Category Archives: Photography

NOAH goes North again!

A couple of weeks ago, a team of five jellyfish and polyp enthusiasts travelled to Torsvåg, Vannøya, a beautiful location two hours north of Tromsø by car (more about the fieldwork can be found here). Our goal? Collect, identify and catalogue some little-known hydrozoans for Artsdatabanken project NOAH (Norwegian Arctic Hydrozoa). This is the 3rd dedicated NOAH trip to obtain Arctic samples (or examine collections) in the last 12 months! After a very successful Arctic expedition to the West and North of Svalbard on board Kronprins Haakon in the context of the Barents Sea Ecosystem Survey by IMR, and a 1-week workshop at the Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences (IOPAN) co-organized by our colleague Marta Ronowicz, this time we focused on the underexplored coasts of northern Norway.

A collage of reserch related photos; people working in lab, a reserach vessel

Recent NOAH-related sampling trips. On top, Barents Sea Ecosystem Survey by IMR on board icebreaker Kronprins Haakon; in the middle, at IOPAN examining Marta Ronowicz’s extensive collection; bottom, NOAH team in Torsvåg (Troms). Pics: Joan Soto, Piotr Bałazy, Robert Johansen

Cruises, especially on cutting-edge icebreakers crashing ice on their way to the poles, are a lot of fun, but getting deep-water samples of both jellyfish and polyps is all but easy. Consequently, even when we carefully optimize the sampling procedures, some fragile species often arrive damaged or in bad shape. This time, we collected shallow-water specimens using our own hands. In addition to (MANUAL!) net deployments at ca. 180 m depth, we intensively checked marinas, tide pools, and shallow infralittoral environments by snorkeling. It worked fantastically well for those picky jellies and polyps which tentacles/polyps get lost after being trawled or towed with a tone of hard-bodied invertebrates and slimy fish within massive nets. We took the opportunity to document them in detail using both microscopes and macro photography. During our trip, we had the visit of Stine and Linda from Artsdatabanken. They even kindly gave us a hand collecting jellyfish from the piers! Good catch!

A photo collage of scientists at work, and a reindeer (presumably also at work)

Wide array of sampling methods, landscapes and local fauna, including a brand new wet lab (before: living room) specially made for the occasion. Stine and Linda testing our hand nets and successfully collecting some jellies. Pics: Joan Soto, Praveen Raj.

Each of us had our favorite species and top findings for the trip, and we were really excited to see alive and in good shape those species we have only examined within preserved collections, or only read about in scientific publications. These findings will definitely contribute to a better knowledge on the true diversity and distribution of these little known species, some of which have rarely been reported that far north in continental Norway.

I (Joan) stop here and leave you with some insights from the other NOAH team members that joined the trip: Marta and Praveen.

From Marta:
This was such a very interesting experience! During my work I usually study deep ecosystems, so I do not often see fresh samples of benthic hydroids, and when I do, they are often damaged by the sampling gear (e.g. bottom trawl, beam trawl…). This trip to Torsvåg has allowed me to sample the intertidal pools and marinas with my own hands, discover the great diversity that exists just below the surface, and to see multiple species in a way I never seen before.

For me, the most interesting species were undoubtedly the athecate hydroids, such as the incredibly beautiful Zanclea spp. and Sarsia spp. These animals are extremely fragile due to the lack of a theca to protect the polyp. In Torsvåg, I saw athecate hydroids of extraordinary quality, studied their sexual structures, their morphology, colours, behaviour…  Simply: WOW!!! I’m very much looking forward to the next NOAH trip!

Collage of microsope images of hydrids (looks like sticky flowers), happy people in lab and out in the field

During our sampling trip, Marta Gil (visiting researcher) showed a lot of excitement about the diversity in the intertidal pools and collected beautiful athecate polyps, all with reproductive structures! Pics: Joan Soto.

From Praveen:
My first sampling trip after joining the Cnidaria and Ctenophora Team as a PhD student was nothing short of exhilarating. Our team, led by Joan Soto, was focused on various life stages and projects related to the phyla Cnidaria and Ctenophora. Although I had conducted similar sampling procedures in India, working with live specimens of both planktonic and benthic stages of Cnidarians in Torsvåg was a new and fascinating experience.

One of the trip’s most challenging parts was venturing into open waters with a small fishing boat to collect samples. We had to troubleshoot a bit on board, but it finally turned out to be a success. Despite not finding Dimophyes arctica, one of the target species for my PhD, I was captivated by the immense diversity of hydroids in the piers near the island, some of which might be the so-far unknown polyp stage of some known Norwegian hydromedusae. Special thanks to Luis and Marta, who taught me a lot about hydrozoan taxonomy, and Cessa and Jon for driving the boat and patiently wait for the net to be recovered.

