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Loch Ness
Adrian Shine

Loch Ness

Loch Ness Field Research 

Geology - Habitats - Loch Ness - Facilities,
BSc Dissertations - MSc - PhD - Contacts.

Loch Ness and the Great Glen provide an ideal base for Ecology, Geography and Environmental Science field trips. Whether you are a university course organiser, research worker or an individual B.Sc. student looking for a novel location for a dissertation you will find a welcome with the Loch Ness Project.  

The  Geology
The Great Glen is one of the most spectacular geographical features of the British Isles.  It is certainly the best example of a tear fault which fractured across the Moine schists  about 380 million years ago towards the end of the Caledonian Mountain building episode.   Granite intrusions suggest a transverse movement of some 60 miles. To the north of Loch Ness there are deposits of Old Red Sandstone. The ancient fault is still active with minor tremors still occurring. The shattered rocks made an easy road for Ice Age glaciers.

The glen bears  the marks  of massive glaciation with  its legacy of moraines, eskers, raised beaches and ice dammed lakes. The Field Centre itself is located just below a raised beach beside Loch Ness and Inverness. Just 14miles to the north are two very good examples of eskers at Torvean (St. Bean’s Hill) and Tomnahurich (The Hillock of the yew trees). Twenty five miles up the glen are the famous “parallel roads” of Glen Roy and Glen Spean, marking the vanished shorelines of ice dammed lakes which, it is thought,  drained in a series of catastrophic floods, through Loch Ness and on to lay the gravel foundations of Inverness.

Habitats within the glen range widely, extending from the rocky west coast to the salt marshes of the inner Moray Firth; from virtually pristine uplands to the effluents of  Inverness. Effects of a pronounced diminishing rainfall gradient are reflected in the vegetation, from the moorland grasses of the West to the heathers of the East.
Remnants of both deciduous and Caledonian Pine forest are found within half an hour of    the Centre, which itself is on the edge of the Urquhart Bay Alder Wood (SSSI). This special habitat is maintained by yearly inundations from the rivers Enrick and Coiltie which converge on Urquhart Bay before entering the loch. The most outstanding remnant of the Great Wood of Caledon lies in Glen Affric just 14 miles from the Centre. Here there are many “granny” pines over 200 years old and a luxuriant undergrowth of blueberry and other woodland plants. There are many examples of birchwoods mixed with rowan and hazel.
The Loch Ness catchment has an abundance of streams, rivers, shallow lochans, and peat bogs.

Loch Ness
Loch Ness is Britain's premier volume of freshwater with steep rocky walls descending to a flat silt bed at depths in excess of 200m.
The loch's regularity and orientation parallel to the prevailing winds, renders it exceptionally physically dynamic with large scale internal seiches generating underwater waves up to 40m high.
The surface waters have an oligotrophic plankton community with Arctic Charr as the predominant pelagic fish. Brown Trout  feed on insect larvae along the stony littoral.
Deep down, on the abyssal silt plain, a surprising variety of benthos include Ice-age relict species of sufficient quantity to support a profundal population of charr.         

Studies Undertaken by the Loch Ness Project.  

The Loch Ness Project has supported the following studies.


A solo expedition to Loch Morar inspired by work of the Loch Morar Survey.

Designed and built a submersible observation hide (Machan) and small underwater observation surface vessel for the Loch Morar Expeditions  recruiting biology students from Royal Holloway College.

Receiving support from zoology staff at Royal Holloway, he joined in the field and was mentored by Dr. Ann Duncan in limnology. BSc student dissertations were supported. His project received approval by the Scientific Exploration Society and logistic support by Royal Engineers and Royal Marine diving team.

The Loch Morar Expeditions became the Loch Ness & Morar Project. The expeditions were now under the patronage of  David James M.P. and Sir Peter Scott.

