Category Archives: Artsprosjekt/NTI projects

My internship at the University Museum of Bergen (Alina)

Hi, I am Alina Lösing, a bachelor’s student from Germany with the great opportunity to join the Cnidaria and Ctenophora team from the University Museum of Bergen for a 6 weeks Internship. This experience was not only a chance to further strengthen my passion in marine biology but also very helpful to gain valuable insight into research and museum operations.

During my time at the museum, I had the chance to join various projects of Joan J. Soto-Angel, including POLE2POLE (Horizon 2020, MSCA) on bipolarity, and Artsprosjektet NoAH (Artsdatabanken) on Norwegian Arctic Hydrozoa. I even had the honor to contribute a small part to it! I focused mostly on the polyp of Stegopoma plicatile, a supposedly widely distributed species present also in both Arctic and the Antarctic waters.

On black background branching animals looking a bit like corals

Figure 1: Living specimen of Stegopoma plicatile collected during the OceanX cruise at 240 m depth (Pictures: Joan J. Soto-Angel)

The first step was to take pictures of the different specimens that were sampled and categorized as Stegopoma plicatile. Further I took pictures of many other species of Arctic hydrozoan polyps and hydromedusae. I learned some useful tricks with the camera while photographing the different species of polyps and medusae.

Part of the project is developing a reliable workflow which allows for a morphological distinction between polyps belonging to potentially different species previously defined molecularly from different areas worldwide. Therefore, I spent a lot of time working with the microscope collecting data which can be crucial to refining the morphological differences between different species. I measured length and width of 380 nematocysts!

The author working in the lab; seen using a microscope with camera on top, and holding a DSLR camera

Figure 2: Taking pictures of the samples with the microscope and the camera (Pictures: Joan J. Soto-Angel)

Furthermore, I underwent training in tissue sampling, a crucial step in preparing the samples for DNA sequencing. It’s all about preventing tissue contamination! Moreover, I had the opportunity to visit the DNA Lab, where I received instruction in their specialized techniques for DNA extraction, PCR, and electrophoresis. Many thanks Cessa for your time and dedication!

The highlights of my internship were of course both sampling trips I got to attend on board the Research Vessel Hans Brattstrøm. On the ship I learned a lot about the specific sampling methods for these incredibly delicate invertebrates. Despite experiencing a bit of seasickness the first time, I assisted with net deployment, sorting the animals, and collecting water samples from different depths.

Wrok on board the reserach wesse (person holding a transparent cylinder with water) and a group photo of the participants

Figure 3: Collecting water samples from a CTD; The Team during a successful sampling day (Pictures: Luis Martell, Praveen Raj)

Apart from an amazing Jellyfish Team, Bergen has many more attractions to offer. I highly recommend packing your hiking boots for your next visit, as the surrounding mountains offer breathtaking scenery. And if you share my passion for the ocean, a visit to the Nordnes Sjøbad is a must. Here you can take a refreshing dip in the frosty ocean before warming up in the heated saltwater pool.

Scenic shots of nature in Bergen

Figure 4: Hike to Ulriken and Fløyen with a view of Bergen (Pictures: Alina Lösing)

 I would like to take a moment to acknowledge Joan’s invaluable contribution to my internship at the University Museum of Bergen. Joan’s dedication and extensive knowledge have made my experience truly unforgettable.

-Alina

Student visits – Ellisiv and Maria

A guest post from two of our MSc students (in this case co-supervised with NTNU) who were here on a research visit for three weeks in January 2024. 

We are Maria Buhaug Grankvist and Ellisiv Tomasgard Raftevold, and for the past three weeks we have been visiting the University Museum in Bergen to work on our master’s projects. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work and very useful, as the Bergen University Museum really is the place to be when you’re working with marine invertebrates.

