Category Archives: About

The 7th International Barcode of Life (IBOL) conference

 IBOL 2017 took place in the most fantastic venue imaginable: inside Kruger National Park in South Africa! Hosted by the African Centre for DNA Barcoding (ACDB) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ),  the conference gathered ~450 participants from 72 different countries for a week of networking, knowledge sharing, and unforgettable experiences.

Participants of IBOL 2017. Photo by J. Potgieter

Located at the conference centre in Skukuza rest camp, IBOL 2017 filled every available room with sessions ranging from forensic applications of barcoding to the most cutting edge technology. A excellent overview of the topic trends is presented as an article that can be found here (.pdf, open access)

Norway was well represented, with 15 delegates and 23 contributions from various universities, museums and organisations. You can read more about that, and about Trondheim being the host of the next IBOL conference (to take place 17th-20th of June 2019) here (only in Norwegian atm).

The invertebrate collections of UM Bergen participated with five posters and three lightning talks on marine barcoding: three posters focussing on Norwegian waters, and two related to our MIWA-project (Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa, blog here). A lightning presentation is a five minute talk where the author gets to present their poster before the poster session.

Attending from UM were Jon, Tom and Katrine – as well as Lloyd from Ghana, who has been a regular guest researcher here for some time now, working with the MIWA polychaetes together with us.

Tom, Jon and Katrine on their way to Kruger (photo: THR)

Tom, Katrine, Jon and Lloyd attending the game drive during the conference (Photo: THR)

Our contributions:

Our five posters

Barcoding of marine invertebrates from Norway through NorBOL
Katrine Kongshavn, Jon A. Kongsrud, Tom Alvestad, Endre Willassen

Investigating the marine invertebrate fauna of the West African continental shelf with DNA barcodes
Endre Willassen, Jon A. Kongsrud, Katrine Kongshavn, Manuel A.E. Malaquias, Tom Alvestad

Building a comprehensive barcode reference library of the Norwegian Echinodermata through NorBOL – an ongoing effort
Tom Alvestad, Katrine Kongshavn, Jon A Kongsrud, Torkild Bakken, Kennet Lundin, Hans T Rapp, Endre Willassen

Diversity and species distributions of Glyceriformia (Annelida, Polychaeta) in shelf areas off western Africa
Lloyd Allotey, Tom Alvestad, Jon A Kongsrud, Akanbi B Williams, Katrine Kongshavn, Endre Willassen

Assessing species diversity in marine bristle worms (Annelida, Polychaeta): integrating barcoding with traditional morphology-based taxonomy
Jon A Kongsrud, Torkild Bakken, Eivind Oug, Tom Alvestad, Arne Nygren, Katrine Kongshavn, Nataliya Budaeva, Maria Capa, Endre Willassen

All the posters are available on the conference website. Do make sure to check the photo galleries there as well!

It was occasionally challenging to focus on the excellent presentations, as temptations like this kept appearing – but we prevailed, and return with a lot of new knowledge and acquaintances.

That’s not to say that we did not make the most of our free time to go and explore the park!

Here are some of the amazing encounters Kruger NP offered us (Katrine’s photos):

 

We had a fantastic time, our thanks to the organizers and the lovely team of volunteers for all their hard work!

-Jon, Tom, Lloyd & Katrine

PS: If you wish to stay updated on news from the conference, follow @DNABarcodes, #IBOL2017, and for news on the upcoming IBOL2019; @norwbol on Twitter

Exposing the Indian Ocean staggering diversity: fieldtrip to Nuarro, northern Mozambique (October 2017)

Pursuing our goal to understand the diversity, origin and biogeography of the Indo-West Pacific biota, we went back to Mozambique to continue the exploration of the reef systems of the country. After a first fieldtrip to the subtropical southern coast of Mozambique in 2014, and a second during 2015 to the tropical Quirimbas islands (Vamizi I.) not far from the border with Tanzania, we visited this time for two weeks between the 15–28 October 2017 the coastal pristine reefs and mangroves of Memba District in Nuarro, Nangata Bay, together with Prof. João Macuio from the University Lurio, Pemba and Dr Yara Tibiriça based at Nuarro Lodge, that kindly organized the expedition.

The staggering diversity of the tropical Indo-Pacific is well known and the area between the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea (the Coral Triangle) is famous for hosting the highest marine diversity in the planet. However, for various reasons (political, economic, etc.) the Indian Ocean has been comparatively less surveyed, and much fewer studies are available for this region. Some recent publications are though showing that for corals and molluscs, at least, the region is extremely diverse, nearly comparable with the coral triangle.

