Project News & Updates
2020 Annual Project Newsletter
We’re hiring! We’re looking for full-time Research Assistant to join the Aberystwyth University team supporting our marine biology and eco-engineering work.
This fieldwork-rich position involves looking at novel eco-engineering designs for juvenile lobsters, with plenty of boat-based, intertidal, and acoustic telemetry surveys. You’ll also be researching crustacean use of wind farm footprints.
Closing date is January 27 – so there’s still time to get an application in.
For information on how to apply and for more details, visit https://jobs.aber.ac.uk/en/vacancy/research-assistant-403149.html.
2019 Annual Project Newsletter
Our 2019 Project Newsletter is now online, with everything you need to know about our research progress, events, and accomplishments over 2019.
It’s been quite a busy year, from eco-engineering designing, prototyping, and testing to genetic analyses of invasive species, a BBC News feature to coralline algae transplant experiments. We’re really looking forward to continuing this work into 2020.
Ecostructure Featured in Bangor Uni Newsletter
Ecostructure researchers Dr. Peter Lawrence and Dr. Paul Brooks were featured in the latest issue of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences newsletter for their brilliant work participating in June’s Festival of Discovery.
Also included in the newsletter is a feature from 2nd year Marine Biology student Thea Moule, who assisted Dr. Melanie Prentice on Work Package 4 research exploring the environmental tolerance of invasive species Didemnum vexillum.
New Time Lapse Video of Tile Installation
What does eco-engineering look like? Mix equal parts muscle and power tools, add two sturdy wellies, stir in a generous portion of careful observation, and bake for two days in just the right amount of Irish sun. Et voila: two sites installed in two days.
Dr. Paul Brooks took the time to set up this great time-lapse of our University College Dublin team installing some brand new topographic tiles. The tiles are part of Ecostructure experiments to test the ability of eco-engineering enhancements to boost biodiversity. By mimicking the surface complexity found naturally on rocky shores, we can create space for nature on man-made coastal structures.
Ecostructure shoutout in the Financial Times
Eco-engineering is steadily gaining more traction in the media. A recent Financial Times article featured Israel’s use of an eco-friendly building material called Econcrete, with a nice mention of the Ecostructure project. Dr. Ally Evans, Ecostructure researcher at Aberystwyth University, was quoted discussing the low biodiversity found on concrete coastal structures like sea walls.
Such structures “tend to be poor quality habitats when they replace natural habitats,” says Ally Evans, an Aberystwyth university researcher involved with Ecostructure, a project in Wales and Ireland that promotes coastal defences that benefit the environment. “They support quite weedy species and only tough things can survive on them, and it tends to be because of the quite simple uniform design of the materials.”
Econcrete, founded by Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Ido Sella, is a company producing concrete for marine construction “that it says is less harmful to the environment and encourages the coastal ecosystem, at only a marginal increase in cost at scale without undermining structural integrity.”
Read the article at https://www.ft.com/content/83e3181c-b785-11e9-8a88-aa6628ac896c. To learn more about Econcrete, visit their website at https://econcretetech.com.
New Information Boards at Experiment Sites
The coastal built environment is full of structures for human purposes, from piers and marinas to sea walls and breakwaters. As the impacts of climate change become more apparent, more structures will be built to protect shorelines and coastal communities from sea level rise, flooding, and storm surge. These structures, however, can replace valuable natural habitat to intertidal organisms. Is there a way to serve human interests without harming coastal biodiversity?
We’ve been busy looking into this very question. Ecostructure researchers have been putting experimental designs into place to test ways to make artificial structures better for wildlife. We’ve been working with creative eco-engineering designers such as Artecology and Reef Design Lab, whose designs work to mimic the natural complexity of surfaces found in the intertidal zone. As it turns out, the featureless, smooth concrete so commonly used for coastal structures makes it an unwelcome place for species such as algae, crabs, seashore snails, and shannies. By adding back in the nooks and crannies that they can attach to and inhabit, we can improve biodiversity in the coastal built environment.
