A wee in the Baltic Sea?

For two weeks, the bachelor course “Environment of the Baltic Sea” from Stockholm University have been stationed at the Askö Laboratory for field studies. The course includes many relevant methods for new biologists. Among other things, the students have been fishing with survey gillnets, dug the mud of soft bottoms, and done meticulous inventories of vegetation and animal community in three shallow bays.

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Enthusiastic students snorkle out to make an inventory of the flora in a Baltic Sea shallow bay.

Part of the course also focuses on how humans affect the Baltic Sea ecosystem. For an easy way to show how urine in the sea affects the growth of phytoplankton, i.e. eutrophication, the students were instructed to set up 4 pieces of plastic tanks of 1 m3 (1000 liters) and fill with seawater. One tank was used as control and nothing else was added to it. In the other three 3dl, 6 dl and 12 dl of urine was added in order to study the phytoplankton response to different nutrient levels.

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0,3 permille urine and a week of sun clearly demonstrates how the phytoplankton thrive in response to nutrients.

This year I also put a piece of the filamentous alga Cladophora glomerata in the tanks. This algae grows just below the surface and thrives in nutrient-rich waters. When grown in high nutrients, it gets a darker green color. This is clearly seen in the most eutrophic tank with 1.2 liter of urine per 1,000 liters of water.

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The control treatment has no added urine, and the Cladophora glomerata has a light green colour.

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In the tank with the highest concentration (1,2 dl), the Cladophora glomerata has grown well and is dark green. The water is full of phytoplankton and does not exactly make one keen to take a bath.

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Two post doc positions on Baltic Sea research

The University of Helsinki and Stockholm University have entered into a strategic partnership where one of the key areas is Baltic Sea research. To strengthen this joint research initiative they are now inviting applications for two post-doctoral positions, one at Tvärminne Zoological Station (University of Helsinki) and one at the Askö Laboratory / Baltic Sea Centre (Stockholm University).

They are looking for candidates with experience and a strong interest in at least one of the following areas, with a particular focus on the coastal zone:
– biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
– benthic and/or pelagic biogeochemical cycles
– modelling of ecosystem processes in the coastal zone

The ideal applicants would have PhD’s in Marine Ecology, Ecosystems ecology, Biogeochemistry, Ecosystem modelling or related disciplines, have strong publication records commensurate with experience, and a demonstrated potential to obtain external research funds.
The successful candidates will be expected to be active in research and publication, advise graduate students, and engage in inter-disciplinary research and public outreach.
Comparative studies at both Askö Laboratory and Tvärminne Zoological Station are expected.

So, if you fit any of the above descriptions and love to be out in the field, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience two beautiful archipelagos of the Baltic Sea.

For more information on the positions, check HERE for the one placed in Finland and klick HERE for the one in Sweden.

Deadline for applicants is March 30th!

Askö boathouse early spring morningAskö boathouse early spring morning
Sunset at Tvärminne in FeburarySunset at Tvärminne in Feburary

Summary of the Askö Day

If you missed the first Askö Day, where recent and future researchers as well as course organisers met and discussed on-going and future research projects in the Baltic Sea, you can read a brief summary on the Baltic Sea Center site.

The BalticSeaWeed blog was there, of course, focusing on Fucus.

Do have a look at the lovely little film “Askö in numbers” that show areal footage of the research station.

Warm & wonderful Estonia

This weekend, we went for a quick fieldtrip to the Estonian island Saaremaa to collect some seaweed, as we so often do. The West Estonian Archipelago Sea, or Väinameri is very shallow and well sheltered as you can see on the map. Increaseing depth is deeper blue, and there is not much dark blue there.

The Väinameri is often no more than 5-10 meters deep.

The Väinameri is often no more than 5-10 meters deep.

As before, we rented a car in Tallinn and drove down to Virtsu, where the ferry over to Saaremaa is. It is a nice trip through the rural landscape, we even saw 7 storks lined up next to the road on a field. They looked almost fake, until one of them moved.

On Saaremaa we have been fortunate enough to get to stay at the fieldstation of our Estonian collegue Jonne Kotta. It is a lovely place, a small house with outdoor toilet, the sea just behind a sheltering border of trees and a small garden with berries and rhubarbs. And a wooden outhouse for equipment and smelly experiments.

The fieldstation is Jonnes familys' summerhouse.

The fieldstation is Jonnes familys’ summerhouse.

The fieldstation outhouse in 2011

The fieldstation outhouse in 2011

So imagine our surprise as we drove up and saw….this!

The brand new fieldstation at Köiguste was built in 2013

The brand new fieldstation at Köiguste was built in 2013

Three jaws dropped as we couldn’t believe our eyes!!

Where the old outhouse used to be, there is now a brand new lab building, with large kitchen/lecture room, computer/microscopy room, indoor bathrooms and showers, enormous storage space for stuff and a wetlab for sorting. There is also space outdoors for sorting and setting up experiments.

The lawn where one used to park is now extended and covered with gravel to fit several cars, boat trailers and whatnot. And two more cabins have popped up opposite the old ones, therby doubling the overnight capacity.

