Friday, 23 August 2013


Below is the final list of all the various species found during my investigation of the 10 sites. I spent 30 minutes at each site as part of the survey (an equal amount of time for each site to allow for a statistical comparison).

The lefthand side has the scientific names with the Genus and Species eg. Fucus (genus) vesiculosus (species). In a number of cases you will see a name given as spp. eg Ulva spp.; this just means that I couldn't indentify the find down to species level and it's simply listed as Ulva "species". Some organisms require experts to be identified to species level and I am definitely not one of them.

  Name   Common name / Pointers to ID
Fucus vesiculosus
Bladder wrack
Fucus serratus
Serrated wrack
Ulva spp.
Sea lettuces and Gut weeds (Hollow)
Corallina spp.
Calcified red algae/ Coral weeds
Brown limpet paint
Saccharrina latissima
Sugar kelp/Sea belt
Mastocarpus stellatus
Grape pip weed
Chondrus crispus
Irish moss
Lomentaria articulata
Bunny ears/ Bunny-eared bead weed
Sacchoriza polyschides
Bifurcaria bifurcata
Brown tuning fork weed/Brown forking weed
Laminaria digitata
Oar weed
Palmaria palmata
Osmundea spp.
Flat fern weeds
Lithothamnion complex
Pink paint weeds/Maerls
Leathesia difformis
Punctured ball weed (mushes when broken)
Colpomenia peregrina
Oyster thief (Splits when broken)
Ceramium spp.
Banded pincer weeds
Polysiphonia spp.
Siphon weeds
Phycodrys rubens
Sea oak (Red)
Cytsoceira spp.
Bushy wracks
Chorda filum
Mermaids tresses/Bootlace weed
Fucus spiralis
Spiraled wrack
Ascophyllum nodosum
Egg wrack/Knotted wrack
Polysiphonia lanosa
Epiphyte on A. nodosum
Dichyota dichotoma
Divided net weed ( like a finer, brown C.crispus )
Rhodothamniella floridula
Sand binder
Patella vulgata
Common limpet
Semibalanus balanoides
Acorn barnacle
Chthamalus montagui
Montagu's stellate barnacle
Chthamalus stellatus
Poli's stellate barnacle
Austrominius modestus
New zealand invasive barnacle
Gibbula umbilicalis
Flat top shell
Gibbula cineraria
Grey top shell
Hinia reticulata
Netted dog whelk
Nucella lapillis
Dog whelk
Littorina littorea
Common periwinkle
Littorina saxitilis
Rough periwinkle
L. obtusata or mariae
Flat periwinkle or L. mariae
Porcellana platycheles
Broad-clawed porcellain crab
Family -Panguroidea
Hermit crab
Dendrodoa grossularia
Baked bean ascidian
Carcinus maenas
Common shore crab
Pomatoceros triqueter
A keel worm
Spirorbis spirorbis
A keel worm with spiral tube
Sabellaria alveolata
Honeycomb worm
Ctenostome bryozoan
Uncalcified soft to touch
Cheiliostome bryozoan
Calcified box-shaped crispy to touch
Cerastoderma edule
Common cockle
Mytilus edulis
Common mussel
Dynamena pumila
Hydrozoan on Fucus spp.
Ostrea edulis
Common oyster
Actinia equina
Beadlet anenome
Sphaeroma serratum
Isopod ( rolls into a ball) Serrated uropod
Gammarus spp.
Amphipod ( black, kidney-shaped eye)
Venerupsis senegalensis
Carpet pullet shell
Lepidonotus spp.
Scaleworm (polychaete)
Necora puber
Devil crab( red eyes, blue dorsal), velvet swimming crab
Lepidochitona cinerea
Pholis gunnellus
Lineus longissimus
Bootlace worm
Palaemon spp.

If you are looking for any of these organisms and you overturn rocks to view them, don't forget to return the rock to it's original position to protect the animals sheltering underneath.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Just a quick post today......First an additional bit of information regarding the radula marks on the surface of the shed units. Hopefully you can make them out and if you can, then you will probably notice that they are arranged in a fairly neat pattern.

This pattern emerges because the animal, in this case a limpet, is foraging for food in an area that doesn't contain much in the way of sustenance. Because of this, it searches in a tight pattern to ensure it doesn't miss anything. You can find similar tight search patterns in mud at the ocean depths where there is a low concentration of edible detritus for the organisms that live there.

It is possible to observe the same sort of foraging marks as trace fossils in rocks which are about 500 million years old. By making the comparision, paleontologists can use this information to assist them in making informed decisions about what they consider to be the type of environment that existed at the time the animal made them.

The present is the key to the past!