At experimental sites in both Ireland and Wales, we’ve been installing eco-engineering designs to test out their effectiveness toward this aim. Our activities have ranged from drilling holes into rock groynes to mimic natural rock pools to installing tiles designed for biodiversity on sea walls. At some of our locations, we’ve installed information boards where you can learn more about the specific strategies we’re testing. Take a look at the information boards in action at Kilmore Quay in Ireland, and our bilingual versions at New Quay in Wales.
New Invasive Species Fact Sheet
Didemnum vexillum might be one of the stranger-looking organisms you’ll find along the coast. Commonly known as the Carpet Sea Squirt, this tunicate has earned a number of colourful nicknames due to its yellowish-brown, amorphous appearance. But its presence on Irish and Welsh shores is only a recent phenomenon. Considered an invasive species in the British Isles, the carpet sea squirt is actually native to Japanese waters. It likely arrived in European waters via hull fouling or the aquaculture trade, and the first recorded presence of D. vexillum was in Ireland in 2005.
Managing any invasive species is a difficult task, but the rapid growth rate of the carpet sea squirt and its ability to colonise human-made structures makes it a particular challenge for coastal authorities. The carpet sea squirt is known to out-compete native species for space or food, smother commercially important species, and even prevent the eggs and larvae of native species from settling due to its acidic outer surface. Unfortunately, attempted eradication programmes have so far met with little success, and the high cost has prevented their broad application.
Ecostructure is actively researching what contributes to the spread of D. vexillum colonies in Ireland and Wales. Our researchers are analysing genetic factors to shed light on why invasions have occurred in some locations and not others. By examining the spread of the carpet sea squirt, we hope to identify tools and preventative measures that can be taken to impede new invasions.
For more information, take a look at our new downloadable fact sheet on the Carpet Sea Squirt, then try your hand at the challenging crossword on the back. This interactive fact sheet is great for teachers or coastal managers who are interested in sharing information about invasive species in Ireland and Wales. It’s also available in Welsh on our Downloadable Resources Page.
Ecostructure on BBC News!
Exciting news! Ecostructure researchers were interviewed and filmed by BBC News installing 3-D experimental tiles on the breakwater at Borth, Wales. The tiles are part of our experiments to determine ways to increase biodiversity on artificial structures. Artificial structures are man-made elements you’ll find along the coast like breakwaters, rock groynes, and sea walls, that aim to reduce wave energy and protect the shoreline. By creating tiles with plenty of nooks and crannies for species to colonise, we hope that these tiles will allow species whose habitat has vanished as a result of these artificial structures to inhabit our shores once more.
Take a look at the video below:
Ecostructure Writeup on Aberystwyth University website
Summer fieldwork by Ecostructure researchers has been getting some great media attention. Check out this nice writeup on the project by Aberystwyth University featuring Dr. Pippa Moore.
“We know sea defences support less wildlife because they lack the complexity of habitats found on natural rocky shores. So what we’re doing is finding ways in which some of our most diverse and rare sea life can thrive in these new environments.
“The tiles we have created are incredibly detailed – mimicking some of the natural surfaces which have been the bedrock of some species survival around our coasts. We’re now at a stage where we can deploy these tiles on our coastal defences for the first time and see for ourselves how much of a difference they can make to the biodiversity which those areas support. After attaching the tiles to the sea defences, we will be closely monitoring how life embeds itself on them. It is an incredibly exciting step forward in this vital research area.”
Read the full article at https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2019/08/title-224985-en.html.
ECOSTRUCTURE Team at the Festival of Discovery!
Ecostructure partners were out in full force for the Festival of Discovery last weekend at the exciting three day festival in Anglesey, Wales. Peter Lawrence of Bangor University coordinated the team’s efforts to engage visitors from all walks of life, from families to researchers to government representatives. The team came equipped with VR goggles to get a 360 degree view of life at a rocky shore, what sea defenses look like, and even see how the world looks from the perspective of a rockpool sea snail.
Other interactive activities included modelling where creatures live and how they can colonise eco-engineering designs, learning about mapping and scanning of rockpools and coastal structures, and discovering how researchers capture data using drones and lasers, bringing the coast back into the laboratory.
Flying over the entire stand was a view of the evolution of drone technology, from early models to today’s latest.