The focus of work moved to Loch Ness with acoustics applications in freshwater. We provided logistics and services support for freshwater science teams and introduced  them to echo sounders leading to the formation of the Hydro-acoustic Unit at Royal Holloway College.

Redesigned the public exhibition at the Loch Ness Centre, using the loch’s controversy as a vehicle for enhancing the  visitor’s understanding of lakes in general and Britain’s largest in particular.

Established a permanent base at the Loch Ness Centre for University field trips and collaborations. Designed and established a  deep water fixed sampling station in the northern basin of Loch Ness. Work now included all aspects of limnology as detailed below.

Profundal Benthos Collection
Instigated a detailed study of the profundal fauna of the two deepest Scottish lochs including designing the sampling equipment, particularly the wide bore corers for intact interface recovery.

Published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Loch Ness Project.
Griffiths,H.I. and Martin,D.S. (1993) The Spatial Distribution of Benthic Ostracods in the Profundal Zone of Loch Ness. Scottish Naturalist 105: 137-147.

Griffiths,H.I., Martin,D.S., Shine,A.J., and Evans,J.G. (1993). The Ostracod Fauna (Crustacea, Ostracoda) of the Profundal Benthos of Loch Ness. Hydrobiologia, 254: 111-117.
Martin, D.S., Shine, A.J. and Duncan, A. (1993) The Profundal Fauna of Loch Ness and Loch Morar. Scottish Naturalist 105 : 113-136.

B.Sc. Dissertations
Grinvalds, R.S. (1979) Species of the Profundal Fauna at 300m Depth from Loch Morar, Scotland.  B.Sc. Dissert. Royal Holloway College.

Environmental Impact Studies
Instigated a study of recent Loch Ness sediments to define patterns and processes and recent human impact. Designed and built a one metre coring system for deep water and obtained cores for a wide variety of invited collaborations and dissertations.

Published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.
Jones, V.J., Battarbee, R.W., Rose, N.L., Curtis, C., Appleby, P.G., Harriman, R. and Shine, A.J. (1997)  Evidence for the pollution of Loch Ness from the analysis of its recent sediments. The Science of the Total Environment 203 : 37-49
Bennett, S., & Shine, A.J., (1993) Review of Current Work on Loch Ness Sediment Cores. Scottish Naturalist 105: 55-63.
Jenkins,P.H. (1993). Loch Ness Sediments: A Preliminary Report. Scottish Naturalist 105:65-86.
Sanders, G., Jones, K.C. and Shine, A.J. (1993). The Use of a Sediment Core to Reconstruct the Historical Input of Contaminants to Loch Ness: PCBs and PAHs. Scottish Naturalist 105:87-111

M.Sc.  Dissertations.
Bracewell,C.E. (1993) A Geochemical Study of the Natural and Pollutant Compounds in Loch Ness, Scotland. M.Sc. Dissert. University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  
Harris, S.J. (1995)  Methanogenesis in Organic Rich Sediment Cores from a Deep Oligotrophic Lake, Loch Ness. M.Sc. Dissert. University of Newcastle.
Jensen, I.C.  (1996) Loch Ness as a Source of Atmospheric Methane. M.Sc. Dissert. University of Newcastle.
Mansfield, C.A. (1992). A Study of Biogenic and Anthropogenic Compounds in Sediment Cores from Loch Ness, Scotland. M.Sc. Dissertation. University of Newcastle.

