IMS Pontoon; 18th June 2019

Institute of Marine Sciences

Read about the research we do below

The Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) is a marine station with an international reputation for providing high quality marine research and teaching. It's been at the forefront of marine biology for more than 70 years.

IMS is located within metres of the sea on the shore of Langstone Harbour. It provides access to the varied marine ecosystems of the Solent European Marine Site, which are rich in bio-fouling organisms.

IMS has a fully marine, floating research platform permanently moored in Langstone Harbour. The platform is used for exposure trials and a range of in situ research and monitoring. Our 5.4m research vessel, the RV Calypso, is available for inshore surveying and sampling. We also have a £2 million aquarium and laboratory suite.

Marine science students and researchers use our facilities to monitor and test marine environments and seawater. This includes looking at how humans impact marine ecosystems and how materials react to different marine environments. 

The research conducted at IMS is multidisciplinary. Strong research links exist between the School of Biological Sciences, the University of Portsmouth Environmental Network (UPEN), the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the wider research community.

Our exceptional marine facilities are also available for visiting researchers and commercial use. External organisations that have used our facilities include QinetiQ, the Building Research Establishment (Bre), Thales, Balmoral Offshore Engineering, and the Research Council of Norway.

Facilities and equipment

Explore the exceptional facilities at the Institute of Marine Sciences, all of which play a vital role in our teaching and research activities.

Aquatic centre

Our purpose-built 318m2 aquatic centre houses an aquarium and seawater system. The seawater is sourced directly from Langstone Harbour. Twin switching pumps on a pontoon supply seawater to our compound at a rate of 10 L/s.

The seawater is processed via a settlement system with glass media filtration and serves two independent lines delivered to the aquatic centre. The processed seawater includes an integrated heater/chiller system with a range of 10°C–25°C enabling temperature controlled experiments and ambient seawater experiments. Flow-through and re-circulating seawater systems are also available.

Our large wet lab is fitted with a flexible plumbing system and a large range of different volume tanks, in addition to our outdoor aquarium tanks (30–5000L). This facility allows several hundred tanks to be run with either ambient or temperature-controlled sea-water for experimental research or holding tanks.

The facilities in our aquatic centre are available for hire. We also offer research services, from treating wood samples to exposure testing of novel building materials 

The aquatic centre also contains:


  • Quarantine rooms for non-native species
  • Living specimen preparation rooms
  • Five experimental aquarium rooms with independent temperature and light control
  • Staff changing room
  • Molecular and general laboratories
  • A flat roof with access for exposure, observation and monitoring trials

Shallow water research and testing platform

This is a large research platform permanently moored in the centre of Langstone harbour. This is a unique facility available for short and long-term marine monitoring and submersion trials.

Regular samples can be collected from panels and other structures deployed on the platform. Instruments or panels may be immersed at any level from the surface to the sea bed, and equipment can be attached to the platform above the water.

The platform can also be used for marine remote sensing equipment and tidal turbine trials. There is a secured area with an access hatch down into the harbour water column.

The platform can be hired on a short or long-term basis. We offer efficacy testing and exposure trials of novel marine antifouling products, and biofilm testing and analysis.

RV Calypso and RV Noctiluca

The RV Calypso is a 5.4m high-speed shallow draft dory available for inshore and intertidal work within the Solent European Marine Site (SEMS) and surrounding area.

The RV Noctiluca has the capability to sample offshore within the Solent and beyond, and complements the current inshore RV Calypso.

The 12.5m Noctiluca can carry up to 12 students plus 2 crew. It is an integral part of the teaching across all years for our BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and MSc Applied Aquatic Biology. Postgraduate students and researchers also use the vessel, and it can be used for commercial activity.

Boat arriving at pontoon with student standing

RV Calypso arriving at the Langstone harbour research platform.

Lecture theatre and teaching laboratory

The teaching building at IMS is a well-equipped learning centre in a fantastic location with surrounding sea views. 

Teaching facilities include:

  • Lecture theatre with 120 seats
  • Teaching laboratory with 72 work stations, each equipped with compound and dissection microscopes
  • Supporting preparation room for technical staff
  • Seawater on tap

Commercial services

The excellent facilities in the IMS are available for commercial use. We also have a marine consultancy and extensive marine expertise.

We specialise in a wide range of commercial research including marine efficacy testing of antifouling products, biofilm growth and characterisation, immersion and exposure testing of novel building materials (including sample analyses and report writing), treated wood analyses, and marine micro-plastics. 

We service industries from marine and maritime, construction (marine and terrestrial), renewable energies, engineering and utility providers.

To contact us about using our facilities or services, please email