Plymouth Sound and Hoe with graduation marquees
Established in 1986, PlyMSEF is a charitable organisation aiming to promote and support marine science and education across the city and provides a formal connection between five renowned marine-themed institutions within Plymouth:
A focus of the Foundation is the annual provision of funds to enable selected students and early career scientists from these institutions to attend national and international scientific conferences, symposia, workshops or advanced training courses in the marine sciences.
PlyMSEF also promotes marine science through public lectures and seminars in Plymouth and an annual Plymouth research student conference. The conference gives an opportunity for PhD students from across the city to meet and present their work to their peers and academics.
PlyMSEF logo
Hosted on the University of Plymouth website, on behalf of all PlyMSEF partners.

Grant-In-Aid (GIA)

PlyMSEF provides travel grants to enable research students to attend academic conferences and symposia or to attend advanced training courses or workshops in marine disciplines. Applicants must be registered PhD students or postgraduate scientists within four years of graduation employed in marine-related research projects and have a strong affiliation with one of the partner institutions.
Details about the annual call for applications are typically advertised during October/November, with a deadline in January. Successful applicants are then announced by the end of February. Awards are in the range of £300–£500.


PlyMSEF promotes marine science through the Spring Lecture and the Plymouth Marine Science Medal Lecture. These lectures are held annually and are typically hosted by one of the partners.

Annual Postgraduate Student Conference

The PlyMSEF Annual Conference showcases work undertaken by postgraduate and early career researchers associated with Plymouth-based institutes, with a focus on the marine environment.
The 2024 Conference is taking place on 23–25 April 2024 in Plymouth and will be held jointly with the 20th MBA Postgraduate Conference.
Postgraduate conference

Recent history

Chairs of the Foundation

Plymouth Marine Science Education Fund
2003    Mark Blacksell - UoP
2004    Steve Hawkins - MBA
2005    Chris Reid - SAHFOS
2006    Kelvin Boot - NMA
2007    Roddy Williamson - UoP
2008    Peter Burkill - SAHFOS
2009    Colin Brownlee - MBA
2010    Stephen de Mora - PML
2011    Martin Attrill - UoP
Plymouth Marine Science and Education Foundation
2012    Gary Smerdon - DDRC
2013    Paul Cox - NMA
2014    Nicholas Owens - SAHFOS
2015    Colin Brownlee - MBA
2016    Stephen de Mora - PML 
2017    Gary Smerdon - DDRC
2018    Roger Maslin - NMA
2019    Richard Thompson - UoP
2020    Willie Wilson - MBA (interim, no activity)
2021–2022    Willie Wilson - MBA
2023–2024    Icarus Allen - PML

Spring lectures

  • 2009    Dr Craig Venter - President, J Craig Venter Institute, USA: "Genomics: from reading to writing the code"
  • 2010    Prof Camille Parmesan - University of Texas, USA: "Impacts of recent climate change"
  • 2011    Prof Tim Lenton - University of Exeter: "Revolutions that made the Earth"
  • 2012    Michael Rutzen - Shark Diving Unlimited, Gansbaai, South Africa: "The Great White shark Carcharodon carcharias: behaviour and conservation"
  • 2013    no lecture
  • 2014    Profs Gerd Masselink and Paul Russell - Coastal Processes Research Group, University of Plymouth: "Where has our beach gone? The science behind how wave and storms impact our coast"
  • 2015    Professor Richard Thompson - University of Plymouth: "Marine Debris – Are there solutions to this global environmental problem"
  • 2016    Dr Carol Turley - PML: "Oceans of stress: hot, sour, breathless and rising"
  • 2017    Professor David Sims - MBA: "Tracking the lives of oceanic sharks in a changing world"
  • 2018    Kelvin Boot - Freelance science communicator: "Science bites and snake bites"
  • 2019    Dr Melanie Austen - PML: "It’s not all about the fish"
  • 2020    no lecture
  • 2021    no lecture
  • 2022    Darwin Tree of Life - MBA & Smart Sound Team - PML & Dr Thomas Stamp - University of Plymouth & Mark Parry - Ocean Conservation Trust: "Science in the Sound"
  • 2023 (1)    Professor Tim Smyth - PML: "Impacts of artificial light pollution (ALAN) on marine biodiversity"
  • 2023 (2)    Dr Martyn Hann - University of Plymouth: "The physical modelling that supports the development of off-shore Renewable Energy in the Celtic Sea"
  • 2024    TBC

