An understanding of biomineralisation pathways is key to predict climate change impact on aquaculture.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Geographical & Earth Sciences

Abstract

The environment is changing as increasing carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. The atmosphere is warming and the oceans are absorbing more carbon dioxide and becoming more acidic. This reduction in ocean pH is known as ocean acidification. Calcium carbonate is abundant in the oceans as organisms such as shellfish produce protective shell structures. The amount of carbonate available in the oceans under ocean acidification will be reduced, limiting the ability of organisms to produce protective shells. This project will investigate the influence of ocean acidification and warming on the ability of three shellfish species to produce protective shells. Commercially available shellfish will be cultured under future ocean acidification and warming conditions in a laboratory. Shells will be tested for physical and material properties to understand the vulnerability of shells to fracture under changing environments and predation. This project will determine how molluscs produce their calcium carbonate shells, identifying the carbon source and route for shell production under changing climates. This knowledge will enable accurate predictions of the vulnerability of aquaculture to ocean acidification and warming. Feeding experiments and harvesting protocols will be developed to alleviate potential damage to shells during aquaculture for a more resilient, sustainable and more economical shellfish culture.

Planned Impact

The stakeholders of this project include the scientific community, businesses such as Loch Fyne Oysters, Environmental Agencies such as Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Government policy makers and members of the public including young people. The project has the potential to contribute to the nation's health by addressing the impact of climate change on shellfish culture environments, this is of particular importance to Environmental Agencies such as SEPA, who has a statutory duty under legislation to maintain good water quality. Mussel and oyster samples will be obtained locally from Scottish shellfish farms (Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd); results will be presented via meetings to Loch Fyne Oysters and disseminated across employees through their quarterly newsletter. This will communicate potential future issues in relation to culture of calcifying organisms under future ocean acidification. This has the potential therefore to impact the nation's wealth as shellfish culture of mussels provides a food resource and is therefore of economic importance to the nation. Knowledge transfer will be achieved as data is disseminated across the scientific community through publication in high impact journals and presentations at international conferences. The project also aims to increase the effectiveness of public services and policy by creating and communicating summaries of findings with regards to ocean acidification impact on shellfish in plain non-scientific language for government briefings. These will be communicated through government meetings with SF and members of Marine Scotland. The public and Scottish Tourism Board will benefit from the smart phone App aimed at transferring knowledge of the climate impact on shellfish populations in Scotland. This will be primarily available on the Scottish tourism website and potentially linked in with Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd to develop a means of show casing shellfish farms and restaurants along the West Coast of Scotland. The project will therefore add to the nations economic performance providing public services to increase tourism. The public will be able to access information regarding marine shellfish inhabiting Scotland's Lochs as they walk around Scotland's coastlines. There will be a link to the project website and twitter feed. Restaurants/ shellfish farms will be accessible for interested tourists. Ideas will be developed by SF, the application of the smart phone app will be outsourced. Dr Susan Fitzer will approach the Scottish tourism board through the University of Glasgow to coordinate ideas and development. Knowledge exchange will occur through secondary school workshops on ocean acidification. Workshops will be organised with Castlemilk High School in Glasgow to develop a secondary school video produced by the school students which can be disseminated through TWIG video access site through Education Scotland. Ocean acidification is now within the curriculum in Chemistry at secondary school levels of teaching, this will provide a resource for teachers. Public outreach will also be achieved through attendance and presentation of findings at the Glasgow Science Festival. These activities aim to enhance the quality of life and creative output through the project. Knowledge transfer will occur through social media using a twitter live feed, updated by Dr Susan Fitzer on a weekly basis. A project website linked into the University of Glasgow and to the twitter feed will also be updated twice monthly by Susan Fitzer.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/N01409X/1 01/07/2016 31/12/2017 £522,302
NE/N01409X/2 Transfer NE/N01409X/1 01/01/2018 30/06/2021 £369,605
 
Description NERC Leadership Skills Training bursary
Amount £1,117 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Department NERC Postdoctoral Fellowship
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 03/2017
 
Description Principal's Early Career Mobility Scheme - The University of Hong Kong
Amount £1,630 (GBP)
Organisation University of Glasgow 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2016 
End 07/2017
 
