Dr Natalie Hicks

        Natalie Hicks during a TV interview with Paul Murton on Loch Etive in spring 2017

Benthic Biogeochemist

Benthic biogeochemist with a strong interest in the processes that occur within marine sediments (coastal, intertidal and shelf), particularly the carbon cycle and impacts of environmental change.

Module leader for Chemical Oceanography; member of MASTS Marine Biogeochemistry forum steering group.

Contact details:

I have a strong interest in understanding processes that occur within marine sediments (coastal, intertidal and shelf), with a particular focus on the carbon cycle.

I use a variety of different approaches, integrating laboratory controlled manipulative experiments (ocean acidification; elevated temperature; simulating carbon capture storage leaks) to observational measurements (oxygen dynamics through incubations or microsensor technology; biogeochemical flux measurements; total carbon content in sediments).

I am interested in understanding the link between productive surface waters and benthic cycling, and have a particular interest in environmental change (ocean acidification; warming; hypoxia).

Recently I have started to integrate my knowledge and experience in benthic ecology and biogeochemistry with understanding the microbial ecology (diversity; community assemblage; metabolism) within sediments. Recent grants have allowed for biomolecular analysis of surface sediments from my experimental set ups, to identify microbial response to manipulative environmental change.

My work aims to provide a solid knowledge foundation that is essential for understanding how biogeochemical processes, are likely to change in future climate scenarios, integrating interactive and independent effects of hypoxia, warming and ocean acidification.


Current research projects

COMPASS (Collaborative Oceanography and Monitoring for Protected Areas and Species). Funded by INTERREG VA / SEUPB. June 2017-21

COVERALL (Novel techniques for seabed monitoring of CO2 leakage and monitoring campaigns based on reservoir, cap rock and overburden migration models). Funded by EPSRC

SSB (Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry Consortium): Funded by NERC.


Selected past projects

UK Ocean Acidification Programme - Benthic Consortium. Funded by NERC. 2010-16

Peer-reviewed publications

Aldridge, J.N., Lessin, G., Amoudry, L.O., Hicks, N., Hull, T., Klar, J.K., et al. (2017). Comparing benthic biogeochemistry at a sandy and a muddy site in the Celtic Sea using a model and observations. Biogeochemistry 135 (1-2), 155-182. doi: 10.1007/s10533-017-0367-0

Currie, A.R., Tait, K., Parry, H., de Francisco Mora, B., Hicks, N., Osborn A.M., Widdicombe S., and Stahl H. (in press) Marine Microbial Gene Abundance and Community Composition in Response to Ocean Acidification and Elevated Temperature in Two Contrasting Coastal Marine Sediments. Frontiers in Microbiology. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01599/abstract

Ingels, J., dos Santos, G., Hicks, N., Valdes Vazquez, Y., Fernandes Neres, P., Pereira Pontes, L., Ammorim, M.N., Roman, S., Du, Y., Stahl, H., Somerfield, P.J., Widdicombe W. (in press, available online) Short-term CO2 exposure and temperature rise effects on metazoan meiofauna and free-living nematodes in sandy and muddy sediments: Results from a flume experiment. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2017.07.012

Thompson, C.E.L., Silburn, B., Williams, M.E., Hull, T., Sivyer, D., Amoudry, L.O., Widdicombe, S., Ingels, J., Carnovale, G., McNeill, C.L., Hale, R., Laguionie Marchais, C., Hicks, N., Smith, H.E.K., Klar, J.K., Hiddink, J.G., Kowalik, J, Kitidis, V., Reynolds, S., Woodward, E.M.S., Tait, K., Homoky, W.B, Kröger, S., Bolam, S., Godbold, J.A., Aldridge, J., Mayor, D.J, Benoist, N.M.A., Bett, B.J., Morris, K.J., Parker E.R., Ruhl, H.A., Statham, P.J., and Solan, M. (2017) An approach for the identification of exemplar sites for scaling up targeted field observations of benthic biogeochemistry in heterogeneous environments, Biogeochemistry. doi: 10.1007/s10533-017-0366-1

