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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton


We have a range of facilities housed within the National Oceanography Centre Southampton that are used for research and for student project work. These facilities are also available for external projects.

GAU-Radioanalytical (GAU)   Research vessels  Rock Preparation and Thin-Sectioning Laboratory Research aquarium  Pressure lab  Coral Reef Laboratory   Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory  X-Ray Diffraction Facility  Scanning Electron Microscope Facility   Stable Isotope Mass-spectrometry   Inorganic Elemental and Isotopic Analysis by ICP-MS  Carbonate Chemistry Facility   Dissolved Inorganic and Organic Nutrient Facility   High Resolution Marine Geophysics   3D Chirp   OBIC   Seafloor EM   Coastal Laboratories   Organic Geochemistry   Environmental Sequencing Facility

GAU-Radioanalytical (GAU)

GAU-Radioanalytical Laboratories (GAU) is a University of Southampton Industrial Advisory Unit and is an experienced academic and commercial group supporting radioanalytical contracts and research and development for academic, nuclear, defence, government, and industrial sectors (including mineral/petroleum extraction, pharmaceutical and animal foodstuffs).

Our expertise in radiometric analysis, radioanalytical project management, R&D and training is widely recognised. Our capability is underpinned by highly skilled staff, state-of-the-art facilities, and high impact publications covering the nuclear, chemical and geochemical sectors. Some of our services include alpha, beta and gamma spectrometry, 3H, 14C, 36Cl and 129I analysis, and mass spectrometry and is available to in-house researchers and external clients.

GAU is a UKAS accredited laboratory (BS EN ISO/IEC 17025:2005).

Please visit the GAU page for more information.

Research vessels

Our Research Vessel Callista, a 19.75m catamaran designed and equipped for a range of coastal and shelf research, is used by staff and students for a range of fieldwork and research. She is equipped with basic standard equipment, but can be further fitted from our range of oceanographic field equipment to suit individual requirements. R.V. Callista is available for commercial hire.

Rock Preparation and Thin-Sectioning Laboratory

The main activity of the thin section facility is making sections of geological samples for teaching and research. Sections can be prepared for examination by light microscopy, electron probe, laser ablation, SEM etc. Preparations include 'standard' (30μm) thin sections, polished thin sections and polished blocks. These services are available to industry, research and academic staff. For further information, contact Dan Doran.

Research aquarium

We have a multi-use aquarium, with a variety of tanks and facilities for keeping and handling live specimens. In the entrance, large observation tanks contain different biotopes, displaying animals from a variety of habitats, including seagrass beds and rocky shores.

We also have a shallow open tank that simulates a rock pool environment and this has anemones and cryptic fish. The rest of the aquarium has various types of holding tanks suited to small fish and invertebrates that need to be easily accessed and monitored. Some are glass for all round viewing, while others have solid sides and are open only at the top to minimise disturbance. Wet and dry benches are used to set up experiments in controlled systems and with replicates. For further information, contact Robbie Robinson (Aquarium Technician), tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6047.

Pressure lab (hyperbaric aquarium)

The pressure lab enables us to study deep-sea organisms under pressurised conditions. It is based around two IPOCAMPs (Incubateur Pressurisé pour l’Observation et la Culture d’Animaux Marins Profonds). The lab is also equipped with a number of smaller pressure vessels that are also used to study the effects of pressure on the ecology and physiology of marine invertebrates. For further information visit the pressure lab site.

Coral Reef Laboratory

Our Coral Reef Laboratory propogates and studies a broad range of corals and other cnidarians in a multi-compartment aquarium system circulating more than 4200 litres of artificial seawater. Complemented by a coral reef display tank used for propogation and teaching, it supports experimentation under tightly controlled conditions. For further information, contact Prof Jörg Wiedenmann, Director, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6497.

Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory

The Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory houses a list of state-of-the-art instrumentation as well as a shielded room to support paleomagnetism, rock and mineral magnetism, magnet stratigraphy, and palaeoenvironment related research. With instruments including a Princeton Measurements Corporation MicroMag 3900 Vibrating Sample Magnetometer and an AGICO KLY4S Kappabridge, magnetic properties of samples can be studied in detail at a range of temperatures to determine the concentration, grain size, and mineralogy of magnetic particles in samples. A 2G Enterprises Superconducting Rock Magnetometer provides the capability to rapidly and accurately measure the natural and various laboratory-induced magnetic remanence for continuous and discrete samples. For further information, contact Dr Chuang Xuan, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6401.

X-Ray Diffraction Facility

The X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) facility is a teaching and research resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff within Ocean and Earth Science, providing a service for the qualitative or quantitative analysis of powdered geological rock samples. The facilities are also available to researchers within other University departments and commercial clients. For further information concerning the XRD analysis of geological samples, contact Dr Richard Pearce, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6477/6518.

Scanning Electron Microscope Facility

The Scanning Electron Microscope facility is a research and teaching resource available for use by staff, postgraduate students and final year undergraduate students. The facilities are also available to researchers within other University departments and commercial clients. The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) facility was established in 2001, originally funded by NERC, the University of Southampton and Carl Zeiss SMT Ltd, to support high-resolution palaeoceanographical, palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental research. For further information or to discuss your requirements contact Dr Richard Pearce, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6477/6518.

Stable Isotope Mass-spectrometry

The Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Laboratory is a research and teaching facility available for use by staff and students. The facility's function is to measure stable isotope rations of various materials. For further information, contact Bastian Hambach, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6573, Professor Paul Wilson, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6164 or Dr Steven Bohaty, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3040.

Inorganic Elemental and Isotopic Analysis by ICP-MS

We are equipped to carry out a wide range of inorganic analyses using a variety of different techniques with a diverse range of applications including environmental, geological, nuclear, and oceanographic. Our instrumentation comprises of two Thermo Fisher Neptune multi collector Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometers (ICP-MS), a high resolution Thermo Fisher Element ICP-MS, a Thermo Fisher XSeries 2 quadrapole ICP-MS and a Thermo Fisher Triton Plus Thermal Ionisation Mass Spectrometer. The instrumentation is supported by a suite of clean chemistry and general laboratories for sample preparation work. For further details of the instruments and our capabilities please click here, for information on our commercial services please click here. For more information, contact Professor Andy Milton.

Carbonate Chemistry Facility

The NERC-funded Carbonate Chemistry Facility analyses seawater samples for carbonate chemistry variables, and has state-of-the-art instrumentation.

Advice is provided on sampling, sample handling and storage. We also undertake carbonate chemistry calculations following total alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon analysis, providing pCO2, pH and other carbonate chemistry variables. For further information, contact Dr Cynthia Dumousseaud.

Dissolved Inorganic and Organic Nutrient Facility

This is our facility to analyse dissolved organic carbon and total dissolved nitrogen in seawater and freshwater samples. The NERC facility analyses seawater samples using state-of-the-art instrumentation (Shimadzu TOV V CPN-TN). Advice is provided on sampling, sample handling and storage. For further information, contact Dr Cynthia Dumousseaud.

High Resolution Marine Geophysics

We have 20 years experience of collecting high resolution geophysical data for research projects as diverse as small object detection (including forensic work); wreck based surveys; Quaternary natural and archaeological landscape studies; neotectonics; and large scale sedimentological and structural analysis. We have acquired data in settings as diverse as Icelandic lakes; offshore New Zealand; the Corinth Rift; Windermere in the Lake District; and the Indus Fan.

The group has its own Chirp, Boomer and Sparker sources. These can be recorded with a single channel hydrophone onto a Coda acquisition system, or using a 60-channel 1m group spacing multichannel hydrophone onto a Geometrics Strataview recorder. The group also has several multibeam systems (Reson 8160, 7101, 8125) and a Geoacoustics sidescan sonar system. This enables to acquire data from water depths of 2000m to the coastal strip.

