Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 11:21 UK

Dolphin lighthouse bought by uni

Cromarty Lighthouse
University staff at Cromarty Lighthouse on the Moray Firth

A university has bought a historic lighthouse it previously leased as a sea life monitoring station.

The University of Aberdeen said Cromarty Lighthouse on the Moray Firth was vital to its work researching seals, dolphins and seabirds.

Designed by engineer Alan Stevenson - an uncle of writer Robert Louis Stevenson - it was withdrawn from service in 2006.

Bottlenose and short-beaked common dolphins are seen in the firth.

Rare whales have also been recorded in its waters.

Two rare northern bottlenose whales were found stranded on the shores of the Moray Firth earlier this month. They later died.

A sperm whale also perished after stranding on a beach.

'Iconic building'

The area also provides habitat for seabirds, such as tern.

Professor Paul Thompson, chair in zoology at the university, has directed research at the Lighthouse Field Station since it was opened in 1990.

He said: "It was sad to see the light turned off after so many years, but purchasing the lighthouse has offered us a unique opportunity to use this iconic building to expand our work."

Seven years ago Aberdeen expanded the station by renovating a building known as the Old Buoy Store.

This now provides teaching and training accommodation for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The light was first lit in 1846 using sperm whale oil.

The lighthouse became automatic in 1985, before the Northern Lighthouse Board later withdrew it from service.

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