July – August 2018
Summer Research 2018
The Ecostructure team has made tremendous progress with their fieldwork activities over the past few months. Researchers from Aberystwyth University, University College Dublin, and Bangor University have been working diligently through luxuriously warm weather to understand how artificial structures, in addition to climate change, are altering species compositions along the coastlines of Ireland and Wales.
Using nature as a template, Ecostructure presents creative ecoengineering solutions to mitigating the harmful impacts associated with coastal development and a changing climate. Innovations like artificial tidal rockpools make manmade structures in the marine environment more hospitable for native species, helping reestablish habitats that may have been destroyed by previous development projects. The “Vertipools” shown below were designed by Artecology and will be used in the Ecostructure project to combat biodiversity loss from climate change and sea level rise. By collaboration with like-minded organisations, Ecostructure is able to maximise its positive impacts to all communities of interest.
Native species, however, are not the only beneficiaries of ecoegineering, as pointed out by Dr. Joe Ironside and Dr. Melanie Prentice, Ecostructure researchers from WP 4, ‘Non-native species and biosecurity.’ Artificial coastal structures act as bridges between habitat types, and allow non-native species to expand their ranges and propagate in previously unpopulated regions. Both Dr. Ironside and Dr. Prentice have been investigating how climate change and increased habitat connectivity are driving snail species like the Common Topshell (Phorcus lineatus) and Purple Topshell (Gibbula umbilicalis) northward. With the help of genetic analysis, the Ecostructure team will assess the viability of these immigrating populations, and therein their ability to persist in these new environments.
Annual Ecostructure Steering Committee and Project Meeting
The Ecostructure team at MaREI (University College Cork) were delighted to host the annual Steering Committee and Project Meeting. The meeting agenda was split over two days, with the first day being dedicated to catching up on project progress, informing and receiving feedback from the project steering committee and the second a dedicated meeting for project partners, to discuss project progress for the coming year and to develop communications and collaboration between project partners. Day 1 was held on the main college campus in Cork City while day 2 saw the project partners travel to the MaREI Centre in Ringaskiddy, affording them the opportunity to check out some of the world-class facilities on site.
The meeting was deemed very successful and has laid much of the groundwork for the coming year of Ecostructure activities and beyond, with lots of opportunities for researchers from across the project work packages to establish potential collaborations and cross-overs. For more details on our meeting, check out our Twitter feed!
Summer Fieldwork 2018
Several partners are involved in fieldwork activities for Ecostructure, with researchers from University College Dublin, Aberystwyth University and Bangor University often working together to achieve the maximum amount in the time allocated.
Much fieldwork has taken place over the past year across Ireland and Wales, with the amount expected to accelerate over the fine summer period, researchers showcased the collaborative effort between institutes and work packages during the course of the last project meeting, taking advantage of field trips to conduct research across several thematic areas including examining the ecological condition of existing coastal structures, building in ecologically sensitive design (trialling of new innovative concrete materials, research trials in adapting existing structures to be more ecologically sensitive, eco-engineering solutions), non-native species and biosecurity.
Elsewhere, researchers from University College Dublin involved in the WP5 activities for ‘Society, economy and governance’ have also been highly active in the field, engaging the public with Ecostructure research in different locations within the programme area. Public engagement is a central aspect of WP5, in the development of their Citizen Science platform, the Ecostructure Observatory, which is due for launch in the coming weeks, giving the public the opportunity to engage with and contribute to Ecostructure’s research.
