The University of Stirling has been ranked among the top 50 research-intensive universities in the UK, in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Stirling’s results, which position it as 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK, demonstrate it has more than doubled its levels of world-leading research since 2008, with almost three quarters of research activity being rated as either internationally excellent or world-leading.
World-leading aquaculture research included two key projects in support of the UK and international salmon farming sector.
The first developed methods to minimise the damaging impact of sea lice – parasites which kill huge numbers of salmon and cost the global fishing industry more than €305 million each year. Scientists in the University’s Institute of Aquaculture (IoA) created an integrated pest management strategy, which includes the use of wrasse, small fish which clean the farmed salmon. This strategy has been adopted in the UK and across all other major salmon producing countries, reducing the economic impact, supporting sustainability and protecting fish welfare.
A second study saw scientists develop sustainable alternatives to marine fish oil. Fish act as the primary source of omega-3 nutrients in our diets, helping to prevent cardiovascular and neurological diseases. High levels of omega-3 can be assured in farmed fish by adding marine fish oil to their feeds, but it became clear that demand for fish oil would rapidly outstrip supply if alternatives were not introduced. Stirling researchers developed the use of vegetable oil as a replacement for fish oil in fish feed, maintaining the nutritional quality of farmed fish and offering a timely solution which has been employed across the global fish farming industry.
Research to help protect the Atlantic salmon industry against the impacts of parasites is a prime example of our aquaculture research. In the REF2014, Stirling\'s aquaculture research scored highly, with 88% being rated as either world-leading or internationally excellent, 12% above the UK average in the Unit of Assessment. 90% of their submitted aquaculture research was considered to be world-leading in terms of impact, all carried out in an environment conducive to producing world-leading research.