Grad Students Aim to Make Vessels More Efficient by Reducing Plant and Animal Growth on Ship Hulls


New Grants to Investigate Prevention of Biofouling

Professor Geoffrey Swain is one of the world’s most respected anti-fouling scientists. He and Florida Tech researchers like Kelli Hunsucker and Emily Ralston have made a global impact by improving the fuel efficiency and lessening the environmental footprint of huge, ocean-going ships for the U.S. Navy and industry. Their work focuses on applying anti-fouling treatments to vessels to make it more difficult for plant and animal life to become established on ship hulls, which can dramatically affect how a ship slices through the water.

Graduate students in the department of Ocean Engineering and Sciences are also making contributions to biofouling research. 

Cierra Braga, who is working on a Masters in Biological Oceanography, recently received the Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research for her project “The Efficacy of UV as an Antifoulant Mechanism to Deter Biofilm Formation on Marine Ship Hull Coatings.”  The grant will examine if organisms that form a living “biofilm” on ship hulls can be deterred by exposing the biofilm to to ultraviolet light. 

Cierra Braga, Masters student in Biological Oceanography


“What is exciting to me about our project, ” said Braga. “is that we have found that you only need a small exposure period to have a noticeable impact on the biofouling community–particularly for larger organisms like barnacles, tubeworms, and arborescent bryozoans. With the grant, we will be able to quantify how much of an impact the UV exposure has on the biofilm.”

Ann Wassick, a PhD student in Biological Oceanography, was awarded a 2017 ASTM International Graduate/Senior Design Project Grant for her project titled  “Recruitment and growth of biofouling organisms.” The project will try to understand the timing of recruitment and growth of biofouling organisms and how it relates to water quality parameters at Port Canaveral, Fla. Wassick will immerse optically clear panels every month at the busy port for three months. Over that period, Wassick will investigate how the biofouling community develops and measure growth rates of individual organisms.

Ann Wassick, PhD student in Biological Oceanography

“I think it is great that I am able to get more detailed information on how the biofouling community develops at Port Canaveral and seeing how it changes throughout the year,” said Ann. “What I am most excited about, is that the data I am collecting will be used to help inform better solutions to biofouling.”


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