B.Sc. Dissertations.
Baker,D.L. (1993). A Palaeolimnological Reconstruction of the Recent History of the Catchment of a Scottish Loch. B.Sc. Dissert. University of Wolverhampton.  
Bennett,S. (1993) Patterns and Processes of Sedimentation in Loch Ness . B.Sc. Dissert. University of Staffordshire.
Davies, J. (1995) A Palaeolimnological Study on the Diatom Flora of Loch Morar, Scotland. B.Sc. Dissert. University of Wolverhampton.
Frain, J. (1998)  A Geochemical Study of Heavy Metals in Loch Ness, Scotland. B. Sc. Dissert. Aberystwyth, University of Wales.
Miller, K.C. (1993). A Study of Sedimentary Markers. within the Lacustrine Environment. B.Sc. Dissert. University of Lancaster.
Millward, D. (1992) A Palynological Sedimentation Study of a Core from the South Basin of Loch Ness. B.Sc. Dissert. University of Hull.
Pritchard, M.A. (1995)  Palaeolimnological Analysis of a Sediment Core from Loch Morar, North West Scotland.  B.Sc. Dissert. University of Wolverhampton.
Round, S. (1996)  Mineral Magnetic and Geochemical Analysis of a Sediment Core from a small Scottish Loch.  B.Sc. Dissert. University of Wolverhampton.
Swinton, J. (1996) Diatom Analysis to Assess the Impact of Catchment  Afforestation and Deforestation of a Small Scottish Loch. B.Sc. Dissert. University of Wolverhampton.

The R.O.S.E.T..TA. Project, Long Core Sediment Retrieval
Initiated and recruited collaborations for the ROSETTA Project, (Recovery Of Sediments Enabling Translation To Acoustics). This study aimed to retrieve long core samples penetrating back to the glacial clays and representing some 10,000 years of sedimentary record. Designed and built a  6 metre coring system for use at 200 m in Loch Ness. This succeeded in 1994.

Published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.

Cooper, M.C., O'Sullivan, P.E., Harkness, D.D., Lawson, E.M., Bull, D., Kemp, A.E.S., Peglar, S.M., Matthews, N.M., Jones, R.I. and Shine, A.J. (1998) 14C Dating of laminated sediments from Loch Ness, Scotland.  Radiocarbon, Vol 40, No2 : 781-793.
Cooper, M.C., O’Sullivan, P.E. and Shine, A.J. (2000) Climate and solar variability recorded in Holocene laminated sediments – a preliminary assessment. Quaternary International 68-71 : 363-371  
Dean, J., Kemp, A.E.S., Bull, D., Pike, J., Patterson, G. and  Zolitschka, B., (1999). Taking varves to bits: scanning electron microscopy in the study of laminated sediments and varves. Journal of Paleolimnology 22 : 121-136
O'Sullivan, P., Cooper, M., Henon, D., Huckerby, E., Salter, N., Williams, T., Nicholson and Shine, A. Anthropogenic/climate interactions recorded in the sediments of Loch Ness, Scotland. Terra Nostra 2000/7: 5th ELDP Workshop, Pallanza.
O'Sullivan, P., Cooper, M., Shine, A.J., Huckerby, E., Matthews, N., Salter, N., Henon, D., Jones, V., Williams, T., Nicholson, M., Sandford, R. and Morris, A. (2000) Long -term response of Loch Ness, Scotland, to changes in inputs from its catchment. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 27: 2307-2311

Geophysical Seismic Surveys
Invited and gave support to three seismic operations over two decades, shedding light upon the retreat of the Great Glen glacier.

Published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.

Turner, A., Woodward, J., Dunning, S.A., Shine, A.J., Stokes, C.R., O'Cofraigh, C. (2012) Geophysical surveys of deglacial sediments of Loch Ness, Scotland; implications for the deglaciation of the Moray Firth Ice Stream, British-Irish Ice Sheet. Journal of Quaternary Science, 27 (2). pp.221-232. ISSN 0267-8179.

Acoustic Scattering Layer Research
Made detailed studies throughout the 1980s separating biological and physical elements of acoustic scattering layers. Providing visualisation through acoustics of biological phenomena such as diurnal migration and physical events such as internal longitudinal and transverse seiches and Kelvin Helmholz billows. Hypothesis advanced for the role of shear induced turbulence in the generation of acoustic reflections from scattering layers.

Published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.