Marine Science Medal lectures

  • 1986    Dr John H Steele FRS: "The Role of the Oceans in Global Change"
  • 1987    Professor James E Lovelock FRS: "The Oceans of Gaia - Geophysiology in a Marine Environment"
  • 1988    Sir John Mason CB, DSc, FRS: "The Role of the Ocean in Global Climate"
  • 1989    no lecture
  • 1990    Professor Geoffrey Eglinton FRS: "Wither Marine Organic Chemistry?"
  • 1991    Professor Sir Eric Denton CBE, FRS: "Silvery Fish - Appearing and Disappearing"
  • 1992    Professor Peter S. Liss BSc, PhD: "How does the Atmosphere Affect the Biogeochemistry of the Oceans and Vice Versa?"
  • 1993    Dr John Woods: "Simulating the Upper Ocean Ecosystem by the Langrangian Ensemble Method"
  • 1994    Professor Ian A Johnston: "Adaptation to Temperature Change in Marine Fish"
  • 1995    Dr Robert R Dickson FRSE: "The Physical and Biological Response to Decadal Change in the West Atlantic"
  • 1996    Professor Farooq Azam: "How Important are Bacteria in Controlling the Ocean’s Biogeochemical Dynamics?"
  • 1997    Professor John M Huthnance: "Ocean Shelf Exchange, Controls and Consequences"
  • 1998    Professor Harry Elderfield: "Chemistry of the Glacial Ocean – a status report"
  • 1999    Professor Trevor Platt FRS: "Control of Primary Productivity in High Nitrate Regions"
  • 2000    Professor Andy Clark: "Life in the Freezer: Ecology and Adaptation to Low Temperature"
  • 2001    Professor Michael Whitfield: "Mobile Pastures: Microbial Ghosts in the Ocean Machine"
  • 2002    Dr Brian Bayne: "Bivalve Mariculture: Science on the Half Shell"
  • 2003    Dr Tony Rice: "A Crank Little Vessel"
  • 2004    Dr Tim Hunt: "From Sea Urchin to Clam Eggs to the Control of the Cell Cycle"
  • 2005    Professor Peter Herring: "Light in the Depths: the how and why of luminous deep sea animals"
  • 2006    Professor Patrick Holligan: "Determination and Prediction of Ecological Variability in Shelf Seas"
  • 2007    Professor Graham Shimmield: "Has petroleum exploitation and exploration damaged the North Sea?"
  • 2008    Professor John Croxall: "Southern Ocean albatrosses: South Georgia science to global conservation"
  • 2009    Professor Andy Watson: "The ocean sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide: constant or fickle?"
  • 2010    Professor Geoff Boxshall FRS - Natural History Museum, London: "The magnitude of marine biodiversity: towards a quarter of a million species but not enough copepods!!"
  • 2011    Professor John G Field - Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town: "Looking back in order to project into the future: new developments in marine science"
  • 2012    Professor Jan Pentreath - Trustee of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science & Plymouth Marine Laboratory Fellow: "Unstable atoms in the oceans: clocks, tracers and DNA"
  • 2013    Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner - Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany: "Oceans under climate change: towards an integrated view of organism sensitivities and ecosystem consequences"
  • 2014    Professor Ian Boyd - Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: "Creating a storm or calming the waters – a view from a Chief Scientific Adviser"
  • 2015    Professor Lloyd Peck - British Antarctic Survey: "How well adapted are Antarctic marine species to extreme polar conditions?"
  • 2016    Professor Gideon Henderson - Oxford University: "Metals in seawater: critical; toxic; and changing"
  • 2017    Professor Douglas Wallace - Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada: “Vital Signs: Monitoring the Ocean’s Deep, Breathing in the Labrador Sea.”
  • 2018    Professor Corinne Le Quéré - University of East Anglia: “The Ocean Carbon Cycle in a Changing Climate”
  • 2019    Professor Nicole Dubilier - Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany: "The art of harnessing dark energy: Symbiosis between chemosynthetic bacteria and marine invertebrates"
  • 2020    no lecture
  • 2021 (34th)    Professor Edward Boyle - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA: "Tracing anthropogenic lead through the ocean using lead isotopes"
  • 2022 (35th)    Professor Heather Koldewey - Zoological Society of London (ZSL): "Science for solutions to save the sea"
  • 2023 (36th)    Professor Carol Robinson - University of East Anglia: "Marine microbial respiration – a known unknown"
  • 2024 (37th)    TBC