We want to understand why is this region so diverse and whether the Indian Ocean harbours similar or a different faunal composition compared to the West Pacific Ocean. The traditional view is that most tropical species are broadly distributed across the Indo-West Pacific, but recent evidence from DNA studies suggests otherwise, but this is not yet well understood. If significant differences are found, then, understanding what may have driven speciation across both realms becomes a major quest.

Jorunna rubescens

Phyllidia varicosa

Plakobranchus sp.

Reticulidia suzanneae

Nuarro is a remote place, four and half hours driving from Nampula international airport, half of them through earth roads. It is located in beautiful Nangata Bay lined by fine white sands and calm turquoise waters. The area is characterized by a large diversity of marine habitats like sand flats, coral bommies, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and coralline drop-off walls plunging into the deep blue.

The expedition had its basecamp at Nuarro Lodge, an eco-lodge offering diving facilities and a research center. The lodge besides its hostel activities is engaged in social, educational, heath, and nature conservation programmes with the local communities helping to improve education standards for the younger generations, mitigate the impact of native diseases like malaria, and the sustainable use of nature resources. For this last goal a marine protected area was created in 2008.

João Macuio and Manuel Malaquias during a nudi photo session

Local fishermen in a wooden canoe

Measuring giant clams underwater

Yara Tibiriçá databasing the catch of the day

During two weeks we have surveyed the area for marine molluscs (sea slugs) and studied the impact of the marine protected area in the conservation of the highly sensitive and threatened giant clams (Tridacna spp.). The days at Nuarro began early, around 5.30–6am, with the sun already out and high in the blue sky. Waking up was not difficult, with the awesome strident ensemble of sounds from the many local different birds and the monkeys running and jumping on the thatched roofs of our housing! First sampling of the day around 8.30am, followed by a second one after lunchtime. The evenings were dedicated to study, photograph, identify, and database the catch of the day. We have collected approximately 68 species of sea slugs; 11 are new records to Mozambique and an additional 12 still undescribed. The conservation status of the populations of giant-clams was evaluated in areas under fishing pressure by the local communities and inside the marine reserve for comparison, and it was obvious the positive impact of the marine protect area.

Monkey jumping on the roof of our accommodation

A “family” of moray eels

Collecting in the mangroves

Crown-of-thorns starfish feeding on coral

Detail of a gorgonian coral

Garden eels

Nangata Bay, Nuarro

The flatworm Pseudoceros lindae

The days were busy and went far too fast, but there was time for a short social programme where we paid a visit to the local village and visited the primary school built by the lodge and met a group of local activists that work with the community to raise awareness for issues concerning hygiene, malaria, and other health matters, which regrettably still claim lives in the region far beyond acceptable numbers on the XXI century. Before the trip to Nuarro I was challenged to take a football ball with me for the local team. I have obviously eagerly done it, and it was a great delight to the see the joy of the players of the “Real Nangata” playing around with their new ball!

Primary school build by the lodge at Nangata village

Real Nangata football club

View of Nangata village with a baubau tree

The Nuarro expedition would not have been possible without the gratitude and support of the Nuarro Eco-Lodge to which I am deeply indebted.  I am also thankful to Prof. Isabel Silva from the University Lurio, Pemba and to the Fisheries Department of the Cabo Delgado Province from granting collecting and exporting permits.

Manuel António E. Malaquias, Associate Professor

Natural History Museum of Bergen, Norway

 

Getting back in business

The blog has been quiet over summer – but we’ve been busy!

The #AnnelidaCourse2017 came to an end, and happy participants went back to their home institutions with a lot of new knowledge, a increased contact network, and many new friends.

a)Students working in the lab; b) Picking interesting animals from the samples onboard R/V Hans Brattström; c) Animals to be studied; d) Group photo of most of the participants; e) Detailed study and drawing of a specimen; f) Field work onboard R/V Aurelia Fotos: K.Kongshavn (a,b,e), G. Kolbasova (c), G.Jolly (d), S. Rosli (f)

a) Students working in the lab; b) Picking interesting animals from the samples onboard R/V Hans Brattström;
c) Animals to be studied; d) Group photo of most of the participants; e) Detailed study and drawing of a specimen; f) Field work onboard R/V Aurelia Fotos: K.Kongshavn (a,b,e), G. Kolbasova (c), G.Jolly (d), S. Rosli (f)

Heaps (HEAPS!) of samples have been cataloged and labeled, DNA-sequencing has completed on the shipment we sent in June and we’re working on analyzing the results, and samples from the cruises we particpated on have and are being sorted.

