Biophysical Modelling

The larval stage of many marine organisms, especially those that become sessile as adults, is fundamental to the ecology of the region and survivorship of the species. Yet it is very difficult to observe larval behaviour and transport, in the field, since they are small relative to their oceanographic surroundings. In addition, research is currently being undertaken into environmental controls on larval dispersal. For example, how will rising sea temperatures affect larval spawning, development, and settlement? What are the intra-seasonal and inter-annual variabilities in the wind field and how does this affect larval connectivity? Can a population re-establish itself following mass mortality? Due to spats of millions of larvae travelling over large spatial scales (typically of hundreds of kilometres), it has been difficult for observational studies to answer these important ecological questions. In recent years, however, the use of high performance computing and increased computer storage capacity have made it possible to simulate larval dispersal and connectivity using 3D hydrodynamic models in conjunction with Lagrangian particle tracking models. In this way, large numbers of virtual larvae can be computationally-tracked through space and time, from their site of spawning to their likely settlement location. By simulating larval releases at different locations, under different hydrodynamic conditions (such as times of season and year), and with different biological behaviour, we can establish likely dispersal patterns and better understand physical and biological controls on dispersal and connectivity.

At CAMS, we are interested in modelling mesoscale larval dispersal and the connectivity of subpopulations within the metapopulation; particularly, the effects of climate change and natural variabilities which are primarily driven by changes in the density and wind fields, since astronomical tidal currents will not change significantly. This emerging area of research has been supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Fisheries Fund, INTERREG, the Isle of Man Government, and a NERC urgency grant. Bangor University (CAMS) have collaborated with colleagues at other universities worldwide, including: Swansea University, Aberystwyth University, University of Cork, and University of California.

Current and recent projects


A 3.5-year project (2010-2013), led by Bangor University, which brought together the Universities of Aberystwyth, Cork and Swansea and incorporated experts from a wide range of disciplines, including shellfish biology, ecology, physical oceanography and economics. The main aims of the project were to advance present understandings of shellfish physiology, prevalence, and ecology to produce guidelines for future shellfisheries management and policy in Ireland & Wales for the next 50-100 years. This was successfully achieved by assessing the effects of climate change, via oceanographic models, on shellfish productivity in the Irish Sea and determining adaptation or mitigation strategies for the industry.  Genetic sampling and analyses confirmed model predictions, where other forms of biological validation were not available. Key Irish Sea species, such as mussels, crabs, cockles and lobsters were focused on, revealing original observations of their physiology and abundance within the Irish Sea, and also patterns and spread of disease. This information is crucial to model design and accuracy of the model output.

SUSFISH was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Programme 2007-13. The SUSFISH management and advisory group included representatives of local SME’s, as well as those from the national bodies of CEFAS, SAGB, SEAFISH, CCW, EA, MI, WG, BIM and TCD.

Sustainable use of Fisheries Resources in Welsh Waters

A 3-year project (2012-2015) at Bangor University to inform the future management of fisheries and the Welsh marine environment. The aims and objectives include the innovative methods being developed to collect valuable data on a variety of species of importance to Wales. This includes the participation of fishermen in collecting data for stock assessments, and genetic sampling and analyses. This work will be a keystone to the successful management of Welsh marine resources, an area which has historically been data deficient in Wales. The project is funded by the European Fisheries Fund.

Ostrea edulis restoration: Scoping and larval dispersion modelling in south Wales. Workstream 1: Model setup and validation

This collaborative research project, between Bangor University and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), summarises the development of a coupled biophysical model to aid restoration of native oyster reef/bank habitats in south Wales. This report details the first of four Workstreams: Model setup and validation. The aim of the project as a whole is to contribute to the identification of several locations in the south Wales region suitable for a native oyster restoration program, conducted by CCW. This information could lead directly into a CCW biodiversity native oyster restoration project. The native oyster Ostrea edulis has a long history of over-exploitation in the UK and is therefore a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, and also listed as being ‘of principal importance for the purpose of conserving biodiversity in Wales’. The TELEMAC Modelling System has been applied to the Irish Sea to simulate the hydrodynamics (e.g. the tidal elevations and circulation patterns). The Irish Sea Model was validated at several coastal locations around the Irish Sea, then model output was used to drive a particle tracking model of the region, whereby virtual particles representing native oyster larvae, were released (spawned) from different locations and tracked through their larval life stage to potential settlement locations (results to be presented in Workstreams 2-4, subject to future funding).

MSc project: Predicting the dispersal of wild Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in the Irish Sea from an existing population - a numerical study

(Student: Andrei Tita; Supervisors: Jon King and Peter Robins)
Wild populations of Pacific oysters (i.e. not introduced for aquaculture) are sometimes regarded as invasive, and have become established around southern Britain, which is at the northern extremity of their existence due to temperature. This study used particle-tracking models to simulate the life cycle of Pacific oyster larvae, and investigate the dispersal of the species from an existing population in the Milford Haven Estuary. Secondary release sites were chosen based on initial settlement in order to simulate dispersal over successive generations. In addition, the study investigated temperature as a control on settlement and the effects of climate change.

