Student Research Projects

Settlement and Recruitment of Fouling Organisms on Hard Substratum in Indian Creek

Student Catherine Clegg, '17
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course BIO 489: Research in Natural Sciences


Biological fouling can be defined as the accumulation of aquatic microorganisms, plants, algae, or animals that attach to the surface of hard substratum. Invertebrate species that settle on hard substratum include barnacles, bryozoans, flatworms, annelids, bivalves and sponges. Variation in recruitment of fouling organisms is dependent on temporal and spatial factors, such as time of year and geographic location. Other factors that can influence the recruitment and settlement of these organisms include salinity, temperature, the presence of predators, competition, abundance of food and nutrients. It is important to observe settlement and recruitment of fouling organisms in an area because it helps in understanding the temporal and spatial dynamics of benthic populations. The purpose of this research is to investigate the diversity and abundance of invertebrate species recruited to and settling on artificial substratum (oyster shell strings) in Indian Creek, north of the Rappahannock River, in Kilmarnock, Virginia. The recruitment and settlement of fouling organisms on hard substratum, oyster shell strings, was observed from May to November 2016 at six different locations. The abundance and number of species of fouling organisms settling on the shell strings were documented. Results indicate that abundance on the oyster shell strings ranged from 2-986 specimens. In total 12 species from 6 phyla were identified. The number of species per shell string ranged from 4-9 species. The barnacle, Balanus eburneus, was the most abundant species (n=986) observed at all sites except one, covering approximately 75% of the oyster shell string. The second most abundant species, the mussel Ischadium recurvum, peaked (n = 57) August-September at 3 sites. Species richness and abundance was greatest at sites 2, 3, and 4 which were more protected from strong current and human activity.


Virginia Wesleyan Undergraduate Research Grant, 2016-17