Category Archives: ForBio

Science Communication – Creating Scientific Illustrations

What on earth is this going to become?

I (Katrine) recently attended a course on how we can use illustrations to (better) communicate our science.

The course was offered as a joint effort of four Norwegian research schools: CHESS, DEEP, ForBio and IBA, and I got my spot through ForBio (Research School in Biosystematics).

The course was taught by Pina Kingman, and covered a lot of different topics in four days, from messy drawing with charcoal to using graphic software for digital illustrations:

  • Principles of design and visual communication
  • How to apply these principles to illustration and graphic design, which in turn will inform all visual material you might want to create, including; graphical abstracts, presentation slides, poster presentations, journal articles, graphs, data visualisation, project logos, animations and outreach material.
  • Best practices for poster and slide presentation design
  • Step by step method on how to draw your own research
  • Introduction to sketching by hand
  • Crash course in digital illustration with mandatory pre-course digital tutorials

Now, we were sternly told on day 1 that we were not allowed to say that we could not draw…but let’s say that some people have more of an affinity for it than I do – see above for proof! None the less, a concept was to be developed, discussed and improved during group work, and ultimately transformed into a digital illustration by the end of day 4.

Most of my fellow students were creating something related to their ongoing research, such as an illustration to be used in a paper of their PhD. On the last day we presented our work for the class, and got the final feedback from the group. Spending a whole day looking at cool graphics and learning about people’s work on such varied topics as water flow in magma, colour patterns on Arctic rays, better diagnosis of tuberculosis, and ecosystem modelling was really enjoyable, and the feedback I got was very helpful.

I opted for an outreach-approach, creating a lot of small illustrations that will be individually useful in future presentations and such, and which could be combined into a small comic about our scientific collections. The comic has been shared on Twitter and Instagram (do follow @hardbunnsfauna!), and now here:

The end product of the course; a short introduction to our scientific collections, how we work, and how we integrate data such as DNA-barcodes and morphological traits of the animals to do our research!

Thank you to Pina, Mandy (& the other arrangers), and the class for a wonderful learning environment and a fun couple of days!


CT scan all the things!

Oslo Natural History Museum 02.12.2019 – 06.12.2019

Literature for the week of our CT scanning course


From December 2 till December 6 Justine Siegwald, Manuel Malaquias and I (Cessa) attended a CT scanning course in Oslo at the Natural History Museum.

The course was organized by the Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio) and Transmitting Science.

The group attending the CT scanning course in Oslo at the Natural History Museum

The three of us all work on mollusks and one of the main reasons to deepen ourselves in CT scanning techniques is because of studying the internal anatomy of these often small and delicate specimens.

Species descriptions are not only based on external morphology and/or DNA barcoding, a lot of the species differences are small details within the internal structures. Like the reproductive organs and digestive system (e.g. radular teeth) of the animals. This is very laborious work, and can be challenging especially with the smaller specimens of only a few millimeters long. Besides some species are difficult to collect and can be a rare collection item of the museum. Once you cut these animals to study them, there is no turning back and the specimen is basically destroyed. Being able to see the insides of the animal without touching it would therefore be ideal. CT scanning comes very close to that and with powerful X-ray we can almost see every detail of the insides of the animals without the need to cut them open

The CT scan in the Natural History Museum of Oslo with one of the teachers in front (Øyvind Hammer)

Lecture about the technology of the CT scan and X-ray

However, how easy as this sounds, CT scanning soft tissue comes with some challenges. Soft tissue means that the x-ray contrast is often very low. Even with modern good x-ray detectors it is still difficult to detect the different internal structures. Therefore, during the course, we were taught how to artificially increase the contrast of the tissue by staining the specimens before mounting them in the CT scan machine.

