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

PhD position on seaweed farming in Sweden

The Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Gothenburg University announces a PhD-position on macroalgae farming. The lucky winner will be located at Tjärnö Marinebiological Laboratory, just south of Strömstad on the Swedish west coast. It sounds like really interesting stuff!

Tjärnö Station as seen from r/v Nereus

Tjärnö Station as seen from r/v Nereus

Type of employment: Fixed-term employment, four years
Extent: 100 %
Location: Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Tjärnö, on the Swedish west coast.
First day of employment: Up on agreement
Reference number: UR 2014/914

Doctoral education
The admission to doctoral education takes place in natural science, specialising in biology. The program comprises four years of fulltime study and includes three years working on a thesis project and one year of courses and literature studies. Courses can be selected within the department/faculty, but national/international courses can also be included. Teaching and supervision of undergraduate students may be included, which extends the doctoral education period.

Project description
The PhD project is part of the larger research project “Sustainable large-scale cultivation of seaweeds in Sweden” where researchers from the University of Gothenburg, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and the Scottish Association of Marine Science participate. The overall project objective is to develop a sustainable large-scale system for growing kelp (Saccharina latissima) at the Swedish west coast. Seaweed cultivation is the fastest growing aquaculture sector globally, but is totally undeveloped in Sweden despite good natural conditions. The project deals with methodological and environmental aspects such as new cultivation techniques, mass production of spores and seedlings, breeding of crop varieties, and effects of seaweed cultivation on the surrounding marine ecosystem.

Saccharina latissima

Saccharina latissima

Job assignments
The main task is to carry out thesis work under supervision, during which the PhD student will develop knowledge and skills in methodology, analytical ability and subject theory. The work tasks include laboratory-based production of seedlings, development of new cultivation techniques for seaweeds in the field, development of high-performing lines through breeding, and evaluation of positive and negative environmental effects of large-scale algal cultivation. The studies will be conducted both in the field and in the laboratory.
The thesis work also includes statistical analyses and compilation of results in scientific papers, leading to the publication of a doctoral thesis. The PhD student will also present results at conferences, seminars, and project meetings and is expected to communicate and collaborate actively with other participants.

Small seedlings of Saccharina latissima on rope.

Small seedlings of Saccharina latissima on rope.

The admission to doctoral education takes place in Natural Science, specialising in Biology. The program comprises four years of fulltime study and includes three years working on a thesis project and one year of courses and literature studies. Courses can be selected within the department/faculty, but national/international courses can also be included. Teaching and supervision of undergraduate students may be included, which extends the doctoral education period.

For more information on the position, check THIS LINK

You can also contact
Henrik Pavia, +46(0)31-7869685, henrik.pavia@bioenv.gu.se
or
Head of department: Ingela Dahllöf, +46 (0)31 786 3393, ingela.dahllof@bioenv.gu.se

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.

Dive transect on the Swedish west coast

During the summer, the BalticSeaWeed blog did al ot of fieldwork, both at Askö on the east coast and Tjärnö on the west coast.

Among other things, we performed an inventory of algae populations along two transects (laid out measuring tape) outside Tjärnö on the salty west coast.

The scuba diver swims from the beach with a tape measure that has been attached at the waterline down to the depth where no more algae grow. Depending on water clarity, this may vary from a few meters to more than 20 meters depth.

Once the algae end, the diver takes out her slate (the single most important tool for any marine biologist) and begins by noting the depth and how much of the tape measure that’s been rolled out. Subsequently, the diver notes down all the algal species she sees and appreciates how much of them there are, on a 7-point scale (1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100%).

When the diver has recorded all of this about the starting point, she swims slowly along the transect (tape measure) and continues to note the depth, length and species when it becomes a visible difference in the species that dominates, in order to produce a map of different “algal belts”.

Each “belt” is also sampled, using frames and bags. The diver uses a fixed size frame, which can be loose or attached to a bag, of a size usually 20×20 or 50×50 cm, depending on how many species and how much algae it is.

The diver puts the frame on the bottom, picks the largest algae by hand and puts them into the bag and then use a scraper to get off all the algae that grows within the frame and whisk them into the bag. It’s harder than it looks to work under water when everything is floating around.

