Dr Thomas Wilding

        Image of Dr Tom Wilding on fieldwork

Benthic Ecologist

A marine ecologist and statistical modeller specialising in assessing the impacts of man’s activities in the marine environment. I am developing novel approaches to monitoring impacts occurring at the seabed and am challenging current monitoring /assessment approaches. 

I chair the MASTS Oil and Gas Environmental Research Forum.

Contact details:

Assessing man’s impacts in our oceans is my main research interest.  My focus is on aquaculture, oil and gas decommissioning and marine renewables. 

In relation to aquaculture I’m currently examining two aspects: (i) the potential link between chemicals used in treating sea lice and non-target crustacea living in/on the seabed and (ii) the use of metagenomics (identifying multiple taxa via their DNA extracted from sediment) to augment traditional monitoring approaches.

In relation to oil and gas, I’m leading projects to optimize the decommissioning of pipelines in relation to fisher-interactions and nature conservation. 

With marine renewables, I am leading investigations into the current status of statutory monitoring and how this could and should be improved.

I am an HSE Part IV qualified diver with >20 years experience of designing and conducting underwater experiments. 

Current research projects

Optimizing decision-making in respect of oil and gas infrastructure decommissioning: PI and Director of Studies for two PhD positions. Funded by the European Social Fund. Oct 2017 - Apr 2021

Development of a strategic framework for the comparative assessment of pipeline decommissioning options: optimising environment and fishing interests: PI. Funded by NERC. Feb 2017 - Feb 2018.

Optimising decommissioning of oil and gas pipelines with respect to the commercial fishing sector on the UK continental shelf: PI. Funded by NERC. Apr 2017 - Mar 2018

Development of DNA-based metagenomics methodologies for seabed monitoring and aquaculture management: PI. Funded the the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre. Jun 2017 - Dec 2018

Calcium in a changing environment: PI and Co-supervisor of PhD student. Funded by EU Marie-Curie Initial Training Network FP7. Nov 2013 - May 2018

Improving marine growth estimates using 3D photogrammetry. PI. Funded by NERC. Jan-Jun 2018

Selected past projects

Impacts of chemotheraputants on the benthos (PAMP2): A 3 year project examining the association between chemicals used to treat sea lice in salmon farms on non-target crustacea living around those farms. Funded by the Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum. Nov 2013-Apr 2017

Developing monitoring protocols for the offshore renewables industry (TIDES): In depth assessment of the monitoring requirements in relation to developing offshore energy and recommendations for improvements. Funded by EU FP7. Apr 2013-Sep 2016

The Loch Linnhe Artificial Reef: a seven year project to design, licence and construct Europe’s largest artificial reef.  This project, with partners Foster Yeoman Limited (now Aggregate Industries Limited) was completed in 2005 and continues to support research into the interactions between marine structures and the sea and seabed.


Marine Science BSc: Module leader and lecturer for year 2 'Statistics and Experimental Design'


Ecosystem-based Management of Marine Systems MSc: Module leader and developer of 'Marine Systems Research Methods' including two days demonstrating ship-based sampling

IDCORE PhD Training Programme: Lecturer and demonstrator of ship-based sampling 'Marine Renewables and the Environment'

Aquaculture, Environment and Society MSc: Lecturer in Statistics and Experimental Design

List of current research students

Kati Michalek: Levels of calcification and selection in naturally varying pH habitats in farmed vs wild Mytilus species. PhD 2014-2017. University of the Highlands and Islands

Michael Redford: Artificial reef creation using decommissioned mattresses – environmental performance and fisheries enhancement potential in the North Sea.  PhD 2017 – 2021.  UHI.  European Social Fund funding. 

Elise Depauw: Optimising the decommissioning of concrete mattresses and support structures in the North Sea.  PhD 2017 – 2021. UHI. European Social Fund funding. 