Coating a specimen with a metal (e.g. gold or platinum) is only useful if you want to see external details of the study object, coating will not help revealing internal structures. For radio contrasting the internal anatomy, you can stain specimens with high density liquids like iodine to enhance the x-ray contrast. So, we went for this option and left our specimens in iodine ethanol solution overnight


After the staining process, we needed the wash out any extra iodine before mounting the specimen into the CT scan. A good scan is not simply pressing the button of the machine; there are a bunch of settings that can be adjusted accordingly (e.g. tube voltage, tube current, filament current, spot size, exposure time, magnification, shading correction, etc.). The scan itself can take hours and file sizes of 24GB for a single object are not uncommon, which means you need a powerful computer with decent software to process this information. Part of the course was also about how to visualize and analyze the files of the CT scan with software like Avizo

Video 1. Software Avizo has a user-friendly interface for analyzing all sorts of CT scanning files.

The week gave us some very promising first results (se video below), and also new insights about how to increase the X-ray contrast of our sea slug samples (lots of hours of staining and very short washing steps).

Video 2. 3D reconstruction of one of Justine’s shell samples

It was a very fruitful week and besides interesting new ideas for scanning our museum specimens, we also met many old and new friends during the week that was as inspiring. ForBio and Transmitting Science did a really great job with setting up this course and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in CT scanning.

Explore the world, read the invertebrate blogs!


NorHydro goes back to school

To the Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio), that is!

Last April, NorHydro participated in two events organized by ForBio (who is actually one of the partners of our project): the 2019 Annual ForBio Meeting and the ForBio and MEDUSA course “Zooplankton Communities – Taxonomy and Methods”. Both events were very productive and fun, here is the story:

The 2019 Annual ForBio Meeting was held in Trondheim. Many high-quality talks were delivered during this meeting and NorHydro received useful feedback from students and consolidated scientists from all the Nordic countries. It was particularly important for NorHydro to be present at the annual meeting, because together with ForBio we are planning a course on hydrozoan diversity and phylogeny in 2020, so the meeting in Trondheim was the perfect vehicle to advertise both the course and the activities and expected outcomes of the project.

I did not see any hydroid in Trondheim during the meeting, but the trees in the city center looked suspiciously like colonies of Obelia dichotoma. Pictures: Luis Martell

In addition to NorHydro, the University Museum of Bergen attended the meeting with interesting talks from some of our PhD students and guests, presenting diverse subjects as the phylogeny of the plant genus Potentilla (by Nannie Persson), morphological data of the polychaete family Lumbrineridae (by Polina Borisova), and the diversity of the marine snail genus Scaphander (by Justine Siegwald).

Snapshots of two of the UMB talks during the annual meeting: Luis presenting NorHydro (left) and Justine explaining the mysteries of Scaphander (right). Pictures: Nannie Persson

Later in the month, Aino, Joan and I participated as teachers in the course “Zooplankton Communities – Taxonomy and Methods”, an event organized by ForBio in collaboration with the DIKU-funded project MEDUSA. The course was packed with motivated students and beautiful specimens of gelatinous zooplankton, and we managed to collect some hydromedusae for NorHydro as well. The bloom of hydrozoans is more evident in the water column than anywhere else, since the reproductive season is in close relation with the increasing abundance of food items in the plankton (which in turn follows the spring bloom of microalgae), and our samples confirmed that spring is the perfect hydrozoan hunting season. Beautiful sunsets, friendly chats, and exciting lectures complemented the activities of the zooplankton course, making for a great month in the partnership of ForBio and NorHydro!

We caught some interesting jellies during the course, like these Leuckartiara octona (left), Tima bairdii (middle), and Halopsis ocellata (right). Pictures: Elena Degtyareva

Happy participants of the zooplankton course. From left to right: Raphaelle Descoteaux, Christina Jönander, Ksenia Kosobokova, Elena Temereva, Kyle Mayers, Luis Martell, Elena Degtyareva, Aino Hosia, Sanna Majaneva, Ksenia Smirnova, Ekaterina Nikitenko, Anna Shapkina. Joan Soto (right picture) explained how to keep ctenophores alive during the visit to the Ctenophore Facility of the Sars Centre. Pictures: Nataliya Budaeva, Luis Martell

– Luis

New year, new field work!

2019 will bring a lot of field work for us at the invertebrate collections – not only do we have our usual activity, but we will also have *FIVE* Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative projects (Artsprosjekt) running!

