The noise impact team (L-R): Steve Simpson, Harry Harding, Rick Bruintjes, Ilaria Spiga, Jess Lister, Tom Bunce and Fiona Birch

Behind the scenes at 'the biggest fish tank you have ever seen'

An unusual large scale experiment being led by a group of scientists at the University of Exeter investigating how fish respond to underwater noise is the subject of a new NERC Planet Earth podcast.

The team, led by Dr Steve Simpson and Dr Rick Bruintjes of Biosciences, is looking particularly at the impact pile driving noise has on cod, plaice, crabs and other marine life.

Working at an offshore renewable energy catapult at Blyth, near Newcastle, the NERC-funded research is focused on a giant fish tank 80 metres long, 20 metres wide and three metres deep.

Pile driving offshore is used during construction of wind farms and other renewable energy sites but there is concern and uncertainty about how much impact the noise has on the animals in the marine environment.

Dr Steve Simpson said: “This research is vitally important given the state of the industry and the amount of these wind turbines being built into the sea. The UK stands to be a global lead on offshore renewal energy. We are certainly a small island surrounded by energy-rich waters, whether it is tidal and wave or wind, but at the moment we've just got this issue that the uncertainty that the noise might have on certain species of animal, be they fish or invertebrates, means that industry has been held up sometimes.”

The team consisted of Dr Rick Bruintjes (NERC-TSB KTP Associate), Ilaria Spiga (NERC Business Intern), Tom Bunce and Harry Harding (ex-MRes Aquatic Biosciences and Resource Management students), Fiona Birch (BBSRC Summer Bursary), Jess Lister (FSBI Summer Bursary) and Dr Steve Simpson (Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology & Global Change and NERC KE Fellow).

To learn more, listen to the podcast at:

Date: 3 September 2014

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