Assessing environmental interactions of the marine environment


Dr. Louise Kregting
Dr. Lilian Lieber
Dr. Pal Schmitt
Dr. Dave Smyth
Ms. Rachel Millar
Mr. Patrick Joyce
Mr. Nick Horne


The Marine Research Group (MRG) has a strong tradition in environmental monitoring of diverse marine habitats, spanning from tidally-energetic channels to coastal oceans. With a unique collection of engineers, biologists and physical oceanographers, the MRG conducts research into marine processes, including large-scale hydrodynamic modelling or detailed water column characterisation, with a focus on the interplay of physics and ecology.









With the global rise of the marine renewable energy sector, we have developed a core strength in assessing environmental interactions of wave and tidal energy devices with individual animals, macroalgae and benthic communities. Such work involves the investigation of underwater noise, hydrographic process, collision risk and benthic communities using a broad range of equipment and techniques, for example: 

DHI Modelling Software to couple hydrodynamics with ecological processes

Hydrophones to measure ambient noise underwater or device-related noise

ADCPs (Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers) to measure current speed, direction & turbulence

Benthic (seabed) surveys to assess species composition

Simulations to calculate the probability of collisions between a device and animals

Multibeam sonar (active acoustics) to observe animal interactions with a device

Seal counts and behavioural studies to assess population dynamics and individual variation






PowerTake-Off System for a Subsea Tidal Kite




Dr Louise Kregting
Dr Pal Schmitt
Dr Lilian Lieber
Dr Dave Smyth

Under the EU-funded project PowerKite, involving over 9 partners, the MRG is primarily working on assessing the environmental interactions of a novel tidal turbine, the Deep Green (‘kite’), developed by Minesto. The quarter-scale kite is being tested in the Narrows, a tidal channel located in Strangford Lough, and with the Queen’s University Marine Laboratory at the shores of Portaferry, this makes it an ideal test site at our doorsteps.


Project Overview

We are developing a multitude of new methodologies and instrument integration to gain a better understanding of the kite in its dynamic environment and to assess how animals (from fish to seals) may interact with the device. This includes:

  • Investigating turbine noise and the underwater soundscape in the channel using hydrophones
  • Developing active acoustic approaches, such as the integration of multiple multibeam sonar heads with ADCPs, imperative for target tracking and near-field behavioural analysis in relation to the underlying flow regime
  • Assessing fine-scale tidal channel use by seals in relation to water column characteristics using ADCP transects and marine mammal sighting surveys
  • Developed a simulation tool for 4D collision risk probabilities of animals with devices and are currently advancing the application of this tool with the integration of ecological data
  • Carried out diver assessments of substrate communities around the device to assess species composition and change over time 

PowerKite Collaborators

The MRG works in close collaboration with the tidal device developer (Minesto), the local regulatory authority (Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, DAREA), as well as the sonar manufacturers (Kongsberg).

Other close collaborators include Linus Hammar, Olivia Langhamer and Sverker Molander at Chalmers University, Sweden, Dr Matt Pine and former MRG research fellow, Dr Ross Culloch.

We welcome Nick Horne, a new PhD Student who has joined the MRG in December 2017 and who is based in Portaferry.

Further information on the project

The overall objective of the PowerKite project is to gather experience in open sea conditions to enhance the structural and power performance for a next generation tidal energy converter, known as the ‘kite’. It is to ensure high survivability, reliability and performance, low environmental impacts and competitive cost of energy in the future commercial phases. This research is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 654438.

For further information please contact Dr Louise Kregting ( 


Recent publications:

Schmitt, P, Culloch, R, Lieber, L, Molander, S, Hammar, L & Kregting, L (2017), 'A tool for simulating collision probabilities of animals with marine renewable energy devices' PLoS One, 12, no. 11, e0188780. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188780

Smyth, D., Mahon, A., Roberts, D., & Kregting, L. (2017). Settlement of Ostrea edulis is determined by the availability of hard substrata rather than its nature: implications for stock recovery and restoration of the European oyster. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, [AQC-17-0055].

Lieber, L, Nilsen, T, Zambrano, C & Kregting, L (2017), 'Optimising multiple multibeam sonars to assess marine life interactions with an underwater kite'. Proceedings of the 12th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference 27th Aug -1st Sept 2017, Cork, Ireland

Kregting, L., Elsäßer, B., Kennedy, R., Smyth, D., O’Carroll, J. & Savidge, G. (2016) Do changes in current flow as a result of arrays of tidal turbines have an effect on benthic communities? PLoS ONE, 11, 1–14.