On a rather windy Tuesday in January, four of us – representing four of these projects – set out with R/V “Hans Brattstrøm”.

Four projects on the hunt for samples! Photo: A.H.S. Tandberg

Our main target for the day was actually not connected to any of the NTI-projects – we were hunting for the helmet jellyfish, Periphylla periphylla. We need fresh specimens that can be preserved in a nice way, so that they can be included in the upcoming new exhibits we are making for our freshly renovated museum. We were also collecting other “charismatic megafauna” that would be suitable for the new exhibits.

We have been getting Periphylla in most of our plankton samples since last summer, so when we decided this was a species we would like to show in our exhibits about the Norwegian Seas, we did not think it would be a big problem to get more.

This is a species that eats other plankton, so normally when we get it, we try to get rid of it as fast as possible; we want to keep the rest of the sample! But we should have known. Don’t ever say out loud you want a specific species – even something very common. Last November, we planned to look specifically for Periphylla, and we brought several extra people along just because of that. But not a single specimen came up in the samples – even when we tried where we “always” get them…

Lurefjorden is famous for being a hotspot for Periphylla – so the odds were in our favor! Map: K. Kongshavn

Wise from Novembers overconfident cruise, this time we planned to call to the lab IF we got anything to preserve. The Plankton-sample did not look too good for Periphylla: we only got a juvenile and some very small babies. So we cast the bottom-trawl out (the smallest and cutest trawl any of us have ever used!), and this sample brought us the jackpot! Several adult Periphylla, and a set of medium-sized ones as well! Back in out preparation-lab an entire size-range of the jelly is getting ready for our museum – be sure to look for it when you come visit us!

We of course wanted to maximize the output of our boat time– so in addition to Periphylla-hunting, we sampled for plankton (also to be used for the upcoming ForBio-course in zooplankton), tested the traps that NorAmph2 will be using to collect amphipods from the superfamily Lysianassoidea, checked the trawl catch carefully for nudibranchs (Sea Slugs of Southern Norway, SSSN) and benthic Hydrozoa (NorHydro), and used a triangular dredge to collect samples from shallow hard-bottom substrate that can be part of either SSSN or the upcoming projects NorHydro (“Norwegian marine benthic Hydrozoa”) or “Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats; species mapping and DNA barcoding” (Hardbunnsfauna).

The Hardbunnsfauna project was especially looking for Tunicates that we didn’t already have preserved in ethanol, as we want to start barcoding these once the project begins in earnest (last week of March). We also collected bryozoans, some small calcareous sponges, and (surprise, surprise!) polychaetes.

When it comes to hydrozoans, we were lucky to find several colonies of thecate hydroids from families Campanulariidae and Bougainvilliidae that represent some of the first records for NorHydro. Hydroid colonies growing on red and brown algae were particularly common and will provide a nice baseline against which diversity in other localities will be contrasted.

Different hydroid colonies growing on algae and rocks at the bottom of Lurefjorden. Photo: L. Martell

There were not a lot of sea slugs to be found on this day, but we did get a nice little Cuthona and a Onchidoris.

But what about the Amphipod-traps? Scavengers like Lysianassoidea need some time to realize that there is food around, and then they need to get to it. Our traps have one small opening in one end, but the nice smell of decomposing fish also comes out in the other end of the trap. We therefore normally leave traps out at least 24 hours (or even 48), and at this trip we only had the time to leave them for 7 hours. The collected result was therefore minimal – we even got most of the bait back up. However, knowing that we have a design we can deploy and retrieve from the vessel is very good, and we got to test how the technical details work. It was quite dark when we came to retrieve the traps, so we were very happy to see them! All in all not so bad!

We had a good day at sea, and it will be exciting to see some of our animals displayed in the new exhibits!

If you want to know more about our projects, we are all planning on blogging here as we progress. Additionally you can find more on the

-Anne Helene, Cessa, Luis & Katrine 

Teaching DNA barcoding in Siberia

Endre, Katrine, Nataliya and Tom have recently been on a journey far removed from the ocean – although the location did hold a lot of fresh water…!

