Showing posts from April, 2017

The end ...

EMBC+ Spring School 2017 is over and was again an unforgettable experience. During the 10 days 47 students worked on 7 challenging research projects guided by an international team of 10 teachers. The facilities of the Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences in Tjärnö proved again to be an excellent location for this school.

Watch the documentary movies made by each team of students at the EMBC+ video channel! Enjoy!

How to stop the invasion?

After hearing our alien stories, you are probably wondering: Are there aliens around my area as well? And what can I do to stop them? We therefore want to dedicate this blogpost to a couple of actions every one of us can take to identify potential invaders and avoid their spreading.

At first, we want to call your attention to the DAISIE-project, a site dedicated solely to the alien species of Europe with an astonishing 11.000 alien species documented so far. They offer a lot of information on all kinds of biological invasions and provide access to species databases for every region of Europe. You can check out the “Invasive species of the week”, get in touch with international experts and report sightings of alien species. They even compiled a handbook of the invasive species of Europe. The DAISIE-project can be found under the following link:

Once you have informed yourself, you can follow these simple steps to stop aquatic hitch-hikers:

Check & clean…

After all, snails do kinda race for life!

As it turns out, the biologists were not so wrong after all and you might say the group reached a conclusion – at least one good enough to shut up the philosopher. Snails from different populations – a rocky shore and a wave exposed area – do differ in behaviour.
So picture this now: four biologists, a veterinarian, an architect and a philosopher under a black curtain made out of black plastic bags (after all, predators like crabs are most active at night) for 5 days in a row, hauling with tanks and checking environmental parameters in a very wet lab to ensure the best possible bed and breakfast conditions for the animals. And then the most absurd part: tracking snails’ movements in tanks through quadrants made out of dental floss. Crazy, right?
So here’s the deal: snails do seem to pick up chemical cues, both from their crab predators and their fellow snails.
The architect had this theory that their reaction to crab and conspecific scent (resulting from the damaged tissues of snails …

The importance of animal welfare in scientific research – Part 2

Nuri, you have chosen to study General Biology and Marine Science in order to become a Science Journalist. Is animal welfare in scientific research a topic which you would still consider as newsworthy?
Definitely yes! I would even say “more than ever”. Over the last few decades, advances in molecular- and neurobiology have increased the number of experiments involving animals. For a lot of studies, it is still seen without any alternative to kill test animals before or after an experiment. The same applies to academic education.
You mean experiments which involve the killing of test animals are still part of academic teaching programs? Do you have experience with that?
Yes, at least from my experience this is the case. I have worked with fish, rats, frogs, snails and flies. Some of them were already dead when we started working with them, some we had to suppress ourselves. For my BSc thesis I worked on gene expression analysis in sea cucumber. I sacrificed one i…

Recipe for the the perfect biodiversity assessment

1 Tjärnö Bay 1 Beam Trawl (BT) 1 Towed Video (TV) 1 Baited Underwater Video (BUV) 1 Photo-quadrat (PQ) 5 computers 1 laboratory 7 people

Wake up everyday at 7:30 in the morning and go on a boat. You will need to sample, a lot. Don’t forget to complain about being cold! It will show how committed you are, and people will appreciate it.

Analyze your data. With love. Here, it is important to stay calm. Coffee might help you achieve the right consistency of your assessment. Build graphs, tables and calculate indices. It’s very likely that they will be wrong. Remember to keep calm. Delete them, breath and do them again. Eventually some nice stuff will come out.

Sleep. Go to the sauna. Some fresh air might help, too. Hang out with your friends, ask them about anything, even the weather, but not how they’re project is going. Friends don’t like that kind of stuff.

Write a report. State that BUV was the method with the higher functional diversity and that BT, despite presenting a…

They have arrived…

Our investigation is up and running and after some strenuous days of fieldwork along the coast of Tjärnö bay as well as submerged in the 7°C cold Swedish waters we can already confirm the presence of at least two marine alien species.