Both our theses focus on marine invertebrates, but two different phyla. Maria is working with cyclostomatid Bryozoans, while Ellisiv looks at Polychaetes. We write our masters for the NTNU University Museum in Trondheim in collaboration with the University Museum in Bergen and the projects “Digitization of Norwegian Bryozoa” (NorDigBryo) and “Marine Annelid Diversity in Arctic Norway” (ManDAriN). Keep reading, and you will learn about our projects and what we recommend to do when visiting Bergen!

Ellisiv’s marine annelids:
I’m Ellisiv and in my master’s thesis, I study a marine Annelid or Polychaete genus called Flabelligera within the family Flabelligeridae. Flabelligerids are mostly benthic and can be found from the intertidal zone down to the deep sea. They like living in the sand or mud, or under rocks, and they can be quite small and have sediment camouflage or a completely transparent body and outer sheath and may therefore be quite hard to find. If you do find them they are quite cool to look at, and if they are transparent, you can see their internal organs and green circulatory system. Their most prominent character is the cephalic cage, which is a circle of bristles around their mouths forming a kind of cage. In the ecosystem, these animals have an important role in that they for example eat the marine snow that falls to the bottom of the oceans so that it can be recycled back into the food chain.

Flabelligera affinis, a species within this genus was until recently thought to be only one species and was thought to have a worldwide distribution. This, however, was shown not to be true when Salazar-Vallejo 2012 restricted F. affinis to arctic areas and reinstated F. vaginifera which was previously synonymized with F. affinis, and proved that it was at least two different species sorted into one. Also looking at the material we have in the museum collections and DNA samples it was suspected that there are multiple different species sorted into F. affinis.

This is the problem I am trying to solve in my master’s thesis, and to do this I need to study the specimens found in the museum collections that are sorted to F. affinis and look at their different morphological characters and sort them into groups. This is mostly what I have done in Bergen. However, these species are very similar, and sequencing their DNA to look at their relatedness is a very useful addition to the morphology. Hopefully, I can get a step closer to solving this taxonomic confusion in my master’s and we can get to know how many species are hiding within Flabelligera.

Maria and the bryozoans:
I’m Maria, and for my master thesis I’m recording the diversity of bryozoan species within the order Cyclostomatida in Norwegian waters (meaning off the coast of Norway, the arctic ocean and some nearby areas). In addition to creating a checklist of recorded species, I’m mapping out their geographic and bathymetric distribution. In short, I’m trying to provide an answer to the question: What species of Cyclostomatida do we have, and where do they live?

There are two main reasons for studying this particular phylum in my thesis. First, they are strongly understudied, and according to a report published by the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative in 2021, our understanding of bryozoan distribution and ecology is weak and unsatisfactory, even with “essential knowledge gaps” in some areas.
The second reason explains why it’s an issue that we know so little about these animals: They are majorly important for many marine ecosystems! Nearly all bryozoans are colonial, so even though the zooids (term for an individual animal in a colony) is only 0,1 – 0,5 mm long, the colonies can be as much as half a meter tall or wide! Many of the colonies have intricate shapes supported by heavily calcified structural zooids, providing habitats for a wide range of other animals. In this way, the bryozoans promote biodiversity in much the same way corals do, but they are far less known and barely protected by law like their coral counterparts.

To protect these beautiful colonial creatures we first of all need to know them better. Mapping the actual diversity and distribution of Norwegian bryozoans is far too large a task for a two year master thesis, but my thesis will hopefully contribute to the final results of the NorDigBryo project.

DNA sequencing
For both our theses we use an integrative approach, combining the morphology (what we see/the physical traits of the animals) with genetic sequence data. DNA sequencing is one of the things we got to do in Bergen, and it was very interesting to see how this is done from start to finish. We got to extract the DNA, use PCR and specific primers to amplify the DNA string of interest and gel electrophoresis to test if the prior methods worked.

For the successful sequences, we got to try the Sanger sequencing method, and it is very exciting to get to use some of our own sequences in our theses.