Second, I wanted to add in a Google earth snapshot of the sites that we've been sampling just so you have a clearer idea of what's being done.

Site locations for biodiversity study

We were surveying here during the recent very hot weather, dressed in long trousers and wellies for protection against barnacle-rash ( if you've ever fallen bare legged against barnacles you'll never do it again), whilst the population of Galway were sunning themselves in swimwear and taking a nice cool dip as needed.

I'm not sure if I'd prefer rain but I definitely sweated off a few pounds during the last weeks.

Continue to enjoy the summer,


13/08/13 Updated the photo to include the final 2 sites; 10 in total

Friday, 19 July 2013

Radula marks and other stuff

Hi again,

Dispite our recent warm weather, which has dried up the biofilm on the concrete sheds and therefore all but eradicated the radula marks, I have triumphed and found some traces which are in the pictures below and the area they cover is roughly marked out to help you pick them out.

A radula kind of moves like a band sander, round and round like a treadmill, and scrapes the microscopic bacteria and algae into the mouth of the limpet for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea and supper.

Picture using a sander up and down in front of yourself in short sections as you stand in one place and moving the sander front left to right as you do so. Once you have completed an arc of sanding, take a step forward and start again. The design you would make mimics the radula marks.

Post survey pictures


If you have been looking in on this blog and have noticed a lack of new information over the last few weeks, I can but apologise. I have been away for a wee holiday followed by an intense period of surveys for this and other studies which are taking place within the remit our summer laboratory crew.

Also time consuming is the fact the during the biodiversity surveys within Galway bay I usually bring back a bucket of species, usually algae/seaweeds, which I haven't being able to identify in the field. The next 1 to 3 days can include periods of searching through indentification guides and squinting into microscope lenses in order to make a positive identification of all the species.

Speaking of species, the strange greyish-purple monster that featured in the last post to this is actually a very small critter called Anurida maritima, (it has no common name that I know of )its about 3mm long and lives on the surface of the water in groups. It's an arthropod of the class, Collembola.

One of the features of collembolans is that they aggregate into groups and exude a chemical signal so that they can home in on each other if they get separated. They have a hydrophobic "skin" which allows them to float on water and if they get separated from the group because of a wave you can watch them re-amalgamate like the liquid metal terminator in Terminator 3. They are scavengers, feeding on dead marine animals such as limpets and periwinkles.

Coincidentally, Anurida maritima was one of the handful of animals that we found in our artificial rock pools during the first official survey that we carried out 1 month after their construction.

During the survey we found common shore crab, dog whelk and periwinkles within the pools

Common shore crab ( Carcinus maenas)
 You might think that the shore crab in the picture opposite probably simply got stranded in the pool when the tide retreated however, due to the rough texture of the pool sides, crabs of this size are easily able to exit the pools so in all probability its presence in the pool is by choice.

Common periwinkle ( Littorina littorea )

Dog whelk ( Nucella lapillis )

Mud attaching to the pool sides

Thursday, 20 June 2013


We're a week and a bit past construction of the artificial rock pools. At this point it falls to me to check them periodically to ensure that they will hold water and not let it slowly seep away; it's something that we haven't confirmed yet because the high tides have been too low ( between 4.1m and 4.6m ) to cover the upper rock pools yet. However, there are high tides of up to 5.5 metres expected over the next few days which should cover them.

In the meantime, my time has been spent researching papers and articles to do with ecological engineering and trying to learn the scientific names of anything I find. This latter part is important since one person's Dog whelk is another person's Atlantic dogwinkle; scientists tend to use scientific names of latin or greek since these are fixed for any given organism.

For instance, what would you call this endearing Galway bay resident if you found it? If you think you know what it is or have a name suggestion why not drop me a comment.
With the first full survey of the concrete rock pools not due until one month after completion I made a start on the biodiversity survey of the Galway bay area.

Since it is part of an experiment to compare similar artificial and natural surfaces, the initial survey involves finding relatively flat and homogenous ( ie. no cracks or hollows ) rocks that are either part of a manmade structure or occur as a natural rock formation.

Once a suitable site is found it is surveyed using very high tech equipment indeed.......not!
High tech surveying kit :-)

Using a 25cm x 25cm quadrat placed on a suitable rock I determine the percentage of the area inside the quadrat which is covered by such organisms as barnacles, brown and green seaweeds or algae or bare rock along with the number of limpets, dog whelks or periwinkles and the like. At each site, which fixed by checking its GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates, 10 quadrats are surveyed to ensure a proper mix of data.

In essence, the information or data that is obtained in the survey must come from a certain type of location that we can compare with the concrete coastal defences whilst at the same time it must be as random as possible and include replication so as to ensure an even mix of information and avoid any form of bias. Easier said than done!

