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von Kira Lange, GEOMAR Helmholtz Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel

Bzzz bzzz. Der Wecker klingelt morgens um 3.45 Uhr. Der erste verschlafene Blick des Tages geht auf DSHIP. DSHIP ist eine Plattform, auf der die Position des Schiffs und der CTD, einem Gerät, mit dem man Salzgehalt, Temperatur, Tiefe und weitere Parameter messen kann, angezeigt wird. Auf welcher Höhe ist die CTD? Glück gehabt, 400 m noch. Noch genug Zeit um wach zu werden, Probenflaschen zu labeln, Handschuhe rauszuholen, und den anderen leicht zerknautschten Frühaufstehern einen guten Morgen zu wünschen. Der erste Schritt geht raus aufs Deck. Wir stehen zusammen mit den Crew-Nachtschichtlern Thorge und Frank an der Reling und beobachten, wie die CTD im mystisch blau leuchtenden Wasser aufsteigt. Gelegentlich wird sie von verschiedenen Meeresbewohnern, wie Sepien, Fischen und Rochen begleitet. Dies löst den ein oder anderen Freudenschrei aus.

Kira entnimmt aus der Niskin-Flasche eine Wasserprobe zur Analyse der Sauerstoffkonzentration nach der Winkler-Methode. (Foto: Riel Ingeniero)

Nachdem Thorge und Frank die CTD wieder heile und sicher an Deck befördert haben und alle Vorbereitungen abgeschlossen sind, gibt uns das CTD-Team Rena und Qingwen das Signal zum Starten und das Sampling kann beginnen. Da nur wenige Menschen Proben nehmen, gibt es glücklicherweise weder Wasser- noch Zeitstress. Alles läuft ein wenig entspannter ab als tagsüber. Beim Sampling mit am Start sind wie immer Dennis fürs Isopren, Julia für die Halocarbons und/oder Pigmente sowie Leon und Kira für Sauerstoff und Nährstoffe.

Aus den Boxen im Hangar ertönt die liebliche Stimme Udo Lindenbergs. Während der Sonderzug nach Pankow fährt, tüfteln wir die geeignetste Sampling-Reihenfolge aus. Da verschiedene Gase unterschiedliche Flüchtigkeiten besitzen, ist es wichtig, die Wasserproben in der richtigen Reihenfolge aus den Niskin-Bottles zu entnehmen. Während Leon und Kira das flüchtigste Gas Sauerstoff beproben, lauert ihnen Dennis bereits in seinen gelben Gummistiefeln mit Stahlkappe im Nacken. Nachdem Julia die Halocarbons gesampelt hat, kann schließlich das Wettrennen zwischen Leon und Kira um die schnellste Nährstoffprobenahme beginnen. Dies treibt den Adrenalinspiegel so richtig schön in die Höhe und jegliche Restmüdigkeit verschwindet. Für die darauffolgende Entspannung sorgt die langsam am Horizont auftauchende, rote Sonne. Die letzten Flaschen Pigmente werden abgefüllt, während sich der Himmel langsam von leuchtend apricot bis strahlend blau färbt. Nachdem der letzte Tropfen Wasser überführt wurde, übernimmt das Go-Flo-Team den Hangar. Unsere Probenflaschen können in die Labore gebracht und die Filtrationen und Messungen gut gelaunt gestartet werden. Jetzt dauert es nur noch eine Stunde, bis wir frühstücken können. Zum Glück ist heute Donnerstag, seemännischer Sonntag, da gibt es immer Croissants mit der heiß begehrten Himbeermarmelade.