List of alumni research students

Grace Russel: Using 3-D photogrammetry to quantify biofouling on artificial structures. MSc 2017. University of St Andrews

Sally Rouse: Understanding benthic productivity on artificial structures: maximising the benefits of marine renewable energy devices. PhD 2011-15. UHI/University of Aberdeen

Karen Alexander: Offshore power production and marine stakeholders: from understanding conflict to impact mitigation. PhD 2009-12. UHI/University of Aberdeen

Kyla Orr: Offshore power production and marine stakeholders: from understanding conflict to impact mitigation. PhD 2009-12. UHI/University of Aberdeen

Yassir Al-bouraee: Tidal hydrodynamics on the Loch Linnhe Artificial Reef. PhD 2008-12. University of Newcastle

Craig Rose: Modeling and measuring the habitat complexity of artifical reefs. PhD 2001-05. University of Newcastle

Aine Purcell-Milton. MRes 2014. University of St Andrews

Kirsty Wright. MRes 2014. University of St Andrews

Laura Tulip. MRes 2012. University of St Andrews

Tim Cross. MSc 2012. University of York

Fiona Mills. MSc 2009. Heriot-Watt University

Edwin Palmer. MSc 2008. University of Newcastle

Zoe Aston. MSc 2006. University of Newcastle

Craig Rose. MSc 2001. University of Newcastle

Consultancy and industry experience

I am a qualified statistician with 20 years of experience in applying a broad range of statistical modelling approaches. These approaches range from simple univariate modelling to developing more complex mixed- and multivariate-models and time-series analysis. I have applied these skills to both observational and manipulative studies and routinely advise colleagues and clients with respect to experimental design in order to optimize scientific research.

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 (info@srsl.com) or phone +44 (0) 1631 559 470.

Peer-reviewed publications   

First author publications                                                        

Wilding, T. A., A. B. Gill, A. Boon, E. V. Sheehan, J.-C. Dauvin, J.-P. Pezy, F. O'Beirn, U. Janas, L. Rostin and I. de Mesel (2017). "Turning off the DRIP ('Data-rich, information-poor') -rationalising monitoring with a focus on marine renewable energy developments and the benthos.  ." Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews 74: 848 – 859.

Wilding, T. A. (2014). "Effects of man-made structures on sedimentary oxygenation: Extent, seasonality and implications for offshore renewables." Marine Environmental Research 97: 39 - 47.

Wilding, T. A. and T. D. Nickell (2013). "Changes in Benthos Associated with Mussel (Mytilus edulis L.) Farms on the West-Coast of Scotland." Plos One 8(7): e68313.

Wilding, T. A. (2012). "Changes in Sedimentary Redox Associated with Mussel (Mytilus edulis L.) Farms on the West-Coast of Scotland." PLOS ONE 7 (9): e45159.

Wilding, T. A. (2011). "A characterization and sensitivity analysis of the benthic biotopes around Scottish salmon farms with a focus on the sea pen Pennatula phosphorea L." Aquaculture Research 42: 35-40.

Wilding, T. A., C. J. Cromey, T. D. Nickell and D. J. Hughes (2012). "Salmon farm impacts on muddy-sediment megabenthic assemblages on the west coast of Scotland." Aquaculture Environment Interactions 2(2): 145-156.

Wilding, T. A., E. J. L. Palmer and N. V. C. Polunin (2010). "Comparison of three methods for quantifying topographic complexity on rocky shores." Marine Environmental Research 69: 143 - 151.

Wilding, T. A., C. A. Rose and M. J. Downie (2007). "A novel approach to measuring subtidal habitat complexity." Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 353(2): 279-286.

Wilding, T. A. (2006). "The benthic impacts of the Loch Linnhe artificial reef." Hydrobiologia 555: 345 - 353.

Wilding, T. A., M. D. J. Sayer and P. G. Provost (2003). "Factors affecting the performance of the acoustic ground discrimination system RoxAnn (TM)." ICES Journal of Marine Science 60(6): 1373-1380.

Wilding, T. A. and M. D. J. Sayer (2002). "Evaluating artificial reef performance: approaches to pre- and post-deployment research." ICES Journal of Marine Science 59: S222-S230.

Wilding, T. A. and M. D. J. Sayer (2002). "The physical and chemical performance of artificial reef blocks made using quarry by-products." ICES Journal of Marine Science 59: S250-S257.