The next shipment of animals to be barcoded through NorBOL is being assembled – of marine invertebrates from our collections, one plate of polychaetes and one plate of isopods have been prepared, and we plan on completing a few more plates before shipping in October.

Isopods for barcoding - these have all been collected and identified by the MAREANO project. Photo: K.Kongshavn

Isopods for barcoding – these have all been collected and identified by the MAREANO project. Photo: K.Kongshavn

We will also get contributions from several of the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative projects (Artsprosjekt) that are running, and a plate with insect samples made by the students of BIO233 (I was down there today giving them an introduction to barcoding, NorBOL and the BOLD database) – hopefully we’ll get good results on all of it.

-Katrine

International Course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution

The two-week long International Course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution is up and running at the Espegrend Marine Biological Station!

The course is held by the University Museum of Bergen in cooperation with the Moscow State University and ForBio (Research School in Biosystematics). It is sponsored by SPIRE (Strategic Programme for International Research and Education) and SIU (Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education). More info about the course can be found here.

Twenty students and eighteen course organizers and instructors from Norway, Russia and 10 more countries are participating in the course, which is being held in the University of Bergen’s marine research station at Espegrend.

lectures

Conrad (top) and Ken giving presentations

The course has started with a lecture on basic concepts in phylogenetics and evolution following by Endre Willassen, followed by the talks on phylogeny of Annelida by Ken Halanych (Auburn University) and Conrad Helm (Sars Centre).

boat

R/V Hans Brattstrøm, on the road With sampling gear, and enthusiastic sorting in the lab

We have been samplingwith both R/V Hans Brattstrøm and the smaller boat Aurelia in several benthic biotopes in the vicinity of the station, and have collected plenty of serpulids and siboglinids among other worm families.

The first laboratory session focused on Sabellida and Siboglinidae and were taught by Maria Capa (NTNU), Nadya Rimskaya-Korsakova (MSU) and Glafira Kolbasova (MSU). Nadya has brought few large vestimentiferans from the Moscow collection and the students got the opportunity to look at famous hydrothermal vent tubeworms.

Samples-both brought from Russia, and caught locally - the live specimens are stored in the cold room , and we suffer a little when we og to get them..!

Samples-both fixated specimens brought from Russia, and live ones caught locally – the live specimens are stored in the cold room , and we suffer a little when we og to get them..!

We’ll be blogging more from the from the course, so check back! You can also get some glimpses of the exciting world of Worm researchers by checking the tag #annelidacourse2017 on Twitter.

Congratulations to our latest PhD!

Freshly minted PhD!  (photo: Kenneth F. Bosch)

Freshly minted PhD!
(photo: Kenneth F. Bosch)

Andrea successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis “Dietary specialization and molecular phylogeny of the family Aglajidae (Cephalaspidea: Gastropoda) with species delimitation analysis and biogeography of two genera from the clade Chelidonura sensu lato” earlier today. She was supervised by Manuel A.E. Malaquias from the Department of Natural History, UM, and Henrik Glenner from the Department of Biology.

You can read more about her work here (in Norwegian)

Congratulations and all the best wishes from us!

Below are photos of some of the species, if you are wondering how they look (pics by Manuel)

Sognefjorden cruise May 2017

After our week with SponGES on R/V Bonnevie, Luis and I had a night back in Bergen before we headed out on our second spring adventure: a four day cruise (still onboard Bonnevie) of Sognefjorden, the longest (205 km) and (deepest 1308 m) fjord in Norway.

The cruise, led by Prof. Henrik Glenner from the Institute of Biology, UoB,  was a multi-purpose one, with the majority of the projects being linked to the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative (Artsprosjekt):

We collected material for the ongoing project that is investigating and mapping the barnacle fauna (Crustacea: Cirripedia) in Norway, which a special focus on the strange, parasitic barnacle Anelasma squalicola that is found on the shark Etmopterus spinax (velvet bellied lantern shark/svarthå).

The material we collected will also serve as an addendum to the project on Species inventory and nature type mapping of Sognefjorden, which was recently concluded.

