Internship: Ecology of wrecks and platforms in the North Sea

Wageningen Marine Research is looking for students to analyze samples of the fauna on hard substrata from the North Sea, to determine what the differences are between locations and various types of hard substrata.

Practical information

  • Student level: MSc / BSc
  • From which date: Continuous
  • Duration: At least 4 months
  • Location: Wageningen Marine Research in Den Helder

Artificial objects in the North Sea provide habitat for other species than those living in soft sandy sediments. The presence of shipwrecks, buoys, oil and gas platforms and wind farms changes the local species composition. Wageningen Marine Research investigates the benthic communities on these artificial objects and tries to predict the species composition, abundances, weights and other variables in and on these reefs. We model the distribution, weight and dimensions of species communities on oil and gas installations, shipwrecks and wind farms and investigate whether all artificial objects form a large interconnected offshore reef network.

Wageningen Marine Research divers collect samples from the marine growth (fouling/epifauna) at different offshore oil and gas installations, wind farms and ship wrecks in the North Sea. These samples are then sorted and all species identified, counted and weighed in our benthic laboratory in Den Helder. By analysing these samples and combining the data with those from other projects and industry provided data, we hope to gather more insight in macrofauna patterns of hard substrata in the North Sea. Furthermore we extract data from industry inspection activities, e.g. carried out by remotely operated vehicles (underwater drones), using these data to improve our understanding of epifouling communities.

This research is of importance for operators of offshore installations as they may need to assess the impact of placing these artificial reefs in a soft sediment environment. Furthermore the weight and thickness of the epifouling species may affect the structural integrity and are of relevance for maintenance and decommissioning activities. Our insights can also be used in future impact assessments for construction of renewable energy farms, oil and gas installations or for reefing projects with decommissioned installations.

We are looking for students who are interested in sorting samples, identifying, weighing and measuring the species and/or analysing and reporting our data. The location of these activities is the Wageningen Marine Research Den Helder location in the port of Den Helder. We prefer to set specific goals for each internship in consultation with the student so feel free to contact us to discuss your ideas.

FYI: Due to strict regulations, it is not possible to join our offshore sampling cruises or perform any diving field work for this project. It is possible to help out at other Wageningen Marine Research activities in the field, may these present themselves during an internship.

The research programme is continuous, we request that students stay a minimum of 4 months.

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