Dennis arbeitet mit dem Gaschromatograph-Massenspektrometer (GC-MS). (Foto: Riel Ingeniero)

Die Night CTD

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Ocean Acidification

Shedding some light – investigating the effects of light pollution on macroalgae off the Northwestern coast of Wales, UK

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Snugly tucked in between the unpredictable currents of the Menai Strait and the jagged mountain ridges of Snowdonia lies the city of Bangor. Not so much a city, but rather a small town, Bangor is home to about 10,000 citizens and another 8,000 students who bring the town to life during lecture terms. Towering over the town is Bangor University with its Victorian era Main Arts building and tiny canteen that offers a nutritious £2 meal for everyone who is willing to climb the hill during lunch time. Founded in 1884 Bangor University is a research-intensive institution and this year’s setting of our experiment on artificial light at night (ALAN) and its effect on macroalgae.

Bangor’s Garth Pier, with its colourful kiosks and benches, is a great place to bask in the sun…, Photo: Team Wales 2024
… or take a stormy walk in the rain, Photo: Team Wales 2024
Bangor University’s main arts building…, Photo: Team Wales 2024
… has a Hogwarts feel to it, Photo: Team Wales 2024

Excessive artificial light at night from urban settlements, especially in highly populated coastal areas, can scatter over long distances and illuminate even otherwise pristine coastal and marine habitats. The effects light pollution can have on these ecosystems are only little understood. So far conclusions are mostly drawn from observations and studies from terrestrial ecosystems, in which artificial light at night was found to have adverse effects on organism’s behaviour, life cycles, activity patterns as well as on biodiversity and ecosystem functions. In both the marine and terrestrial context, the focus has so far been mainly on animals, but not on plants or algae, especially not on macroalgae.

Therefore, the 2024 GAME project aims to take a closer look at a possible impact artificial light at night might have on macroalgae, in particular on their defence capacity against grazers. Besides investigating the effects of artificial light at night, we included two different mitigation measures in our experimental design. To tackle light pollution and the adverse effects it might have on macroalgae, we will test, if a reduction of the lighting times during the night and/or using a different light spectrum will make a difference.

North Wales is not only an excellent location for researching macroalgae. It also offers a variety of beaches that are still largely untouched by ALAN and are ideal for us to collect test organisms. Ideally, our algae should not yet be polluted with ALAN, so that we have a higher chance of finding an effect during our experiments.

After a little driving test to get a feel for driving on the left-hand side of the road and manoeuvring the one too many round-abouts with so far unknown rules of indicating according to the exit location, we were given access to the university pick-up truck to head out for sample collection on Anglesey Island with its many pristine bays which are rich in marine biodiversity.

Porth Trecastell (Cable Bay) on Anglesey Island is the beach we choose to collect algae and grazer for our first experiment, Photo: Team Wales 2024

In the cold clear waters around North Wales seaweeds grow in abundance which gave us plenty of choice. We will conduct our experiments with several species of brown macroalgae from the Fucoid family that can be found in the intertidal zone. To induce a defence reaction in the algae, we rely on the support of a marine gastropod mollusc also known as the common periwinkle (Littorina Littorea) which – as its name suggests – is very common on the Welsh shores.

The rich biodiversity of macroalgae, including Fucus serratus which will be the macroalgae for our first experiment, of the Welsh waters spotted at Porth Trecastell during our field trip, Photo: Team Wales 2024
A collection of macroalgae we found in the Menai Strait, Photo: Team Wales 2024
Our grazer of choice – the common periwinkle (Littorina Littorea), Photo: Team Wales 2024

In the past two months, we have been busy with planning, meeting, discussing and consulting with our supervisor Dr. Svenja Tidau, an expert in the field of artificial light at night, from the School of Environmental and Natural Sciences, and Dr. Stuart Jenkins, who is an experienced ecologist who knows his grazers, from the School of Ocean Sciences. With their support and thanks to their supply of several pieces of very useful equipment, we could decide on suitable macroalgae species and grazers, conduct our pilot studies, and design our experimental setup. For the latter, we were given the option to choose from different rooms in the Brambell Aquarium and eventually decided to set up our replicate tanks inside large, self-made dark chambers in the main aquarium room.

