Royal Society of Edinburgh award for Maths Professor

Professor Michael Heath

A Professor of Mathematics at the University of Strathclyde has received a prestigious award from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

Professor Michael Heath, of Strathclyde’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, has been awarded the RSE/Sir James Black Medal for his outstanding contribution to the field of Fisheries Science.

Professor Heath has researched a wide range of marine ecological issues over a career of more than 35 years, and is a leading authority on the impacts of fishing and climate change on marine food webs.


To coincide with the award, Professor Heath will be giving a lecture on oceans and human wellbeing that will examine the interplay between harvesting for food and the status of wildlife and ecosystem qualities that are important to society.

Professor Heath said: “I’m extremely honoured to receive this award. I’ve been involved in aquatic activities of one sort or another, such as rowing and sailing, since my childhood, and it’s been an absolute privilege to have also been able to pursue marine science as a career.

“Marine science is an extremely cross-disciplinary field. The integration of physics, chemistry and biology has always been central to understanding the oceans. Collecting data at sea is a major challenge, and we use mathematics and modelling to make sense of sparse observations and help us figure out how the system fits together and works. That’s why I have ended up in a Mathematics Department.

“Recently, it has become obvious that human impacts on the oceans are so strong that social research, economics and law have also become an integrated part of marine science and I think that’s a really exciting development.”

Professor Heath studied Marine Biology and Oceanography before joining the Scottish Office Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen, now Marine Scotland Science, in 1982. He initially researched and modelled migrations of herring to improve their stock assessments and later led programmes on the dispersal and survival of fish larvae, nutrient dynamics in coastal ecosystems and the population dynamics of zooplankton in the North Atlantic.

In 2010, he was appointed Professor at Strathclyde through the nationwide Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS). He has led a number of UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and EU Framework projects, and is currently the lead researcher on a NERC Marine Ecosystem Programme project, and the MiMeMo (Microbes to Megafauna Modelling) project which is part of the joint NERC and German Federal Ministry of Education and Research ‘Changing Arctic Oceans’ Programme. MiMeMo is investigating how Arctic marine food webs and fisheries are expected to respond to warming.

Professor Heath has authored or co-authored more than 160 research papers and reports.

The Sir James Black Medal is presented annually by RSE for achievements in life sciences. It is awarded in memory of Sir James Black (1924-2010), who developed the beta blocker propranolol and who jointly won the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.     

Professor Heath is one of three recipients in 2018 of the RSE’s Senior Career Medals.

Professor Bonnie Webber, RSE Research Awards Convenor, said: “The variety of interdisciplinary talent and expertise evident in this year’s recipients is a real testament to the level of knowledge and excellence that we have here in Scotland.


“The contribution made by these individuals truly encompass the meaning of the RSE’s own mission, Knowledge Made Useful.”