When in Bergen:
You’d might think that when we finish long days at the university museum, looking at marine invertebrates from dusk till dawn, we would go and do something completely different when the weekend comes. You’d be wrong!
In our spare time in Bergen, we went to see the University Museum of Natural History and were there almost from when it opened until it closed because there were so many interesting exhibitions. There are so many beautiful creatures on the planet, many of them and the story of how they evolved, you can learn about at the museum. We of course especially loved the “deep sea-room” where we would sit for a long time while watching a cephalopod swimming around deep sea sulfur vents..soothing.


More about the projects:
Marine Annelid Diversity in Arctic Norway (ManDAriN) home page (UiB)
ManDAriN presented at Artsdatabanken

Digitization of Norwegian Bryozoa (NorDigBryo) home page (UiO)
NorDigBryo presented at Artsdatabanken
NorDigBryo is also on Instagram – give us a follow!

-Ellisiv & Maria

It was our pleasure hosting these two enthusiastic guests, and we wish them luck in the thesis work – stay tuned for updates! 

PS: Interested in a marine master thesis at the University Museum of Bergen? Check out the blog detailing potential projects, or get in touch with the staff listed!

World Jellyfish Day pt 2: OceanX – gelatinous predators

This summer, researchers from the University Museum of Bergen participated on a research cruise onboard R/V OceanXplorer, the research vessel of OceanX. OceanX is a nonprofit ocean exploration organization founded by Mark and Ray Dalio in 2018. The organization’s mission is to “explore the ocean and bring it back to the world”, and the vessel is designed and constructed by OceanX to conduct ocean exploration, scientific research, and document stories of discovery to share with the public worldwide in a state-or-the art way.

One of the outcomes of the cruise was this amazing short documentary focusing on the work Aino Hosia and the rest of our “Team Jellyfish” (Joan & Luis) were doing onboard.

Today being the World Jellyfish Day, we wanted to share it here – enjoy!

 

Links:

OceanX home page: https://oceanx.org/

OceanX Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@OceanX

November 3rd. World Jellyfish Day!

Today is World Jellyfish Day, and we at the Cnidaria and Ctenophora team have prepared for the occasion a poster featuring some of the beauties we have collected during the recent years in the context of our Artsdatabanken and EU MSCA projects.

Happy World Jellyfish Day everyone!

Black background, text in corner reads "Nov 3rd World Jellyfish Day". Shows 38 beautiful jellyfish, ranging from red to almost completely translucent.

A glimpse of jellyfish diversity to celebrate World Jellyfish Day including 38 species from the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean. Photos: Joan J. Soto Angel

Jellyfish are normally associated with nuisance and pain, and often considered a plague that is taking over the oceans, diminishing its resources, hindering industrial operations,  and making beaches less attractive for tourists. However, jellyfish are not only an integral part of healthy pelagic ecosystems, but also key players in planktonic communities. Until recently, their fragile and soft bodies had obscured our knowledge on their true abundance and key role in ocean ecosystems, as regular sampling methods tend to overlook them, giving the false impression that they are ecologically irrelevant. However, recent evidence have shown that they are an important part of the regular diet for many fishes and invertebrates, both while swimming in the water column, and once their remnants fall to the seafloor, transferring a significant amount of carbon to the deep sea. Actually, jellyfish are the top predators in the food web at planktonic scale, comparable to lions in the savanna or great white sharks and killer whales in the open ocean.

Are you a master student interested in working with jellyfish? Check out possible projects here [link]!

-Joan, Luis & Aino
(“team jellyfish”)

ForBio Annual Meeting 2023 at the University Museum of Bergen

ForBio – Research School in Biosystematics held its 12th Annual Meeting at the University Museum of Bergen on September 19-21st.Sixty participants from Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and Peru presented their research results in various fields of biosystematics.

The main day of the meeting took place in the Tårnsalen – a beautiful venue at the top of the museum building and was opened by a talk by Endre Willassen on the history of marine research at UiB.