It really does look and feel a lot like an ocean…

We have – together with Torbjørn Ekrem from the NTNU University Museum – been teaching DNA barcoding at the Russian-Norwegian course “Data mobilization skills: training on mobilizing biodiversity data using GBIF and BOLD tools”, which was held in Naratey on the western shore of Lake Baikal September 14-20, 2018!

The course consisted of two modules focusing on GBIF and BOLD tools. The GBIF part was taught by Dag Endresen from UiO, Laura Russell and Dmitry Schigel from the GBIF Secretariat.

It included both online preparatory work for the students and (mainly) onsite components. The online portion consisted of tasks that the students completed on GBIF’s eLearning portal.

The onsite work was comprised of 20 different sessions of lectures and practical exercises, the latter with a significant component of group work.

16 students from Norwegian and Russian intuitions participated, and did a wonderful job of assimilating a lot of information in a short amount of time, and turning it into practical skills.

The two main platforms we used were GBIF and BOLD – two large depositories for different kinds of biodiversity data. The GBIF-part of the course focused on the technical aspects of data mobilization, such as data capture, and management and online publishing of biodiversity data in order to increase the amount, richness and quality of data published through the GBIF network.

Team GBIF getting set up Photo: N. Ivanova

BOLD; Barcode of Life Data Systems

The barcoding part was aimed at both users and providers of barcoding data, and began with an introduction to the barcoding concept, and a case study of integrating data from BOLD and GBIF. This was followed by a session on the use of BOLD: creating projects and datasets, and the uploading of data, images, sequences and trace files. The students got to try all of this for themselves, and we were impressed by how well they worked together to find solutions and teach each other valuable tricks to solve the challenges.

Following the lessons on how to get sequence data into the database, we covered basics of sequence analysis, and gave an introduction to the free software MEGA X which can be used for sequence alignment, translation and phylogeny.

Working in MEGA Photo: k. Kongshavn

This was again followed by a practical session in MEGA on a given data set. We also had a session presenting the analytical tools in BOLD, with a practical session exploring a dataset from NTNU. Our lessons were very well received by the students, with an average score of 4.8 out of a possible 5 on the evaluations – nice feedback for the teachers!

Students and teachers gathered in the Siberian sun
Photo: Dmitry Schigel, CC-BY-SA

The final task for the students was to present their presentations for “The Baikal Biodiversity Challenge”, which they were presented with on the first day of the course.

The Baikal Biodiversity Challenge

The challenge was to develop a biodiversity inventory project to map and analyze the diversity of a selected animal group. To do so they would need to use available information in BOLD, GBIF and other sources to examine what was known and identify information that was missing, and come up with suggestions on how it could be solved. It was not the easiest of tasks, however all four groups gave excellent presentations.


Group selfie wearing the NorBOL buff scarves – #mydnabarcode! Photo by Laura Russell, CC-BY-SA

The course was arranged as collaboration between the University of Bergen, the Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry Russian Academy of Sciences (SIPPB SB RAS), the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Secretariat. NorBOL (Norwegian Barcode of Life) supplied the teachers for the barcoding part of the programme, namely Endre, Torbjørn, Katrine and Tom. Funding came from the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (previously SIU, now DIKU), GBIF and the Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio).

For those who might not know, ForBio is a teaching and research initiative coordinated by the Natural History Museum in Oslo, the University Museum of Bergen, the Tromsø University Museum and the NTNU University Museum. It is funded by the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative and the Research Council of Norway. The Research School offers a wide variety of both practical and theoretical courses in biosystematics, and provides a platform for facilitating teaching and research collaboration between Nordic research institutes.  The course portfolio is likely to have something of interest to offer if you work with anything related to biosystematics –and is open (and often free) to you if you are student, researcher or staff at universities, institutes and consulting companies.

