Little Lagoon Artificial Reef Deployment

June 7, 2016

Marine Science Adventures in Gulf Shores, AL, has recently deployed three artificial reefs in Little Lagoon. In an effort to test their hypothesis that marine life will grow in the lagoon on artificial reefs as they do on deep water artificial reefs, they will be recording data over the next two years and are inviting you and your class to follow along online. Using a GoPro® camera, they will inspect the reefs on a bi-monthly basis to determine the extent and type of marine life growing on and around each reef. One of the artificial reefs will be lifted out of the water every six months for a close inspection while the other two artificial reefs are inspected underwater with the GoPro® camera. Dr. John Simpson and his Marine Science Adventures Team plan to make observations for a period of two years and will record all results which can be found with videos on the Marine Science Adventures website

An artificial reef is a man-made structure placed in a select area of the marine environment to provide or improve solid and rough bottom habitat. Artificial reefs help to improve the richness of the local marine life, as well as provide an increase in catch for fishermen. An artificial reef can be built in a number of ways using existing materials. Submerged shipwrecks are the most common form of artificial reefs. Gulf states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, have programs that allow for old, non-working oil and gas platforms to be left out in the deep waters to provide important habitat for fish. Even though artificial reefs can be built by most anyone from a variety of materials, it is important that people do not just start submersing solid materials in the sea. Efficient planning and good site selection are both important to the success and survival of artificial reefs. A good artificial reef will be the foundation of a rich ecosystem. 

Dr. Simpson and the Marine Science Adventures Team first planned how they would build their artificial reefs and where they would deploy them. Next, they placed oyster shells, driftwood substrate, pine wood and cement planks in rubber-coated wire baskets measuring 10″D x 18″W x 30″L for creating a fish habitat. On April 9, 2016, they deployed three artificial reefs in Little Lagoon during a Professional Development Workshop. Science educators from Alabama and Mississippi were all a part of this important deployment. Dr. Simpson explained how their data would be recorded and can be viewed on the Marine Science Adventures website

On May 4, 2016, the Marine Science Adventures Team was joined by local nature photographer, Roger Reetz from Lovely Lizards Photography, for the first trial inspection of the three deployed reefs. Roger used his GoPro® in capturing some fantastic footage of the three reefs, and you will see upon watching the video that the reefs have attracted wildlife in the short time since they were launched. Barnacles have attached, and there are some small fish swimming around and through the cages. There are also some hermit crabs crawling around on the cages. 

This is a good sign that the artificial reefs are going to make a great marine science habitat and will provide some exciting marine science discussion in your own classroom for months to come! Thanks to Dr. Simpson and all our friends at Marine Science Adventures in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for making this opportunity available to us all. 

Stephanie Miller

With over 25 years experience, Stephanie serves as a senior copywriter, social media director, and senior editor for Science Scene. Stephanie is always on the lookout for new educational and STEM-related opportunities and technology.