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Developing AUV strategies & technologies for the monitoring of benthic impacts in Marine Protected Areas (MPA)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Howe
    Prof M Roberts
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project aims to test and evaluate the use of AUV technologies to survey and monitor benthic habitats in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Increasingly autonomous and remote sensing technologies are being seen as an important tool by which MPAs are monitored in the future (Wynn et al., 2012). This project aims to test the suitability of AUVs to monitor MPAs on the west coast of Scotland and to develop viable strategies for their use. In addition, the project will explore novel technologies and models to develop a ‘toolbox’ of AUV-based approaches that can be applied to a wide range of vulnerable benthic habitats. The project will develop novel algorithmic approaches to combine new very high resolution AUV acoustic bathymetric data with existing models to generate predictive habitat maps at unprecedented spatial resolutions for a range of MPA habitats. The ultimate goal is to develop generic approaches which can be applied in other dynamic inshore coastal environments. The aim will be to develop approaches which are readily reproducible and defensible. In addition, a large number of commercial and applied projects have an interest in mapping habitats on the seabed. These projects range from renewables, fibre-optic cables to fish farm location and modelling.
The west coast of Scotland provides a diverse environment to test and evaluate AUVs for MPA monitoring and develop a ‘toolbox’ of AUV techniques. AUV data will form the basis of this study and provide information to develop habitat suitability modelling and measure spatio-temporal variability in benthic communities (Henry et al., 2013) and the impacts of anthropogenic impacts (primarily fishing). The Gavia AUV (SAMS) uses a 500 kHz GeoSwath+ sonar providing bathymetry, side-side and a colour camera for photography. The BioSonar (Hydrason Solutions) is deployed from a Remus 100 AUV (HWU) and utilizes a 30-130 kHz sonar. This is capable of not only discriminating sediment type but preliminary data indicates it is able to detect the presence of water-filled voids within the sediment. Therefore providing a method of mapping organism burrows in sediment, a metric currently limited to time-consuming visual survey and analysis. This would allow us to map a key ecosystem function (bioturbation) in an innovative way, enabling the production of maps of seafloor sediment and fauna distributions at a scale and speed that would allow far greater areas of seabed to be surveyed, a requirement of many policies, not least the EC Habitats and Marine Strategy Framework Directives.
The NEXUSS CDT provides state-of-the-art, highly experiential training in the application and development of cutting-edge Smart and Autonomous Observing Systems for the environmental sciences, alongside comprehensive personal and professional development. There will be extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial / government / policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and hosted at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). Specific training will include:

1. Seabed mapping using AUVs – survey planning and implementation.
2. Bathymetric, and side-scan sonar data processing
3. Seabed photomosaic from AUV data
4. Developing a GIS toolkit for benthic habitat mapping.

Wynn et al., 2012) Investigating the feasibility of utilising AUV and Glider technology for mapping and monitoring of the UK MPA network. DEFRA MB0118 National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. 244pp.

Henry LA, Moreno Navas J, Roberts JM (2013) Multi-scale interactions between local hydrography, seabed topography, and community assembly on cold-water coral reefs. Biogeosciences 10: 2737-2746

Funding Notes

Eligibility criteria

The studentships will be funded for 44 months and will follow standard RCUK conditions. The studentships are open to UK and EU nationals and applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a first class or upper second-class honours degree in the relevant subject area:

RCUK eligibility criteria: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/funding/grantstcs/
RCUK funding rules and rates: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/media/announcements/150121/

Maintenance award: £14,057 p/a in 2015-16
University fees covered at current rate

The top candidates will be invited for face-to-face interview. Successful candidates will be expected to start their programme of research at SAMS from 1st September 2016.

- See more at: http://www.sams.ac.uk/nexuss#sthash.dXegiSNI.dpuf


Two references to be submitted with the application form. Applications will NOT be reviewed without two references

How good is research at University of the Highlands and Islands in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 32.45

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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