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30/10/2014 - 2015 Modiolus Researchers Meeting

We will be hosting the 2015 Modiolus Researchers Meeting at QUML. The workshop will be held on the 22-23 of January. More information and details coming soon.

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15/10/2014 New graduate student!

Camilla Bertolini is the newest member of the Modiolus Research Group. She is a PhD student who's research will focus on restoring modiolus reefs in Strangford Lough through translocation. See the following Link for more information

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17/04/2014 Opening for new PhD student!

We are currentlyy searching for a PhD student to collaborate on a Modiolus restoration study.

Please go to the following page for more information

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19/01/2014: Three new peer-reviewed publications from the first MRRG!

 NEW Peer Reviewed Articles

Identifying optimal sites for natural recovery and restoration of impacted biogenic
habitats in a special area of conservation using hydrodynamic and habitat
suitability modelling

Authors: Björn Elsäßer a, Jose M. Fariñas-Franco, Conor David Wilson, Louise Kregting, Dai Roberts


Community convergence and recruitment of keystone species as performance
indicators of artificial reefs

Authors: Jose M. Fariñas-Franco & Dai Roberts


Early faunal successional patterns in artificial reefs used for restoration of impacted biogenic habitats

Authors: Jose M. Fariñas-Franco & Dai Roberts

DOI 10.1007/s10750-013-1788-y


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15/09/2013: Second MRRG study has begun

The second MRRG study has began and a new post doc has been hired (About research group). Stay tunded for an updated website and updates on the research that will be starting in the spring 2014.

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19/07/2011: Modiolus Restoration Research Project-Final Report and Recommendations available for public download

After 3 years mapping and studying Strangford Lough´s remaining Modiolus modiolus beds, the MRRG is proud to present the Modiolus Restoration Research Project: Final Results and Recommendations report.

Carried out between February 2008 and February 2011 the project was delivered by three academic, six research and two technical staff. Field surveys involved deployment of 276 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) drops and over 448 dives. A major pilot restoration study involving the creation of an artificial Modiolus modiolus reef east of Island Taggart was also undertaken. The first of its kind in Northern Ireland, the artificial Modiolus modiolus reef has proven a successful restoration strategy as M. modiolus spat recruitment and faunal biodiversity increased significantly just one year after construction.

The Modiolus Restoration Research Project final report describes in detail the current condition of the Modiolus modiolus beds and their associated faunal communities as well as explaining the results of the pilot restoration studies tested. A total protection zone including all remaining M. modiolus beds is proposed while projections for habitat recovery and recommendations for future restoration work are also given.

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MRRG researchers present project updates at the 13th International Shellfish Restoration Conference

Dr. Dai Roberts and Jose María Fariñas attendend the 13th International Shellfish Restoration Conference in November 2010. The conference focusd on restoration of shellfish population and degraded coastal ecosystems worldwide and this year it was held in historic Charleston, South Carolina, USA. This was an extraodinary opportunity for the MRRG to present their advances in the current efforts to restore the Modiolus reefs of Strangford Lough. Jose Maria presented results from his PhD thesis in his oral presentation "Restoration of biogenic reefs of Modiolus modiolus: the potential for enhancing recruitment using hatchery produced seed" while Dai gave an overall update on the project and the results obtained so far. Two posters were also presented (ICSR 2010 website for more information and conference abstracts)

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New section on Modiolus reef restoration available
Check the new section on the MRRG intervention work including photographs of the cultch deployment work carried out in January 2010 and the biogenic reefs created using translocated Modiolus modiolus from Strangford Lough.

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MRRG cumulative diving reaches almost 700 dives since the beginning of the Modiolus restoration project

MRRG scientific divers have carried out more than 700 scientific dives since the beginning of the Modiolus Restoration Project in January 2008. The scientific diving is an integral part of the current efforts to map and monitor the Modiolus biogenic reefs of Strangford Lough. The majority of the 700 dives involved photo and video recording, transect surveying, collection of samples and deployment of hydrographic equipment. Horse mussel reef restoration efforts have also involved a considerable amount of diving, particularly during the harsh winter months of 2009 and early 2010 when the deployment of the artificial reefs took place. The MRRG diving team  would like to thank all the support divers (Claire, Louise, Ricky, Hugh and Andy) and the skippers (Dessie, Jeremy and Simon at Cuan Shore and their cups of tea and sandwhiches!) who have helped to make our job a bit less hard since the project started.

