Engaging the public in sustainable designs to improve marine biodiversity
Meet the expert..
Dr Roger Herbert
The Bio-Beach project sees ecologists and engineers from BU’s Faculty of Science and Technology join forces to research and develop sustainable coastal defence designs.
The team are designing and producing features to improve and increase the quality of marine life around Bournemouth’s beaches.
These will include artificial rock pools and structures containing holes, pits and crevices, which provide refuge for marine organisms.
The structures will be fitted onto existing coastal defences, such as groynes, on Bournemouth’s beaches to improve and increase the marine biodiversity along the shore line.
The project aims to help understand what aspects are most attractive to marine organisms and apply the findings in ecologically sensitive designs, which will be introduced to future marine developments to mitigate any potential biodiversity loss.
The Bio-Beach project is a collaboration with Bournemouth Borough Council’s Coastal Activity Park, and underwater cameras will allow the public to observe and explore the colonisation of the structures by marine life.
Researchers have also been engaging with thousands of people at festivals and with the public on the beach, as well as working with students from local schools who have been helping design the structures in a weekly science club.
The Bio-Beach project has been funded through the BU Fusion Investment Fund, which supports practical projects combining excellence in research, education and professional practice.
There’s no doubt that our coastline has suffered habitat degradation and biodiversity loss as a result of pollution, overfishing and the steady reclamation of the seabed.
The real threat of climate change and associated sea level rise are presenting new challenges for inshore marine life.
As a consequence, more coastal defence and engineering works are required to protect property and people from the risk of extreme weather and flooding.
Currently, however, the design of these defences does little to mitigate their environmental impact on biodiversity.
With the Bio-Beach project we are looking to pump-prime research on ecologically sensitive coastal defence design and to invite the public to engage with the marine wildlife right on their doorstep on Bournemouth beach.
Taking inspiration from natural rocky shores, we are looking to transform groynes into artificial intertidal reefs, emulating rock pools with water retaining features, and investigating the impact of surface roughness on the colonisation process.
We aim to increase the biodiversity of native marine species on these structures.
We took the project to Harewood and Avonbourne College’s weekly STEM club, and invited the students to design and make their own structures with the aim of increasing biodiversity.
The research team benefitted massively from this exercise; the children’s creativity was inspiring and some of their results informed our design process.
Ultimately, we hope to be able to inform future coastal defence design in order to produce bespoke ecologically sensitive structures.
Dr Roger Herbert, Senior Lecturer in Coastal and Marine Biology
Upon hearing about the Bio-Beach project and the opportunity to carry out my placement within the AspireBU STEM strand, it seemed like the perfect placement for me.
It was a fantastic opportunity to undertake a placement relevant to my course whilst allowing me to progress and develop my work within the STEM strand, where I work as a science ambassador throughout the year.
The project primarily involved creating resources for an afterschool STEM club run for Year 7-9 pupils at Harewood and Avonbourne College.
As Bio-Beach is a real scientific research project, it was important to keep the steps undertaken by the students’ projects as similar as possible to the scientists. The same design brief was used and resources I created were used to guide the students through each step of the project.
The second part of my Bio-Beach placement was to create activities and resources that could be used in a public engagement activity based on the project for the Green Man Festival.
I found working in a festival environment a really unique experience which helped me a lot in understanding how different activities are more appropriate for different audiences and settings.
This placement has been a brilliant opportunity for me to become more involved in the STEM strand and also to work alongside scientists at BU.
Working closely with the students and helping them with their projects was really rewarding, and I learnt a lot about how best to engage with different students and how to get them to focus.
Working alongside the research team has meant I have learnt to be flexible and adapt the session plans and schedule to fit with developments in the Bio-Beach project.
It has provided me with valuable experience of planning sessions, creating appropriate resources and then delivering them to the students.
Tarra Benjamin, BSc (Hons) Ecology and Wildlife Conservation student
Bournemouth Borough Council has previously worked with Dr Roger Herbert and his team in bringing small, one-off events to the seafront and it has always been the aim to build on these sessions.
The arrival of the Coastal Activity Park offered a chance to formally work together in bringing a new attraction to the seafront which is both interactive and educational.
The expertise that Roger and his team have is invaluable in ensuring the credibility of such a unique concept and The Coastal Activity Park is delighted to be able to host such installations.
During our own public and stakeholder consultations, we were thrilled with just how much interest and enthusiasm there was for the Bio-Beach project.
The idea that families, schools, and community groups could come down to the seafront and get up close and personal to the marine life that lies just a stone’s throw away from the beach was clearly very popular.
This, coupled with Dr Herbert’s own work showing that the Park’s artificial reef was colonising at a considerable rate, led us to invest our own resources into creating a marine ecology display at our main visitor information point in the Overstrand building on Boscombe Seafront.
We want to bring the sea onto the land to improve accessibility to a wider range of people and encourage them to take interest in our diverse local marine environment.
The Park continues to work with Bournemouth University in bringing the project to fruition and we forward to being able to launch the project as both an open visitor attraction and an educational facility in the near future.
Dave Collier, Coastal Activity Park Manager