Sampling biodiversity on artificial and natural shores on the Irish Sea, as part of WP2 research
WP5 fieldwork - engaging the public and stakeholders in the work of Ecostructure in Prestatyn, Wales
Fieldwork in Pretatyn, Wales
Fieldwork for WP4 on Malahide Marina
Diving off Malahide Marina collecting samples for WP4 E-DNA sampling
Fitting an alternative concrete material to the rocky shore in Morningston, Meath - these tiles are being tested to see which provides the best surface for the growth of ecological communities
Photo shows one of the trial concrete materials being tested on the Co. Meath coastline
Bangor researchers making the most of the fine weather to collect samples for WP4 research at Porth Dinllean
Aberystwyth University researchers sampling off a Cork Marina, finding the non-native Carpet Sea Squirt (Didemnum vexillum) growing on parts of the marina
Aberystwyth's Melanie Prentice sampling the rocky shore in Ringaskiddy
Europe Day is celebrated annually on the 9th of May as a way of celebrating peace and unity in Europe. Ecostructure researchers are using today to showcase the projects work so far at their respective institutions in Ireland and Wales, along with other projects made possible through funding from the European Union. Researchers from Aberystwyth University (AU) and University College Dublin (UCD) were particularly active in showcasing the work of the project to date, with public events held to give information on the project, including posters, interactive demonstrations, and a chance for the public to meet and speak with our researchers.
Ecostructure is part funded under the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland-Wales Cooperation Programme 2014-2020
Ecostructure researchers from Aberystwyth University (AU) and University College Dublin (UCD) have been busy over the past few weeks, taking advantage of the steadily improving weather to carry out fieldwork for the project. The two university teams collaborated on the first Ecostructure engineering experiment, which consisted of deploying experimental concrete tiles. The tiles are made from 9 different alternative concrete materials, designed and cast by Atteyeh Natanzi and Ciaran McNally from the UCD engineering team.
These tiles were attached to exposed and sheltered surfaces on a rocky breakwater at Mornington, Co. Meath on the east coast of Ireland. Over the next 12 months, our ecologists will continue to monitor the colonisation of the tiles to evaluate which of the concretes provide a better substrate for marine life than others. This research will inform which materials we will choose for further investigation in subsequent experiments next year.
Melanie Prentice from the genetics lab at Aberystwyth University also used to fieldwork time to search the breakwater and surrounding rocky shores for samples of our focal species for population genetics work. Dogwhelks and Nucella lapillus were easy pickings everywhere. Topshells, Phorcus lineatus and Gibbula umbilicalis required a more thorough search! The various streams of fieldwork will inform each other, as it will enable us to understand how artificial structures have affected their dispersal and population connectivity.
In Wales, the Ecostructure team in the University of Bangor continued their research into non-native species in relation to artificial structures on the Irish sea. Researchers were out deploying ‘settlement plates’ onto a Welsh Marina.
Over the summer, these plates will be reexamined to see how the native community of algae and animals affects the invasion rate – the number of new species who settle on the plates.
Researchers from University College Dublin continued the fieldwork on the Irish end, visiting Cork Harbour to carry out more fieldwork and mapping of artificial coastal structures. This fieldwork was made possible thanks to the assistance of the Port of Cork and the Irish Naval Service.
Sustainable Futures Workshop
Ecostructure researchers from the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, UCC and University College Dublin took part in the ‘Sustainable Futures’ Series at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh on March 6th, speaking on climate change implications for coastal communities, the role of eco-engineering in climate change adaptation, and to get feedback on the Ecostructure Observatory – our upcoming citizen science platform, which is in the final stages of development. Great insight, feedback and discussion from the community.
The Ecostructure team in Bangor University recently held a workshop for marina owners and operators from Ireland and Wales, aimed at understanding the sector’s priorities for non-native biosecurity. The workshop highlighted the variety and impact of non-native species for marina in the Irish sea, while briefing the stakeholders in attendance on restrictions, environmental regulation, legislation, advice and guidance, with sector experts providing context and using case studies of non-native invasive species. Pictured below is Siobhán Vye, Ecostructure researcher at Bangor University.
Visit from Welsh Cabinet Secretary
Ecostructure researchers in University College Dublin this week met with the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance Marke Drakeford, as part of his visit to Dublin on Wednesday February 21st. He took the opportunity while visiting UCD to hear about the EU Interegg Ireland Wales projects that the university is involved in, three projects in total – Ecostructure, Acclimatize and Calin. Pictured below L-R: John O’ Sullivan, Tasman Crowe, Orla Feeley (UCD Vice Principal for Research Innovation and Impact), Mark Drakeford, Paul Brooks, Aoife Corcoran and Atteyeh Natanzi
Marinas and Biosecurity Workshop
Ecostructure partners in Bangor University will be hosting a free workshop for marina owners and operators on February 27th. The workshop will focus on understanding the sector’s priorities for non-native species biosecurity. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ECOSTRUCTURE Christmas Newsletter
Our researchers have had a busy 2017! Read all about it here in our Christmas newsletter!