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01/08/10: work experience Leonardo graduates and IAESTE students finish their placements with the MRRG

Leonardo Da Vinci grant holders Oihane Erdaide and Rebeca Pajuelo from Spain and IAESTE student Petra Resetar from Croatia finished their work placements at Queen's University Marine Laboratory in Portaferry. They were mostly involved in the Modiolus population structure and faunal diversity studies carried out by the MRRG, as well as getting hands on experience in equipment deployment, scientific diving supervision and how to make good cups of tea and coffee. They have worked extremely hard for the past months and we were all very sad to see them leaving. Thanks very much for all your help girls!

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I Modiolus modiolus researchers' meeting organized by the MRRG

The first Modiolus modiolus researchers' meeting took place in Exploris Aquarium last January 19th. Organized by the Modiolus Restoration Research Group the meeting provided an opportunity for researchers to discuss the past, present and future of the horse mussel reefs in British and Irish waters. The meeting consisted of one day presentations followed by a day of SCUBA diving or ROV work on the M. modiolus beds of Strangford Lough. A wide variety of topics were covered during the presentations, from the current efforts carried out by the Northern Irish Government (DARD and DOE) and Queen's University Belfast to restore the M. modiolus reefs of Strangford Lough to the use of remote sensing techniques to locate and map M. modiolus reefs off the Welsh coast, the exciting discovery of new and extremely rich M. modiolus beds near the Manx coast, the striking reproductive differences between Irish and Scandinavian Modiolus populations or the current status of the horse mussel communities in Scottish sea Loughs among others. Following the presentations audience and guest speakers agreed knowledge sharing and collaboration between the different  conservation agencies, researchers and universities currently involved in M. modiolus research are essential to guarantee the future of the horse mussel reefs, one of the richest marine habitats in Europe. The conference schedule is accessible in the downloads section.

The MRRG is extremely thankful to all the guest speakers, chairmen and attendees that travelled to Portaferry for sharing their knowledge, ideas, opinions and experiences, making this I Modiolus Researchers Meeting a reality.

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Artificial reefs consisting of king scallop shell were successfully deployed in Strangford Lough as part of the Modiolus restoration plan

After three days of ardous work the MRGG has deployed more than 10 tonnes of king scallop (Pecten maximus) shell to create the first experimental Modiolus reefs of Strangford Lough. As part of the intervention phase of the Modiolus Restoration Plan (MRP) the MRRG proposed to initiate a medium-scale experiment involving the deployment of cultch at a site South East of Brown Rocks. The proposal was submitted and approved by our sponsor clients DARD Fisheries Division and NIEA after the mandatory public consultation period and once a FEPA Marine Construction Licence and a Section 14 Fisheries Permit were granted. The main aim of this artificial reef is to determine if survival and expansion of Modiolus modiolus on elevated clutch is enhanced and to investigate biodiversity change and natural settlement of Modiolus spat. The cultch deployment operation is the most ambitious field experiment in terms of scale undertaken by Queen's University in Strangford Lough. The dive work involved in retrieving deployment ropes and guideline linkages to the cultch plots was extremely challenging. The divers were working in the cold waters of Strangford Lough with almost zero visibility and strong currents. All those involved in the operation require considerable recognition for their endevours in executing the shell deployment in such successful manner. A selection of photographs can be accessed in the gallery.

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Modiolus reef distribution maps now available in the resources section

Maps showing the historical and current extent of the horse mussel Modiolus modiolus reefs of Strangford Lough are now available for the first time on the Project Downloads section. These new maps are the result of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and SCUBA diving surveys undertaken during the past 2 years by the MRRG field scientists. Historical maps based on data taken from the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) are also displayed for comparison purposes.

