In addition to the continued monitoring work, we have all been doing individual research projects. Here is what we have been up to:
Caity: Heading into the last bit of our stay, I have almost finished gathering data on the types of organisms settling on Sargassum in different locations within and outside the Lough. I have spent the majority of my time snorkeling around the Lough, surveying for key species and keeping watch for potential Sargassum specimens. Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon on a special trip with our Ireland coordinator, Rob McAllen, snorkeling in Tranabo and Barloge Creek. Today and tomorrow, I will continue processing the Sargassum plants I have gathered, and wrap up this phase of my project.
Laurel: I am interested in a few unique attributes of a large orange ribbon worm called Paradrepanophorus crassus. In the lough, we find this worm under rocks inhabiting parchment tubes. Interestingly, this tube-building behavior is not noted for this species in the original description from the Mediterranean, so it may be a plastic response. I have been studying the tube-building behavior of this worm by examining specimens in the field and in the lab. We often find other animals inhabiting the P. crassus tubes, such as segmented worms and even other ribbon worms. Very little is known about these tube-dwelling symbionts, which have been only reported in the lough and not anywhere else in this species’ range. I have been busy looking at the distribution of both P. crassus and the symbiotic tube-dwellers in the lough. Also, I have set up some experimental chambers in the seawater lab. Yesterday, after weeks of coaxing, I found that the worms were finally building tubes in my experimental chambers!
Yolimar found an urchin before deploying her urchin collecors.
Yolimar: During my stay at Lough Hyne, I have been working with the declining sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. I have conducted urchin counts and measured test diameter on the south and west shores of the lough. Yesterday, I managed to deploy several urchin collectors in the lough as an experiment for P. lividus recruitment. Hopefully, by the end of the project, my data will contribute to understanding the P. lividus population structure at Lough Hyne.
Katie: The abundance and distribution of ephemeral high-density algal patches have been increasing in Lough Hyne over at least the past 5 years. Algae such as Ulva, Ectocarpus and Stilophora proliferate quickly in the spring and summer, covering large areas of intertidal and shallow subtidal rock that could otherwise provide habitat for invertebrates. The wide-spread increases in weedy ephemeral algae around Lough Hyne have been noted by the public and the government as an important issue to investigate scientifically, due to both the drastic changes in shore habitat and the smelly, unattractive nature of rotting algae for recreational visitors to the lough. I am looking at the effects of ephemeral algae on larval settlement and on localized physical characteristics such as water flow and oxygen.