The participants - 60 of them - in the historical Tårnsalen. The photo is taken from up on a gallery in the room, so it's a bird's eye view

The participants in Tårnsalen. Photo: ForBio

Four keynote speakers gave lectures on general biodiversity research topics of high interest to a wide audience.
Michael Bok from Lund University talked about the evolution of visual systems in marine annelids. Lovisa Gustafsson from the Stavanger Botanic Garden talked about the evolution of reproductive isolation in Arctic plants. Tomas Roslin from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences discussed the ways to assess enormous diversity of insects using DNA barcoding, and Agnes Weiner from NORCE gave a lecture on using ancient DNA in the past marine biodiversity assessments.

ForBio [LINK to homepage] is a cooperation between the main Natural History Museums in Norway: Natural History Museum, UiO; University Museum of Berge, UiB; NTNU University Museum; and the Arctic University Museum of Norway, UiT and supported by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre.

Collage showing people presenting, and a statue of Christie with a rainbow over it.

From top left: Endre Willassen presenting his talk on the history of marine research at UiB, Christie (the statue) standing outside the Museum in quite typical Bergen weather, Miguel Meca on the systematic revision of orbiniid polychaetes, the result of his PhD project, a snapshot of the program, Vincent McDaniel gives his speed talk about the parasites in jellyfishes (ParaZoo project), and Martha Everett gives her talk on the diversity of scale worms in the Arctic, the results of her PhD project

ForBio aims to advance biosystematics education for students and postdocs working in the fields of botany and zoology. The annual meetings is a great arena for the students to meet their peers and mor senior scientists and to present their research project results, exchange ideas and expand their networks.

You can find upcoming courses and events here: link

-Nataliya Budaeva
ForBio-coordinator

10th International Workshop of the Hydrozoan Society

Earlier this year, the Cnidaria and Ctenophora group at UMB organized the 10th International Workshop of the Hydrozoan Society. The event was a success, and we asked visiting researcher Marta Gil to tell us a little more about it.

This is what Marta, who is currently collaborating in our Artsdatabanken projects ParaZoo and NOAH, has to say:

Hello to everyone!

I’m Dr Marta Gil, a researcher at the association Ecoafrik and a member of the Marine Zoology Group at the University of Vigo, Spain. This spring I began a research stay at the University Museum of Bergen to collaborate with Dr Luis Martell on project PARAZOO. I have visited the museum several times, but this visit had a special meaning for me. This year, in May, the 10th Workshop of the Hydrozoan Society was celebrated, organised by the Cnidaria and Ctenophora Group at the Department of Natural History, so I took advantage of my stay in the city and decided to attend.

Three images together: one showing the (taxidermied) birds in the staircase of the museum exhibition, one showing participants studying the exhibits in the whale hall - a whale skeleton can be seen over them, and a photo from the reception where the society president is welcoming everyone

Welcome and icebreaker at the University of Bergen Museum of Natural History

This was my first time at this event and I must say it was a very rewarding experience, I don’t think I could have enjoyed it more. We were welcomed by the organisers at the public collections of the Natural History Museum, which was open only for the occasion, creating a fantastic atmosphere to meet the participants and many of the hydrozoan experts.

Over the next three days, we listened to talks from students who are just starting as well as presentations from established researchers who have been working with hydrozoans for years. We have had great speakers such as Dr. Nicole Gravier-Bonnet, Prof. Carina Östman, and Dr.Gill Mapstone; and how to forget the enthusiasm of Prof. Paul Bologna’s group, all the questions and remarks from Dr. Dhugal Lindsay, and the sampling demonstration from our Japanese colleagues Gaku Yamamoto and Aya Adachi? The discussions that took place after each talk and the engaging poster session made this workshop more than a simple scientific meeting, it was a group of friends talking about their favourite animal group: hydrozoans!

A collage of images showing participants presenting at the venue

The conference part of the Workshop brought many interesting talks from a wide array of topics, together with fruitful and interesting discussions and networking.

Several images showing people studying large (A0) scientific posters presenting results of their research and projects.

There was a dedicated poster session (and catering) to further discuss about hydrozoans in a more relaxed environment. Many great projects and preliminary results were presented!

