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Professor Michael Heath

Mathematics and Statistics

Personal statement

Having graduated with a joint honors degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography, I completed a PhD on cell division phasing under light-dark cycles in populations of micro-algae, involving laboratory culturing and mathematical modelling of cell stage demography. Then in 1982 I obtained a post at the Scottish Office Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. Initially I was researching and modelling migrations of herring using parasite fauna as natural tags, designed to improve stock assessments of herring. During the following years I led field and modelling programmes on thedispersal and survival of fish larvae, observational and modelling projects on nutrient dynamics in coastal ecosystems, and led a sequence of EU and NERC funded programmes on the population dynamics of zooplankton in the North Atlantic. These projects were designed to advise the Scottish Government on the impacts of aquaculture nutrient release on the environment, impacts of climate change on fisheries, and latterly on human and climate impacts on indices of ecosystem status.

During my time at the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen I developed strong links with the Statistics and Modelling Science Department at Strathclyde, and in 2010 I was successful in obtaining a research post at the University funded by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS), which is a SFC science pooling initiative. My current research interests are the mathematical and statistical modelling of fish populations and fisheries, and the dynanics of ecosystems.


Exploring the influence of food and temperature on North Sea sandeels using a new dynamic energy budget model
MacDonald Alan, Speirs Douglas C., Greenstreet Simon P. R., Heath Michael R.
Frontiers in Marine Science Vol 5, (2018)
A general framework for combining ecosystem models
Spence Michael A., Blanchard Julia L., Rossberg Axel G., Heath Michael R., Heymans Johanna J., Mackinson Steven, Serpetti Natalia, Speirs Douglas C., Thorpe Robert B., Blackwell Paul G.
Fish and Fisheries, (2018)
Survival of the fittest : explanations for gadoid imbalance in heavily fish seas
Elliott Sophie A. M., Allan Brooke A., Turrell William R., Heath Michael R., Bailey David M.
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, (2018)
A synthetic map of the northwest European Shelf sedimentary environment for applications in marine science
Wilson Robert J., Speirs Douglas C., Sabatino Alessandro, Heath Michael R.
Earth System Science Data Vol 10, pp. 109-130, (2018)
Population trends of bycatch species reflect improving status of target species
Cook Robin M., Heath Michael R.
Fish and Fisheries, (2018)
Landscape effects on demersal fish revealed by field observations and predictive seabed modelling
Elliott Sophie A. M., Sabatino Alessandro D., Heath Michael R., Turrell William R., Bailey David M.
PLoS ONE Vol 12, (2017)

more publications

Research interests

Research interests - modelling of marine ecosystems

Professional activities

Fisheries Innovation Scotland Annual Conference
Keynote/plenary speaker
DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (External organisation)
MASTS Annual Science Meeting 2015
MASTS Annual Science Meeting 2015
ICES Annual Science Conference 2015
To be assigned
Scottish Government (External organisation)

more professional activities


Microbes to Megafauna Modelling of Arctic Seas (MiMeMo)
Heath, Michael (Principal Investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
Period 01-Jul-2018 - 30-Jun-2021
Mechanistic understanding of the role of diatoms in the success of the Arctic Calanus complex and implications for a warmer Arctic
Banas, Neil (Principal Investigator) Heath, Michael (Co-investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
"Copepod species of the genus Calanus (Calanus hereafter) are rice grain-sized crustaceans, distant relatives of crabs and lobsters, that occur throughout the Arctic Ocean consuming enormous quantities of microscopic algae (phytoplankton). These tiny animals represent the primary food source for many Arctic fish, seabirds and whales. During early spring they gorge on extensive seasonal blooms of diatoms, fat-rich phytoplankton that proliferate both beneath the sea ice and in the open ocean. This allows Calanus to rapidly obtain sufficient fat to survive during the many months of food scarcity during the Arctic winter. Diatoms also produce one of the main marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that Calanus require to successfully survive and reproduce in the frozen Arctic waters. Calanus seasonally migrate into deeper waters to save energy and reduce their losses to predation in an overwintering process called diapause that is fuelled entirely by carbon-rich fat (lipids). This vertical 'lipid pump' transfers vast quantities of carbon into the ocean's interior and ultimately represents the draw-down of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), an important process within the global carbon cycle. Continued global warming throughout the 21st century is expected to exert a strong influence on the timing, magnitude and spatial distribution of diatom productivity in the Arctic Ocean. Little is known about how Calanus will respond to these changes, making it difficult to understand how the wider Arctic ecosystem and its biogeochemistry will be affected by climate change.
The overarching goal of this proposal is to develop a predictive understanding of how Calanus in the Arctic will be affected by future climate change. We will achieve this goal through five main areas of research:

We will synthesise past datasets of Calanus in the Arctic alongside satellite-derived data on primary production. This undertaking will examine whether smaller, more temperate species have been increasingly colonising of Arctic. Furthermore, it will consider how the timing of life-cycle events may have changed over past decades and between different Arctic regions. The resulting data will be used to validate modelling efforts.

We will conduct field based experiments to examine how climate-driven changes in the quantity and omega-3 content of phytoplankton will affect crucial features of the Calanus life-cycle, including reproduction and lipid storage for diapause. Cutting-edge techniques will investigate how and why Calanus use stored fats to reproduce in the absence of food. The new understanding gained will be used to produce numerical models of Calanus' life cycle for future forecasting.

The research programme will develop life-cycle models of Calanus and simulate present day distribution patterns, the timing of life-cycle events, and the quantities of stored lipid (body condition), over large areas of the Arctic. These projections will be compared to historical data.

We will investigate how the omega-3 fatty acid content of Calanus is affected by the food environment and in turn dictates patterns of their diapause- and reproductive success. Reproductive strategies differ between the different species of Calanus and this approach provides a powerful means by which to predict how each species will be impacted, allowing us to identify the winners and losers under various scenarios of future environmental changes.

The project synthesis will draw upon previous all elements of the proposal to generate new numerical models of Calanus and how the food environment influences their reproductive strategy and hence capacity for survival in a changing Arctic Ocean. This will allow us to explore how the productivity and biogeochemistry of the Arctic Ocean will change in the future. These models will be interfaced with the UK's Earth System Model that directly feeds into international efforts to understand global feedbacks to climate change."
Period 01-May-2017 - 30-Apr-2021
Scoping the background information for an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries
Heath, Michael (Principal Investigator) Speirs, Douglas (Co-investigator)
Period 25-Apr-2016 - 31-Jan-2017
Speirs, Douglas (Principal Investigator) Heath, Michael (Co-investigator) Hunter, Aidan (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2012 - 27-Jan-2017
A review of the status of Scotland’s capture fisheries - subcontract from Aberdeen Univ
Heath, Michael (Principal Investigator)
Period 05-Jan-2015 - 31-Aug-2015
PhD studentship on Modelling the dynamics of expenditure on marine recreation
Heath, Michael (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Apr-2015 - 30-Sep-2018

more projects


Mathematics and Statistics
Livingstone Tower

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