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by Riel Carlo O. Ingeniero

Due to an unforeseen event (see cruise report for more details), we have to cut our research expedition short and head back to Singapore. The R/V Sonne has been docked at the Singapore Cruise Centre at the HarbourFront in Singapore for a week now. Today, we will be disembarking from the ship and some of us will be flying back to Germany and Denmark.

R/V Sonne docked in Singapore photographed from Sentosa Island (Photo: Riel Ingeniero).

Over the past weeks, on my second research expedition on board the Sonne, I have witnessed the passion and enthusiasm of my fellow scientists loving the work they do. For instance, when our chief scientist Hermann showed me a hand-drawn plot of the secondary nitrite peak we observed in our CTD sample, he asked me what it meant, and he was eager to discuss its implications— particularly its potential link to denitrification. There was also a buzz of excitement when we observed extremely low oxygen levels in the water column from around 100 m depth and the secondary chlorophyll maximum peak.

I also had the pleasure of having short conversations with young scientists just beginning their careers or finishing their masters; some are planning to pursue a doctorate. I also enjoyed talking with Shravan and learning about the measurement techniques for studying aerosol and atmospheric pollutants or with Theresa, an early postdoc researcher who is trying to apply for a small internal grant from GEOMAR for a future cruise. I am inspired by their dedication and enthusiasm.

Listening to the oral presentations from various groups over the past few days has deepened my appreciation for the interconnected nature of our work. Despite our diverse fields of study, our research is intricately linked, ultimately aiming to further understand the marine biogeochemistry of the Bay of Bengal, a region known for its pronounced oxygen minimum zone. This interconnectedness is why I am passionate about marine biogeochemistry: observing how different parameters interact and relate to each other. From the famous Redfield ratio that dictates nutrient limitation in the ocean to the clear patterns between oxygen, chlorophyll a, and pH values in CTD profiles down to 4000 meters, we strive to uncover order and patterns in the complexity of the marine environment.

A buoy deployed during SO305- BIOCAT IIOE2 (Photo: Riel Ingeniero).

This cruise differed from my previous one (which was also a memorable cruise for me), as I had more time to spend time with my fellow scientists and enjoy stargazing with Mats, playing Tischfußball with Albert and Antoine, playing Nintendo Switch with Jon and Qing, or movie watching and card games with Clara, Kira, Leandro, and Leon. I successfully deployed our submersible pump system for sampling nitric oxide in deeper water, thanks to the help of so many people who made it possible, such as Tjark, Marcel, Isabel, Kira, Jannis, Shravan, Hermann, Albert, Gesa, and Ina.

I also had the time to take snapshots and photos of some of our research activities during this cruise. One of my favorite photos from the cruise is of an orange buoy during a mooring deployment. This buoy, deployed by the Physical Oceanography team, reminds me of the famous Pale Blue Dot photograph taken by Voyager 1 in February 1990. Our bright orange buoy is a small speck in the vast ocean, contributing to our understanding of ocean processes. These mooring, equipped with sensors that autonomously record data such as temperature, salinity, and current speed and direction over extended periods, provide invaluable long-term records. Our contribution to ocean science, though seemingly small like the buoy in the vast ocean, is vital for understanding the bigger picture. I eagerly anticipate the publications that will emerge from this expedition and the new insights they will bring.

P.S. We would like to thank the captain and crew of SO305 for their assistance and cooperation during this cruise.

SO305 Signing Off

Ocean Acidification

Oooh, Barracuda

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This blog is best read with musical accompaniment. May we suggest, Barracuda by Heart? You’ll be glad you listened while you read.

The great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda, has a reputation for being fast, aggressive and a fish you should avoid. Their sharp teeth and speed make them especially good predators. Let’s dive in and learn more about the great barracuda.

Appearance and Diet

The great barracuda is a well-known fish that is easily recognizable. The physical appearance of the barracuda is long and slender with a streamlined body. Their color is blueish gray on the top and greenish-white on the bottom. The lower jaw of their mouth extends out further than their top jaw which is lined with razor-sharp teeth. Great barracuda can weigh up to 106 pounds and grow to a length of more than five feet!

It isn’t a great idea to consume great barracudas. It’s been documented that eating great barracudas may cause ciguatera poisoning—a foodborne illness caused by the build up of a specific toxin in certain tropical marine fish.

The diet of the great barracuda is vast—they eat a wide variety of ocean critters, including fishes, cephalopods and sometimes shrimp. Their hunting style is to attack with one fast and ferocious strike. They can swim up to 35 mph. They’ve been known to swim with their mouths open, speeding through the water towards their prey—and then attack by slicing their meal clean in half with this one strike.

The great barracuda is a daytime hunter and an opportunistic predator, finding food throughout the water column. Great barracudas are not commercially fished but they are a favorite of recreational fishermen since they are known to put up a good fight. They rarely attack humans, but they have accidentally attacked shiny objects or fish caught on spears.

Reproduction

Reproduction of the great barracuda is not well documented. Scientists believe that spawning takes place in deeper, offshore waters. During spawning events, eggs are released and fertilized in open waters and travel through the ocean by the currents. Newly hatched larvae find refuge in shallow estuaries among the vegetation as a way to stay safe from hungry predators.

Up close profile shot of a barracuda.

Habitat and Range

The great barracuda’s habitat is typically at or near the surface of the ocean. However, young fish live among mangroves, estuaries and shallow reefs. The great barracuda is a solitary fish, preferring its own company most of the time, but they can sometimes be found in small groups.

The range of the great barracuda is worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. They are common in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Brazil. They are also found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as well as the eastern Atlantic Ocean, Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea.

Population Status

The great barracuda can live up to 18 years. The population status of the great barracuda is stable. The barracuda is not listed as endangered or vulnerable with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The IUCN is a global union of states, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations that assesses the conservation status of species.

The great barracuda is part of the ocean ecosystem and integral to a healthy food chain. It’s up to all of us to help protect the great barracuda and all the animals living in the sea. Ocean Conservancy is working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.

Please make a donation to Ocean Conservancy—give today and make a difference for the future of our ocean!

Curious barracuda surrounded by a school of smaller fish

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Oooh, Barracuda

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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.

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Eliminating Plastics in South Florida

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