Tübingen, Germany, July 2014 -- Last month two researchers from Tübingen University in south-west Germany spent some time working at SAMS under the ASSEMBLE transnational access program.
This program allows researchers to work for short periods in large-scale marine facilities across Europe and the two scientists, Karen de Jong and Sarah Schröder, had already visited laboratories in Sweden before visiting the marine research institute near Oban, which was their last stop before going home.
Karen and Sarah visited SAMS to test the effect of noise on the courtship display and nesting success of gobies, because there is increasing concern that man-made noise in the marine environment is disrupting natural behaviour. Along with many other fish1, male gobies make a purring sound as part of their courtship ritual. Some species also perform a little dance on open ground and Karen and Sarah are hoping to put together a YouTube clip of this.
During this research trip to Sweden and Scotland, Karen and Sarah had difficulty finding the fish, which didn’t seem to be in the shallow waters where they are usually. This led to a lively debate on whether the unusually warm winter had resulted in spawning earlier in the year than is typical.
Because of the unexpected absence of common- and sand-gobies, Sarah and Karen focussed instead on two-spotted gobies (Gobiusculus flavescens). To investigate background noise levels they snorkelled at three beaches around Dunstaffnage peninsula and had a day trip on SAMS research vessel Seol Mara, which allowed them to sample in deeper water.
Although Sarah has yet to analyse these data for her Master thesis, initial observations suggest that the presence of kelp has a substantial impact on reducing the propagation of noise compared with stony and steep rocky beaches.
Karen and Sarah would like to thank everyone at SAMS for welcoming them, and in particular Clive Fox, Christine Beveridge, Ben Wilson, Iain MacCorquodale and many others for their valuable help during their stay.
ASSEMBLE (Association of European Marine Biological Laboratories) is an EU FP7 research infrastructure initiative made up of a network of marine research stations across Europe.
1Recently newspapers including the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2473146/Is-humming-thats-keeping-Southampton-residents-awake-fish-having-sex.html) misused a quote from SAMS Ben Wilson and erroneously blamed a species of fish which does not occur on this side of the Atlantic for keeping residents in Southampton awake at night with its noisy humming.