After the talks and presentations were over, the sampling part started, which was the most fun for me! We were able to sample benthic hydroids and pelagic hydromedusae and siphonophores on board the Emiliania and the R/V Prinsesse Ingrid Alexandra, and we later studied them at the Espegrend Marine Biological Station. This part gave us the opportunity to learn and share knowledge, techniques and very useful tips from other experts to study hydrozoans throughout their life cycle.

Snapshots from fieldwork, where people are collecting plankton and benthos from ship and shore

Two busy samplings days followed the conference part, where we all exchanged our expertise on sampling, handling and culture techniques. This were a couple of very productive sessions.

To round off an amazing week, on Saturday morning we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Bryggen, where we learned about the history and traditions of Bergen. At sunset, we took the cable car up to Mount Ulriken and, after enjoying the incredible views, we held the award ceremony and the election of the new president of the Hydrozoan Society, who was unanimously elected: Dr. Lucas Leclère!

Snapshots from social activities throughout the event; shows people in historical Bryggen, as well as up the city mountains around Bergen

The social activities included a visit to Bryggen, an excursion to Fløyen, and the conference dinner in the top of Mount Ulrikken. The best student presentation awards were given and the new President of the Hydrozoan Society was elected. Exciting times ahead!

Group photo of the participants up in the mountains, with the city of Bergen in the background

The third group picture we took in just a few days, this time with an incredible view of the city of Bergen as a background.

I would like to close this chronicle by thanking UMB’s Cnidaria and Ctenophora group: Aino Hosia, Luis Martell and Joan Soto, for their incredible work in coordinating the presentations, transfers and field work and for hosting such a rewarding event. I would also like to mention the great work done by all the students of the group, who helped organize the meals on the sampling days and other various activities. Thanks to all of them, the rest of us simply enjoyed the week.

It was definitely an experience worth repeating. I’m already looking forward to the next workshop in France!

-Marta Gil

The Cnidaria+Ctenophora Research group at the PRIMALearning Jellyfish Workshop in South Africa

On the 12th of February at the crack of dawn, we had the amazing opportunity to go to Cape Town to attend a Jellyfish workshop. The “we” in question are the three authors of this blog post: Vincent, Vetle, and Håvard. We are master students all working with jellyfish-related topics, and some would go as far as to call us jellyfish enthusiasts. Our work is part of the museum’s Artsprosjekter NorHydro and ParaZoo, and we were happy to represent the invertebrate collections and UMB at this event.

The workshop, held at the Iziko South African Museum, was organized by PRIMALearning and was a collaborative initiative between the University of Bergen and the University of Western Cape. This gave the three of us, accompanied by a few other UiB students not affiliated with the University Museum of Bergen, the chance to visit Cape Town. Some of us for the first time.

On the first day of the workshop, we were greeted outside the museum by Mark Gibbons and his PhD student Michael Brown who was the representative from UWC and would be teaching parts of the workshop. With them was also Anne Gro Vea Salvanes as the representative for PRIMALearning and the University of Bergen, she was also joined by our own UMB scientists Aino Hosia and Luis Martell, who were also part of the teaching team.

The first day included introductions from all the participants, and we got to know each other bit better. We also got a brief introduction to the world of jellyfish and their taxonomy before the night ended with a delicious dinner together with all the participants.

The second day started with lectures about the large or ‘true’ jellies (Scyphozoa), before we got to get our hands dirty looking at preserved samples of jellyfish. We were met with a broad diversity of scyphozoans that was passed around between the students so we would get a shot at identifying them.

We examined fixed material of scyphozoan jellies representative of the three major groups within the class:

 

The rest of the day after the workshop was spent at the beach, enjoying the sun and local wine. Cape Town is called the windy city, and it did deliver on its name, but nothing could stop the sun-deprived Norwegian students from going outside to soak up some rays.

The third day was Hydrozoa day 1, a topic dear to our hearts and it was taught by our own MSc supervisor Luis Martell. Some of us were a bit tired this day because we decided to climb Lion’s head mountain before the workshop started to see the sunrise.

