Marine Station beginning to take shape at St Abbs

Construction leader Charlie Young with marine scientists Erin and Keith Todd outside the St Abbs development.
Construction leader Charlie Young with marine scientists Erin and Keith Todd outside the St Abbs development.

if you’ve taken a wander through St Abbs recently you’ll have probably noticed a rather interesting structure beginning to take shape down at the harbour.

Well in less than six months time, what is now a busy building site will be St Abbs Marine Station, a purpose built facility with an ambition of becoming a centre of excellence for marine biology research,

The couple behind the highly ambitious project, which first involved registering the marine station as a charity last year, are Dr Keith Todd and his wife Errin.

They moved to St Abbs from Dalgety Bay, Fife, earlier this year with their two young children and within days of setting up a new family base were on site with a team from Border Construction who are the men responsible with helping Keith and Errin’s idea take shape.

The station, funded through private donations, commercial sponsorship and fundraising events, should be open by April 2012 and will boast a 100,000 litre mesocosm edium sized) aquarium - measuring 4m high, 8m long and 3.5m wide- which will provide a clear focus for the many educational events Keith and Errin hope to host.

Errin told ‘The Berwickshire News’: “We’re going to have 250 square metres of research space within the station and a lab area which will be able to host 12 students.

“I’m really pleased with how much progress has been made already with the lab; I can remember walking in and there was no stairway or celing.

“We’ll have a very unique facility here when it’s all up and running and we’ve already had quite a bit of interest from universities, predominantly ones in northern England and Scotland. They have their own microbiology departments but don’t have the space to carry out the research they’d like to.

“There have been some concerns about the station bringing too many people into what can be a very crowded harbour with a lot of parking restrictions and tight access roads so we’re hoping we’ll have full internet access so we can do web seminars with groups from different universities rather than having large groups of students travelling to St Abbs.”

As you’d expect, one of the main challenges faced by Keith, Errin and Border Construction was the 100 litre aquarium, and although it’s still some way from being completed, the Todds know exactly how they’d like it to be used.

“Seawater will be pumped into the tank 24 hours a day,” Keith explained.

“Everything we do will be to restore or maintain the marine environment. We won’t be hunting seahorses or sharks. Everything we do here will be very much focused on local species and most importantly all of our research will be ethical.

“Our research will include multi-species hatchery techniques for the culture of species which are considered vulnerable or of ecological or commercial importance and lifecycle studies of marine species.”

As well as being a challenging project for Keith and Errin, the marine station has also been a demanding but interesting one for site manager Charlie Young and his team from Border Construction.

“It’s given us the opportunity to work with a lot of new technology,” he said.

“Instead of using metal for the structure all the fixtures are made of fibre glass, down to the screws holding them together so although we’ve done marine work before, for instance on the new sea wall at Burnmouth and the harbour at Eyemouth, this is a very different project for us.

“Day to day I’ve got about 12-16 lads on site and I’d say there’s been as many as 50 different guys have worked down here so far.”

Keith and Errin said that with the emphasis very much on local involvement, they wanted to make sure that they sourced local labour and they’ve achieved their aim, with the only workers not from the region being a small specialist team from Cheshire.

And the couple are keen that the local connection will continue through the rest of the building process and long after the marine station is open to the public.

“There’s a lot going on in the area at the moment. St Abbs has got its new village hall and visitor centre; Coldingham’s got its new post office and interpretation centre and we want the marine station to be another thing the community can be proud of.”

To keep up with the Ssation’s progress visit, follow it on Twitter (@marinestation) or search on Facebook.