Impact of seismic survey exposure on the physiology of marine invertebrates

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 impairment, compromised immune function, and damage to mechanosensory systems.

We have several projects available to investigate the impact of exposure to seismic surveys on invertebrates including the pale octopus (Octopus pallidus), southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) and the commercial scallop (Pecten fumatus). These species are ecologically and environmentally important to Tasmanian ecosystems, so understanding the potential impacts to their physiology is a crucial aspect towards understanding the impacts of seismic surveys on the marine environment.

To investigate the impacts of seismic survey exposure, this project will investigate a range of biochemical parameters in samples collected from octopus, lobsters and scallops that were exposed to a 2,780 cubic inch seismic survey. For the latter two taxa, experiments were also conducted using novel seismic sources to facilitate development of methods with reduced impact to marine life. By measuring the impacts to immune function and the oxidative stress response, this project will provide important information towards understanding how seismic surveys impact the marine environment that will inform management decisions and guide fishery and seismic survey interactions in the future.

Skills students will develop during this research project:

The student in this project will gain extensive experience with laboratory procedures through conducting a range of biochemical analysis.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
May 22, 2023