Crawford Hayes PhD Studentship 2007, Dept. of ZEPS


Department of Zoology, Ecology & Plant Science, UCC

The Soft Sediment Ecology of Lough Hyne Marine Reserve

Primary Supervisor:  Dr Rob McAllen

Lough Hyne was designated as Europe’s first marine reserve in 1981 and UCC has been conducting research there for nearly 90 years. The great majority of the projects conducted to date have focussed on rocky intertidal and subtidal communities. However, much of the Western Trough and North Basin has a sedimentary substratum that has received very little attention. The project aims to address the biodiversity and process patterns within this soft sediment habitat. It is known from limited diving surveys and ROV video footage of burrows that a wide range of burrowing organisms inhabits the Lough, although there is very limited published information on benthic species diversity. Documenting and quantifying this diversity will be a priority for the project as such knowledge will help us understand the bioturbatory role played by the soft sediment community (burrowing and epifaunal constituents). This role has massive implications for nutrient turnover, which has become of increasing concern at the Lough because of potential nutrient enrichment from the surrounding catchments. In addition, given the highly variable current flow in the Lough Hyne system, the role of sedimentation at various parts of the Lough will be investigated by sediment traps.

During summer months, the seasonal thermocline/oxycline that develops in the Western Trough at 25m causes a mass migration of mobile soft sediment fauna to the waters above the oxygen-depleted thermocline. We currently know nothing of the movement of this fauna out of, or back to the Western Trough when the thermocline breaks down in October/November. How do the various species respond to declining/increasing oxygen concentration and at what threshold do they rebuild their burrows that have been filled in by the summer sedimentation outfall? Knowledge of the soft sediment ecology of Lough Hyne will help us understand both pure (species composition and biodiversity) and applied (patterns, processes, nutrient turnover) aspects of a Marine Reserve that is of strategic conservation importance, and a major UCC research and teaching resource.

Applications for the Crawford Hayes PhD Studentship are invited from candidates with a minimum of an Upper Second-class degree in any area of Marine Biology, Zoology, Animal Ecology or other relevant field. Boat handling qualifications and experience, as well as a full, clean driving licence are essential. Diving qualifications (HSE, European Scientific Diver or CMAS 3* equivalent) would also be highly advantageous. Intending candidates should be able to work independently and as part of a small research team. They should also have good IT and analytical skills.

Stipend €16,000 per annum free of tax; fees will also be paid. The Studentship will provide three years funding in the first instance .

Applications (consisting of letter of application, curriculum vitae and the names and contact details of two referees) should be sent (by June 29th)to: Dr Rob McAllen, Department of Zoology, Ecology & Plant Science, University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall Campus, Cork, Ireland ( 00353 (0)214904647. Dr McAllen also welcomes preliminary enquiries.

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