We have expertise and experience in a number of subjects relating to how marine farming activities interact with the the surrounding environments, and conversely how the existing marine environment interacts with elements introduced by human activities. This includes, but is not limited to:
• direct and indirect genetic impacts of feral farm fish on wild populations
• use of molecular markers for identifying origin of farm escapes
• impact of freshwater aquaculture activities on freshwater ecosystems; all facets
• Biofouling - type, growth rates and prevalence of attaching species with the aim of better informing the operation and maintenance of sub-sea equipment. Read more about the Marine Growth (Biofouling) Project.
• Impact of the Environment on Aquaculture: E.g. Harmful Algal Blooms: detection, forecasting, and influences; Capacity modelling; Jellyfish Monitoring; Impacts of invasive species; modelling lice production and transport
• Impact of Aquaculture on the Environment: E.g. Benthic modelling e.g. NewDEPOMOD; Pelagic ecosystem modelling e.g. Acexr – LESV; ecosystem recovery processes; medicines and their effects in the environment; modelling lice production and transport (also an impact of aquaculture on aquaculture).
• Harmful Algal Blooms – understanding their development & developing early warning systems for industry (collaborating in project led by SAMS) (SAMS UHI and NAFC Marine Centre UHI have recently been awarded a joint ESIF PhD studentship in this field – primary supervisor, Keith Davidson (SAMS), secondary supervisor Beth Mouat (NAFC)
• Impacts of jelly-fish blooms on aquaculture
• Observation and monitoring of open-water densities of sea lice larvae and the linkages to salmon farming
• Tracking of Atlantic Salmon around Scotland
• Finding innovative ways to reduce marine plastic waste - the Circular Ocean Project.
Modelling connectivity of fish farms with respect to disease and parasites
As an example of the type of work we are involved in, SAMS UHI have delivered several projects which attempt to investigate interactions between farms with respect to infective agents such as sea lice with the objective of developing improved spatial management of and for the industry. The main model framework consists of the SAMS suite of biophysical models (WSC-FVCOM), which consists of four fundamental components: a meteorological model, a hydrodynamic model built upon FVCOM, a particle tracking model, and a population model. The model domain extends from the Isle of Man to the northern tip of Scotland and from the Scottish coast to the Outer Hebrides archipelago, building upon previous work using smaller domains in the same locality. A fundamental aspect of FVCOM for application in complex coastal regions such as the Scottish west coast is the use of irregular triangular elements, which allow representation of complex topography and bathymetry at the scale of aquaculture operations within a computationally efficient regional model. WSC-FVCOM Model runs are performed weekly to provide both “hindcasts” and “forecasts” of oceanographic conditions across the region.
Dispersal is simulated by releases of model sea lice larval particles from all Salmon aquaculture sites within the model domain. Development from non-infective nauplii to infective copepodids is included (including temperature dependence), as is mortality (constant or salinity dependent). Lice are found in highest densities close to the surface. The ultimate outcome is a set of connectivity metrics which can be used to predict the degree and timing of sea lice transmission between farms and can be incorporated into predictive scenarios based on varying management strategies.