Seaweed aquaculture researcher wins “outstanding contribution” award on International Women’s Day

Women in Scottish Aquaculture recognises Professor Elizabeth Cottier-Cook's contribution to aquaculture education and research on the global seaweed industry.
Seaweed aquaculture expert Elizabeth Cottier-Cook. Photo: Scottish Association for Marine Science.
Seaweed aquaculture expert Elizabeth Cottier-Cook. Photo: Scottish Association for Marine Science.

A marine biologist who established a European Joint Master's Degree in aquaculture has reason to celebrate on International Women's Day after becoming a prize winner at the Women in Scottish Aquaculture (WiSA) Awards.

Prof Elizabeth Cottier-Cook of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) has today been presented with WiSA's Outstanding Contribution award in recognition of her teaching in aquaculture and her research contribution to the global seaweed industry.

Cottier-Cook established a joint masters degree teaching all aspects of aquaculture, the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's Degree ACES-STAR. The Master's Degree has awarded 126 scholarships to EU and international students since 2015, giving talented students from developing nations access to first-class academic teaching. Students on the two-year programme learn in Scotland, Crete and France, participating in industry-led research programmes, internships and fieldwork.

At a seminar earlier today, Cottier-Cook also spoke about her research work as principal investigator on the five-year Global Seaweed STAR programme, which concluded in 2022. The aim of the programme, she explained, was to combine UK expertise in taxonomy, genetics and disease management with the knowledge and practical experience of seaweed farming in Africa and Asia to help safeguard the expanding global seaweed industry.

"There's always room for more women in aquaculture"

Cottier-Cook notes that seaweed farming is an important employer in many developing nations and is particularly key to empowering women, who make up the majority of seaweed farmers globally.

Speaking today to WeAreAquaculture, Professor Cottier-Cook said "I think there's always room for more women in aquaculture. There are many women working in the seaweed industry around the world and they don't receive the same recognition."

Along with the United Nations University and partners in the UK, Tanzania, Malaysia and the Philippines, Cottier-Cook published an international policy brief that made recommendations on improving biosecurity and how best to protect the industry from the effects of climate change.

Receiving the award, Cottier-Cook said she was surprised and honoured, before adding, "It is important to celebrate the success of women in any STEM field."

"There is an increasing number of women working in aquaculture and it is interesting to note that in the eight years of our ACES Joint Master's Degree, women have made up roughly two-thirds of our students.

"Our GlobalSeaweedSTAR programme included some of the leading seaweed researchers in the world and all of the work package leaders were women. Considering many women are involved in the seaweed industry, it was nice to be able to reflect that in our research team," she said.

About The Scottish Association for Marine Science

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is Scotland's largest and oldest independent marine science organisation, delivering marine science for a productive and sustainably managed marine environment through innovative research, education and engagement with society. Based near Oban on the Scottish west coast, SAMS is a charitable organisation (009206) with a membership that elects the Board members following a recruitment process. It is also a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in Scotland (SC 009292) and operates two wholly owned subsidiary companies: SAMS Enterprise – a specialist marine consultancy – and SAMS Ltd. It is an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

About Women in Scottish Aquaculture

Women in Scottish Aquaculture (WiSA) exists to introduce more women into aquaculture, and support those already working in the sector. Open for all to join, WiSA promotes the diverse and rewarding careers that are available in aquaculture, to encourage more women to enter the sector. It also supports the progression, opportunities and development of women who are already working in aquaculture.

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