We also have the capability to process and interpret this wide range of data through a combination of packages including: Promax 2D and 3D; Caris 7.1; Fledermaus 7.3; Kingdom Suite; and Petrel 2011.2. We have also developed a series of quantitative analytical techniques for: the automated bedform analysis of swath (and other XYZ) datasets; and the remote determination of physical properties from acoustic data. We also have extensive experience of bringing in data from third party sources for processing and interpretation. For further information please contact Prof Justin Dix:  +44 (0)23 8059 3057

3D Chirp

3D Chirp is a surface-towed sub-bottom profiling system capable of imaging the upper tens of metres of the sub-surface in three dimensions with decimetric horizontal and centimetric vertical resolution. This system was developed by the University of Southampton in collaboration with GeoAcoustics Ltd. The combination of the known, highly repeatable Chirp source, with the coherent processing and interpretation afforded by true 3D seismic volumes provides the perfect base for shallow-water engineering, archaeology, military, and geological studies.


The Ocean Bottom Instrumentation Consortium aims to provide the academic and commercial communities with access to multi-sensor, versatile seabed instruments to enable sub-surface geophysical imaging at high vertical and lateral resolution. We have 50 seabed platforms with hydrophones and 3-component short period geophones; 14 instruments can be deployed as electric field receivers for active EM experiments; 9 instruments can be deployed with differential pressure gauges for long-term earthquake studies. Broadband seismic receivers are currently under development. NERC-funded projects are carried out under Pay as You Go terms as part of the Geophysical Equipment Facility; these costs appear on grant proposals but may be outside of the £1.2M cap on standard grants.

Seafloor EM

The University is equipped to carry out field research programmes in CSEM surveys - for both academic and applied research topics. Our equipment base includes:

The combination of DASI and Vulcan allows sub-bottom profiling of the top 100 m of the seafloor. This approach can be applied to map shallow gas hydrate deposits as well as any resistive features in the seafloor at this depth range. The depth sensitivity can be increased by extending the 300 m offset from DASI.

Coastal Laboratories

The geology and geophysics research group operates three coastal laboratories focusing on the study of coastal and shelf sea hydrodynamics and sediment dynamics. Our Coastal Processes and the Coastal Dynamics labs host a range of straight, recirculating and annular flumes equipped with a variety of high-frequency instruments and sensors, and are used for teaching and research into boundary layers, sediment transport and scour, submarine gravity flows and flow/sediment interactions with biota. The Sediment Analysis Lab is equipped with a range of tools used to analyse cohesive and non-cohesive sediment samples, including particle size distribution, grain texture and composition, and bulk sample properties; including a settling column and a Laser Sizer.

Organic Geochemistry

The new Organic Geochemistry Facility, part of the SEAPORT Carbon Laboratories, represents a major expansion of the geochemical capabilities at the University of Southampton. Led by Dr Jessica Whiteside the Facility is housed in new, purpose built laboratory spaces and hosts a variety of new instruments designed to comprehensively characterize organic matter from the environment and the geological record. The facility has dedicated sample preparation lab, wet chemistry lab space, and an instrumentation lab utilizing state of the art automated gas and liquid chromatographs linked to various mass spectrometers, including a GC-isotope ratio mass spectrometer. For further information please contact Dr Jessica Whiteside or Dr Sargent Bray.

Environmental Sequencing Facility

The Environmental Sequencing Facility provides a range of next-generation sequencing and analysis services using the latest cutting-edge technologies. Our experienced staff offer a wealth of knowledge in this field and understand the complex requirements of modern research environments.

We are able to provide services covering the whole next-generation sequencing workflow, including: Advice on experimental design, Library preparation & quality control, Sequencing, Bioinformatic data analysis and interpretation, Quotes for grant applications. For further information, contact Dr Alison Baylay, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6446

Diving facilities

We maintain a diving team to support underwater research.

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Research aquarium

Our aquarium has a variety of tanks and facilities to meet the requirements for live and fresh marine material.

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Research vessel

Callista, our research vessel is based at our NOCS waterfront site

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Experts in Enterprise

Many of our facilities and expert services are available to external business or industry

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