But this did not stop us from eagerly working with the preserved hydrozoan samples we got to look at. We identified all hydromedusae and siphonophores with the help of a stereomicroscope:

 A dissected carybdeid cubozoan jellyfish. IC: Håvard Vrålstad

 

Day four was box jellies (Cubozoa) day, a class neither of us was very familiar with. So we were excited to learn about these unknown and sometimes dangerous animals.

Luckily the animals were less deadly when preserved and we could therefore touch them while identifying them.

 

 

 

This day ended early so we took the opportunity to get down to Simon’s Town were we spent the rest of the day looking at the local penguins and wildlife at the beach.

A snapshot of the fauna we observed at Simon’s Town. IC: Vincent McDaniel

On our last day, we were introduced to the alien world of siphonophores by our own Aino Hosia. These animals are close to Håvards heart (if you ask him on a good day).

They were a nice ending to an awesome workshop, and we can honestly say now that our interest for jellyfish has grown, and we look forward to seeing even more of them in the future.

On February 19th the vacation/business trip was unfortunately over for Vetle and Vincent and they had to pack their bags and prepare to leave Cape Town and head home to Bergen, while the “slightly” more fortunate Håvard stayed behind in the windy city to enjoy a few more days of leisure.

Participants and teachers at the jellyfish workshop. IC: Anne Gro Vea Salvanes

We want to thank PRIMALearning for arranging the workshop, the University of the Western Cape for hosting and providing us with samples to work with, the Iziko Museum of South Africa for the location as well as providing refreshments, and to the University of Bergen for arranging accommodations. Also, a very special thanks to all the lecturers who presented and were very patient with us during the lab work.

-Vetle, Vincent, and Håvard


Are you interested in becoming a master student in marine biology at the University Museum of Bergen? Information about available projects can be found here (more will be added soon!):

Marine Masters at the University Museum of Bergen
– available thesis topics in marine biodiversity

Project ParaZoo: there is a critter inside my jellyfish!

ParaZoo (complete name ‘Metazoan parasites of non-crustacean zooplankton’) is one of the most interaction-focused projects currently running at the Invertebrate Collections of our Museum. This project, funded by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Artsdatabanken), aims at studying the different animals that live together inside and on the surface of Norwegian jellyfish. This means that for the next two years we will be looking for tapeworms, flukes, roundworms, and amphipods as ParaZoo tries to answer the question of which of these organisms are associated with gelatinous hosts in Norwegian waters.

ParaZoo is focused on animal parasites and symbionts associated with jellyfish. Thse parasites include roundworms like Hysterothylacium aduncum (left, in Euphysa aurata), amphipods like Hyperia medusarum (middle, on Aequorera forskalea), and flukes like the members of family Didymozooidae (right, in Beroe gracilis). IC: Aino Hosia (left), Katrine Kongshavn (middle), Joan J. Soto-Àngel (right).

Besides jellyfish, arrow worms (Chaetognatha) are also members of non-crustacean zooplankton that host different types of parasites, like this H. aduncum roundworm (Nematoda). IC: Joan J. Soto-Àngel, Luis Martell.

Parasitism and symbiosis are extremely common life styles in the animal kingdom. In fact, some researchers believe that there may be more species of parasites than of free-living animals, given that each free-living species hosts many species of parasites (most of them unique) and those parasites also host their own parasitic tenants. Marine zooplankton is no exception to this trend, and many parasites and symbionts are expected to occur in copepods, krill, and gelatinous zooplankton. Jellyfish and arrow worms, for example, may be important hosts for flatworms and other helminths, yet our knowledge of these animals in Norway is very scarce.

ParaZoo’s logo includes two of the target taxa of the project: roundworms (Nematoda) and hyperiids (Amphipoda). The third main parasitic group covered is flatworms (Platyhelminthes), illustrated by the larvae of Derogenes varicus parasitizing Halopsis ocellata shown in the right side of this figure. IC: Joan J. Soto-Àngel, Luis Martell.