Shine, A.J. and Martin, D.S. (1988) Loch Ness Habitats Observed by Sonar and Underwater Television. Scottish Naturalist 105:111-199.
B.Sc. Dissertations.
Marjoram, R.S. (1993). An Investigation of the Identification and Behaviour of an Acoustic Scattering Layer in Loch Ness, Scotland. B.Sc. Dissert. Worcester College of Education.

Hydrographic Survey
1991-92 Organised two major hydrographic surveys of Loch Ness.

Published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.
Young,I. and Shine, A.J. (1993). Loch Ness Bathymetric and Seismic Survey, December 1991. Scottish Naturalist 105:23-43.

Acoustic Fish Stoch Survey                      
Secured the first use in British freshwater of quantifiable acoustic fish stock estimation equipment, i.e.  HADAS statistical, Biosonics dual beam and Simrad split beam. Making comparisons between these systems and investigating target strength returns from different frequencies.

The work resulted in the following published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.

Kubecka, J., Duncan, A., and Butterworth, A.J. (1993) Large and Small Organisms Detected in the Open Waters of Loch Ness by Dual-Beam Acoustics. Scottish Naturalist 105: 175-193.  
Shine, A.J., Martin, D.S. and Marjoram, R.S. (1993) Spatial Distribution and Diurnal Migration of the Pelagic Fish and Zooplankton in Loch Ness. Scottish Naturalist 105:195-235.

Fish Habitats
A study of littoral, profundal and pelagic fish habitats in Loch Ness by gill and seine netting. Fish diets were defined through gut content  and stable isotope analysis.

The work resulted in the following published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.

Grey, J., (2001) Ontogeny and dietary specialisation in brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) from Loch Ness, Scotland, examined using stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Ecology of Freshwater Fish. 10: 168-176
Grey, J.,Thackeray, S.J., Jones, R.I. and Shine, A. (2002) Ferox Trout (Salmo trutta) as ‘Russian dolls’: complementary gut content and stable isotope analyses of the Loch Ness foodweb. Freshwater Biology 47: 1235-1243
Thackeray, S.J., Grey, J. and Jones, R.I. (2000)  Feeding Selectivity of Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) in Loch Ness, Scotland.  Freshwater Forum 13 : 47-59.
Martin, D.S. and Shine, A.J. (1993) The Food and Feeding Relationships of Pelagic Fish in Loch Ness.  Scottish Naturalist 105 : 149-174.
Shine, A.J. Kubecka, J.,  Martin, D.S. and Duncan, A. (1993) Fish Habitats in Loch Ness. Scottish Naturalist 105 : 237-255.

B.Sc. Dissertations.
Meacham, N.J. (1993) The Fecundity and Associated Ecological Factors of the Arctic Charr, Salvelinus alpinus, and Brown Trout, Salmo trutta, in Loch Ness, Scotland. B.Sc. Dissert. University of Hull.

Pelagic Work

Established a deep water fixed station mooring in Loch Ness and conducted pelagic sampling over a ten year period for Lancaster University. This, together with sampling along the length of the loch, established the importance of allocthonous inputs and bacterial production in a major oligotrophic lake for the first time.

Published studies by, in association with or assisted by the Project.

