Diving deeper: The influence of depth on the composition of algae communities in Storm Bay

Supervisory Team:

Primary supervisor: Camille White

Co-supervisor: Neville Barrett

Brief project description:

Depth is one of the driving parameters shaping macroalgal communities in shallow temperate reefs. Environmental parameters such as water movement and light availability change in a predicable pattern with depth and subsequently drive composition of algal assemblages. While water movement is influenced by broadscale factors such as wind and swell, light penetration is highly dependent on water clarity. This can vary in regard to the productivity of the water column, which is influenced by factors such as the spring bloom, freshwater inputs and anthropogenic nutrient stimulation.

Storm Bay in south-east Tasmania is subject to a range of anthropogenic nutrient pressures, including urban run-off from the city of Hobart and inputs from several estuaries with modified catchments. More recently, salmon aquaculture has expanded into Storm Bay as an additional source of nutrients. To better assess the potential impact of anthropogenic nutrient stimulation on macroalgae, a clearer understanding is necessary regarding current patterns of species distribution in relation to depth.

While theoretical models have been produced that conceptualise this relationship in Tasmania, this relationship has never been empirically tested. This project will be the first to provide data to validate this relationship, while collecting invaluable data to ensure long-term sustainability of anthropogenic activity in Storm Bay.

Skills students will develop during this research project:

A wide array of field and data analysis skills, including collection of data using transects & quadrats, algal identification, image analysis, ArcGIS, statistical analysis

Depending on the background of the student there will also be the capacity for training in scientific diving and/or ROV operation.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
December 21, 2021