To see what kinds of fouling organisms live in an area, we deploy PVC tiles. These are square plastic tiles that are attached to bricks that hang upside down in the water. After several months, we pull the tiles out of the water. We bring the tiles back to the lab, where scientists identify all of the organisms that have grown on the tiles while they were in the water. We also take photographs of each tile.
Researchers use the data collected through the fouling community surveys to look at how fouling communities change through time and between one location and another. They combine that information with other data, such as weather data, to try to understand what causes the patterns that they observe. By understanding these patterns, we can better predict which species are likely to invade nearby areas and what kinds of impacts they could have.