Understanding zooplankton parasites is important because many of them are going to be transmitted to fish, where they may cause serious diseases. To get a better overview of which critters live in non-crustacean zooplankton, ParaZoo will sample, record, and DNA-barcode specimens from all over the country. The collected animals will be included in our museum collections after being identified, documented photographically, and fixed in ethanol. We will then generate an open-access database of information including pictures and DNA sequences that will help with the identification of the parasites. Aquaculture facilities, fishermen, and managers of marine areas will benefit from this database to better plan and counter potential negative impacts caused by the parasites.

Flukes, such as Opechona spp, parasitize gelatinous zooplankton (in this case a sea-gooseberry Pleurobrachia pileus) as larvae called metacercariae. IC: Joan J. Soto-Àngel, Luis Martell.

The larvae of tapeworms (Cestoda) sometimes use jellyfish to reach their definitive hosts: fish. IC: Joan J. Soto-Àngel, Luis Martell.

ParaZoo is committed to present the diversity of jellyfish parasites to all those not familiar with them. In order to do that, we will regularly write entries here on the blog, as well as participate in several academic and not-academic meetings. The official info webpage for the project is available here, so don’t forget to check it out!

Luis

Fieldwork for two projects

The projects HypCop (bottom-associated copepods) and Hardbunnsfauna (Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats) went on a day-trip to three localities last week.

We made the most of the sunny and calm weather to visit a very exposed site on Sotra, where we collected in the tide pools and on the barnacle-encrusted intertidal.

Afterwards, we went to two marinas, Glesvær and Hjellestad, on a quest for some specific species the projects were in need of.

Back in the lab we set to work documenting the colours of the animals by photographing them alive, as the colours tend to face in fixatives.

It was nice day in the field, and it looks like we found the species we were after!

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram as @PlanetCopepod and @Hardbunnsfauna

– Jon, Cessa & Katrine

 

Hydrozoa course 2022 edition – as told by our MSc student Ana González

Last month, our project NorHydro (together with ForBio Research School of Biosystematics and project MEDUSA) organized a course on diversity, systematics and biology of Hydrozoa at the Marine Biological Station in Espegrend. Fifteen participants from 9 different countries came all the way to Bergen to learn more about these intriguing animals, share their ideas and projects, and start new collaborations. We asked one of the youngest members of the group –our highly motivated student Ana González– to share with us her thoughts about the course and her experiences with her MSc project. This is what she had to say:

When I started my Master’s Degree of Marine Ecology at the University of the Balearic IslandsI already knew about the existence of hydrozoans, but I had no idea how interesting these animals actually were. After some discussions, a lot of reading, and a fair amount of looking at pictures of hydroids and hydromedusae, I decided to work with these inconspicuous invertebrates for my MSc project under the supervision of Dr Luis Martell (University Museum of Bergen) and Dr. Maria Capa (University of the Balearic Islands). My project aims to evaluate whether we can use the benthic communities of hydrozoans as bioindicators of anthropogenic impact on the easternmost coasts of Mallorca Island, in the Mediterranean Sea.

Me on a sampling day looking for benthic hydrozoans at the marine reserve of Cala Gat (top). A closer view of the hard substrates I sample in the marine reserve (bottom left). The common hydroid Monotheca obliqua growing on Posidonia oceanica (bottom right). Picture credits: Maria Capa and Ana González.

Coastal areas are an attractive place to live, and these habitats provide ecosystem services that contribute greatly to the economy of the world, but a bad management of them can generate important damages and drastic changes in the ecosystem. One way to monitor environmental impacts in these habitats is by observing the response of their biological communities, so for this project I decided to study the assemblages of benthic hydrozoans in two opposite sites with different levels of anthropogenic impact: a harbor and a marine reserve. Moreover, I am comparing the communities in different seasons of the year, and I will analyze the assemblages growing on hard substrates (like rocks) and also those growing on a very important Mediterranean soft substrate: the endemic seagrass Posidonia oceanica.

