Underwater speaker deployed on Kangaroo Island to boost reef restoration

AusOcean deploying the Rig off Kingscote

A collaboration between AusOcean, Kangaroo Island Community Education, and the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board has led to the successful deployment of a low-cost research buoy, known as a Rig, off Kingscote on a restored native oyster reef. 

Students from Kingscote Community Education began constructing the Rig earlier this year, which underwent a float test in the Kingscote tidal pool. The students were involved in every aspect of the build, from assembling the hardware to integrating the electronics, including an underwater camera and a speaker system.

Kingscote Community Education students float test their Rig

The restored oyster reef, located just off Kingscote, represents a significant effort to revive native oyster populations that have been declining due to overharvesting, habitat destruction, and pollution. The restoration involves creating suitable habitat for oysters to thrive, which includes providing a stable substrate for them to attach to and grow. This reef restoration project aims to enhance biodiversity, improve water quality, and restore the ecological balance in the area. Oysters play a crucial role in marine ecosystems by filtering water, providing habitat for other marine life, and contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Creating the new reef: sprinkling discarded shellfish shell over the limestone, terracotta modules and ceramic razorfish shell forms. Credit: Landscape Board Kangaroo Island

One of the most innovative features of the Rig is the underwater speaker, designed to play the sounds of a healthy reef ecosystem. These sounds are expected to attract native baby oysters, or spat, to settle onto the restored reef substrate. Oysters sense these sounds as vibrations, which mimic the environment of a thriving reef, signaling to the larvae that the area is suitable for settlement.

Rig floating off Kingscote

The speakers will be activated in November, coinciding with the peak of the oyster recruitment season when spat levels are highest. Until then, the underwater camera will be streaming live to YouTube, offering a unique glimpse into life on the reef and showcasing the dynamic underwater environment.

This project not only aids in the restoration of native oyster populations but also provides invaluable hands-on learning experiences for students, fostering a deeper connection with local marine conservation efforts. By combining education with real world science and technology, this partnership is making strides towards a sustainable future for Kangaroo Island's marine ecosystems.

AusOcean is a not-for-profit ocean research organisation that supports open source practices. Open source approaches to tackling environmental issues means embracing collaborative tools and workflows which enables processes and progress to be fully transparent. A critical aspect of working open is sharing data not only with your immediate team but with others across the world who can learn, adapt and contribute to collective research. By contributing to, and supporting open practices within the scientific community, we can accelerate research and encourage transparency. All tech assembly guides can be found at https://www.ausocean.org/info.