So, if you're walking along the prom at low tide and you see a couple of people off near the waters edge staring intently at some rocks that have been laid in a straight line out into the bay perpendicular to the prom, that's me plus one of the crew surveying an artificial habitat. If we're in amongst randomly placed boulders then it's a natural habitat survey.

Feel free to wave, we will wave back!

Our crew

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Getting the experiment started

Along the sides of the causeway connecting Mutton Island to the mainland there are coastal defence units called sheds. Click here to view on Google maps
A shed in this instance refers to a hollow concrete block designed to dissipate wave energy in order to protect the underlying rocks upon which the causeway is built, not somewhere to store your lawnmower.
The shed units along the side of the causeway
Since the sheds are hollow they allow the tide to drain away however, whilst some organisms will take refuge amongst the underlying rocks until the tide returns, there is little to hold onto the seawater and create rock pools.

The experiment, in a nutshell, involves creating artificial rock pools at the lower and higher levels of the defence sheds and comparing what organisms settles in these to those that have settled in comparable natural pools and exposed natural rock as well as comparing the lower and upper artificial pools and the seaward and leeward sides of the causeway. The aim is to enlighten ecological engineering of future coastal defences and allow for cost-efficient incorporation of artificial rock pools into these defences to allow for an increase in biodiversity compared to older defence constructions.

The sheds viewed from above

Well, work began in earnest over the last week to get this experiment up and running.

First, myself and Dr Louise Firth, who's my supervisor and the brains behind all this, spent a day rummaging in amongst the sheds to find suitable sites to place the concrete artificial pools. Some of the sites needed modification by removal of mud and slime covered rocks which had an attendant odour that made for very glamorous work.

Once we had identified 20 sites each side of the causeway, 10 lower and 10 upper in each case, it was time to bring in the heavy machinery. Many marine ecological experiments are descibed as bucket and spade experiments, this is not one of them!
Three man band

Following 2 days of intense activity wherein the future of the experiment lay in the hands of the three-man crew who had the unenviable task of realising Louise's vision of this straightforward but hopefully powerful experiment, we emerged triumphant having thwarted the fast approaching tides, with all our rock pools in place. There were worrying times at the beginning of the process as each party attempted to work out the requirements and limitations of the other but Bernard, Paddy and Peter, our three-man band, displayed efficient hard graft to secure our immense gratitude.

                                                  Newly formed artificial pools
New rock pools under their first tide

A shout out has to also go to Lisa and Amy from our shared summer lab for removing and replacing rocks as required to ensure the perfect shed sites for each rock pool despite the mud and stink.

Background information

First, some background.....

Galway bay is subject to diurnal tides resulting in the shoreline being exposed twice in roughly each 24 hour period. Every time the tide goes out mobile organisms such as fish, crabs, amphipods and polychaete worms move to places of shelter. Some fish can swim out with the water however others, along with the likes of the common shore crab and various amphipods, simply entrench themselves under rocks and in crevices. Almost anywhere damp will suffice for these animals as they wait and mull over their saltationary existance until the next incoming tide entices them out to continue their particular day to day activities.  Polychaete worms can burrow into the mud and there are some which build shelters from sand and shell fragments.

What it's all about. Galway bay from the sea to the coast

In contrast to those animals that can move to an under-rock sanctuary or the like there are slow moving animals along with non-mobile or sessile organisms which includes limpets, periwinkles, sea anenomes, barnacles, bryozoans, various bivalves, seaweeds and other algae which have to come up with another strategy to survive the twice-daily exposure. Limpets and perwinkles simply clamp down to a suitable substrate and wait for submergence. Fixed organisms such as bryozoans are often found on the underside of rocks where it remains damp the longest. Seaweeds and other algae have evolved physiological adaptations to dessication or are simply not able to live in the intertidal zone because they need constant water cover.

This is a really simple view of the life of intertidal flora and fauna however I hope that you appreciate that water is the main deciding factor in the existence of all involved. So, bearing this in mind, if there was a way for an organism to exist happily between each low tide rather than having to wait out the hours until the tide comes in again, this would become the preferred mode of lifestyle. This is why rock pools are hot property in the indertidal world.

More rock pools equals a better standard of living in our scenario, the equivalent of a human moving from the desert along Africa's Skeleton coast to a small well-stocked town in a prosperous country. As a consequence of an increased abundance of rock pools, animal and plant species can become more abundant and live in greater densities.
This increase in the variation of the environment, or in other words, the increased heterogeneity, allows for a greater number of niches which can be filled by a greater number of species; hey presto, more biodiversity!

This quick overview will hopefully help when reading about the experiment itself.

Keith                                         Me inside my plush workspace