The Ecostructure team would like to wish you all a happy Christmas!
To keep up to date on the project, and learn more about Ecostructure , please click here to subscribe.
BBC and ECOSTRUCTURE
The work of the Ecostructure team at Aberystwyth University recently received some high-profile coverage, with a feature on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on October 25th.
BBC Environmental Analyst Roger Harrabin met with Dr. Pippa Moore to discuss the work of the team in making coastal structures more environmentally and ecologically friendly, in response to increasing climatic and other environmental stress factors.
Pippa took Roger to visit their project study-site at Twywn to record the segment, where holes have been drilled into conventional rock defences as part of a previous study, allowing for colonisation by a range of marine species, thus creating ‘Ecostructures’.
As well as the radio segment, a more comprehensive article was published on BBC News online. The article examines the project at Twywn in more depth, as well as discussing other aspects of the team’s work, such as the development of Reefcrete – an alternative form of concrete, designed to provide more environmental benefits, and the observed results. Both of these previous studies will be built upon by the Ecostructure project to see what else we can learn about their potential to enhance biodiversity.
You can listen back to the radio segment by following this link, and skipping forward to 2:50:00.
The news article is available here at BBC News Science and Environment online at this link, click to learn more!
ECOSTRUCTURE at the Centre for Alternative Technology
ECOSTRUCTURE teams from Aberystrwyth University and University College Dublin attended the Centre for Alternative Technology 2017 conference – 100 Good Ideas. Here they facilitated an audience led discussion and hands on workshop activities on improving the ecological value of sea defences, demonstrating, for example, the principles of drill-cored rock pools.
From the 28th-30th of August, EWTEC were present at the European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference, hosted this year in University College Cork, home of Ecostructure partners MaREI UCC. The conference was attended by over 500 experts across the fields of industry and academia, with a huge diversity of backgrounds and nationalities. The European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC) series are international technical and scientific conferences, focused on ocean renewable energy and widely respected for their commitment to maintain high standards of academic and industrial contributions.
On Friday the 31st, the ECOSTRUCTURE team from MaREI UCC were at the MARINCOMP symposium, held in the National Maritime College of Ireland, Ringaskiddy, which coincided with the end of EWTEC. The MARINCOMP international symposium’s theme was concerned with ‘Novel Composite Materials and Processes for Offshore Renewable Energy’, and was attended by over 60 experts in the field.
Dr. Peter Robins (Bangor), Dr. Ruth Callaway (Swansea), and Kathrin Kopke (UCC) at EWTEC 2017
Ecostructure in Aberystwyth Summer Uni Programme
In August 2017 marine ecologists working on Ecostructure were involved in Summer Uni activities at Aberystwyth University. Students on the Environmental Science course designed their own ‘Ecostructure’ interventions for marine/coastal developments and pitched their ideas as part of their Summer Uni assessment. The activities involved 10 students from around Wales, taking part in the programme designed to prepare them for higher education.
The aim of the activities involving the Ecostructure team was to give the students some foundation knowledge of marine ecology and conservation issues, and to get them working in groups in order to present ideas and scaled models to the class. An important part of this exercise was to show the students that science isn’t just about following scientific methods but that tackling real world conservation issues requires imagination and creativity and can be fun.
For more information, see: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/widening-participation/schoolscolleges/summer-uni/
Check out the 5 minute video of the Reefcrete paper (ECOSTRUCTURE’s first publication). The publication can also be downloaded by clicking on the article below.
New ECOSTRUCTURE Publication
Reefcrete: Reducing the environmental footprint of concretes foreco-engineering marine structures.
Click the image below to access the publication.