Serpula reefs – Galway’s Hidden gem

Biogenic reefs are hard material created by living things that build up to form structures. While typically we think of things like the Great Barrier reef, tropical waters and corals Ireland is home to its own miniature version in the form of Serpula vermicularis reefs. Serpula are small worms that grow calcareous tubes on hard substrares, they are the white tubes you find growing on rocks, harbour walls or boat hulls. However at a number of sites the larvae settle on existing tubes so that the tubes eventually grow to form large reefs which can be up to 2m in height.

3 sites in Galway host these unique reefs and since 2021 Seasearch Ireland has undertaken a project deploying GoPros in at one site to record the creatures that visit, feed on and live in the Serpula reefs. While this talk will cover some of the more technical and scientific details related to Serpula vermicularis it is intended to be aimed at a general audience and will generally cover the Serpula project and the videos that have been collected during it.

This free online talk is open to all and you can register here.

Deploying cameras – How we collect the videos

Preparation and planning is all well and good but the proof is in the pudding so armed with our bulging folder of health and safety documents we headed to Kilkieran last week armed with 4 housings, a bag of cameras and a pile of weights. We’d done all the prep work on the cameras the night before so all that was needed on the pier was to set up our dive gear and lift bag and hit the water.

Luckily for us the site is extremely shallow so visibility isn’t an issue with deploying so we quickly laid out our transect and began deploying cameras (well Tony did the support diver mostly just hung there and took photos).

Cameras are deployed at 10m intervals along a 50m transect approximately 1m from the nearest Serpula colony. Cameras are deployed for 2 hours (the approximate battery life of a Go Pro 7 and then retrieved). This provides more than a sufficient surface interval (to be honest in the midst of a global pandemic with not much open it’s pretty hard to fill 2 hours with conversation so it’s mostly just watchin seagulls). Cameras are then retrieved and returned for video analysis.

This project is funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage through the NPWS Small Recording Grant Scheme 2021