Description Principal's Early Career Mobility Scheme - The University of Sydney
Amount £1,915 (GBP)
Organisation University of Glasgow 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Title Carbon isotope analysis of mussel and oyster extrapallial fluid 
Description A new method was developed to prepare and analyse mussel and oyster extrapallial fluids for carbon analysis using freeze dying. The analysis of the extrapallial fluids was adjusted from existing tissue carbon isotope analysis methods, this included adjustment of standards for mass spectrometry in collaboration with the Fellowship project partner at the Scottish Universities Environment Research Centre. This technique will be described in papers under preparation for the Fellowship, but is not yet available to others. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The development of this research method will ensure the completion of the objectives of the Fellowship research towards identifying the carbon pathway for biomineralisation in mussels and oysters under acidification. 
 
Title Collection of specimens of mussels and oysters from field sites with varying levels of natural acidification caused by freshwater run off and acid sulphate soils. 
Description A collection of mussel and oyster shell specimens have been obtained from field sites with varying levels of natural acidification caused by freshwater run off and acid sulphate soils. These shells will be examined for biomineralisation pathways and shell crystallography to determine how shellfish change their mechanisms of shell growth in changing acidification environments. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Oyster shells collected from sulphate soil acidfication sites will be used to identify whether growth reductions in oyster populations are a direct result of incresaed freshwater run-off caused by changing land uses and claimte change. This data will be fed back to local govenment and oyster farmers to identify problematic sites impacting oyster culture in the future. 
 
Description Coastal acidification impacts on oyster resources 
Organisation Department of Primary Industries New South Wales
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This collaboration was initially funded by the University of Glasgow and Sydney (UoS) Early Career Mobility Fund. I visited the University of Sydney, Hunter Local Land Services (HLLS) and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) New South Wales in May 2017 for meetings to present to DPI in Port Stephens and to present to HLLS and members of the public and local oyster farmers in Forster. Collaborators Prof. Maria Byrne (UoS), Brian Hughes (HLLS), Michael Dove and Wayne O'Connor (DPI) provided their time to sample local oyster farms where acid sulphate soils are causing problems for oyster growth in New South Wales. Since as part of the changing landscape of the NERC Fellowship I have performed data analysis to examine the changing biomineralisation pathways in oysters grown under naturally occurring coastal acidification. This continued collaboration has resulted in two publications 2018-2020.
Collaborator Contribution UoS, DPI, and HLLS provided their time, boat services, and oysters to provide samples towards my Fellowship research to analyses oyster biomineralisation pathways and determine if ASS are linked to reduced shell growth. All collaborators have been involved with meetings and experimental design for the sampling, the data collected has been prepared into two publications.
Impact Two articles have been published as published in the outputs: Fitzer SC, McGill RAR, Torres Gabarda S, Hughes B, Dove M, O'Connor W & Byrne M (2019) Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification. Global Change Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14818 Fitzer SC, Torres Gabarda S, Daly L, Hughes B, Dove M, O'Connor W, Potts J, Scanes P & Byrne M (2018) Coastal acidification impacts on shell mineral structure of bivalve mollusks. Ecology and Evolution, 8 (17), pp. 8973-8984. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/ece3.4416; https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4416
Start Year 2018
 
Description Coastal acidification impacts on oyster resources 
Organisation Hunter Local Land Services
Country Australia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This collaboration was initially funded by the University of Glasgow and Sydney (UoS) Early Career Mobility Fund. I visited the University of Sydney, Hunter Local Land Services (HLLS) and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) New South Wales in May 2017 for meetings to present to DPI in Port Stephens and to present to HLLS and members of the public and local oyster farmers in Forster. Collaborators Prof. Maria Byrne (UoS), Brian Hughes (HLLS), Michael Dove and Wayne O'Connor (DPI) provided their time to sample local oyster farms where acid sulphate soils are causing problems for oyster growth in New South Wales. Since as part of the changing landscape of the NERC Fellowship I have performed data analysis to examine the changing biomineralisation pathways in oysters grown under naturally occurring coastal acidification. This continued collaboration has resulted in two publications 2018-2020.
Collaborator Contribution UoS, DPI, and HLLS provided their time, boat services, and oysters to provide samples towards my Fellowship research to analyses oyster biomineralisation pathways and determine if ASS are linked to reduced shell growth. All collaborators have been involved with meetings and experimental design for the sampling, the data collected has been prepared into two publications.
Impact Two articles have been published as published in the outputs: Fitzer SC, McGill RAR, Torres Gabarda S, Hughes B, Dove M, O'Connor W & Byrne M (2019) Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification. Global Change Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14818 Fitzer SC, Torres Gabarda S, Daly L, Hughes B, Dove M, O'Connor W, Potts J, Scanes P & Byrne M (2018) Coastal acidification impacts on shell mineral structure of bivalve mollusks. Ecology and Evolution, 8 (17), pp. 8973-8984. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/ece3.4416; https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4416
Start Year 2018
 