Setting up our first pilot study to figure out the consumption rate and to calculate the algae to grazer ratio per tank, Photo: Team Wales 2024
Setting up our main experiment at the Brambell Aquarium: Barbara implementing the air supply hoses, Photo: Team Wales 2024
Setting up our main experiment at the Aquarium: Camille working on the power connections for our light treatments, Photo: Team Wales 2024

After a series of equipment hunting, DIY and online market shopping sprees, and with the indispensable assistance and advice of Mike Hayle, lab technician of the Aquarium, we managed to realise many of our creative ideas. After drilling 480 holes in 120 tanks, clipping 10 meters of hose in 310 pieces, putting them together with 70 connectors, sawing and inserting 120 plastic pipettes as water outlet, attaching 120 air stones to roughly 15 meters of air supply tubes, cutting about 47 m2 of black-out curtain, sawing 40 meters of pipes and putting them together with 50 connectors, cutting 5 transparent nets and attaching them with 20 little hooks to keep the grazers where they belong, attaching 5 rescue blankets as reflector sheets to disperse the light in the chambers more evenly, cutting 60 little pieces of mash and glueing it to 60 little stones to use as a mount for our algae, safely and water-proof placing and connecting 8 LEDS, we could finally set up.

Barbara is drilling one of the 480 holes in the Controlled-Temperature-Room we are using as our workshop and later for conducting our measurements, Photo: Team Wales 2024

When we’re not travelling on behalf of GAME, you’ll find us somewhere on the coast spotting seabirds and hopefully someday dolphins or basking sharks, at one of North Wales beautiful lakes, hiking in Snowdonia or enjoying a traditional British afternoon tea.

We love it here and are looking forward to staying a little longer!

Looking for seabirds in South Stack. We were lucky and saw three of the 10 puffins that are on site this season, Photo: Team Wales 2024
Llyn Padarn – a very beautiful lake surrounded by the mountains of Snowdonia, Photo: Team Wales 2024
Barbara enjoying afternoon tea at Bangor University, Photo: Team Wales 2024

Now as the stock tanks have been set up, the organisms are well acclimated, and we are good and ready: it is time to experiment!

Our test organisms acclimating, Photo: Team Wales 2024

Croesi bysedd! Fingers crossed for a good start!

Camille & Barbara

Shedding some light – investigating the effects of light pollution on macroalgae off the Northwestern coast of Wales, UK

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Ocean Acidification

Eliminating Plastics in South Florida

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This blog was co-written by Natalia De Prisco. Natalia is an 11th grade student in Doral, Florida, who participated in Plastic Free Cities during the Fall 2023 semester. She aspires to pursue a career in business, speaks four languages and is passionate about ways to prevent plastic from entering our ocean.

Plastic Free Cities is an Ocean Conservancy initiative in collaboration with partners in South Florida, Debris Free Oceans and Big Blue & You, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Now in its second year, Plastic Free Cities empowers high school students to work with local businesses to eliminate single-use plastics such as cups, plates and utensils, often replacing them with reusable or backyard compostable products. Once high school students participate in five interactive training sessions with Plastic Free Cities, they become Youth Sustainability Consultants and lead business visits, providing tailored recommendations to help reduce use of plastic products while also saving them money. Ultimately, students in the program aim to reduce the amount of plastic litter in their communities and prevent it from making its way to the ocean. Their efforts are particularly impactful in Miami-Dade County, where residents generate an average of eight pounds of waste per person per day, which is higher than the national average of five pounds per person per day, all while neighboring critical coral reefs, sea turtle nesting sites and other essential ocean ecosystems are severely impacted by plastic pollution.

While the Plastic Free Cities program has been effective in educating businesses and highlighting opportunities for them to eliminate plastic, the passion and leadership of Plastic Free Cities students has been the most inspiring part of the program.

