006) Where the Arctic and Atlantic meet. NERC Planet Earth, Spring 28-29

Cottier FR, MacLachlan S, Howe J (2005) Rapid Shifts in Arctic Marine Climate: Observations and Archives in a Spitsbergen Fjord. Ocean Challenge 14(1) 16-22

Professional activities

Expert contribution

2016: Invited Panel Member for UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions (May 2016) to discuss 'The implications of climate change for the Arctic and Antarctica'

2015: Invited member of NERC Scoping Group for Directed Research Call on Arctic Marine Biology and Biogeochemistry

2014: Invited member of Norway-UK Arctic workshop for bilateral research program

Academic committees

2011-present: Member of SAGES Research Committee

Peer review

2008 – 2011: Member of the NERC Peer Review College

2010: Member of US National Science Foundation Panel for their Arctic Observing Network Programme

Invited proposal reviewer for

Natural Environment Research Council (UK); Research Council of Norway; National Science Foundation (US); European Union; Catlin Arctic Survey; EU Eurofleets Ship Program “Polar & Subpolar Call”; Chilean National Science and Technology Commission; Norwegian FRAM Centre.

Invited peer review

J. Geophys. Res. (Oceans & Earth Surface), Geophys Res Lett., Deep Sea Res., Ocean Dynamics, Ocean Sci. Discuss., J Phys Oc., Progress in Oceanography, PLOS One, Underwater Technology, Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Systems, Continental Shelf Research, Society for Underwater Technology, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Oceanologia

Relevant research expeditions

Since 1996, I have participated in approximately 25 Arctic research expeditions. These cruises have spanned a geographic range from Greenlandic fjords, Fram Strait, Eurasian Arctic shelves and towards the North Pole. They have been conducted on all classes of vessels from small coastal fishing vessels to state of the art polar icebreakers.


Prizes / awards

2016  University of the Highlands and Islands “Best Personal Academic Tutor”

2011  Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing for JGR-Oceans; AGU

2006  Fellowship of the UK Challenger Society for Marine Science


Media coverage 

2017: Expert quotation in Science “Warm Atlantic waters wage a new assault on Arctic ice from below”

2017: Interview in Arctic Weekly “On Thin Ice: Disappearing Zooplankton Could Collapse Arctic Food Chain”

2015 – BBC Radio Scotland “Arctic Research” and BBC website.


Invited talks 

2017    Arctic Science Summit Week, Key note address. Prague, Czech Republic

2017    Gordon Research Conference and Gordon Research Seminar in Polar Marine Science. Key Note Speaker. Ventura, California

2017    Svalbard Symposium, Arctic Frontiers. Key Note Speaker. Tromsø, Norway

2015    Marine Robotics for Marine Research: Breaking the Surface Robotics Conference, Zadar, Croatia

2014    Scottish Arctic Research: Arctic Change, Ottawa.

2014    Oceanographic Challenges from an Arctic Scavenger: Integrating spatial and temporal scales in the changing Arctic System Workshop, Brest

2013    Fjord Exchange Processes: Gordon Research Conference on Coastal Ocean Circulation

2012    Arctic Oceanography - A view from the coast: Arctic Days 2012, European Institute for Marine Studies (IUEM, France) workshop on Arctic marine ecology.


Other external activities

Crew Member and Deputy Coxswain of Oban Lifeboat 

Member of Oban Sailing Club

Employment history

2017 – present: Adjunct Full Professor in Polar Oceanography; UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø

2015 – 2017: Adjunct Associate Professor in Polar Oceanography; UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø

2010 – present: Senior Lecturer in Physical Oceanography; SAMS

2009 – 2015: Head Physics and Technology Department; SAMS

2006 – 2010: Lecturer in Polar Oceanography; SAMS

2000 – 2006: Postdoctoral Researcher; SAMS

Observational investigations of mixing and exchange processes in mid- and high-latitude shelf systems. Partner in FP6 EU programme.


1995 – 1999: PhD in Sea Ice Physics. University of Cambridge, Scott Polar Research Institute. Dissertation: Brine distribution in young sea ice

1991 – 1995: B.Sc. (Hons.) Physics and Chemistry 1st Class. University of Manchester