Description Coastal acidification impacts on oyster resources 
Organisation University of Sydney
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This collaboration was initially funded by the University of Glasgow and Sydney (UoS) Early Career Mobility Fund. I visited the University of Sydney, Hunter Local Land Services (HLLS) and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) New South Wales in May 2017 for meetings to present to DPI in Port Stephens and to present to HLLS and members of the public and local oyster farmers in Forster. Collaborators Prof. Maria Byrne (UoS), Brian Hughes (HLLS), Michael Dove and Wayne O'Connor (DPI) provided their time to sample local oyster farms where acid sulphate soils are causing problems for oyster growth in New South Wales. Since as part of the changing landscape of the NERC Fellowship I have performed data analysis to examine the changing biomineralisation pathways in oysters grown under naturally occurring coastal acidification. This continued collaboration has resulted in two publications 2018-2020.
Collaborator Contribution UoS, DPI, and HLLS provided their time, boat services, and oysters to provide samples towards my Fellowship research to analyses oyster biomineralisation pathways and determine if ASS are linked to reduced shell growth. All collaborators have been involved with meetings and experimental design for the sampling, the data collected has been prepared into two publications.
Impact Two articles have been published as published in the outputs: Fitzer SC, McGill RAR, Torres Gabarda S, Hughes B, Dove M, O'Connor W & Byrne M (2019) Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification. Global Change Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14818 Fitzer SC, Torres Gabarda S, Daly L, Hughes B, Dove M, O'Connor W, Potts J, Scanes P & Byrne M (2018) Coastal acidification impacts on shell mineral structure of bivalve mollusks. Ecology and Evolution, 8 (17), pp. 8973-8984. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/ece3.4416; https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4416
Start Year 2018
 
Description Continued collaboration with University of Glasgow through undergraduate project co-supervision and publication of article. 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have continued to collaborate with colleagues Prof. Jaime Toney and Dr Julien Plancq at the University of Glasgow through co-supervision of undergraduate research projects. The data from two student projects was written as a research article for publication entitled 'Increased pCO2 changes the lipid production in important aquacultural feedstock algae Isochrysis galbana, but not in Tetraselmis suecica'. The article has been accepted for publication in the journal Aquaculture and Fisheries, March 2019, with the students as co-authors for this article. The data has also been used towards grant applications to the European Research Council as a starting grant to continue research through this collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Jaime Toney and Dr Julien Plancq at the University of Glasgow co-supervised undergraduate students based at Glasgow for the research entitled 'Increased pCO2 changes the lipid production in important aquacultural feedstock algae Isochrysis galbana, but not in Tetraselmis suecica'. Dr Julien Plancq lead the supervision at Glasgow and co-wrote the artcile since accepted for publication in the journal Aquaculture and Fisheries.
Impact A research article for publication entitled 'Increased pCO2 changes the lipid production in important aquacultural feedstock algae Isochrysis galbana, but not in Tetraselmis suecica' has been accepted for publication in the journal Aquaculture and Fisheries, March 2019.
Start Year 2018
 
Description FutureShell proposal submitted. 
Organisation Villefranche Oceanographic Laboratory
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I have analysed samples and co-authored a publication with collaborators Frederic Gazeau and Erin Cox entitled 'Ocean acidification affects calcareous tube growth in adult stage and reared offspring of serpulid polychaetes' which has been revised for publication in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The collaboration with Frederic Gazeau has resulted in the submission of a research proposal to ANR L'Agence nationale de la recherche to work on a collaborative project examining the impacts of acidification on oysters.
Collaborator Contribution Frederic Gazeau as research partner wrote and submitted and revised for the second round review the joint research proposal FutureShell submitted to ANR this year.
Impact 'Ocean acidification affects calcareous tube growth in adult stage and reared offspring of serpulid polychaetes' which has been revised for publication in the Journal of Experimental Biology. FutureShell research proposal under review by ANR L'Agence nationale de la recherche.
Start Year 2018
 
