COI Funded Project: Construction of a double-grid turbulence tank for larval behavior studies


Project Funded: 2006

Many marine species cannot disperse as adults, but have planktonic larvae that are transported by coastal currents; larval dispersal is important to ecologists and habitat managers because it controls the exchange of individuals between distant populations. Dispersal is difficult to measure because we are unable to track larvae in the environment. Larval ecologists increasingly rely on physical oceanographic models to predict larval dispersal patterns, but without larval behavior information these models are poor predictors of larval dispersal. Our immediate goal is to characterize the responses of mussel larvae to turbulence and downwelling flow, and ultimately we will incorporate these behaviors in a physical transport model to estimate mussel dispersal in Cape Cod Bay.

We lack an appropriate turbulence-generation system for our study of mussel larvae in turbulence, and propose to build a double-grid-stirred turbulence tank for this purpose. The use of two stirring grids is a significant improvement in the production of homogeneous turbulence appropriate for behavior studies. The tank will reside at the Rinehart Coastal Research Center (RCRC), and will be available for use by other researchers. Other potential uses of the tank include studies of particle dispersion, predator-prey interactions, or phytoplankton sedimentation rates in turbulence.