Some hydroids common in my study area are those belonging to genera Clytia (family Campanulariidae, left), Sertularella (family Sertularellidae, middle), and Aglaophenia (family Aglaopheniidae, right). Picture credits: Ana González.

At the beginning, working with benthic hydrozoans was very challenging for me since the specimens I find are easily overlooked if one is not searching carefully for them. But the more time I dedicate to observe these organisms, the more curious I became about their identity and dynamics, and the easier it was to recognize them in the samples. However, identifying hydrozoans is a difficult task and I realized early that I needed some help, so I was very happy when the opportunity arose to apply for the course “Diversity, Systematics and Biology of Hydrozoa” in Bergen. There, I had the chance to meet some of the leading scientific experts in the field that helped me understand better the taxonomy and ecology of these animals. I couldn’t have imagined how much I was going to learn during the different activities of the course, but at the end these organisms were able to catch my attention and time flew between lectures, sampling trips, and laboratory work. One aspect of the course that I particularly enjoyed is the fact that it brought together participants with different trajectories in science, and everybody was happy to share their experiences in the world of hydrozoan science.

We had all kinds of weather during the course: rain, sun, wind, and even snow! Picture credits: Lara Beckmann and Joan J Soto Àngel.

We had the chance to sample on board the UiB research vessel Hans Brattström and we collected several planktonic and benthic hydrozoans in the fjords around the Marine Station. After each sampling event, we went back to the lab to sort the samples, find the hydrozoans and identify them to species. The plankton samples were usually the first ones to be processed, since hydromedusae are quite fragile and they tend to suffer morphological damages after being sampled with a net. We tried to identify all specimens to species level, with the aid of the stereomicroscopes and scientific literature with identification keys that the curse provided. The benthic samples were placed in aquariums to keep the organisms alive and then each of us had the opportunity to observe the specimens in our own stereomicroscope.

A sampling day on board of RV Hans Brattström. Top left: deploying the plankton net. Top right: a full cod-end with plankton sample. Middle right: students and teachers ready to leave the pier. Bottom: benthos sampling with the triangular dredge. Picture credits: Lara Beckmann, Sabine Holst, Luis Martell

Top right and left: students and teachers at the laboratory, identifying hydrozoans. Bottom left: searching for hydromedusae and siphonophores in the plankton sample. Picture credits: Sabine Holst and Lara Beckmann.

All together, we were able to find and identify more than 40 species from all the main groups of hydrozoans, including siphonophores, trachylines, leptothecathes, and anthoathecates. Working with hydromedusae was new for me and I discovered that observing them was more challenging than identifying the polyps, but it was also interesting in its own way. The hydrozoans that caught my attention the most were the polyps from the suborder Capitata, because their morphology is very different from the hydroids that I have observed in my MSc project so far. Capitate hydroids don’t have a protective theca, they possess tentacles that end up in a ball of nematocysts (so-called capitate tentacles), and they are absent from almost all my samples from Mallorca, which are instead dominated by hydroids belonging to the Order Lepthothecata.

Top: Colony of Sarsia lovenii (Anthoathecata: Corynidae) with gonophores (i.e. reproductive buds on the polyp body). You can also see the capitate tentacles, which end in a ball of nematocysts and are typical for suborder Capitata. Bottom: Colony of Clava multicornis showing also gonophores on the polyp body, but with filiform (non-capitate) tentacles. Picture credits: Lara Beckmann (top), Joan J. Soto Àngel (bottom).

My interest for hydrozoans, the great set of experts we had as teachers, and the charismatic animals that we collected were the perfect combination for me to have an incredible experience in this course. I think that courses like these are an excellent opportunity for beginners to learn with experts from different parts of the world. Interacting with all of these amazing people was very rewarding at both cultural and scientific levels, and this whole experience motivated me to keep on studying these interesting animals that are a part of the complex functioning of our oceans.

-Ana