Early Stage Researcher, Kati Michalek, gives her account on the start of her long-term study:
“Two weeks ago, I started my long-term study at a blue mussel farm in Loch Leven, Scotland. Following my experimental design, I prepared a total of 48 mussel cages using commercial oyster bags and deployed 12 cages (= monthly replicates for a one year study) at water depths of 1m, 3m, 5m and 7m, respectively. Thanks to the assistance of Lukas Hüppe, visiting student from Germany, we set up the cages in one day, which still meant 8 hours of stitching … but at least we caught one of the 4 days of Scottish summer so far!
Single mussel cages, providing a new home to 30 mussels each, will be sampled monthly from every depth, transported to SAMS and mussels from each depth group will be split to determine the following parameters: mussel morphometric, condition index (‘fitness’) and shell strength. In addition, mantle tissue will be sampled for RNA analysis as well as population genetic analysis.
This study is accompanied by weekly farm visits, taking water samples to investigate the carbonate chemistry and food supply on site. Also, environmental data loggers monitoring temperature and salinity at deployment depths are read, accompanied by a CTD cast and the mussel bags will be checked and cleaned from algae cover.
I am excited and keen to see how the mussels’ condition will change with season, which environmental parameter will trigger the up-regulation of calcification genes and how the genotype frequency of Mytilus spp. changes with depth in this challenging environment.