Most of the ForBio courses are arranged in Norway or other Nordic countries – but this course was the second of a total six that are arranged as part of the SIU-funded MEDUSA*-project (Multidisciplinary EDUcation and reSearch in mArine biology in Norway and Russia), which is coordinated by Nataliya. The six courses are

  1. ForBio and DLN course: Comparative Morphology Methods (Trondheim, Norway 2018)
  2. Data mobilization skills: training on mobilizing biodiversity data using GBIF and BOLD tools (Siberia, Russia 2018)
  3. Zooplankton communities – taxonomy and methods (Espegrend Marine Biological Station, UiB, Norway, tentatively May 2019)
  4. Systematics, Morphology and Evolution of Marine Mollusks (Vostok Marine Research Station, Institute of Marine Biology, Vladivostok, Russia, September 2019)
  5. Systematics, Morphology and Evolution of Marine Annelids (Espegrend Marine Biological Station, UiB, Norway, tentatively June 2020)
  6. Diversity and Evolution of Meiobenthos (White Sea Biological Station, Moscow State University, Russia, September 2020)

We enjoyed the opportunity to visit such a remote locality, and to get to know the students and teachers – thank you all for making this such a wonderful experience!

Thanks also to the BOLD support team for excellent help before and during the course!

A few snapshots from the area – it was stunning! Photos by K. Kongshavn

A beautiful view from Olkhon Island (after the course), photo by K.Kongshavn

ps: we also tweeted using #ForBio_GBIF during the course

Phylogenetics course

Phylogenetics course 2014

Phylogenetics course 2014

This week was dedicated to phylogenetics. In five intensive sessions on the computer lab, students were practising exercises using a range of different software packages. The main purpose with the course is to get some hands-on experience with the work-flow from phylogenetic data to phylogenetic trees and their interpretation. Course instructors were teachers and PhD-students associated with the Invertebrate Collections.
The course is also open for students in the internordic Research School in Bioinformatics run by four university museums in Norway: ForBio. In addition to students from UiB, this year we also had visitors from the Universities of Iceland, University of Copenhagen, Gothenburg University, University of Oulu, and the University of Salford, UK.

Good-bye Greenland!

The last days before leaving the Arctic Station were busy: last boat trip, last samples, last possibility for filming work with the underwater-camera. Personal projects to finish, lab to clean, things to pack, and on top of all that: a football match against the Qeqertarsuaq “Old Boys”!

Photo: A Mucharin   Photo: A AltenburgerLast days in the lab: full house!                         The underwater film team: Mette and Jenny

Photo: I Meyer-Wachsmuth

Bathing between icebergs – who can resist?

Photo: A Mucharin

Football match against the Qeqertarsuaq “Old boys”, who turned out to be not that old… and pretty fit!

We left the Arctic station on a beautiful sunny day and headed towards Ilulissat, where we spent two days in wait for our flights back to first Kangerlussuaq and then Copenhagen. And beautiful days that was: Ilulissat is known for its icebergs and some of us took an icefjord tour on a handsome, oldish, boat with red paint and wooden deck. And – to our surprise – it turned to be out the old Porsild – the Arctic Station’s former research vessel!

Photo: D de Abreu

On the way to the ice fjord in Ilulissat – on board of the boat that turned out to be the Arctic Station’s former research vessel (the “old” Porsild!).

Now we are back to our respective homes – wrapping up coursework and getting on with our lives, PhD projects, master theses, scientific work and teaching. But we all agree: this was a very special course bringing us close to Arctic nature and providing us with outstanding possibilities to collect and study Arctic marine organisms.  We could both widen our taxonomic knowledge and – in different degrees – even get data that are of direct use for our ongoing research projects.


At the end of this blog, we want to thank all those who helped us during this trip: Ole Stecher and Akaaraq Mølgaard at the Arctic Station, the crew of RV Porsild: skipper Frederik Grønvold and boatmen Søren and Johannes. Also, we are thankful to Reinhard Møberg Kristensen (Univ. Copenhagen) for suggestions concerning sampling sites and use of equipment!


The Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio) is funded by the Research Council of Norway and by the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative – thanks for making a course like this possible!

And thanks to all of you who have been following us via this blog!

Written by: Christiane Todt (coordinator ForBio, University Museum of Bergen);                   Featured image: (Jenny) under the rainbow. Photo: Anne-Helene Tandberg


Photo: P Funch

Team blue mussel on the track of the expanding blue mussel in a changing Arctic climate

The blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) is on the run, a historical run. Blue mussels are currently expanding towards the North with an unprecedented pace, taking over new areas along the way.  