An interactive sandbox was set up including a number of 3-D printed and painted species: these creatures helped visitors learn about shoreline topographic and biodiversity.
Overall, 1300 people passed through the doors each day, making the event a smashing success. Our researchers personally engaged with over 580 visitors, including 21 employees of the public sector, 448 members of the public, 43 researchers, and 71 coastal stakeholders.
While the Festival of Discovery has passed for the year, you can still take a look at our mesmerising 360° videos at our YouTube channel:
And interested in more events Ecostructure is attending? Follow along with us on Twitter to learn more about where we’ll be and what we’re doing!
ECOSTRUCTURE Steering Committee and Project Meeting – Bangor, Wales
A great couple of days! This week saw ECOSTRUCTURE partners and Steering Group members exchange project knowledge in Bangor, Wales. Bangor University hosted this year’s project meeting at their School of Ocean Sciences, perched along the banks of the Menai Strait. Day 1 saw ECOSTRUCTURE researchers present their work to date, highlighting the incredible progress made since the project’s inception, along with the exciting things still to come before the project’s end. After digesting the information in the Work Package presentations, Steering Committee members provided insightful feedback and guidance that partners will intertwine into their forthcoming initiatives.
Day 2 was all about collaboration. During a series of breakout groups organised by topic, e.g. hydrodynamic modelling, or stakeholder networking, partners exchanged ideas across work packages to aid future work. Cross-disciplinary perspectives ensure ECOSTRUCTURE is synergistic, extending the project’s salience and overall ability to promote eco-engineering solutions that benefit coastal environments and communities.
New Videos Showing ECOSTRUCTURE Research
Our researchers have been out in the field sampling for native and invasive species on Irish and Welsh shores. Find out more about how species may be using hard structures to expand their ranges in the following videos.
Mae ein hymchwilwyr wedi bod allan yn samplu rhywogaethau brodorol a goresgynnol ar hyd glannau Cymru ac Iwerddon. Gwyliwch y fideos canlynol i gael gwybod mwy am sut y gallai rhywogaethau fod yn defnyddio strwythurau caled i ehangu eu cynefin.
Our end-of-year project newsletter is now available! We’ve had a busy and productive year with the Ecostructure project, and we’re delighted to report to you on our progress. Take a look at our updates from over the year, including fieldwork and conferences.
New ECOSTRUCTURE Publication
View the latest Ecostructure publication in Environmental Science & Policy: ‘From ocean sprawl to blue-green infrastructure – A UK perspective on an issue of global significance.’ Free download access is available until December 22, 2018. If you wish to know more about the paper, you can contact the authors through their respective institutions, as listed below.
Click the image to access the publication.
September – November 2018
As winter tightens its grip, Ecostructure researchers are closing out the year in style. Over the past few months, the team has collected swaths of data along Irish and Welsh Coastlines, and presented project information to local stakeholders (of all ages) and at professional conferences, all while finding the time to publish new findings.
Despite the occasional cloudy day, our researchers have maintained high spirits, and even took some time to interact with the Dun Laoighre powerboat school summer program. Members from UCD provided an impromptu demonstration of Ecostructure techniques, showing the scientists of tomorrow how to sample intertidal biodiversity on seawalls – a primary focus of WP2.
Our work has brought with it opportunities to deploy new, state of the art tech to map and characterise the intrinsic and extrinsic features of coastal structures, this time in Louth Harbour and Greystones Harbour. Researchers will use the data they have collected to build detailed, 3D models of artificial coastal structures to aid in the development of effective eco-engineering solutions in the face of climate change. In addition, researchers managed to install the very first cohort of ‘Compton’ model Vertipools at Kilmore Quay. These Vertipools were designed by project stakeholders Artecology, and will be used to research innovative structural designs to promote ecological sensitivity.
Project efforts were displayed at the SynerCrete18 conference in Madeira, Portugal during the last week of October. Ecostructure engineers presented their work, ‘A concrete home for marine micro inhabitants,’ a fitting addition to the conferences’ promotion of interdisciplinary perspectives to better understanding the complex behaviour of cement-based materials.
Follow all Ecostructure news and events in real time through our twitter page! See you there.
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 eco-egineering, 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 email@example.com.
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.