For you to get an idea of how it works, Joakim Hansen, who helped out as dive buddy this summer, shared what he was filming with the BalticSeaWeed blog. Here’s how it looks when you scrape a frame.

Why, then have we done this, except that it’s very nice to go for a dive?

On these two sites, these inventories have been conducted for several years. In ecology, it is very important to have measurements that extend over a long period of time in order to see if there is a genuine change in the environment, or if it is just normal variations between years.

So during the cold, dark months, we will pick up our bags with frozen algae out of the freezer (there were over 30 of them), thaw them, sort them into piles according to species, dry and weigh and record in the protocols, thus getting the number of grams dry weight of each species that grew in each frame. By comparing our data with previous protocols, we can then see if it has become more or less of any species, and if any new species have appeared or if any have disappeared over the years.

Autumn preparations at Askö Laboratory

Last Monday it was time to put the seaweed out in the sea for overwintering. After some different trials of overwintering indoors in the Experiment Hall at the Askö Laboratory, with extra lights and air pumps, we have found that it is still difficult to get good enough water circulation and movement for the seaweed to be happy. It becomes brittle and falls apart come spring. But tying plants on to net cages and placing them on the sea floor at some meters depth works just fine!
The weather was amazing. Calm and brilliant sun. But the water level was too high, so now they are places too shallow to remain in the bay all winter. We will have to come back later and move them to a deeper waters. That will be a dry suit -job.

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In this year’s seaweed plantation is material from Gotland that we have collected in order to try and solve the question of if there is a third ecotype of bladderwrack. We know from before that in the Baltic Sea we find both summer reproducing (end of May-June) and autumn reproducing (end July-October) bladderwrack. But now it seems that we have found a third type, that reproduces more or less constantly throughout the entire season (May-October).

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The Sea Environment Seminar of 2013, was held at Vår Gård located in Saltsjöbaden outside Stockholm. In the morning Lena went for a walk alongthe beach and found plenty of free-floating bladderwrack balls, both in the wrack wall on the beach and also floating in the shallow water, rolling around.

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According to litterature, these do not reproduce sexually, and we have never seen any reproductive tips on this form of bladderwrack. Naturally, she collected several wrackballs. Since Lena had forgotten to bring a plastic bag (wich is something a true marine biologist always should keep on her/him), she had to go back to the hotel reception and ask for one. Imagine their surprised looks. The day after, Lena went out to ASkö and tied the wrackballs to little ceramic tiles. What we are looking for is if these freee floating forms will become sexual in spring if they have a fixed up and down. Now they are placed in the sea for the winter, and all we can do is wait for the return of sunlight and warmth in spring, when we can dive down and check if there are any reproductive tips on them.

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Day 4 EMBS Galway

Niall McDonough from European Marine Board started the day. European Marine Board is a partnership of 35 national marine / oceanographic research institutes from 20 European countries. Recently, it has also opened up for a membership of a consortium of universities. The Board is working as a platform to develop a common understanding of what is needed and what should be prioritized within marine research in Europe, and communicate this to policy makers in the EU. There are lots of interesting publications that can be download for free on their website http://www.marineboard.eu
For those who want to learn more about the sea, they are also running a project called Ocean Literacy, wich we will look into more closely and get back to you on.

Brenda Walles from the Netherlands present us with more information about oysters, wich we like a lot, especially with garlic. She has further investigated the possibilities of using oyster beds as erosion protection (bioengineers) on exposed coasts. Today, they are used mostly as breakwaters, but they also have a greater impact on sediment bottoms around them. The most important factor for optimum protection has proven to be the length of the reef, not surprisingly, but the oysters also have more beneficial bioengineering effects that could be utilized better than we do today. And they are so very tasty…

Katrin Bohn from Southampton University has participated in a study of re-colonization of old boat docks in Liverpool that were restored in the early 1980’s. The study was begun several years ago by Professor Stephen J. Hawkins. The restoration wincluded removing large amounts of accumulated sediment in the docks and putting back the gates in order to control the water flow. The water clarity and the oxygen concentration in the dock improved significantly during the first six years, and now mussels, sponges and sea squirts have moved in.