Benthic Laboratory

Marine Ecological Surveys Limited was established in 1975 with the express objective of providing authoritative scientific advice to any organisation with an interest in the marine environment.

MESL has worked closely with a wide array of marine industries and has in depth knowledge of working with the marine aggregates industry, the offshore renewables industry, the ports and harbour sector and a broad range of Government departments and organisations.

The company has a proud tradition of providing the highest quality services to these industries and, as a result, we have established a superb reputation across the world for marine science.

The depth of understanding and experience held by MESL enables us to offer high quality benthic faunal analysis.


Benthic Laboratory

MESL has a fully staffed laboratory dedicated to the sieving, sorting, identification, enumeration  and biomass of marine benthic samples. The laboratory staff are solely devoted to the processing of benthic samples ensuring continuity of work and first class results.

The laboratory has the capabilities to process both infaunal, epifanual  and fish samples, from intertidal and subtidal localities reaching as far as brackish water environments.

Our geographical experience ranges from the Oil and Gas fields of the Arctic and Norwegian sectors in the North, to aggregate license areas off all of the English coast, to windfarm developments in both the North and Irish Sea and as far South as Maerl habitats in the Scilly and Channel Isles. It also includes samples from several locations along the African coast ranging from shallow waters to depths of over 2000m.

Hence, MESL taxonomic expertise covers an extremely broad range of depths and habitat types.

Quality Assurance

The laboratory is a leading participant in the National Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control (NMBAQC) scheme. The scheme provides external verification.

Participation in the scheme is a pre-requisite for the analysis of samples acquired by Government agencies and other industries. Within NMBAQC, we participate in Own Sample submission, a full audit of selected samples; and Ring Tests. MESL’s own samples are frequently classified as excellent by the schemes administrators and the MESL lab is always towards the head of the class in the Ring Test component, often achieving results within the top 3.


Regional Environmental Characterisations

BMAPA Regional Seabed Monitoring Programme

Marine Ecological Surveys Limited (MESL) was commissioned by the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA), on behalf of the Marine Aggregate Companies operating in UK waters, to conduct the large-scale Regional Seabed Monitoring Programme (RSMP) of the Humber, Anglian and Thames aggregate extraction regions. These surveys represent the largest commercial benthic surveys commissioned in the UK to date, with over 2,500 grab samples collected and processed from all three regions. MESL were responsible for conducting all of the associated laboratory work which included sample processing, identification of macrofauna, major group biomass and the production of a full reference collection.


MESL was involved in the sampling analysis of 3 large scale  multidisciplinary seabed characterisation surveys which were completed across the South, Humber and East Anglian coastlines. Having played a central role in the delivery of these programmes MESL has developed a deep and detailed knowledge of the habitats and fauna found across these key areas of marine industrial activity.

Ports and Harbours

DP World London Gateway Port

MESL carries out all of the marine environmental monitoring for DP World in relation to the London Gateway port project in the outer Thames estuary. In addition to the annual benthic survey and the biennial epibenthic  fish and invertebrates surveys, MESL also undertake quarterly invertebrate bird food sample analysis on the intertidal mudflats. The laboratory also analyse Cockle (Cerastoderma edule) abundance, size and biomass across Maplin Sands during quarterly sampling surveys.

Natural England Chichester Harbour

MESL were recently comissioned to analyse samples collected from the Chichester Harbour to aid the assessment of the bird food resources present in the mudflats associated with an important Natura 2000 site. MESL completed the sample analysis of the site that was previously examined in 2012 (also by MESL) and prior to that in 2008. MESL has been awarded numerous projects on behalf of Natural England which is a testament to the capability of the team when it comes to accurate sample processing and an excellent knowledge of British fauna. This project in particular demonstrated an ability to identify a vast range of British and alien species from an extremely diverse area of the South coast. 

Renewable Energy

East Anglian Offshore Wind Farm Benthic Characterisation

MESL has been heavily involved with the project since its inception and subsequently designed the survey of the proposed area. This required MESL to gather and analyse approximately 800 grab samples, over 100 trawl samples and close to 1,200 seabed images and 100 video samples from an area covering approximately 6,000 km2.  This project enabled MESL to demonstrate our capabilities for large scale projects and to implement laboratory procedures to enable us to routinely process large sampling projects.


MESL was commissioned by Warwick Energy (Now Vatenfall) to carry out benthic and Monopile colonisation surveys for the Thanet Wind Farm development.; one of the world’s largest operational OWFs. MESL also prepared a full assessment of the distribution of Sabellaria across the site.

Oil and Gas Fields

Gardline Environmental - Alve North Gas Field

MESL has processed samples on behalf of Gardline Environmental from numerous gas and oil fields in the North-east Atlantic including the Alve gas field. These highly diverse samples from the Norwegian sector, were  collected from within the Arctic Circle.  MESL routinely process samples from the Oil and Gas fields of the North Sea and has a wide  and in-depth knowledge of the fauna and habitats found within this industrial region. Additionally, the MESL lab team have processed samples through Gardline from across the North Sea, demonstrating an excellent ability to process samples in an accurate and timely manner.

African Faunal Identification

MESL has undertaken several projects requiring faunal identification of samples from around the coast of Africa on behalf of Gardline Environmental. Locations include the coasts of Ghana, Benin and Morocco. Samples were identified from depths varying from 10m down to over 2000m. These fascinating samples gave MESL’s laboratory staff experience of identification of the fauna around this coast and from mesopelagic and bathypelagic depths. To augment the knowledge gained during these surveys all MESL laboratory staff spent two days at the Natural History Museum in London training on further identification of deep sea specimens from Africa and assisting the NHM in splitting and naming some of their archived material.

Oil Terminal Work

M-Scan and SGS - Sullom Voe

MESL laboratory has repeatedly analysed benthic faunal grab samples from the highly diverse Sullom Voe inlet in Shetland, a unique environment designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).  MESL was also commissioned by the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG) to undertake a complete overhaul of the Sullom Voe survey reference collection, which has been created over the past 40 years of monitoring, bringing this valuable resource up to date.This project has extended MESL’s working knowledge into the Shetland Isles where our knowledge of the regional fauna continues to grow each year. During the course of analysing these samples several interesting taxonomic discoveries were made by our laboratory staff, particularly in the family Sabeliidae, which are being published in peer reviewed journals.

Government Frameworks

MESL are proud to be included on two government frameworks for benthic sample analysis work. Inclusion on these frameworks entitles MESL to undertake benthic sample analysis for government agencies including CEFAS, The Environment Agency, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. MESL have been awarded and completed work on many interesting projects as part of the frameworks.

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