Category Archives: HYPCOP

Fieldwork at Sletvik Fieldstation!

From Monday 12th of October till Monday the 19th a bunch of different projects funded by the Norwegian taxonomy initiative travelled up North together to meet up with researchers from NTNU in the NTNU Sletvik field station.

Front of Sletvik fieldstation main building, photo credits Nina T. Mikkelsen

Sletvik fieldstation is NTNU owned and is a short drive from Trondheim. The Germans built the station during the Second World War. Ever since it has been used as a town hall, a school and a shop. In 1976 the NTNU University took over the building and transformed it into a field station, which it remains ever since. The entire station contains of two buildings that has room for a total of 75 people (Before Corona). The main building has a kitchen, dining and living room plus a large teaching laboratory, a multilab and two seawater laboratories. Besides it has bedrooms, sauna, laundry rooms, and showers, fully equipped! The barracks have additional bedrooms and showers, all in all, plenty of space.

 

From the Natural History Museum of Bergen, 5 current running projects would use the NTNU fieldstation facilities for a week in order to work on both fixed as well as fresh material. Besides HYPCOP (follow @planetcopepod), we had Hardbunnsfauna (Norwegian rocky shore invertebrates @hardbunnsfauna), Norhydro (Norwegian Hydrozoa), Norchitons (Norwegian chitons @norchitons) and NorAmph2 (Norwegian amphipods) joining the fieldwork up North!

Lot of material needed to be sorted, photo credit @hardbunnsfauna / Katrine Kongshavn

 

At the Sletvik fieldstation, a lot of material from previous fieldwork was waiting for us to be sorted.

For HYPCOP we wanted to focus mostly on fresh material, as this was a new location for the project. And not just new, it was also interesting as we have never been able to sample this far north before.  Almost every day we tried to sample fresh material from different locations around the fieldstation

Cessa and Francisca on the hunt for copepods, photo credits Katrine Kongshavn)

On top of that we aimed to sample from different habitats. From very shallow heavy current tidal flows, rocky shores, steep walls, almost closed marine lakes (pollen called in Norwegian) and last but not least, sea grass meadows

Different habitats give different flora and invertebrate fauna, photo credits Nina T. Mikkelsen

Sampling we did by either dragging a small plankton net trough the benthic fauna or the most efficient way, going snorkeling with a net bag

Ready for some snorkeling with Cessa and August, photo credits Torkild Bakken

Benthic copepod species tend to cling on algae and other debris from the bottom, so it is a matter of collecting and see in the laboratory whether we caught some copepods, which, hardly ever fails, because copepods are everywhere!

Copepods are difficult to identify due to their small nature, differences between males, females and juveniles’ and the high abundance of different species. Therefore, we rely heavily on genetic barcoding in order to speed up the process of species identification. So, after collecting fresh material, we would make pictures of live specimens to document their unique colors, and then proceed to fixate them for DNA analyses.

Yet unidentified copepod species with beautiful red color, photo credits Cessa Rauch

Winter Wonderland! Photo credits Cessa Rauch

The other projects had a similar workflow so you can imagine, with the little time we got, the Sletvik fieldstation turned into a busy beehive! One week later we already had to say goodbye to the amazing fieldstation, and after a long travel back (even with some snow in the mountains), we finally arrived back in Bergen where unmistakably our work of sorting, documentation and barcoding samples continued!

If you are interested to follow the projects activity, we have social media presence on Twitter (@planetcopepod, @hardbunnsfauna, @norchitons), Instagram (@planetcopepod, @hardbunnsfauna, @norchitons) and Facebook (/planetcopepod /HydrozoanScience).

 

-Cessa

HYPCOP workshop at the IMR fieldstation in Flødevigen

HYPCOP (Hyperbenthic Copepoda) is a young project starting date May 2020 with joined efforts between researchers from the Institute of Marine Research (IMR; Tone Falkenhaug), Natural history museum of Bergen (UiB; Cessa Rauch, Francisca Correia de Carvalho, Jon Anders Kongsrud) and Norwegian Institute for water research (NIVA; Anders Høbæk). If you want to read more about what HYPCOP entails, read it all in our previous blog here: link to HYPCOP kickoff blog.

We were already off with a good start with having quite some fieldwork and sampling done this Summer in and around Bergen, Killstraumen, Lillesand, Drøbak and now with our most recent trip to Flødevigen.  During week 35 (24 – 28 August), all the different researchers from HYPCOP traveled to the IMR fieldstation in Flødevigen to participate in a sampling excursion. It was a special event because it was the very first time since the project started that all the collaborators would meet, in real life! We had many meetings via the digital platforms but working together face to face is quite a different and more pleasant experience (Picture 1).

Team members at the field station; from ltr: Anders Hobæk (NIVA Bergen, Jon Kongsrud (UoB, Tone Falkenhaug (IMR), Cessa Rauch and Francisca de Carvahlo (UoB)

The HYPCOP project is special in many ways; besides the involvement of many different institutes, the team deals with quite a steep learning curve. As off now there are very few hyperbenthic copepoda taxonomists in the world and none in Norway. Anders Hobæk has experience with freshwater copepoda, however his skills are transferrable to the marine species, which helps us a lot. Tone Falkenhaug has experience with copepods from previous projects (COPCLAD; Inventory of marine Copepoda and Cladocera (Crustacea) in Norway). However, the difference between COPCLAD and HYPCOP is the habitat: COPCLAD invented the pelagic realm, while HYPCOP focuses on the Hyperbenthos.

