Aquaculture and Fisheries Development Centre – Masters by Research Theses

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    Establishing the Citizen Science Stream Index (CSSI) to monitor water quality in freshwaters
    (University College Cork, 2022-03-01) McSorley, Brendan; Harrison, Simon; Sullivan, Timothy
    Streams and rivers are amongst the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Water quality is an important measure for maintaining ecosystem function. Despite several decades of the EU Nitrates and Water Framework Directives, inputs of nutrient-rich organic matter of both agricultural and municipal origin continue to pollute many waterways in Ireland, most of which are not routinely monitored in terms of water quality. This lack of data hampers efforts to improve water quality. Citizen science projects involve non-experts contributing to scientific data voluntarily and have been identified by the EU as a growing field of practice that is likely to yield significant outcomes for water quality and data capture. In this thesis a biotic index called the Citizen Science Stream Index (CSSI) was established using a principal component analysis of an EPA data set of macroinvertebrates. A further analysis was made using the provided Q-Values in this data set to find the most indicative macroinvertebrates for a citizen science index. The CSSI uses six easily identifiable and common benthic macroinvertebrates with narrow pollution tolerances that indicate water quality, to give a rapid indication of the ecological status of a stream in a sampled area. The CSSI is an easily taught and simple to use biomonitoring index that enables non-experts to identify where pollution has affected the macroinvertebrate community. The protocol involves taking a thirty second kick sample and checking it for the presence or absence of the six taxa, giving a score from -3 to +3. This is repeated three times and the resulting three scores are summed to give a CSSI score between -9 and +9. From this score the sampler can band the water quality of the stream into three water quality bands, red (poor), orange (moderate) and green (good). This thesis validates the CSSI’s indicator taxa, protocol and scoring system by using multiple data sets with varying spatial distribution, water quality and seasonality, comparing the CSSI with contemporary metrics such as the EPA Quality-Values (Q-Values), the Biological Monitoring working Party’s (BMWP) Average Score Per Taxon (ASPT) and the Small Stream Risk Score (SSRS). A pilot study to further test the quality, accuracy and feasibility of the index in the field was carried out on the Nore River catchment with volunteers from the NoreVision project. It was found that the CSSI compared sufficiently with the contemporary metrics tested and provided accurate results in the field study. Therefore, it is fit for purpose as a rapid biomonitoring citizen science index. The CSSI is currently being rolled out in volunteer initiatives around Ireland. The CSSI has received a positive response from participants and provided consistently reliable data capture when compared to existing data points thus far.
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    Bovine faecal contamination in an Irish agricultural catchment: sources and pathways
    (University College Cork, 2020-12-15) Vedder, Michelle; Harrison, Simon; Sullivan, Timothy
    Agricultural impacts on surface waters have been an intensive source of contamination on freshwaters worldwide. Faecal contamination is one of the most under regulated and poorly understood pollutants within Irelands surface waters, despite is widely recorded ability to cause harm to both animals and the environment. Creating novel solutions to help rectify the negative effects of poor agricultural management is necessary for protecting the future health if Irelands waters. Although current policy under the European Union (EU) provides guidelines and regulations, Ireland has still failed to contain its faecal contaminant issue. The solution to this dilemma may lie in the origins of this pollutant; current research demonstrates Irelands agriculturally dominated catchments could be suffering from point source dissemination of contaminants via input through farmyards and direct cattle access to streams. This dissemination model differs from the current non point source model that the EU and Irish policies implicitly endorse. This study’s objectives were as follows; to quantify the ability of headwater drainage channels receiving direct farmyard effluent to attenuate faecal indicator organisms (thermotolerant coliforms) within the water column and within benthic sediments, over their length; and to determine the distribution, concentration, and origin of thermotolerant coliforms (TTC’s) at intensive spatial scales within in a small agriculturally dominated catchment in South West Ireland. Utilizing novel colonization substrata, results demonstrated no trends of attenuation within headwater drainage areas; subsequent data provided TTC concentration and distribution within the larger drainage catchment upon deposition from the previously studied channels. Results from catchment wide analysis demonstrated a definitive connection to faecal contamination of point source origin from farmyards as well as direct deposition from cattle access to streams. The future of faecal contamination management within Irelands waters lies within the exploration of novel and established treatment methodology in order to create effective overarching policy changes.