Hicks, N., Ubbara, G.R., Silburn, B., Smith, H.E.K., Kröger, S., Parker, E.R., Sivyer, D.B.,Kitidis, V., Hatton, A., Mayor, D.J. and Stahl, H. (2017) Oxygen dynamics in shelf seas sediments incorporating seasonal variability, Biogeochemistry, 1-13 doi:10.1007/s10533-017-0326-9

Silburn, B., Kröger, S., Parker, E.R., Sivyer, D.B., Hicks, N., Powell, C.F., Johnson, M. and Greenwood, N. (2017) Benthic pH gradients across a range of shelf sea sediment types linked to sediment characteristics and seasonal variability, Biogeochemistry doi:10.1007/s10533-017-0323-z

Hicks, N., Vik, U., Taylor, P., Ladoukakis, E., Park, J., Kolisis, F., and Jakobsen, K. S (2016) Utilisation of prokaryotes in Carbon Capture Storage, Trends in Biotechnology,1413, 1-11, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2016.06.011

Hicks, N., Vik, U., Taylor, P., Ladoukakis, E., Park, J., Kolisis, F., Stahl, H., and Jakobsen, K. S (2015) Reviews and synthesis: Carbon capture and storage monitoring – an integrated biological, biophysical and chemical approach, Biogeosciences Discuss., 12, 8909-8937, doi:10.5194/bgd-12-8909-2015

Hicks, N., Bulling, M.T., Solan, M., Raffaelli, D.G., White, P.C.L. and Paterson, D.M. (2011) “Impact of biodiversity-climate futures on primary production and metabolism in a model benthic estuarine system” BMC Ecology 11: 7

Bulling, M.T., Hicks, N., Murray, L., Paterson, D.M., Raffaelli, D., White, P.C.L., Solan, M. (2010) Marine biodiversity-ecosystem functions under uncertain environmental futures. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. 365: 1549: 2107-2116


Other publications

Tett P, Benjamins S, Black KD, Coulson M, Davidson K, Fernandes T, Fox C, Hart M, Hicks N, Hughes A, Hunter D-C, Nickell T, Risch D, Tocher D, Vare L, Vespoor E, Wilding T, Wilson B, Wittich A (2018) Review of the environmental impacts of salmon farming in Scotland. Report for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee. The Scottish Parliament, 196 pp.

Burrows, M.T., Hughes, D.J., Austin, W.E.N., Smeaton, C., Hicks, N., Howe, J.A., Allen, C., Taylor, P.  & Vare, L.L. (2017) Assessment of Blue Carbon Resources in Scotland’s Inshore Marine Protected Area Network. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 957

Hicks, N., Stahl, H., Kamenos, N., Paterson, D. & Burdett, H. (2014) Science Scotland, Summer, 15, p. 32-37 6 p. (published by Royal Society of Edinburgh) Time for Action? Forum: Climate Change

Hicks, N. (2014) “The sky is the limit" for Dr Natalie Hicks, Glasgow Science Centre, http://www.glasgowsciencecentre.org/science/qthe-sky-is-the-limitq-for-dr-natalie-hicks.html

Hicks, N. (2013) ‘Ocean acidification – much more than a hot research topic’ Ocean Challenge 20: Summer 2013



SAGES Annual Science Meeting “Blue carbon in Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas”, 22-24th August 2016, Oban (presenting author)

Challenger Society Conference “Modelling biogeochemistry in the Celtic Sea using ERSEM”, September 2016, Liverpool (co-author, poster)

Challenger Society Conference “Benthic pH profiles – a seasonal and spatial study in UK shelf sea regions (Celtic and North Sea)”, September 2016, Liverpool (co-author, poster)

EGU General Assembly 2016 “Carbon budgets and potential blue carbon stores in Scotland’s coastal and marine environment” 17–22nd April 2016, Vienna (co-author)

ASLO/AGU Ocean Sciences Conference “Benthic Carbon Cycling in Celtic Sea sediments: a spatial and seasonal study”, 21-26th February 2016, New Orleans (presenting author)

AMBIO Conference “The relative contribution of different sediments to carbon cycling in the Celtic Sea”, 5-7th January 2016, Oxford (presenting author)

ASLO/AGU Ocean Sciences Conference “Sediment driven benthic biogeochemistry changes due to a simulated carbon dioxide leak from a sub-seabed carbon capture and storage reservoir”   February 2015, San Francisco (co-author)