Lots of parking space and new cabins.

Lots of parking space and new cabins.

But in my astonished euphoria over this amazing change, due to Jonnes resourcefulness and hard work no doubt, I am almost forgetting the seaweed (that’s saying something, that is).

This time, we went roud to five sites, two old ones and three that I had not sampled before, but have only been sent material from by Jonne.

The office looks good some days.

The office looks good some days.

The weather was marvellous, all still and not a cloud in sight. On Saaremaa the Fucus grows much shallower than on the Swedish coast, probably due to higher turbidity in the water since the Väinameri is much affected by land nutrient runoff. It is also very shallow, so that, at some sites, I have to walk almost 100-200 meters for the water to reach my knees.

Our collection went smoothly and quick, so we decided to take a trip over to the island Hiiumaa, which is north of Saaremaa, since the ferry to there departs from one of our sampling sites, and because we wanted to see what kind of seaweed grew there. One often thinks that it will be the same in an area, but in reality there are sometimes quite large variations on small scales, so we take nothing for granted.

The trip from Saaremaa to Hiiumaa takes about 65 minutes

The trip from Saaremaa to Hiiumaa takes about 65 minutes

And, sure enough, the beaches we looked at were quite different from those on Saaremaa. It is amazing how much impact the difference in wave exposure does for the underwater environment.

But even though we didn’t find a seaweed paradise, it was nice to be on a ferry and see the sea. We could also note that the algal bloom was in its peak, same as in the Baltic Proper (we could see it from the plane was we flew over the Åland islands).

Microalgae bloom floating on the surface of a still sea.

Microalgae bloom floating on the surface of a still sea.

After enjoying a lovely dinner in the town Kuressaare and a good nights sleep, we went back up to Tallinn and even had time for lunch in one of the towns many great restaurants, and a coffee in a cozy café before we returned the car and headed back to Sweden.

Beer and chocolate cake....somewhat unorthodox but it was very warm...

Beer and chocolate cake….somewhat unorthodox but it was very warm…

And so, to round off this praise for Estonia and the new fieldstation, here’s a photo of the collected Fucus radicans from Saaremaa.

Estonian Fucus radicans is smaller than the Swedish ones.

Estonian Fucus radicans is smaller than the Swedish ones.

Ascophyllum babies at Askö

Springtime means spring cleaning, wherever one thinks it might be needed.
This Monday we went out to the Askö laboratory to prepare for the upcoming season.

As usual, the thermoconstans room (walk-in fridge) at our disposal in the lab has been filled with pots and pans containing different experiments over the winter. High time to see what amounted to something and what didn’t, throw things out and clean the buckets.

We kept some Ascophyllum nodosum from the Swedish west coast in a bucket with saltier water, to see if we could get it to reproduce and get little babies to settle on ceramic tiles in the bottom of the bucket.

The Ascophyllum did not dissappoint us!

Wee baby-Ascophyllum on tile.

Wee baby-Ascophyllum on tile.

This is how cute Ascophyllum-babies are when they are but a millimeter tall.
The picture is taken by mobile camera through the ocular of a stereo loupe.

New artwork at the Askö Marine Laboratory

On Thursday last week, we gathered at the Askö Marine Laboratory for this years Winter Party. For dinner was served, amongst other dishes, a very nice smoked salmon, fresh from the new laboratory smokehouse. The activity for the evening was to create a painting duringthe dinner. It turned out an inspired new piece of art where the bladderwrack was a given part, together with a golden Saduria entomon, a mussel containing a pearl and other important objects from the station.

Winter Party Painting

Winter Party Painting

Barnacles, bryozoans, seaweed and patterns

There are still some things to blog from earlier this fall. In August there was a seminar in the ”Sustainable Sea” -series, a co-operation between Briggen Tre Kronor and Stockholm University. The exhibit “The Baltic Sea- who cares ?” was also shown. There was displayed pictures from Hanna Henriksson’s exam project at Beckmans Design School, where she used wonderful patterns from the Baltic Sea, with barnacles, bryozoans and bladderwrack. Who would have thought that bryozoan colonies can be as lovely as the finest lace!

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Thus inspired, Lena made a kaftan that she wore on the 27th September when she was awarded a gold medal by the University, as we have previously mentioned .

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“It felt wonderful and very appropriate to walk up the stairs in City Hall and receive this honorary award from the Vice-Chancellor, wearing a dress with a pattern from a photographed settling-plate.” Lena said.
This particular plate was hanging at the Askö laboratory, and used for research on the settling time of barnacle larvae on boat hulls, some years ago. The results from this project and what each of us can do instead of painting our boats with toxic paint can be found at The Archipelago Foundation.

If you want to monitor when the barnacles of 2014 arrive at your own jetty or pier? Get a settling plate and hang it from the jetty. From The Archipelago Foundation, you can also find out what you can do once you see that they have settled and reached about 1 cm in size.
If they are on a small boat, you can just brush them off, or take your boat to a boat-cleaning station. You can also take your boat up a river or ia nearby freshwater area. This will kill the barnacles, who will eventually fall off.

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