Fulcher,A.S. (1993) Studies of the Plankton of Loch Ness, Scotland. 3. Rotifers. Verhandlugen der Internationalen Vereinigung fur Theoretische und Angewandte Limnologie. 25:460.
George, D. G. and Winfield, I.J. (2000) Factors influencing the spatial distribution of zooplankton and fish in Loch Ness, UK. Freshwater Biology 43: 557-570
Grey, J., (2000) Tracing the elusive Holopedium gibberum in the plankton of Loch Ness. Glasgow Naturalist, Vol. 23, Part 5 pp. 29-34
Grey, J. (2002) A Chironomid conundrum: queries arising from stable isotopes, Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 28: 102-105
Grey, J. and Jones, R.I (1999)  Carbon Stable Isotopes Reveal Complex Trophic Interactions in Lake Plankton.  Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 13 :1311-1314
Grey, J. and Jones, R.I. (2001) Seasonal changes in the importance of the source of organic matter to the diet of zooplankton in Loch Ness, as indicated by stable isotope analysis. Limnol. Oceanogr., 2001, 505-513.
Grey, J., Jones, R.I. and Sleep, D. (2000) Stable isotope analysis of the origins of zooplankton carbon in lakes of differing trophic state. Oecologia 123: 232-240
Jenkins,P.H. (1993) Results of Water Chemistry Study of Loch Ness. Scottish Naturalist 105:45-54.
Jones, R.I., Fulcher, A.S., Jayakody, J.K.U., Laybourn-Parry, J., Shine, A.J., Walton, M.C. and Young, J.M. (1995) The horizontal distribution of plankton in a deep, oligotrophic lake- Loch Ness, Scotland. Freshwater Biology  33: 161-170.
Jones, R.I. and Grey, J., Quarmby, C. and Sleep, D., (2001) Sources and fluxes of inorganic carbon in a deep, oligotrophic lake (Loch Ness, Scotland). Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Vol.15, No 4 : 863 - 870.
Jones, R.I., Grey, J., Sleep, D. and  Quarmby, C. (1997) An assessment, using stable isotopes, of the importance of allochthonous organic carbon sources to the pelagic food web in Loch Ness. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B (1998) 265 : 105 –111
Jones, R.I., Laybourn-Parry, J., Walton, M.C. and Young, J.M. (1997) The forms and distribution of carbon in a deep, oligotrophic lake (Loch Ness, Scotland)  Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 26 : 330 – 334.
Jones, R.I. and Young, J.M. (1998)  Control of  bacterioplankton growth and abundance in  deep, oligotrophic Loch Ness (Scotland). Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 15 : 15 – 24.
Jones, R.I., Young, J.M. and Hartley, A.M. (1996)  Light limitation of phytoplankton development in an oligotrophic lake  - Loch Ness, Scotland.  Freshwater Biology 35 : 533 – 543.
Laybourn-Parry, J.E.M. and Walton, M.C. (1993) Studies of the Plankton of Loch Ness Scotland. 2. The Microbial Loop. Verhandlugen der Internationalen Vereinigung fur Theoretische und Angewandte Limnologie, 25:459.
Laybourn-Parry, J., Walton, M.C., Young, J., Jones, R.I. and  Shine, A.J. (1994) Protozooplankton and bacterioplankton in a large oligotrophic lake- Loch Ness, Scotland. Journal of Plankton Research. Vol.16 no12 :1655-1670  
Laybourn-Parry, J. and Walton, M. (1998) Seasonal heterotrophic flagellate and bacterial plankton dynamics in a large oligotrophic lake – Loch Ness, Scotland. Freshwater Biology 39: 1-8
Shine, A.J., Minshull, R.J. and Shine, M.M. (1993) Historical background and Introduction to the Recent Work of The Loch Ness and Morar Project. Scottish Naturalist 105:7-22.
Shine, A.J. Martin, D.S., Bennett, S. and Marjoram, R.S. (1993) Allochthonous Organic Inputs as an Explanation of Spatial Biomass Gradients Observed in the Pelagic and Profundal Zones of Loch Ness. Scottish Naturalist 105 : 257-269.
Young, J.M., Jones, R.I. and Bailey-Watts, A.E. (1993). Studies of the Plankton of Loch Ness, Scotland. 1.Phytoplankton. Verhandlugen der Internationalen Vereinigung fur Theoretische und Angewandte Limnologie, 25: 459.
Young, J., Laybourn-Parry, J., Jones, R.I. and Walton, M. (1995)  A Stalkless Sub-species of Clathrulina elegans Cienkowski (1867) from the Plankton of Loch Ness, Scotland. (1995)  Europ. J. Protistol.  31 : 54 - 57

B.Sc. Dissertations.

