The Ocean Conservation Trust has been conducting research for over two decades, and each year we are pleased to welcome placement students who want to undertake a research project with us. In 2021, we were lucky to have two excellent students join us, to find out more about their research read on…

Physical changes displayed by juvenile corals when under stress of artificial light pollution (Artificial Light at Night, ALAN) Celie Mullen
In recent years, further research into anthropogenic pollutions have highlighted the impacts of Artificial Light at Night (ALAN), also known as ecological pollution. The effects include changes in human health, animal and plant behaviours, reproduction, migration, coral spawning and more recently, the changes in coral growth and fluorescence. Several Acropora microcladus corals were fragged and tested under a series of ALAN simulation tanks. This enabled identification of any changes in growth patterns alongside signs of photosynthetic impairment. From the study, we concluded that exposure to ALAN decreases growth rates and leads to bleaching processes commonly associated with rising sea temperatures and climate change. Furthermore, the use of LED simulations compared to metal halide further led to enhancements of these. From this, we can begin to gather evidence to implement mitigation of artificial light at night around coastal cities, helping to tackle the coral bleaching crisis.

Use of enrichment devices designed for two female Zebra Sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum) to reduce abnormal/negative behaviours Cate Reynolds
To support the welfare of two female Zebra sharks, a series of behavioural enrichment devices were designed to help stimulate the sharks and reduce negative behaviours that display either boredom or stress within the animals. The enrichment devices were based around the natural foraging behaviour of zebra sharks. In the wild these sharks are bottom feeders who retrieve their food through foraging in between small crevices. The enrichment devices included using buckets and pipes with a series of holes in them, each hole varying within size and shape which made the retrieval of food either easier or more difficult. A live crab enrichment was also used to stimulate the sharks and allow them to use their hunting skills. A behavioural observation was carried out pre-enrichment, during and after, to keep a recorded measure on the shark’s behaviour. There was a measurable decrease of observable negative behaviour patterns. Results showed a decrease in the sharks negative/stereotypical behaviours and an increase of positive behaviours, through the encouragement of stimulation with the enrichment devices.