Wilding, T. A. (2002). "Taxonomy and ecology and Toxisarcon alba, sp. nov. from Loch Linnhe, West coast of Scotland, UK." The Journal of Foraminiferal Research 32(4): 358-363.

Co-author publications

Last, K. S., V. J. Hendrick, C. M. Beveridge, D. A. Roberts and T. A. Wilding (2016). "Lethal and sub-lethal responses of the biogenic reef forming polychaete Sabellaria alveolata to aqueous chlorine and temperature." Marine Environmental Research 117: 44-53.

Lejzerowicz, F., P. Esling, L. Pillet, T. A. Wilding, K. D. Black and J. Pawlowski (2015). "High-throughput sequencing and morphology perform equally well for benthic monitoring of marine ecosystems." Sci Rep 5: 13932.

Pawlowski, J., P. Esling, F. Lejzerowicz, T. Cedhagen and T. A. Wilding (2014). "Environmental monitoring through protist next-generation sequencing metabarcoding: assessing the impact of fish farming on benthic foraminifera communities." Molecular Ecology Resources 14(6): 1129 - 1140.

Orr, K. K., T. A. Wilding, L. Horstmeyer, S. Weigl and J. J. Heymans (2014). "Detached macroalgae: Its importance to inshore sandy beach fauna." Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 150 (Part A): 125 - 135.

Alexander, K. A., J. J. Heymans, S. Magill, M. T. Tomczak, S. J. Holmes and T. A. Wilding (2014). "Investigating the recent decline in gadoid stocks in the west of Scotland shelf ecosystem using a foodweb model." ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil.

Alexander, K. A., T. A. Wilding and J. S. S. Heymans (2013). "Attitudes of Scottish fishers' towards marine renewable energy." Marine Policy 37: 239 - 244.

Alexander, K. A., T. Potts and T. A. Wilding (2013). "Marine renewable energy and Scottish west coast fishers: Exploring impacts, opportunities and potential mitigation." Ocean & Coastal Management 75(0): 1-10.

Alexander, K. A., R. Janssen, G. Arciniegas, T. G. O'Higgins, T. Eikelboom and T. A. Wilding (2012). "Interactive Marine Spatial Planning: Siting Tidal Energy Arrays around the Mull of Kintyre." Plos One 7(1): e30031.

Davidson, K., P. Miller, T. A. Wilding, J. Shutler, E. Bresnan, K. Kennington and S. Swan (2009). "A large and prolonged bloom of Karenia mikimotoi in Scottish waters in 2006." Harmful Algae 8(2): 349-361.

Day, J. G., M. Lorenz, T. A. Wilding, T. Friedl, K. Harding, T. Pröschold, D. Brennan, M. Julia, L. M. A. Santos, M. F. Santos, H. C. Osório, R. Amaral, A. Lukešová, P. Hrouzek, M. Lukeš, J. Elster, J. LukavskýIan, I. Probert, M. J. Ryan and E. E. Benson (2007). "The use of physical and virtual infrastructures fro the validation of algal cryopreservation methods in international culture collections." Cryobiology 28(5): 359 - 376.

Sayer, M. D. J. and T. A. Wilding (2002). "Planning, licensing, and stakeholder consultation in an artificial reef development: the Loch Linnhe reef, a case study." ICES Journal of Marine Science 59: S178-S185.

Other publications

Tett P, Benjamins S, Black KD, Coulson M, Davidson K, Fernandes T, Fox C, Hart M, Hicks N, Hughes A, Hunter D-C, Nickell T, Risch D, Tocher D, Vare L, Vespoor E, Wilding T, Wilson B, Wittich A (2018) Review of the environmental impacts of salmon farming in Scotland. Report for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee. The Scottish Parliament, 196 pp.

Wilding, T. A., D. J. Hughes and K. D. Black (2017). The association between emamectin benzoate use and crustacean assemblages around Scottish fish farms. SARF Report (submitted and in review)

Holtrop, G., B. Duff, S. Swan, T. A. Wilding, B. Narayanaswamy and K. Davidson (2016). Risk assessment of the Scottish monitoring programme for the marine biotoxins in shellfish harvested from classified production areas: review of the current sampling scheme to develop an improved programme based on evidence of risk. Food Standards Scotland: 218.

