Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Understanding the antifouling properties of a silicone compound in relation to marine invasive species subject of StFX research

May 3rd, 2016
Natalia Filip monitoring the plates during fieldwork for her StFX masters degree

Understanding the properties behind an antifouling compound which may help with the unwanted attachment of marine organisms on submerged surfaces—a problem for many industries including shipping and aquaculture—is the subject of StFX research recently published in the journal Marine Environmental Research.

Natalia Filip, who recently completed a master’s degree in biology at StFX, together with Dr. Amanda Pustam, a postdoctoral researcher in chemistry, led the project, which brought in personnel and expertise from both the biology and chemistry departments.
 
Ms. Filip says a considerable amount of work was put into this project by faculty and undergraduate students from both departments. Her co-authors include Dr. Pustam; four undergraduate students, Veronica Ells, Kathleen Grosicki, Jin Yang and Ikenna Oguejiofor; as well as four faculty members, Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer, Dr. Russell Wyeth, Dr. Cory Bishop, and Dr. Edwin DeMont. Steven Macdonald, StFX´s Senior Machinist and Design Technician, was also an important resource, contributing to the design and construction of some of their experimental hardware.
 
“Our work focused on a silicone compound widely used in dentistry, which preliminary field-testing by the StFX Centre for Biofouling Research had revealed greatly reduced accumulation of Ciona intestinalis, an invasive tunicate species,” says Ms. Filip.
 
C. intestinalis is a poster child of marine invasive species awareness campaigns, and it is particularly problematic for aquaculture operations in the Maritimes.”
 
She says their goals were to explore the antifouling properties of this compound, and to understand the mechanisms behind these properties. This required extensive testing in the field and in the lab.
 
“We compared the effectiveness of this silicone compound relative to similar compounds that are sold as non-toxic antifouling coatings in the field. We also attempted to discern the chemical composition and mechanical properties of this compound, in addition to testing its toxicity towards larvae of C. intestinalis.
 
Ms. Filip says the broad range of expertise of everyone involved allowed the team to test the physical, chemical and biological interactions between this silicone compound and tunicates.
 
She says a great deal of testing went into this project because the mechanism behind the antifouling properties of this compound was more complex than originally thought, and additional experiments were required to describe it.


Invasive tunicate species Ciona intestinalis growing on the silicone compound and other antifouling coating treatments that team tested

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