Relevant publications

Callaway, R., Shinn, AP., Grenfell, S.E., Bron, JE., Burnell, G., Cook, E.J., Crumlish, M., Culloty, S., Davidson, K., Ellis, R.P., Flynn, K.J., Fox, C., Green, D.M., Hays, G.C., Hughes, A., Jhonston, E., Lowe, C.D., Lupatsch, I., Malham, S., Mendzil, A.F., Nickell, T., Pickerell, T., Rowley, A.F., Stanley, M.S., Tocher, D.R., Turnbull, J.F., Webb, G., Wootton, E., Shields, R. 2012. Climate change and marine aquaculture in the UK. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.

Coscia, I., Robins, P.E., Porter, J.S., Malham, S.K. and Ironside, J.E. 2012.
Modelled larval dispersal and measured gene flow: seascape genetics of the common cockle Cerastoderma edule in the southern Irish Sea. Conserv. Genet. DOI 10.1007/s10592-012-0404-4

Cross, M.E., O’Riordan, R., Lynch, S., Whitaker, A. & Culloty, S.C. 2012. The reproductive biology of the softshell clam, Mya arenaria, in Ireland, and the possible impacts of climate variability. Journal of Marine Biology, vol. 2012, Article ID 908163, 9 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/908163

Cross, M., O’Riordan, R. & Culloty, S.C. 2013. Reproductive biology of the razor clam Ensis siliqua in the Irish Sea. Fisheries Research.

Lee, P.L.M., Dawson, M.N., Neill, S.P., Robins, P.E., Houghton, J.D.R., Doyle, T.K. and Hayes, G.C. 2013. Identification of genetically and oceanographically distinct blooms of jellyfish. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 20120920

Lynch, S.A., Carlsson, J. & Culloty, S.C. 2012. A previously undescribed ostreid herpes virus (OsHV-1) genotype detected in the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, in Ireland. Parasitology, 139, 1526-1532.

Lynch S.A., Villalba, A., Engelsma, M., Stokes, N.A., Burreson, E. & Culloty, S.C. 2012. The incidence of haplosporidians Haplosporidian nelsoni and Haplosporidium armornicanum in oysters in Ireland. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 112, 208-212.

Lynch, SA. Dillane, E., Carlsson, J. & Culloty, SC. 2013. Development and validation of a sensitive and cost effective cPCR to detect ostreid herpes virus 1 (OsHV-1) and variants. Journal of Shellfish Research (submitted March 2013).

Lynch S.A., Flannery G., McGonigle C. & Culloty S.C. 2013. One year epidemiological study on the impact of Bonamia ostreae on an Irish oyster bed: gaining knowledge to sustain an oyster fishery. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms (submitted March 2013).

Lynch, S.A. Flannery, G., Hugh-Jones, T., Hugh-Jones, D. & Culloty, S.C. 2013. A thirty-year history of Irish Ostrea edulis (Rossmore) selectively bred for disease resistance to Bonamia ostreae. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms (submitted March 2013).

Morgan, E., O’Riordan, R. & Culloty, S.C. 2011. The influence of disseminated neoplasia, trematode infections and gametogenesis on surfacing and mortality in the cockle, Cerastoderma edule. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 98:73-84.

Morgan, E., O’Riordan, R. & Culloty, S.C. 2013. Climate change impacts on potential recruitment in an ecosystem engineer. Ecology and Evolution 3:581-594.

Neill, S.P. and Kaiser, M.J. 2008. Sources and sinks of scallops (Pecten maximus) in the waters of the Isle of Man as predicted by particle tracking models. Centre for Applied Marine Sciences Report 2008-11, May 2008, 23pp.

O'Grady, E. , Culloty, S.C., Kelly, T.C., O'Callaghan, M.J.A. & Rachinskii, D. A preliminary threshold model of parasitism in the cockle Cerastoderma edule using delayed exchange of stability. Journal of Physics, Conference Series.

Robins. P.E. 2013. Ostrea edulis restoration: Scoping and larval dispersion modelling
in south Wales. Workstream 1: Model setup and validation. CAMS Report 2013-2, pp. 32.

Robins, P.E., Neill, S.P., Giménez, L., Jenkins, S.R. and Malham, S.K. 2013. The importance of larval behaviour strategies in population connectivity. Limnology & Oceanography 58, 505-524.

Robins, P.E., Neill, S.P. and Gimenez, L. 2012. A numerical study of marine larval dispersal in the presence of an axial convergent front. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 100, 172-185.

Robins, P.E., Neill, S.P. and Gimenez, L. 2010. Modelling larval transport in a axial convergent front. AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, 13-17 December 2010.

Smith, A.L., Hamilton, K.M., Hirschle, L., Wootton, E.C., Vogan, C.L., Pope, E.C., Eastwood, DC., et al. 2013. Characterization and molecular epidemiology of a fungal infection of edible crabs (Cancer pagurus) and interaction of the fungus with the dinoflagellate parasite Hematodinium. Applied and environmental microbiology, 79, 783-93.

Tita, A. 2012. Predicting the dispersal of wild Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in the Irish Sea from an existing population – a numerical study. Master’s Thesis, Bangor University, pp. 65.

Wootton, E.C., Woolmer, A.P., Vogan, C.L., Pope, E.C., Hamilton, K.M., & Rowley, A.F. 2012. Increased disease calls for a cost-benefits review of marine reserves. PloS one, 7(12), e51615. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051615