PRiMES “Carbon Capture and Storage: The impact on benthic biogeochemistry in the event of a diffusive leak from a sub-seabed storage reservoir”  20-21st November 2014, Oban (co-author, poster)

MASTS ASM “Oxygen dynamics of coastal sediments under ocean acidification and elevated temperature regimes” 27-29th August 2014, Heriott Watt University (presenting author)

UKOA Conference “Benthic biogeochemistry in permeable and cohesive sediments under Ocean Acidification and temperature regimes” 26-28th June 2013, St Andrews (presenting author)

Maremap Conference “Ocean acidification: mapping change” November 2012, Oban, (presenting author)

Life in High CO2 World Symposium   “Effects of Ocean Acidification on Benthic Biogeochemistry and Primary Production” 24-27th September 2012, Monterey Bay (presenting author)

Consultancy and industry experience

I have recently worked on a consultancy project to identify the potential of carbon sequestration and storage in Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas.


Accessing consultancy services from SAMS

SAMS consultancy work is delivered through its wholly owned commercial subsidiary, SAMS Research Services Ltd. (SRSL). SRSL operates a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS) that is accredited to ISO9001:2008 standard, guaranteeing that all projects deliver the best possible service to our customers. All SRSL projects are planned by a professional programme manager who oversees a team of dedicated project managers, all of whom are focussed specifically on client delivery, and have scientific experience and technical expertise in fields relevant to their assigned projects.

For further information concerning commercial enterprise opportunities at SAMS, please contact SRSL by email (info@srsl.com) or phone +44 (0) 1631 559 470.


Marine Science BSc: Module leader for the year 2 'Chemical Oceanography' module - lectures, fieldtrip, 4 practicals

Marine Science BSc: Lecturer on year 4 'Defining the Marine Carbon Cycle' module - lectures on ocean acidification and oxygen

Marine Science BSc: Lecturer on year 1 'Fundamentals of Marine Chemistry' module - lecture and practical on pH and ocean acidity

I also contribute to training on NewDEPOMOD


Alumni research students

Daniel Burt: Defining total oxygen consumption in regions of restricted exchange: A case study of a Scottish fjord. BSc dissertation. UHI. 2016-17

Stacey Felgate: Assessing a salt marsh carbon stock: Using dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) δ13C and Δ14C ratios to characterise organic matter respiration and blue carbon stability within a C4 dominated East Coast US salt marsh. Carnegie scholarship 2014-15. BSc dissertation. UHI. 2016-17

Connor McKnight: Mercury contamination of Arctic marine sediments in relation to sedimentary characteristics: Svalbard, Norwegian Arctic. BSc dissertation. UHI. 2015-16

Christopher Welsh: Impact of Ocean Acidification on Plastic and Bioplastic Degradation in the Marine Environment. BSc dissertation. UHI. 2014-15

Natasha Hill: Calcification of non-living cold-water coral skeletons under ocean acidification. MSc dissertation. University of St Andrews. 2014

Sarah Doherty: The effects of ocean acidification upon coralline algae metabolic function: The impacts of end-of-century pCO₂ levels upon Lithothamnion glaciale respiration, calcification, growth rates and dimethylsulphide (DMSO) production. MSc dissertation. University of St Andrews. 2014

Professional activities

MASTS Marine Biogeochemistry Forum: Steering Group Member

Associate editor for Journal of Marine Biological Association

Co-convener for Challenger Society’s special interest group conference – AMBIO (Advances in Marine BIOgeochemistry) Sep 2017 at SAMS

Invited speaker: University of St Andrews Seminar series: “Blue carbon: blue sky thinking on Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas?” 26 Jan 2017


Media coverage

Media coverage (press releases etc) for recent paper

Cited in article on OA and role of laboratory experiments

Featured in BBC One Scotland 'Grand Tours of Scotland's Lochs' Series 1:1 Legends of the West. Paul Murton explores the wilds of Loch Etive. 4 Sep 2017 7:30 pm

Employment history

2014-present  Researcher in benthic biogeochemistry and environmental change. SAMS

2010-14  PDRA in the effects of ocean acidification on benthic biogeochemistry. SAMS



2011 PhD Marine benthic ecology. University of St Andrews

2007 BSc (Hons - 1st class) zoology. University of Aberdeen