Cahill, R.A. (1997)  A Comment on the Food-Chain Dynamics of a Large Oligotrophic Lake (Loch Ness, Scotland), during the Summer Period.  B.Sc. Dissert. University of Salford.
Duckmanton, A. (1996) An Investigation into a Possible Predator/Prey Interaction Between Two Species of Zooplankton in Loch Ness. B.Sc. Dissert. Staffordshire University.
Hartley,A. (1993) Plankton Bioassay of Loch Ness Water. B.Sc. Dissert. University of Lancaster.
Loveland, J.P. (1997)  Investigation into the Horizontal Distribution of Cladoceran Zooplankton in a Deep Oligotrophic Lake, Loch Ness, Scotland.  B.Sc. Dissert. University of Salford.
Reid, M. (1996) A Comment on the Biogeochemistry of an Oligotrophic Loch in Northern Scotland, Loch Ness. B.Sc. Dissert. Dundee University.
Williams, P.A. (1995) Loch Ness, A Study of the Relative Importance of Grazer and Detritus Food Chains in the North and South Basins. B.Sc. Dissert.

Ph. D. Theses.
These  generally arise as part of full scale collaborations by research workers who may be conducting grant funded studies.
Cooper, M.C. (1998) Laminated Sediments of Loch Ness, Scotland: Indicators of Holocene Environmental Change.  Ph.D. Thesis. University of Plymouth.
Fulcher,A.S. (1996) Rotifers of Loch Ness and the Cumbrian Lakes. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Lancaster.
Griffiths,H.I., (Ongoing) Applications of Freshwater Ostracods in the Study of Late Quaternary Palaeoenvironments of North Western Europe. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Cardiff.
Killon, G., Modelling the Impact of Forestry on the Nutrient Status of Loch Ness, Scotland. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Middlesex.
Wheeler, A. (2000) The Structure and Periodicity of Laminae in Holocene Sediment Cores from Loch Ness, Scotland. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Wolverhampton.

Operation Groundtruth 2000 to 2020

Further hydrographic and seismic studies.  
Operation Groundtruth which uses sonar and underwater cameras to identify human artefacts on the bed of Loch Ness.

2002 Located the debris field and wreckage of John Cobb’s Crusader, (Cobb’s failed world speed record attempt in 1952) and also a Zulu class fishing vessel at 140m and other as yet unidentified artefacts.

2016 As a part of a collaboration with the Kongsberg company using the AUV, Munin, discovered the lost model monster from the 1969 film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.  

2019 Again, in collaboration with Kongsbereg, discovered the after portion of Crusader and engine.

2013- Current. Using the lessons of investigations at Loch Ness, Adrian Shine is currently examining other lake and sea monster traditions around the world and finding their real explanations in nature.

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Coast to coast 65 Miles
of diverse habitats


Loch Ness 23 Miles long.
1 Mile wide. 230m deep.


University of Greenwich
sampling mudflats in the
Beauly Firth. (15 miles)


Relict Caledonian Pine forest
in Glen Affric (14 miles)




River Enrick ( Just 50 metres away!)



Moorland lochan (5 miles)



University of Wolverhampton
Peat bog coring (5 miles)


University of Salford
in the laboratory

In the classroom

Justin Loveland prepares
a sampling net

Rosie Marjoram counting
plankton for her dissertation

Preparing a core for a
photography dissertation.


Moving coring equipment
up to Loch Dubh.

Adrian Shine & Dr.Roger
Jones sampling for Lancaster
University's 3 year plankton
study at Loch Ness






Dr Colin Bean of the Freshwater
Biological Association & David
Martin of the Project running
acoustic fish stock surveys.






Adrian Shine & Project Engineer
John Minshull aboard the
Loch Ness Submarine
during the "Swatch
ROSETTA Project".





The Swatch ROSETTA
on the loch bed
200m down.