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MRRG staff is back from the Isle of Man

Quadrat deployed on a Modiolus reef during the Manx surveys in July 2009 (photo courtesy of CCW)

Anne Marie Mahon, marine biologist and scientific diver with the MRRG joined fellow researchers from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) for a week of scientific diving on the Manx Modiolus reefs.

The MRRG was invited by Dr. Bill Sanderson from CCW  to participate in their current monitoring work on the Modiolus reefs located north of the Isle of Man. Although usually involved in the monitoring of Welsh  Modiolus beds, CCW is also collaborating with the Isle of Man government in a joint effort to study the horse mussel reefs northwest of the Manx coast. 

Co-operation between scientists both sides of the Irish Sea will ultimately help the current efforts to restore the Strangford Lough Modiolus beds, a marine priority habitat requiring protection under the EU Council Directive 92/43/EEC.

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BBC Northern Ireland covers the Modiolus Restoration Plan launch at Portaferry

The Modiolus Restoration Plan was oficially presented to the media by ministers Sammy Wilson and Michelle Gildernew. The event took place at Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, Co. Down and it was covered by BBC Newsline Northern Ireland. Watch it online at: (MRP Launch video clip) (Interview with ministers Michelle Gildernew and Sammy Wilson)

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17/04/2014 Opening for new PhD student!

We are currentlyy searching for a PhD student to collaborate on a Modiolus restoration study.

Please go to the following link for more information

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Modiolus Restoration Plan officially launched (QUB Press Release)
Queen's work to save Strangford horse mussels
Dr David Roberts
Dr David (Dai) Roberts

Queen’s University is working on a three-year study to conserve and restore endangered horse mussel reefs in Strangford Lough.

Marine biologists based at the University’s marine research and outreach centre in Portaferry, part of the School of Biological Sciences, will provide scientific and technological research to map and monitor the species and undertake trials to restore it.

Horse mussel reefs are important to the marine environment because they are ‘biological engineers’ which improve water quality through filtering it when they feed and also because many other species depend on them for survival.

Funded by the Department of Agriculture and the Rural Development and the Department of the Environment, the project follows a multi-agency report in 2004 which said that the beds were in serious decline.

DARD, supported by DOE, imposed a temporary ban on fishing in the Lough with mobile gear, from December 2003, which still remains in place.

As horse mussels were one of the features used in the conservation designation of Strangford Lough the UK government is obliged to protect them under European directives.

Although the horse mussel reef communities in Strangford Lough were once very rich they have declined at an alarming rate in some areas.
They are usually found in the central and northern part of the Lough, with their hard shells part buried in the soft mud sediment.

Horse mussels are important because they provide a hard surface for other species to grow on, in otherwise soft muddy areas. Other organisms also hide and shelter in the crevices and niches of clumps of horse mussels. They create a habitat for around 100 other species.

Dr David Roberts, from Queen’s, who is Principal Investigator on the study entitled Modiolus Restoration Research, said it was the first of its kind for the species.

He said: “Queen’s has expertise in the restoration of the European native oyster, freshwater pearl mussels and a long history of marine research. The University is therefore ideally positioned to undertake research to develop techniques and recommendations for the restoration of horse mussel reefs in Strangford Lough.

“One year into the study we have found that horse mussel reefs as not as widely distributed as they were in the 1970s and that some beds have extremely poor mussel density - less than 25% of what we would consider a good density.

“In terms of intervention we have started to culture the animals in the lab at Portaferry.

 “Mussels are very important to the marine environment as they act as biological 'engineers’ in both freshwater and marine ecosystems. When they feed they filter vast quantities of water thereby improving water quality. A frequently cited example is that of a population of blue mussels which were capable of filtering the entire contents of the Albert Dock in Liverpool in two days.

“Horse mussels work in the same way; they also provide habitat for over a hundred other species, serving as a nursery ground for species of commercial importance.”

An event to mark the first year of the project is taking place at Exploris in Portaferry today.

For media enquiries please contact Andrea Clements, press officer on 028 9097 5391, Mob 07980 013 362,

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Contact Information

Modiolus Restoration Research Group
Queen's University Marine Laboratory (QUML)
12, The Strand
BT22 1PF
Northern Ireland
Phone: +44 (0) 28 90972249

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