The copepod light trap from Tone Falkenhaug

We decided to use the few days we had together to start from scratch, which meant, first getting some samples from the water.

We all used different techniques to make sure we got copepods from different habitats;

Jon went for snorkeling;

Anders brought his miniature plankton net,

and Tone set her light traps out.

 

This ensured that we had a higher chance of getting different species to look at. Next we would look at our freshly caught samples under the microscope and tried to sort them based on morphotypes (as much as that is possible, as they move fast!).

Copepods can actually have very nice colors! Therefore, we prefer to take live images of the animals as well as when they are fixed on absolute ethanol. So, after sorting them, we continued to make pictures before fixing the animals ready for the next steps.

A colourful specimen, as of yet unidentified

After fixing we experimented with different staining methods in order to make the exoskeleton of the copepods more visible for detecting important morphological features. An important part for species identification is studying the individual body parts of the animals, like the antennae, the individual pair of legs, the claws (maxillipeds).

The animals also have differences between males and females, so it is key to make sure that you identify it as the same species! With morphological identification it is important to also keep some specimens aside for genetic studies. Only when the DNA barcode and the morphological identification agrees we can be certain about the right species identification! As you can read there’s a lengthy process involved before we have the right identification of a copepod specimen and there are hundreds of species described for Norway alone! It is truly very extensive research! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @planetcopepod to follow our story, or become a member of our planetcopepod Facebook group for the latest news and finding!

See you there!

-Cessa

HYPCOP kickoff!

Follow us at @planetcopepod!

Tuesday may 19 was the first fieldwork of the new project called Hyperbenthic Copepoda (HYPCOP). You can read more about the field work and see some photos and videos from the field in the previous blog post. 

Copepoda are small crustaceans that are found all over the world in both marine and freshwater habitats. Species can be planktonic (drifting in the sea water) or can be parasitic and a large diverse group of them live on algae in the hyperbenthic (living near the bottom) zone. Copepoda are very important food source for many organisms like small fish, they are on the bottom of the food pyramid, together with other zooplankton. Without copepods, a lot of bigger animals would no exists. Despite being so important, not much is known about the biodiversity and taxonomy of these animals, especially that of the species that live near the bottom.Some species like Calanus finmarchicus are the main nutritional basis for many fish species, and therefore of great importance for the Norwegian fish strains.  Therefore Artsdatabanken is funding the new project HYPCOP in order to unravel the biodiversity and taxonomy of hyperbenthos copepods. With special focus on the species in the group Harpacticoida that live in the water masses just above or near the bottom. Copepods from shallow water will be collected in coastal areas, in deep fjords and on the continental shelf.

The Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Natural history museum of Bergen (UiB), Norwegian Institute for water research (NIVA) and the Norwegian Barcode of Life (NorBoL) are working together to survey the diversity of marine copepods in Norwegian waters and expect to find and describe species that are new to science and new for Norway! Currently some of the taxonomic competence in Norway is lacking, but through collaboration with foreign experts this knowledge will increase among Norwegian researchers and students!

The projects duration will run from 2020 until 2023 and last week was the official kickoff with some fieldwork to get fresh material to work with! Together with the project Hardbunnsfauna we drove to a local favorite collection site of us; Biskopshavn; very close to Bergen city center. Around the hard substrate we found lots of freshly grown algae that contained many small animals for us to collect! In order to get good quality samples we needed to be in the water and snorkel. With plankton nets we collected algae and sieved the water column catching the smallest of the animals; copepods!

And even though this was just a first test of equipment and collection methods, it was not without success. Back in the lab the microscope revealed the beautiful and diverse world one drop of seawater contains. A lot off small crustaceans and of course the copepods were omnipresent.

Our findings had to be shared and especially for #InternationalDayForBiologicalDiversity the copepods cannot be left out as they from such an important group! See for yourself the beauty of our copepod planet!

-Cessa

Field work in Biskopshavn

Happy International Day for Biological Diversity 2020!
On this day, we wanted to share a few glimpses of our most recent field work:

We were finally able to – with some precautions in place – resume our field activities again this Tuesday; we had a lovely day trip in the sun to Biskopshavn, a locality just a few minutes drive away from the lab.

Here we collected animals from the shallow sub-littoral (from just below the tide mark to ~3 m depth) for the new project on Copepoda (see more about that here), and for Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats (Hardbunnsfauna).

Below is a short video from the field & lab (including the inevitable Littorina on the lam!), and a few of our findings from the day.

This is a polychaete in the family Syllidae. If you look at the tail end on the top image, you can see that it is about to breed: these animals can do so with schizogamy, which is the production of stolons (enlarged in lower image) which are budded off and become pelagic, swimming away to breed. The stolons form complete new animals, but differ from the stock animal in a number of respects, such enlargement of the eyes, reduction of the gut, and different musculature. The stolons die after breeding.

One of the animal groups Hardbunnsfauna is focusing on is the Bryozoa, or moss animals. Pictured is a Bowebankia spp. Due to COVID we haven’t been able to host our international specialists here this spring. We are amassing a nice collection of animals, and do our best to identify them – we will  begin preparing plates for DNA barcoding soon, and then involve the taxonomists once we have the results.

-Katrine, Cessa & Jon