Description A public talk in New South Wales, Australia organised by Hunter Local Land Sevrices and the Department of Primary Industries. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to present my research at The Marine Discovery Series on 'Climate change impacts on oceans and oysters' on the 5th May 2017. This was an invitation by collaborators in the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries at Hunter Land Services and the University of Sydney whilst field sampling for oysters growing under suphate soil acidfication. The talk was presented to the genral public, local government and local oyster farmers. In addition to the talk I was later asked to interview about this research on a local news channel: Prime 7 News.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://hunter.lls.nsw.gov.au/resource-hub/media-releases/2015/marine-discovery-series
 
Description A television interview during collaborative field work in Australia for Prime 7 News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was asked by Prime 7 news to discuss my research collaboration with the University of Sydney whilst visiting oyster farms in New South Wales, Australia. The television interview was aired on Prime 7 News North Coast, Local Australian TV interview, 5th May 2017. I was put in touch with Prime 7 News through collaborators Prof. Maria Byrne and Brian Hughes at Hunter Local Land Services whilst visiting local oyster farms to sample oysters to examine how mechanisms of shell growth change in sulphate soil acidification. The television interview came about after I gave a public talk about my research in New South Wales organised for the public by Hunter Local Land Services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.facebook.com/Prime7NewsNorthCoast/videos/1715896201760822/
 
Description Article publication in The Grower 'Selective breeding in oysters to cope with current and future challenges' for members of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The article 'Selective breeding in oysters to cope with current and future challenges' was written for the March 2020 edition of The Grower for the members of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers. This also resulted in an invitation to speak at the European Aquaculture Society conference in Cork in September 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://assg.org.uk/
 
Description Media release with the publication of the article 'Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification' in Global Change Biology. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A media release 'Farmed oysters able to protect themselves from acidification' was issued 26th September 2019 to promote the publication of the article 'Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification' in Global Change Biology. The release was issued through the University of Stirling and the University of Sydney through co-authors of the article. The media release resulted in several radio and television interviews with my co-authro Prof. Maria Byrne through ABC Sydney discussing the impact of the research on the oyster growers in New South Wales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.stir.ac.uk/news/2019/09/farmed-oysters-able-to-protect-themselves-from-acidification/
 
Description Pint of Science - Best of! Presentation 'How to Build Mussels!' (Planet Earth) at the BAaD. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Pint of Science - Best of! An event created for Freshers Fringe, to showcase the most exciting talks from this years' festival of the Pint of Science. I was selected and invited to present at the event on 'How to Build Mussels!' (Planet Earth) at the Barras Art and Design, Glasgow (BAaD).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://glasgow.carpediem.cd/events/4479719-pint-of-science-best-of-at-baad/
 
Description Pint of Science talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I presented my research at a Pint of Science event on the 15th May 2017 entitled water and climate held at a local pub Waxy O'Connors in Glasgow. The talk 'How to build mussels' was given to ~50 paying members of the public and discussion followed. Following this talk I was asked to attend and present at another public event in September.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/water-and-climate
 
Description Publication of an article in The Conversation online the World's shellfish are under threat as our oceans become more acidic 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was asked to write an article for The Conversation following a media release with my publication in Global Change Biology 'Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://theconversation.com/the-worlds-shellfish-are-under-threat-as-our-oceans-become-more-acidic-1...
 
Description Visit to Offshore Shellfish 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Visit to Offshore Shellfish to discuss research on climate change impact on aquaculture. Interviews with the shellfish farmers to discuss their concerns and views regarding climate change impact on shellfish aquaculture. Site visits to observe shellfish farming activities and collect mussels for research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Vlog for research outreach. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Monthly video blogs highlighting research activities relating to the Fellowship project. Entitled 'A day in the life of Dr Susan Fitzer NERC Fellow'. Vlogs distributed via YouTube channel and social media including Twitter feeds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdWGt1GMtyzIYKxLxpriDhA
 
Description Wrote and article for the Conversation. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Wrote an article for publication online for the Conversation. This sparked discussion afterwards and I was contacted by ABC News Tasmania by email to discuss this further.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.stir.ac.uk/research/hub/publication/1101849