Trace Gas Biology and Sensor Technology

 School of Biological Sciences

 University of Essex

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PhD Opportunity - ARIES DTP

Shellfish responses to global environmental change - implications for aquaculture and marine conservation


Research Team
Dr Michael Steinke, Dr Tom Cameron, Dr John Woods (University of Essex)
Mr Paul Harding (Colchester Oyster Fishery)

Scientific Background
Coastal habitats provide important socioeconomic resources, yet they are experiencing unprecedented pressures. Overharvesting, pollution and introduction of invasive species resulted in a major decline of the native oyster that required a shift to the introduced Pacific oyster in commercial aquaculture. Current conservation programmes including ENORI, aim to restore self-sustaining populations of native oysters to increase ecosystem services, sustainable fisheries and biodiversity. In-situ mariculture of either of the two oyster species, and restoration of the native oyster, critically depends on successful spawning, settlement and/or collection of juvenile oysters. Thresholds of water temperature drive the variation in the timing of these events but this is unpredictable due to increasing temperature variation.

This project will address the sustainable expansion of oyster production and native oyster restoration through the application of remote sensing for shellfish spawning, behaviour and survival. You will direct the project's research emphasis and develop scientific hypotheses to assess the ecophysiological diversity of oysters. You will start investigating native and introduced oysters and quantify:
1.     The inter-population variation in metabolic and behavioural responses to temperature.
The release of reproductive cells in the field and during laboratory incubations.
3.     The inter-individual variation in oyster larvae and their settlement success under different temperatures and habitat types.

Research methodology
Supported by a research assistant funded via the 4.4 million UK Aquaculture Initiative, you will conduct laboratory incubations and collect scientific data in the Colne/Blackwater estuaries. Optode respirometry quantifies the metabolic activity and novel valvometry sensors measure growth, gaping, spawning and survival. Settlement assays and imaging tools can quantify larval behaviour and growth.


You will join the
EEM Group to work with marine biologists, electronic engineers and aquaculturists, and receive specific training on field/laboratory experimentation, oyster biology and conservation, electronic sensor networks, and the management of oyster fisheries. This will expose you to diverse disciplines and sectors, gaining professional skills in fieldwork, sensor technology and aquaculture. The ARIES DTP will provide generic training.

Person specification
You are an excellent communicator, can work cross-disciplinarily and have an enthusiastic personality and an aptitude for fieldwork, a degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. Marine/Freshwater Biology or Computer Science/Electronic Engineering).




Figure 1. Schematic to illustrate magnetic valvometry in the functioning of the Non-invasive Oyster Sensor (NOSy). (A) Photograph showing the sensor and oyster arrangement during our field trials with Crassostrea gigas individuals in 2017. (B) A 24 h snapshot of high-resolution sensor data illustrating the gaping activity and feeding behaviour in one of the C. gigas individuals during the field trials in 2017. (C) Assessment of gaping frequency to identify and monitor spawning via a change in the frequency of gaping behaviour.


                                        Colchester Oyster Fishery



Marine Gases

Ocean Odours


Oyster Larvae Report 2016


(c) Michael Steinke 2019