University Marine Biological Station set to celebrate 130th anniversary

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Image of the Marine Biological Station

Opened in 1892, the original Marine Biological Station, located in Port Erin on the Isle of Man, will be celebrating its 130th anniversary in 2022.

Established by the Liverpool Marine Biological Committee in 1892, the Biological Station became a base for dredging excursions in the Irish Sea. In 1919, the University of Liverpool acquired the Station, becoming home to Marine Biology studies until 2006, when it closed its doors.

In the late 19th century, Professor William Herdman FRS, Derby Chair of Natural History to the Liverpool University College (later to become the University of Liverpool), founded the Liverpool Marine Biology Committee in 1885, which two years later opened a research laboratory at Puffin Island, off Anglesey.

In 1892 the station was moved from Puffin Island to a more advantageous position at Port Erin, Isle of Man, where it was later rebuilt to meet the growing demands of research workers.

Students visiting the aquarium at Port Erin Marine Biological Station, Isle of Man, Easter, 1951 [Image courtesy of University of Liverpool Library, Special Collections and Archives]

When the laboratory was acquired by the University of Liverpool in 1919, it became the first place in the British Isles to offer a Marine Biology degree with many studying various aspects of the Irish Sea environment.

Marine Biology students digging for specimens in the sand at Port Erin, 1951 [Image courtesy of University of Liverpool Library, Special Collections and Archives]

In 1992, the station celebrated its centenary with a special exhibition at the Liverpool Museum entitled, ‘The Surround Sea: 100 Years of Manx Marine Biology’. Director of the Port Erin Marine Laboratory, the late Emeritus Professor Trevor Norton opened the celebrations at the Manx Museum, where the exhibition was displayed, before moving to the Liverpool City Museum later in the year. 

‘The Surround Sea: 100 Years of Manx Marine Biology’ exhibition booklet, 1992 [Image courtesy of University of Liverpool Library, Special Collections and Archives]

The exhibition explored the ecology of the Irish Sea using research from the laboratory, along with the threats to marine life presented by commercial fishing, sewage, pollution and radioactivity. Whilst it recognised these threats, the presentation uncovered the truths around the sea and opposed the narrative that it was heavily polluted.

Rushen Heritage Trust is planning a series of activities to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the University Marine Biology Laboratory, including an exhibition, book and short film. If you studied at Port Erin or have information that could help the team’s research, or would like to get involved, please share your memories by filling out this short form.