Wilding, T. A. and K. Black (2015). A statistical analysis of sea- lice medicine use and benthic monitoring at Scottish marine salmon farms (2002 – 2014).  Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum.  ISBN: 978-1-907266-75-1.

Davidson, K., P. I. Miller, J. Shutler, S. Gontarek, D. Aleynik, A. Kurekin and T. A. Wilding (2015). Synthesis and interpretation of data set relating to the harmful dinoflagellate Karenia mikimotoi in western Scottish waters. The Crown Estate.

Cook, E. J., C. M. Beveridge, P. Lamont, T. O’Higgins and T. A. Wilding (2014). Survey of Wild Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas in Scotland.  ISBN: 978-1-907266-65-2, SARF

Wilding, T. A., C. J. Cromey, J. Howe and P. Tett (2012). A systematic assessment of the environmental impact of Scottish shellfish farms, including benthos, water column and relevant special interactions, Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum.  ISBN: 978-1-907266-43-0.

Last, K., V. Hendrick, T. A. Wilding and C. Beveridge (2012). Tolerance of Sabellaria alveolata to aqueous chlorine.  Final Report to the BEEMS programme, Work Package 6, 17 February 2012, 44 pages. SAMS Commercial Report.

Wilding, T. A. and D. J. Hughes (2010). A review and assessment of the effects of marine fish farm discharges on Biodiversity Action Plan habitats.

Wilding, T. A. (2007). Krill as a source of aquafeed, The Crown Estate: 52.

Wilding, T. A., M. S. Kelly and K. D. Black (2006). Alternative marine sources of protein and oil for aquaculture feeds: State of the art and recommendation for further research, The Crown Estate: 60.

Wilding, T. A., J. Duncan, L. A. Nickell, T. P. Hughes, S. Gontarek, K. D. Black and M. D. J. Sayer (2005). Report for the Department of Trade and Industry - Synthesis of information on the Benthos of Area SEA6 - The Clyde Sea. Oban, Scottish Association for Marine Science: 41.

Wilding, T. A., D. J. Hughes, B. Wilson and K. D. Black (2005). The benthic environment of the North and West of Scotland and the Northern and Western Isles: sources of information and overview, Scottish Association for Marine Science: 27.

Professional activities

Sep 2016 - present: Chair of MASTS Oil and Gas Environmental Research Forum: Chairing the forum, providing a contact point for industry and regulators in relation to environmental issues pertaining to Oil and Gas e.g. decommissioning.

Sep 2015 - resent: Invited member of SpORRAn: Provision of advice regards benthos to MSS (SpORRAn – Scottish Offshore Renewables Research Framework.

Mar 2015-present: MASTS Oil and Gas Forum Steering Group Member: Developing a strategic vision for MASTS within the O&G sector, particularly in relation to decommissioning. 

Mar 2013 - present: ICES Working Group on Marine Benthal and Renewable Energy Developments (WGMBRED)

Employment history

Since 2017: Senior Lecturer in Benthic Ecology, SAMS

2016-17: Lecturer in Benthic Ecology. SAMS

2012-16: Lecturer in Hard Substratum and Megabenthos Ecology. SAMS

2009-12: Research Associate Hard Substratum and Megabenthos Ecology. SAMS

2007-09: Benthic Ecologist. SAMS

1996-2007: RA - numerous short fixed-term contracts. NERC

1994-95: Scientific Officer in Deep-Sea Ecology. NERC


2010. Diploma in Statistics. Open University

2003. PhD 'The prediction and assessment of the environmental impacts of the Loch Linnhe Artificial Reef. Heriot-Watt University

1993. HSE Part IV professional SCUBA in Commercial Diving. Heriot-Watt University

1993. MSc (with Distinction) in Marine Resource Development and Protection. Heriot-Watt University

1990. BSc (Hons) Biology. Exeter University