Photo: J Thyrring

Rich and healthy mussel beds in the Arctic

Blue mussel is an ecologically well-studied species that often dominates the coastal zone, where these characteristic bivalves form a specific habitat with a distinct associated fauna. Such habitat formers, which influence ecosystem structure, have a potential for wide impact if they are able to migrate into new areas due to changing climate. With the record increase in ocean temperatures, the blue mussel has already expanded its northern distribution well into the High-Arctic region.

My PhD project at Aarhus University aims to investigate the distribution, abundance and physiological adaptation of the blue mussel along the West Greenland coast. Thus, my participation in the “ForBio marine field course, Greenland” was of central importance for my project. During my “individual project” in the course, more than 4500 blue mussels were collected at several prime locations! All mussels were measured, weighted, and aged by counting growth rings – a work accomplished by the energetic ‘Team Mussel’, mainly consisting of Josefin and me – Jakob. In spirit though, everybody on the course was a part of this amazing team, and I thank them all for helping out by collecting Blue Mussels in Disco Fjord, while I stayed behind at the station for physiological measurements in the quiet laboratory.


Happy collecting of blue mussels at Disko Bay

In the final days we expanded our project, collecting material for comparing population dynamics of mussel beds in the low and high tidal zone. To catch the low tide, Josefin and I went on a rainy, cold and dark morning to collect mussels. Despite the early hour, lack of coffee, and no breakfast, we returned to the lab in the rising sun with a whole bunch of mussels. Mette and Jenny had finally seen the light and joined ‘Team Mussel’ full time to help getting everything done in time.


‘Team mussel’ consisting of Mette, Jenny, Josefin and Jakob hard at work

All blue mussel data collected during this course will be used to increase our understanding of the ecological consequences of the expanding blue mussel in the Arctic. By comparing population dynamics and macrophysiology among populations found at Nuuk, Disko Island, Upernavik and Qaanaaq, our studies will allow us to better understand the direct (and indirect) impacts of the changing Arctic climate. Eventually, we hope to expand our knowledge of how species susceptible to expand their current distribution range will influence current ecosystem structure and function in a warmer future.


By Jakob Thyrring (Aarhus Universitet)

The “Greenland Big Five”

Obviously there are no lions, rhinos and zebras in Greenland – and polar bears are seen on Disko Island extremely rarely. Thus we had to create our own categories for a “best of” photocompetition:

1. Best iceberg

Our September stay has exposed us to never ending varieties of iceberg beauties, and catching the right angle and the right light has occupied our master photographers on boat rides and on trips to the beach near to the Arctic Station, which is where many an iceberg ends their existence.

Photo: A Altenberger

Icebergs, icebergs, icebergs – the vote for best iceberg photo fell on this one! Photo: Andreas Altenberger

2. Best whale

On our trip to the Arctic Station we had a stopover in Aasiaat, where a whale watching trip was one of the highlights. We followed a group of four humpback whales, icluding a “youngster”, for some time and they were really cooperative by coming close and showing different aspects of flippers, backs, and flukes.

Photo: J Egardt

One of the Aasiaat four – Jenny caught the moment just before the whale was diving down close to our boat. Photo: Jenny Egardt

3. Best polar light

Seeing polar lights was a “first time” for a number of us – thus Andreas and his “polar light app” were checked as regularly as the night skies. And then – at last – polar lights! But not all cameras showed to be equally useful…

Photo: A Mucharin

After a few nights in Greenland the conditions were perfect: Northern lights over the Arctic Station! Photo: Arom Mucharin

4. Best sledge dog (puppy)

Sledge dogs are ever-present in Greenlandic towns and villages. The adult dogs have to be chained to prevent them from roaming around and harm each other or even people. The young ones, however, can enjoy their lives and even though they usually are very cautious towards strangers, they are also curious. And incredibly cute!