Here you see our team of specialists detecting the invasive Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. This oyster originally inhabits the Pacific coast of Asia and has been introduced to Sweden around 50 years ago when trying to cultivate it near Tjärnö. From there, the pacific oyster ‘escaped’ but was not observed for another 40 years. In 2007, a massive invasion along the Swedish coast began. This alien newcomer is now competing for space with the native European oyster Ostrea edulis and the well-known blue mussel Mytilus edulis and is slowly starting to replace them. To give you an idea about its danger: Our colleagues from Australia have classified the Pacific oyster as one of the ten most damaging invasive species.

Our most recent finding in the bay is the…

Conflicts of Interests in Science

Most of people whom ever read a scientific article, be it by choice or obligation, should have noticed this sentence, most likely before kicking off the festivities:

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

This sentence, which appears as an automatic formula, deserves a short discussion, as in these few words lies a huge deal of questions on ethics and scientific conduct, especially in our mad modern world.

In its enterprise to understand the natural world, Science has knowledge and discovery for sole purposes. Science is foreign to the logic of benefit, cost and maximum profit that rules currently our modern, globalized and wild-financial world. This is a reason why dedicating a life to Science is a noble thing to do.
Yet nobleness is never acquired, and stick to it along a scientific career is a tortuous road to take, where the gulches and crevices are tricky situations called “conflicts of interests”.

The concept of conflict of interest is quite simple and sel…

Bye bye beautiful Tjärnö

And here we are again! Our third and final blog… It’s been a hard couple of days since we last wrote to you. A lot happened…. And...between you and me, it wasn’t always pretty. In some moments we felt like social science students rather than marine biologist - studying, and fully experiencing, the weird behaviour of people working under loooads of pressure. As you guys probably know by now… we aren’t here just to have fun. We have to write a report on the research we have been doing on hydrodynamics. And due to us having spent a lot of time on data gathering and building our floaters, we did not have a lot of time left. Conclusion: we need to rush! More than planned… And not only Michiel was very sad about sleeping a bit less than planned. This of course means lots of pressure, working late and even skipping breakfast and lunch to get 2 more hours to write the report. Even after all of that, we were just in time (it practically came down to the second) for our 17:00 deadline.

And now …
Hej från Sverige, (Hello from Sweden),

These last days have been quite heavy, since we’ve been in the laboratory for 6 days (!!!!) identifying species and also making a short-movie that we hope you will enjoy as much as we did! »The adventures of Tim the snail« should be coming to your screens very soon.

Meanwhile we also finished all our sampling sites, so it’s 8 in total! The last one had some plastic floating and some litter at the bottom, where some animals saw there something they could attach to. Might seem positive, but this alters the ecosystem!
And, very random but, we also found a can with a fish in it, but he was dead unfortunately...

These are our last few days here in Tjärnö, so it’s time to get our data in order and finally see some results. At the moment we are writing the report and will present our data on friday, can’t wait…

This adventure has been long and tiring but a lot of fun. We have worked with so many great people and soon it will be time to say goodbye, but…

John the mussel has #NoFilter

Hey everyone!

Welcome to our final blog! Please meet John the mussel:

He’s our mascot, helping us with our project. He will also be starring in our documentary that will be out soon. But mind you, he really blurts out the first thing that comes into his shell!
Speaking of no filters, our experiment has run into a little speed bump. We tried to filter out the amount of food that the mussels left behind after eating, but ran out of filters. We adjusted our experiment a little bit, so we wouldn’t need as many. We also tried to measure how much the mussels and oysters were defecating. What do you think of our labelling?

After all this work, it was finally time for a DAY OFF! Most of us ventured into the wild Swedish nature. But some of us even went snorkelling in water of 6°C!

Of course, some of us also used the time to catch up on some well-deserved sleep:
And then came the heart-breaking work of tearing our experimental setup apart. The lab we used was originally from someone called Joh…


We are done with our field sampling!