As for the University Museum, Luis was onboard collecting pelagic and benthic Hydrozoa for the HYPNO-project, whilst I was on the hunt for more species for DNA-barcoding through NorBOL (the Norwegian Barcode of Life). We have also re-sampled some polychaete type localities from the 1970’s, and attempted to retrieve more material from stations where we have found new species in more recent material (we need more specimens before we can formally describe them).

In addition, we had two Danish researchers onboard that were studying the bioluminescence and eye development of the starfish family Brisingidae. The story told in images:

We should maybe also add "one of the most gorgeous" to the description of the fjord

We should maybe also add “one of the most gorgeous” to the description of the fjord

Velvet belly lanternshark, Etmopterus spinax

Velvet belly lanternshark, Etmopterus spinax

Henrik and Christoph sorting a shrimp trawl catch on deck

Henrik and Christoph sorting a shrimp trawl catch on deck

Eager pickings in the trawl catch

Eager pickings in the trawl catch

Not all trawl samples go according to plan... this one, taken in the open sea, ended up sampling *a bit* deeper than intended, so we got a lot of benthic animals - and mud. So. much. mud.

Not all trawl samples go according to plan… this one, taken in the open sea, ended up sampling *a bit* deeper than intended, so we got a lot of benthic animals – and mud. So. much. mud.

Most novel sampling gear yet? Collecting velvet belly lanternshark by monkfish!

Most novel sampling gear yet? Collecting velvet belly lanternshark by monkfish! (caught in the “benthic” trawl)

The brisinga sea stars are very fragile - and live deep down.

The brisinga sea stars are very fragile – and live deep down.

We amanged to get some not-too-damaged specimens with a small trawl

We manged to get some not-too-damaged specimens with a small trawl

The plankton net going our for collecting

The plankton net going our for collecting

Luis an Marie studying a plankton sample

Luis an Marie studying a plankton sample

Plankton

Plankton

For some reason, my samples seems to involve inordinate amounts of mud - good thing I had good helpers to work through it all!

For some reason, my samples seems to involve inordinate amounts of mud – good thing I had good helpers to work through it all!

Cruising in a postcard!

Cruising in a postcard!

Sadly, plastic pollution was prevalent in Sognefjorden as well - here's a soda bottle from a sample taken at 911 m depth

Sadly, plastic pollution was prevalent in Sognefjorden as well – here’s a soda bottle from a sample taken at 911 m depth

And here are som eof the plastic that we ended up with from our sampling, most of it from over 1000 meters depth.

Here is some of the plastic that we ended up with from our sampling, most of it recovered from over 1000 meters depth.

Our final night of the cruise was spent in the mud and the sunset - it's starting to become a recurring theme!

Our final night of the cruise was spent in the mud and the sunset – it’s starting to become a recurring theme!

Once again, thank you so much to the crew on Bonnevie for all their help!

Once again, thank you so much to the crew on Bonnevie for all their help!

-Katrine

Fieldwork with the SponGES project on R/V Kristine Bonnevie – part II

I wanted to write a bit more abou the SponGES cruise, as we are currently entering Sognefjorden on the second spring cruise Luis and I have managed to sign up for (what a job!).

SponGES took us to Korsfjorden, Bømlafjorden, west of Bømlahuken and finally past Fedje and back to Bergen. We ended up with ~70 stations, using grabs, Agassiz trawl, plankton net, RP-sledge and ROV. For the most part the gear performed admirably, though we had some mishaps (and an epic final station, key word being MUD – Anne Helene will have more to say about that one).
The first grab of the new cruise is going down, so I have to be quick; here’s SponGES in pictures (not recorded: lots of laughs and horrible songs)

Fieldwork with the SponGES project on R/V Kristine Bonnevie

20170428_143104

Greetings from the big, old blue!

We don’t have much internet out here, so updates will be sporadic – but here’s the tale of the first half of the two cruises that the Invertebrate Collections people have stowed away on this spring. The current cruise is part of the SponGES-project that is being coordinated by the University of Bergen, Norway (prof. Hans Tore Rapp).

We are currently midway in the six-day cruise (26th of April to 2nd of May), and are presently to be found at 59°63,000 N, 04°42,000 E – there are mountains on one horizon, and open ocean on the other. After a night of muddy (clay-y) sampling, the majority of us are relaxing and eagerly awaiting lunch, whilst some of the sponge-folks are huddled inside the big, blue container on the deck, surveying the sea floor with the ROV Aglantha (occasionally cherry-picking sponges with fancy scoops).