Photo: A Mucharin

In Aasiaat, before even arriving at the Arctic Station, Arom met this cutie and managed to catch his interest. Photo: Arom Mucharin

5. Best Greenlandic fisherman/hunter

We found out that Greenlanders are not necessarily happy about being photographed by tourists –  like us. But getting to know them changes this considerably – especially if boats, fishing, or hunted-down seals are involved. Therefore our last category: Greenlandic fisherman/hunter.


Johannes and Søren – our two boatmen on the trip to Disko Fjord – in action on Arctic Station’s “jolle”. Johannes impressed our guys with unseen-before fishing and hunting abilities, and the ownership of a most striking mustache. Photo: Peter Kohnert

Finding the best

For this photo competition, everybody could hand in their best photo for each category and everybody could vote. In total there were 35 submissions. Arom (2 “best photos”), with her relatively simple compact camera, showed that often it is the choice of motive and not the advanced equipment that makes a good photo! Congratulations!

Photo: A Altenberger

Arom, Mari, Jeroen, Josefin, Sandra, Henning, and the puppies in Kangerluk.

But of course there were lots and lots of great photos also outside the categories and finally combining all photo material added up to more than 50 GB (!!) of photo material!

Written by: Christiane Todt (University Museum of Bergen)

Featured image: Iceberg hunters with their prey, by Henning.


Sculpin fishing in Greenland

As a PhD student from the University of Gothenburg researching gastrointestinal motility and blood flow in fish, you may wonder how did this man arrived in Greenland on a Forbio marine field course!! Well, let me explain……..

Gastrointestinal motility and blood flow in fish can be affected by a range of abiotic (e.g. temperature) and biotic (e.g. diet) factors.  As part of my doctoral research I video record the movements of the gut and produce spatio-temporal maps allowing me to qualitatively and quantitatively characterize gut motility patterns in vivo in fish. Using this method I want to investigate the effects of diet and temperature on gut motility patterns in a fish species called shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius). However, before I can experimentally test the effects of different compositions of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in food on motility patterns I need to know the natural diet of these animals…….and thus, much to my joy and excitement, we arrive at Disko Island, one of the more northern areas in the geographical distribution of shorthorn sculpin!!!


Fishing for sculpin…..arctic style

Due to strict luggage regulations I was unable to bring my ultimate sculpin-catching device (fishing rod) and instead had to arm myself with a 50 DKK handline from the local supermarket, which made things increasingly difficult (that was my excuse anyway!!).  After numerous failed attempts at a range of beautiful locations, my total catch included a piece of seaweed, 4GB of wicked photos, no hooks and sinkers left, and my pride was taking a severe dent as people were now sarcastically referring to me as the ‘master fisherman’.  Eventually through a combination of the stars aligning and the purchase of a ‘lucky hook’, the fish started biting….hallelujah!!!! After the slightly messy business of extracting the stomach contents from the individual fish back at the lab, it was time to identify what these animals feed upon.

Photo: J Brijs

Removing the food contents from the stomach…

Luckily for me there was an abundance of excellent taxonomists on the course to help me identify the semi-digested prey items.  Thus without further ado……. they feed upon pretty much everything they could get their ‘hands’ on!!!!! This included gastropods (Littorina saxatilis, Littorina obtusata, Margarites groenlandicus), polychaetes (family Glyceridae), amphipods (fam. Caprellidae and Gammaridae), chitons (fam. Leptochitonidae), molluscs (Mytilus edulis), shrimp (Pandalus borealis) and big blocks of nicely cut up seal blubber (which was the bait of choice!!).

Thus in conclusion……shorthorn sculpin are opportunistic feeders and will utilize a range of different prey items to satisfy their metabolic demands.  Now that I have arrived back in Sweden, armed with new skills and knowledge on invertebrates, I would like to do a similar study on the shorthorn sculpin residing on the west coast of Sweden to compare differences in diet of the two different populations, which will make up an integral part of my PhD thesis.


Not a sculpin…but a halibut!!!…..a predator of the sculpin as we found a whole sculpin inside the stomach!!!!

All in all it was an amazing adventure which I will not forget and I strongly advise any students to take part in future courses!!!!!!!

Signing out……..Jeroen Brijs (Gothenburg University)