Our pioneering sensors monitor mussels in Northern Ireland

  • Date

    Thu 15 Oct 20

Alex Shakspeare at Dundrum Bay

Pioneering technology devised by University of Essex scientists to detect when oysters are spawning is now being used to monitor mussel activity in Northern Ireland.

Helping protect future stocks of the world-famous Essex oysters is the driving force behind an ongoing project involving marine biologists and computer scientists at Essex, Coventry University and Colchester Oyster Fishery on Mersea Island.

Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the project is developing sensors that detect when oysters spawn – alerting the oystermen they need to prepare the estuary beds to encourage young oysters to settle.

The technology caught the attention of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Northern Ireland, whose remit includes monitoring food and water quality.

The AFBI asked the project team to investigate if the technology could help detect when mussels are feeding in a highly tidal environment.

Dr Michael Steinke, from Essex’s School of Life Sciences, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the functionality of our technology and we were delighted to be asked by AFBI to carry out monitoring in Dundrum Bay. It is a great accomplishment that, with careful planning, we were able to deliver this project safely given the challenging restrictions for travel and working in groups.”

Dr Steinke and Essex PhD student Alex Shakspeare, pictured above, travelled to picturesque Dundrum Bay to install the sensors, which are already providing the AFBI with useful data about the behaviour of the mussels that can be scientifically explored in the future.