Natalia De Prisco, a Plastic Free Cities student from Doral, Florida, shared her experience with the program in the Fall of 2023:

“My experience in Plastic Free Cities has been phenomenal. I joined this program with the intention of learning more information and ways to heavily reduce plastic in my community, but I never expected it to be so great, interactive and fun. Everyone who was part of the program gave their energy, time and effort to work together and learn ways to stop these huge issues. When I first joined, I was very shy and wasn’t motivated to do public speaking. Although I was nervous, I still made the effort to learn and practice the skills. Now, I dominate public speaking because of my experiences in this program. Public speaking is such an important skill that can help show your confidence and dominance in your area of expertise and the chance to grow and reach the next level of your goals. When canvassing businesses, I used the ‘elevator pitch’ technique that I developed in the Plastic Free Cities trainings, which allowed me to talk with businesses about alternatives to single-use plastics to help them succeed even more in their businesses. While speaking with these businesses, I realized how much I have grown. I am now able to confidently go to businesses and discuss!

“As for my PFC peers, there has been tremendous growth. In my cohort in Doral, 80 students participated in training and 16 of these students attended canvassing, meaning they talked with businesses about single-plastic use alternatives. During canvassing, we visited 29 businesses, six businesses signed up for Plastic Free 305, and 13 other businesses were interested in making similar changes! By our Doral students and community taking a huge initiative to change the way plastic is used in businesses, a great amount of plastic was prevented from harming our community. As a current Plastic Free Cities Mentor, I am continuing to work with businesses and incoming Plastic Free Cities students at other schools. My experience in the program has been extraordinary and inspiring, and I wish to be part of and continue this amazing cause and help address this world problem.”

In its first year, 137 high school students from four inland schools across Miami-Dade County have participated in the program. These students visited 54 businesses to learn about their plastic usage, educate owners and managers about the impacts of single-use plastics, and recommend programs and products to help them eliminate plastics. Businesses that voluntarily eliminate plastic also had the option to join Plastic Free 305, the county’s recognition program that acknowledges and promotes plastic-free businesses. Plastic Free Cities students also hosted cleanups, sustainable markets and marine debris art workshops to bring together their communities, spread awareness of plastic pollution, and engage with media and journalists. So far, Plastic Free Cities students have prevented an estimated 581,000 single-use plastic items from being purchased annually.

Plastic Free Cities student group

Students who participated in Plastic Free Cities, including Natalia, will continue to work with businesses across Miami-Dade County through a Summer Mentorship Program. Summer Mentors will participate in the final canvassing push for the year, revisiting businesses that initially expressed interest in reducing plastic but needed more time and visiting a few new candidates for the Plastic Free 305 program. Upon conclusion of the Miami-Dade Plastic Free Cities program in the fall, Ocean Conservancy aims to build upon the success of the program by expanding the Plastic Free Cities model to new areas across the state, including economically and ecologically significant regions such as Orlando and Tampa. By fostering a new generation of ocean leaders and providing businesses with tangible resources for plastic reduction, we can turn the tide for Florida and create cleaner, healthier Plastic Free Cities.

The post Eliminating Plastics in South Florida appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

Eliminating Plastics in South Florida

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Ocean Acidification

Overcoming lack of funding as a PhD Fellow to attend EGU 24

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I’m Mafalda, a 29-year-old Portuguese woman doing my doctorate at the University of Kiel with a Portuguese PhD fellowship that allows me to develop my project with the cooperation of GEOMAR and the Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). I’m doing my PhD in Marine Geology studying a natural submarine system where carbon sequestration occurs naturally as inorganic carbonate minerals. These minerals are formed in the large serpentinite mud volcanoes located at the Mariana Forearc (right next to the Mariana Trench!) and sequester CO2 from the seawater (a major finding of my research).

