Coral Woman and Q&A with special guest Uma Mani

Join us for a film screening of “Coral Woman” with Q&A with special guest Uma Mani. This is a filmmaker’s journey with Uma, an artist who paints coral reefs, a certified scuba diver, exploring the underwater world & the threat to coral reefs of Gulf of Mannar, India. Born in a traditional family in Tamil Nadu, 53 year old Uma, a homemaker, has been trying to bring attention to this alarming environmental issue through her paintings. It is, in fact, these corals that inspired Uma to learn how to swim, dive & paint in her 50s. Coral Woman is about Uma’s efforts to address the threat to coral reefs from bleaching, industrial pollution and climate change. The screening will take place on Tuesday 28th December at 1300 GMT, followed by a Q&A with Uma Mani! Please register below for the link and occasional updates and join us for this very special event.

Baseline characterization of species assemblages in Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area – Placentia Bay

Today Shreya Nemani and Julia Mackin-McLaughlin, MSc students at the 4DOceans Lab of Memorial University, gave an intriguing and thought-provoking seminar about their coastal benthic habitat mapping work in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada as part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Coastal Environmental Baseline Program. Their work at the 4DOceans lab of the Marine Institute aims to advance understanding of seafloor heterogeneity and assess the spatial and temporal variation in species distribution. They study the spatial distribution of seabed habitats in Placentia Bay. In addition to studying the composition of faunal assemblages, Shreya is also studying their functional composition and diversity of the bay. Concurrent with this research, Julia has modelled the ecological niche of two habitat-forming algal species which support various ecosystem services for the west coast of the bay. We would like to cordially thank both Shreya and Julia for a fascinating talk.

Cometh seaweeds, cometh structure in marine habitats

Pleased to invite you to a seminar by Dr Kathryn Schoenrock, who is the EPA-Ireland, Primary Investigator and Postdoctoral Researcher at National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, on Tuesday 27th July at 1300 BST. The webinar is entitled “Cometh seaweeds, cometh structure in marine habitats.”

She obtained her PhD (Biology) in 2014 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she investigated the ecology and physiology of Antarctic Seaweeds, with an emphasis in chemical ecology and climate change effects. She has since worked extensively in south-western Greenland trying to understand the diversity of kelp forest and coralline algae habitats, but her experience with climate change and the marine region drew her to the Lusitanian region of the North Atlantic where marine communities mirror projections for the Boreal region under present climate change regimes. She currently works on creating a baseline for marine monitoring in kelp forest communities found in western Ireland, and works closely with citizen science outlets, science festivals, and commercial organisations. She is originally from California, and has studied marine ecosystems (especially those structured by seaweeds) from Antarctica to Greenland for over 15 years.

Register below for link and updates:

Strange world of hydrothermal vents

A hydrothermal vent is a fissure in a planet’s surface from which geothermally heated water issues. Hydrothermal vents are commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are moving apart, ocean basins, and hotspots. Hydrothermal vents exist because the earth is both geologically active and has large amounts of water on its surface and within its crust. Common land types include hot springs, fumaroles and geysers. Under the sea, hydrothermal vents may form features called black smokers. Relative to the majority of the deep sea, the areas around submarine hydrothermal vents are biologically more productive, often hosting complex communities fueled by the chemicals dissolved in the vent fluids. Chemosynthetic archaea form the base of the food chain, supporting diverse organisms, including giant tube worms, clams, limpets and shrimp.

The Endeavour Mid-ocean Ridge is an exciting study location because it is a place where new volcanic seafloor is constantly created at the spreading boundary between the Juan de Fuca and Pacific plates. The region (approximately 300 km off the British Columbia coast), has been the site of intensive investigation for more than 20 years.The Ocean Networks Canada Observatory, comprising VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada cabled networks, supports transformative coastal to deep ocean research and technology. It enables real-time interactive experiments, focused on ocean health, ecosystems, resources, natural hazards, and marine conservation. The Observatory is a national facility led by the University of Victoria for a pan-Canadian consortium of universities and partners.

NEPTUNE Canada’s real-time monitoring capability will benefit both ongoing and new experiments. Continuous data gathered before, during and after events like earthquakes and intrusions will be recorded across a coordinated suite of instruments both at the hydrothermal vents on the seafloor and within moorings extending 250m up into the 2,200m water column. A network of seismometers here and at other sites will provide high resolution information on tectonic processes such as earthquakes and strain across the Juan de Fuca plate.

via NEPTUNE Canada: Endeavour and Wikipedia.

Some more footage of the Endeavour ridge hot vents acquired using the ROPOS ROV. See also the BBC news report about a recent British expedition to the Cayman Trough to the deepest undersea vents.

Rocky Shores

Rocky shores are areas of transition between the marine environment and the terrestrial environment. The littoral zone between the mean high water mark and the mean low water mark is a challenging habitat for both the terrestrial and the marine species. In many coastal areas, rocky shores are formed in areas where the eroding wave is removing material away from the cliff edge (Cremona, 1986). Depending on the composition and the aspect of the rockface, crevices and gullies are formed on the shore. This provides microhabitats such as rock pools, where marine invertebrates from most phyla can live.

The tide results in different parts of the shore being immersed, depending on which point of the tidal curve is being observed. The daily flooding and ebbing of the tide results in a complex and dynamic gradient of environmental conditions, with increase of the vertical height. Zonation is present, where communities are found in bands or zones across the rocky shore. Different organisms are distributed along this gradient depending on their ability to cope with the present abiotic stresses. A major abiotic factor is the period of immersion as this leads to variable temperature, salinity and osmotic conditions- especially challenging for marine organisms! For example, some sub-littoral species of kelp are well adapted to the submerged marine environment and are unable to cope with the desiccation stress in the intertidal zone. Hence, the vertical range of some kelp species does not extend above the sub-littoral.

The species present on the rocky shore are also dependent on the amount of wave action received. In Britain, there is a fixed pattern of zones found at a rocky shore of a particular exposure. The Ballantine Exposure scale grades a particular shore according to the size and location of the species zones present. (See also the “Research” section to read Bill Ballantine’s book on Marine Reserves.) (Figure from Ballantine, 1961)

I spent an amazing summer at Dale Fort field centre (run by the pioneering environmental education charity; the Field Studies Council) where there are rock shores of many different exposures. Black rock is a very sheltered rocky shore in Dale, Pembrokeshire. It has been graded as 6/7 on the Ballantine Exposure scale and found adjacent to the Gann flats (mud flats where there is extensive soft sediment deposition). The area was once renowned for its rocky shores but its diversity has now is affected by regular bait digging. Stay tuned for Part 2 for a survey of Black rock as a sheltered rocky shore and with exciting info about the creatures we find. Meanwhile here are some more maps and photographs of the Dale peninsula and its inhabitants.

Image credits

1) Ballantine, 1961, A biologically-defined exposure scale for the comparative description of rocky shore, Field Studies Journal, FSC Council Publications Vol 1(3) 17.

2) Dale Fort Field Centre

3) Ordnance Survey

4) Ballantine, 1961, A biologically-defined exposure scale for the comparative description of rocky shore, Field Studies Journal, FSC Council Publications Vol 1(3) 17.

5) Ballantine, 1961, A biologically-defined exposure scale for the comparative description of rocky shore, Field Studies Journal, FSC Council Publications Vol 1(3) 17.

6) Dale Fort Field Centre, and Marlin website


Ballantine W., 1961, A biologically-defined exposure scale for the comparative description of rocky shore, Field Studies Journal, FSC Council Publications Vol 1(3) 17.

Cremona, 1988, A Field Atlas of the Seashore