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.

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Lectures on Ecology and Diversity of the Baltic Sea

As part of a PhD-course organized by BEAM (Baltic Ecosystem Adaptive Management), there were several lectures on the theme “Ecology and Diversity of the Baltic Sea”.

If you are interested in what the benthos looks like, what role the blue mussel plays, or want to know more about the planctonic life of the Baltic Sea, you will find the lectures by klicking HERE.

There is, of course, one or two lectures containing seaweed.

The Underwater Map shows the way

Finally, you can see some of the lovely underwater nature from the Baltic Sea!

As a part of the project Naturkartan,(Nature Map) a Swedish project in the East Gotha county that aims to increase access and awareness to the nature in the county, they have also posted several short films, showing nature under the surface. Have a look at The Underwater Map (Undervattenskartan)and enjoy some summer, sun and lovely waters.

It’s wonderful to take a virtual swim and enjoy the greenery at this cold and bleak time of year. We hope that more coastal counties will pick up on the trend and choose to market their blue side.

The forrest under the surface is well worth a visit

The forrest under the surface is well worth a visit

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.

“Cinema Seaweed”

Here in Sweden, the frost is making everything sparkling white, and our noses and cheeks red. So what could make us warmer than some Cinema Seaweed? During summer and autumn, several seaweed movies have appeared on YouTube. This is a trend that we hope will last.

Here are links to nice seaweed movies that we have come across.

Nyköpings municipality, just south of Stockholm, has really got the hang of how to show itself from its best side!
Here you can see the two localities Långskär and West Kovik. The gurgling sound you hear is when the snorkel is filled with water.

From Skälderviken down south in Skåne county we can see that both bladderwrack and serrated wrack have recovered. It is also shown that 2013 was an incredibly successful year for the brown algae Dead Man’s Rope (Chorda filum) along most of the Swedish coast.
The movie is by Virtuerack. Virtue is a resource for schools, created by the Faculty of Science at Gothenburg University and The Maritime Museum & Aquarium in Gothenburg. They also have more movies where they show how cd-discs are being placed under a jetty in the sea and become habitat for several algae and animals.

Do you have any nice seaweed movies? Please let us know.

Spinning eggs for Easter

I am going to render a normal conversation that often happens when I talk about seaweed and what I do.

– So, you work with seaweed. Nice! What do you do with it?
– Well, among other things I try to cross different species with one another in order to understand how speciation occurs.
-That sounds interesting. When does the seaweed bloom, then? Or….does it have flowers?
-Nope, it has eggs and sperm just like us. Bladderwrack and narrow wrack have male and female plants and actually have an almost identical lifecycle to humans.
-It has eggs and sperm?! But…is it an animal, then?

Suddenly you realize that what you learned during biology class in school was just a rough cut, simplified picture of reality. Nature and evolution is so much more than that, with more imagination and concepts than we humans are able to name.

I think it is fantastic that algae, some of the planet’s first living organisms, have used eggs and sperm for a long time. Maybe longer even than humans have been around. A flick on the nose at us when we think we are evolutionarily advanced.

Here’s a video of how eggs from bladderwrack start spinning by all the sperm swimming around them, hoping to fertilize. Beautiful!