The ROV Aglantha, inside the Blue Box, and sponge-capturing device

The ROV Aglantha, inside the Blue Box, and sponge-capturing device

At present we are at station #33; it has been three busy days so far! This is the first trip for all of us on the “new” R/V Kristine Bonnevie (formerly known as “Dr. Fritjof Nansen”, but that name has passed on to the new Nansen vessel), and we’re thoroughly enjoying it. The crew is amazing, the food is delicious, and the samples keep coming – what’s not to like? Even the weather has been good to us most of the time – though we have sprouted quite a crop of anti-seasickness patches onboard by now!

#bestoffice

#bestoffice

We had to take a break to admire this

We had to take a break to admire this

Shenanigans on deck

Shenanigans on deck

In addition to the ROV, we are using van Veen grabs, Agassiz trawl, plankton net, and RP-sledge to collect fauna. We also stumbled across hundreds of meters of lost fishing line when diving with Aglantha – the operators were able to catch an end of it, and it was dragged onboard to be discarded properly. The rope was heavily colonized by sponges, hydrozoa and mussels, so we got a “bonus sample” from that – and we got to clear away some marine pollution. Win/win!

Old Fishing line being removed - and samples taken from it!

Old Fishing line being removed – and samples taken from it!

My main incentive for being onboard is to secure ethanol-fixed (=suitable for DNA work) material from locations that we have either none or only formaldehyde fixed. This will then become part of the museum collections – and we will have fresh material for DNA barcoding through NorBOL.

Ready to dive in!

Ready to dive in!

The art of washing grab samples - get rid of the mud, keep the animals intact!

The art of washing grab samples – get rid of the mud, keep the animals intact!

Scooping up top sediment from grabs for analyses

Scooping up top sediment from grabs for analyses

Incoming trawl

Incoming trawl

Sampling in the sunset

Sampling in the sunset

The samples we are collecting are gently and carefully treated on deck before being bulk (i.e. unsorted) fixated in ethanol. There is lab space onboard, but we don’t have the time to do much sorting here. It will be exciting to see what we find once we get back to the lab and begin sorting it!

Lab facilities onboard

Lab facilities onboard

But before we get to that, we have three more days with SponGES, and then we go on to the next cruise, which will also be with Bonnevie – this time we’re heading up and into the Sognefjord.

Stay tuned for updates!

-Katrine

ps: SponGES’ facebook page is here

Guest researchers: Carlo

Untangling the diversity and evolution of Sea Hares

Aplysia parvula; Føllingen, Norway; Photo by Nils Aukan

Aplysia parvula; Føllingen, Norway; Photo by Nils Aukan

Sampling and freezing at Askøy

Sampling and freezing at Askøy

Dr Carlo M. Cunha from the Metropolitan University of Santos in Brazil (Universidade Metropolitana de Santos), a world expert in the diversity and systematics of Anaspidea heterobranch gastropods, visited the Natural History Museum of Bergen for a month during January/February 2017 to study our scientific collection of these molluscs. The visit was funded by the University of Bergen´s Strategic Programme for International Research and Education (SPIRE).

The Museum holds a large amount of material from the Scandinavian region, but also from the Mediterranean, Macaronesia islands, Caribbean, and western Indian Ocean.

These marine molluscs commonly known by sea hares comprise around 90 currently known species and have long been of major interest to biologists because of their large and easily accessible nervous system, which form the basis of numerous neurophysiological works.

Preserved specimen of Aplysia punctata from norway

Preserved specimen of Aplysia punctata from Norway

Dissected specimen of Aplysia punctata from Norway

Dissected specimen of Aplysia punctata from Norway

However, the taxonomy of these molluscs and their evolution are still poorly understood. Dr Cunha is using a combination of molecular and morphological tools to learn more about the worldwide diversity of anaspideans and their phylogenetic relationships.

Dr Cunha visit to Bergen has already resulted in the revision and update of the taxonomy of our Anaspidea collection. The Norwegian species of anaspids were revised and redescribed in detail using electron microscopy and DNA barcoding performed in collaboration with Louise Lindblom (University Museum / Biodiversity Labs).

SEM-image of jaws of Phyllaplysia sp from Florida, USA

SEM-image of jaws of Phyllaplysia sp from Florida, USA

Additionally several other species from around the world were studied and will be integrated in ongoing taxonomic revisions. Keep tuned!

-Manuel

We’ve also had Lloyd visiting recently, you’ll find a post about that on the Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa blog: click here