Dr Mark Coulson


Mark Coulson

Rivers and Lochs Institute


+44 (0)1463 273576

Inverness College UHI
Research Hub
1 Inverness Campus

My background is in molecular ecology and population genetics. I have a B.Sc (Hons) from the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada), a Masters of Science from Memorial University (Canada) and a Ph.D in from Dalhousie University (Canada). I moved to Scotland in 2009 to take a position with the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland on a project entitled “Focusing Atlantic Salmon Management On Populations” and was involved with the EU SALSEA-MERGE Project. I joined Inverness College UHI in 2014 as a Researcher with the Rivers and Lochs Institute, focusing on aquatic biodiversity genomics. I have previously taught modules in Introductory Genetics, Evolution, Molecular Ecology and Molecular Ecology Laboratory Techniques.

Research Interests

  • The application of genetics to fisheries management
  • Identification of population genetic structure
  • Genetic estimates of population size / number of breeders
  • Phylogeography
  • Genetic parentage analysis
  • Environmental DNA (eDNA) and metabarcoding

Current projects

Development of optimal molecular markers of domestication in Atlantic salmon for assessing introgression in wild populations

Assessment of salmon stocks in Scotland: integrating genetics

Development of DNA-based metagenomics methodologies for seabed monitoring and aquaculture management

The application of environmental DNA in detecting invasive American signal crayfish in Scotland

Upper Garry salmon restoration project

Past projects

Postgraduate Student Supervision

  • Stuart Bence – PhD (Supervisor)
  • Evan Roderick – PhD (Supervisor)
  • Ruth Whelan – PhD (Supervisor)
  • Liz White – Masters by Research (Director of Studies)


Gilbey J, Coughlan J, Wennevik V, Prodöhl P, Stevens JR, Garcia de Leaniz C, Ensing D, Cauwelier E, Cherbonnel C, Consuegra S, Coulson MW, Cross T, Crozier W, Dillane E, Ellis J, Garcia-Vazquez E, Griffiths AM, Gudjonsson S, Hindar K, Karlsson S, Knox D, Machado-Shiaffino G, Meldrup D, Nielsen EE, Olafsson K, Primmer C, Prusov S, Stradmeyer L, Vaha J-P, Veselov AJ, Webster LMI, McGinnity P, Verspoor E (online early) A microsatellite baseline for genetic stock identification of European Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.). ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsx184.

Cauwelier E, Verspoor E, Coulson MW, Armstrong A, Knox D, Stradmeyer L, Webster LMI, Gilbey (online early) Ice sheets and genetics: insights into the phylogeography of Scottish Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L. Journal of Biogeography, doi: 10.1111/jbi.13097.

Glover KA, Solberg MF, McGinnity P, Hindar K, Verspoor E, Coulson MW, Hansen MM, Araki H, Skaala O, Svasand T (2017) Genetic interactions between farmed and wild Atlantic salmon: a review of 40 years of research. Fish and Fisheries, 18, 890-927.

Gilbey J, Cauwelier E, Coulson MW, Stradmeyer L, Sampayo J, Armstrong A, Verspoor E, Corrigan L, Shelley J, Middlemas S (2016) Accuracy of assignment of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) to rivers and regions in Scotland and northeast England based on single nucleotide polymorphism markers. PLoS One, 11, e0164327.

Coulson MW, Webster LMI, Williams K, Armstrong A, Cauwelier E, Stradmeyer L, Gilbey J, Sinclair C, Verspoor E (2013) An overview of population genetic structuring of Atlantic salmon in the Ness & Beauly Fisheries Trust. Marine Scotland Science Report Series, 17/13. [part of a series 22 of reports delivered as part of “Focusing Atlantic Salmon Management On Populations (FASMOP). Individual reports can be found here]

Coulson MW, Denti D, van Guelpen L, Miri C, Kenchington E, Bentzen P (2011) DNA barcoding of Atlantic Canadian skates and rays. Molecular Ecology Resources, 11, 968-978.

Bradbury IR*, Coulson MW*, Campana SE, Paterson IG, Bentzen P (2011) Contemporary nuclear and mitochondrial genetic clines in a north temperate estuarine fish reflect Pleistocene vicariance. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 438, 207-218 (*joint first authors).

Bradbury IR, Coulson MW, Cook AM, Bentzen P (2010) Evidence for divergence and adaptive isolation in post-glacially derived bimodal allopatric and sympatric rainbow smelt populations. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 101, 583-594.

Coulson MW, Bentzen P (2009) Bay-scale population differentiation among anadromous rainbow smelt. Pages 831-834 in AJ Haro, KL Smith, RA Rulifson, CM Moffitt, RJ Klauda, MJ Dadswell, RA Cunjak, JE Cooper, KL Beal, TS Avery (eds.). Challenges for diadromous fishes in a dynamic global environment. American Fisheries Society Symposium, 69, Bethesda, Maryland.

Bradbury IR, Coulson MW, Campana SE, Baggs E, Bentzen P (2009) Postglacial recolonization and the loss of anadromy in rainbow smelt from coastal Newfoundland. Pages 76-96 in AJ Haro, KL Smith, RA Rulifson, CM Moffitt, RJ Klauda, MJ Dadswell, RA Cunjak, JE Cooper, KL Beal, TS Avery (eds.). Challenges for diadromous fishes in a dynamic global environment. American Fisheries Society Symposium, 69, Bethesda, Maryland.

Marshall HD, Coulson MW, Carr SM (2009) Near neutrality, rate heterogeneity, and linkage govern mitochondrial genome evolution in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and other gadine fish. Molecular Biology & Evolution, 26, 579-589.

Coulson MW, Bradbury IR, Bentzen P (2006) Temporal differentiation: continuous versus discontinuous spawning runs in anadromous rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax). Journal of Fish Biology, 69, 209-216.

Bradbury IR, Coulson MW, Campana SE, Bentzen P (2006) Morphological and genetic differentiation in anadromous smelt (Osmerus mordax) along eastern Canada: disentangling the effects of distance and selection on gene flow. Journal of Fish Biology, 69, 96-114.

Coulson MW, Marshall HD, Pepin P, Carr SM (2006) Mitochondrial genomics of Gadine fish: implications for taxonomy and biogeographic origins. Genome, 49, 1115-1130.

Coulson MW, Paterson IG, Green A, Kepkay R, Bentzen P (2006) Characterization of di- and tetranucleotide microsatellite markers in rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax). Molecular Ecology Notes, 6, 942-944.

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