Two days ago we finished the trawling surveys, and since then we have been submerged in assessing the diversity of the Bay of Tjärnö using a video camera method.
On one hand, we were using a sledge with an attached camera (with and without a net). Pulled for one minute, the structure stayed on the sea bottom and recorded during this minute the communities living there (called a video transect). Once in the lab, part of our group was in charge of analyzing these videos and estimating the number of species and their abundance.
A bottom full of algae and sea grass made it difficult to identify all the benthic species. Whereas, other times video footage showed clearly all the organisms attached and living on the bottom.

On the other hand, we were using our well known landing platform, that was comparable to a low-cost ROV. We used this platform for two methods! In one method, we took a picture of the sea floor in different areas of the bay. Since we kn…

The importance of animal welfare in scientific research

We thought it’d be nice to interview a few people from our research project to pick out different aspects of it. This is the first one.

--> So Merijn, your university pathway is quite unusual, tell me a little about it.
I started out as a philosophy student. At first I was mostly interested in political philosophy, but I quickly found a way to merge my passion for nature (and mainly animals) with my studies in the form of environmental philosophy. I wrote my master thesis on ‘the land ethic’, which is a philosophical doctrine trying to find  harmony between mankind and nature by finding a way to value nature for itself, instead of for the services it provides us with. I then did a Master of Science in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the university of Edinburgh, Something I took from there was the need for scientists, mostly biologists, to take into consideration the welfare of animals involved in scientific experiments, something that is not as obvious as it might seem. 

A Guide to Hunting Aliens

Hello from Tjarno once again.  The hunting unfolds and we have decided to give you guys a crash course on Alien hunting! 

The idea behind this is to run through the basic skills you need to determine if there are Aliens around you. No, not the ones from outer space (yikes), the ones hiding below the surface of oceans where they have never been before coming from all corners of the earth (yikes). 
For the marine environment it’s a bit tricky but fear not we are well equipped.
You will need to have:
Scuba or swim suite (According to the region) Chic waders Transect Line or rope (to measure area) Quadrats ( 25x25 square) Sampling buckets Scrapers CTD Note book Boat ( if you want to be fancy)

The way of the scientific pirate

Here we are again! It has been some hard days of twelve hours working - sometimes even with literally no time for breakfast - in whatever weather conditions, like good sailors. We are writing this after jumping out of the water with our hands colder than ice, while singing: “I can't feel my hands when I'm on seaaa, but I love it”. But happiness is our way of life, so we keep smiling :)

We finally managed to get a boat taxi to put everybody in their sampling places, always with the company of one of the professors and our most kick-ass, 11 years-old-captain Niels. Elena and Salva got a ride to the other side of the bay three times per day to drop the GPS-equipped floaters to measure the currents through two pipes located there. Meanwhile, Maria and Cynthia took care of the wind station, the depth and the floaters at different points of the bay. Our buoy guy Michiel is in charge of the expensive deep currents profiler and the measurement of salinity and temperature. Finally, ou…

A Story of Skulls and Bias

Facing a problem, a questioning or uncertainty, men always found great teaching in history. Hence, this interesting and controversial episode in the history of Science this article wishes to narrate.

The first character of today’s tale is called Samuel George Morton. This natural scientist, issued from a 18th century Pennsylvanian colony of quakers, wrote between 1839 and 1849 his three volumes of Crania Americana. As this title suggests, its work focused on measuring size of skulls from people of America. It earned him a grim reputation, as it remained in memories as an attempt to prove that Caucasian having larger skulls, they were intellectually superior to other humans. A first shade of truth manipulation could be noted here, as a slight further investigation on Crania Americana reveals the objective of Morton was in reality to prove there were several different human species, and not just one. Just as wrong as the previous assumption, but carrying a different type of message.


Pictures of the day - 9 April