Impact of novel seismic survey sources on the lobster mechanosensory system

Supervisory Team:

  • Ryan Day
  • Jayson Semmens
  • Patricia Peinado

Brief project description:

Seismic surveys are used around the world to explore for oil and gas deposits below the sea floor. They are conducted using air guns that vent highly compressed air into the water column, which creates an intense sound signal that is repeated every ca. 10 seconds over the course of weeks to months, ensonifying 100s-1000s km2 of the ocean. These impulsive, low-frequency sound signals have been found to harm marine invertebrates, including the southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii), scallops (Pecten fumatus) and zooplankton, with effects ranging from mortality, behavioural impacts, physiological impairments, compromised immune function, and damage to mechanosensory system.

In this project, the novel seismic survey sources, reduced volume seismic and the bandwidth limited eSource, will be compared against traditional seismic exposure. To compare these sources, damage to the southern rock lobster mechanosensory system will be assessed. The primary organ of the mechanosensory system of lobster, like many marine invertebrates, is the statocyst, which is comprised of an accretion of hard particles within a fluid filled sac. These particles contact sensory hairs to detect gravity, motion and vibrations in the environment. Previous research has shown that seismic exposure damages these sensory organs which has resulting behavioural effects on juvenile and adult lobsters.

Skills students will develop during this research project:

The student in this project will gain extensive experience with the preparation, imaging and analysis of scanning electron microscopy images of the lobster mechanosensory organ. This will provide a strong basis for any future morphology focused research and a highly specialised skillset in microanalysis. They will have the opportunity to be the primary author on a high impact publication on a topic of high interest.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
June 13, 2023