A PhD fellowship has many advantages, such as allowing you to manage your own project, your working hours and your workplace with reasonable independence but, unfortunately, it also has many setbacks. One such setback is that by not having a working contract with any of the research institutions involved in your PhD, it’s much more difficult to obtain funding for analyses and experiments in external institutions and for attending scientific events, such as conferences, meetings, cruises, etc… These “secondary” activities are VERY important for any scientist, especially a PhD candidate venturing into the scientific world. You need to show your proactivity from the beginning. Get yourself out there, disseminate your project, and share your results. Create your own scientific network. Establish cooperations. Many “old school” PIs might disagree but don’t ever forget that this is your PhD. It’s your time to shine. And in such a fast-changing scientific world, there’s no better time to carve your place. Back to the funding, whenever there is a congress that I would like to attend, I have to spend countless hours applying for external funding – time that I’m not spending on my research. Thankfully, this year I was awarded the FYORD Travel Grant, allowing me to participate in the EGU General Assembly 2024. EGU is the biggest annual meeting in Europe that covers all the geosciences fields. This year was the biggest edition ever, with a record-breaking number of online and onsite participants, and 18,895 presentations happening in one week in Viena, Austria!

I have to spend countless hours applying for external funding – time that I’m not spending on my research.

I’ve wanted to participate in this conference since the beginning of my scientific journey (seven years ago!), so, this was almost like a dream come true. I presented some of my results in a poster (the biggest poster I’ve ever designed), which I find the most effective format to meet and connect with other researchers from the same research field and, at the same time, perfect to hear pretty relevant questions and suggestions about your work that can help you improve in many ways. I was amazed by the number of worldwide renowned scientists that actually visited my poster. It was very fulfilling to have the pleasure of discussing my data with some of the names I’m used to seeing in my reference library regularly. Aside from the mission-accomplished feeling of presenting your work, you’ll find yourself immersed in a unique world where you have several activities and sessions happening at the same time, covering all disciplines related to geosciences. There is no exaggeration when people say you need to study the program in advance and meticulously plan which sessions, presentations, courses, debates, and networking events you really want to attend – this is crucial for one to seize the EGU as best possible.

I also applied to work as a conference assistant at EGU to cover the totality of the expenses related to my participation in this conference and was among the few people who were selected. So, this week turned into a unique experience where I could be a participant and work in the conference simultaneously. It was very intense because I had to be at my working post all day and every day, but since the environment was very friendly, I could coordinate with my colleagues and be able to participate in the activities I found most important for my PhD. Overall, I’m very happy to have had this opportunity. It was very good to see what is being studied and developed in my research field. I learned a lot, and it was very fulfilling to be part of such a huge scientific event.

Working 12 hours a day while trying to attend as many relevant seminars as possible and presenting my work to such renowned researchers was both exhausting and intimidating.

However, I must confess that working 12 hours a day while trying to attend as many relevant seminars as possible and presenting my work to such renowned researchers was both exhausting and intimidating. As if it wasn’t enough, I also applied for the Outstanding Student and PhD candidate Presentation (OSPP) Awards. This prize recognizes early career scientists (Bachelor and Master students, and PhD candidates, or recent BSc and MSc graduates and PhD candidates who received their degree after January 1 of the conference year) who are first authors and personally present a poster or PICO (2-minute interactive oral presentation) at the EGU General Assembly. Given how tired I was, I felt far from my best when presenting my poster, and I’m quite sure this affected my chances of winning the prize. However, I know I did my best under the circumstances, so I can’t beat myself up too much if I don’t win. Additionally, I had the extra motivation of being well-paid for each hour worked and knowing that I was gaining valuable skills by working as a conference assistant. If you lack funding to attend EGU, remember that you can apply to be a conference assistant.

Meeting old science friends that are in other European countries – me and my good friend Ricardo Santos. He is doing his PhD at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

I highly recommend that any early career scientist working in geosciences should attend the EGU. It’s a unique and immersive experience, where you find yourself surrounded by thousands of researchers eager to share and discuss their science, and a great opportunity to learn and expand your horizons, in my opinion. It’s also a great way to meet new people and reconnect with colleagues and other early-career scientists from your field. The numerous networking activities both at the congress centre and in Vienna’s city centre only add to the experience. Since I’m currently working in Lisbon on my doctorate project, I took full advantage of the EGU to reconnect with friends doing science in other European countries, as well as with my fellow doctorate colleagues from GEOMAR, whom I miss dearly.

Overcoming lack of funding as a PhD Fellow to attend EGU 24

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