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QUADRAT DTP: Development of artificial reefs: design, scientific monitoring, environment impact and management in North/Irish Seas

School of Natural and Built Environment

About the Project

Biodiversity loss is occurring at a phenomenal rate on a global scale. By 2100 more than half of the planet’s marine species may face extinction if significant human intervention does not occur. Coastal ecosystems are possibly the most threatened of marine systems due to the multitude of pressures focused on the coastal zone. They range from fishing and recreational use to sea-level rise and coastal development. With nearly half of the planet’s human population living along the coast, the number of coastal artificial structures are increasing worldwide. Hard engineering, such as sea defences and shipping infrastructure, has changed over 50% of the coastline in Europe, USA, Australia and Asia. This reduction in natural coastline coupled with sea level rise leads to a loss in coastal habitat and biodiversity. To mitigate against biodiversity loss, there is need to find ways to incorporate habitat opportunities in coastal infrastructure such as artificial reefs [1, 2].
The objective of the project is to develop and design eco-friendly artificial reefs made with shellfish waste taking into consideration formulation, geometry and surface finish to both reduce the volume of landfilled materials while enhancing marine biodiversity at the same time. The candidate will be trained on advanced techniques such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray tomography, permeability, chloride ingress test and carbonisation, sulfate attack, wreathing chambers, mechanical testing (compressive strength, tensile, young modulus) to make artificial reefs with shellfish waste and cement-based materials.
The project will focus on different combinations of materials and design, selection and supplying of different types of shell marine wastes, production and installation, the overall environmental impact, characterisation of study area, study of colonialization and monitoring the reefs biochemistry and biodiversity, trophic interactions, study of natural and long-term and seasonal variability and of community changes associated with benthic disturbance such as fish, invertebrates and macro-algae. . The project will also investigate the potential of artificial reefs for enhancing seaweed/algae habitats to establish any relationship with the shape/geometry and surface finish used in the design of these artificial reefs. The sustainability of eco-friendly artificial materials made with shellfish wastes rich with calcium carbonate will be investigated in order to determine the engineering performance. Artificial Reef blocks will have the potential to mitigate for loss of natural reef habitats and enhance food production, coastal infrastructure and recreational amenity. New technology like 3D printing can be used which offers considerable scope to increase the complexity of textures and voids to create block structures that may be more effective than concrete blocks which are currently being submerged.

More project details are available here:

How to apply:

Please note: applications should be submitted directly to QUADRAT and not to Queen’s University Belfast.

Funding Notes

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and international candidates (EU and non-EU). Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend/research & training support grant only.

Before applying please check full funding and eligibility information: View Website

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