The research was undoubtedly the focus, but the social activities and adventures we shared were equally memorable. Torsvåg itself was mesmerizing, with its high mountains and breathtaking views. We all enjoyed evening hikes and took advantage of the midnight sun, which provided a perfect balance to our intense sampling schedule. Our group dinners were another highlight of the trip for me: with colleagues from 7 different nationalities and 3 continents, we had a delightful variety of cuisines as we took turns for preparing dinner.

All in all, this sampling trip was an incredible blend of scientific discovery and personal enrichment. The stunning landscape and the camaraderie of our team made it an unforgettable experience.

A collage of images, three showing happy poeple out in northern Norwegian nature, and five of different jellyfish photographed against a black baground

Praveen Raj on his first sampling trip for his PhD. He not only captured and identified an impressive amount of jellyfish, but also had a great time hiking around Torsvåg and enjoyed the dramatic landscapes that Northern Norway can offer. Pics: Joan Soto, Praveen Raj, Lea Dober.

From Joan, Marta and Praveen.

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

Unraveling copepod secrets one leg at a time

A blog by HYPCOP

Hyperbenthic copepods (HYPCOP) are a very difficult and diverse group to work with, and identification goes painstakingly slow, because some species can only be distinguished from one another based on small details in some of their tiny legs. As of now, we have no specialists in marine benthic copepods in Norway and our greatest resource is our collaborator Anders Hobæk and the detailed drawings of G.O. Sars from the early 1900s .

Working together under guidance of G.O. Sars and Anders Hobæk

Anders is a senior researcher scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) here in Bergen. He is specialized in copepod taxonomy, but his focus was mostly on freshwater copepods, or marine pelagic copepods. Which makes the marine benthic copepods just a little bit more challenging to work with, however, his skills are transferable and so we get together multiple times a year to work on our collection of benthic copepods to dissect them and identify them.

Beginning of June, we had again one of those get togethers in Flødevigen at the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), where Tone Falkenhaug, the project leader of HYPCOP, is situated. For a week we went through the main clades and groups of species that we had DNA barcodes of but not yet a confirmed species name. A lot of the identification was done with help of the rich and detailed illustrations of G.O. Sars1 published work in 1901 – 03 and 1919 – 21, “An account of Crustacea of Norway”

Detailed copepod drawings from G.O. Sars

Sars dedicated a lifetime of identifying and describing a variety of species and he did not neglect the rich and wonderful group of bottom dwelling copepods. Every species he encountered in those early days he described and drew in detail; he did not leave out the smallest details, that as of now, turn out to be of uttermost importance in determining the species. With small copepods you need a good microscope and fine tools. The first thing to look at is the general shape, is it very dorsally flat, like Peltidium purpureum, or more dimensional like Harpacticus flexus?

Sex is also an important feature; females are often characterized by carrying eggs; one egg sack or two egg sacks can already lead you in the right group. Males have often larger antennule made for holding on to females when mating, and other specialized tools that can be species specific. The little claws, called maxilliped, are they large, small, almost invisible? What about the first pair of legs? The second, third and fourth? The fifth pair of legs is often very characteristic for the species and in certain females, like Thalestris longimana, can be a huge in comparison of the rest of its body.

Thalestris longimana, females of this species has relatively large fifth pair of legs

Our work has a continues workflow consisting of, collecting the copepods, extracting their tissue for DNA barcoding, and keeping the exoskeleton. Once the DNA is successfully sequenced, we can take the exoskeleton and dissect the animal leg by leg to finalize the identification. That way the copepod is identified based on its DNA and morphological features, as this is not always mutually exclusive. DNA can be tricky as you need a good reference library to find the correct species, which is as of now, not complete, or even lacking for many species. Besides, there is such things as DNA contamination, cross contamination between species, therefore you always must look at the morphology to exclude that the DNA gives you the wrong species. Together with images of the animals we are building up a valuable reference library of DNA sequences and a museum collection of dissected animals on fixed slides. This way copepod diversity will continue to be valuable for future generations top study.

Working under the eyes of G.O. Sars

-Cessa


1Sars, G. O. 1901-03. An Account of the Crustacea of Norway. Vol. IV. Copepoda Calanoida.- Bergen Museum, Bergen & Christiana. 171 pp. + 109 plates Sars, G. O. 1919-21. An Account of the Crustacea of Norway. Vol. VII. Copepoda. Supplement. – Bergen Museum, Bergen & Christiana. 121 pp. + 74 plates

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

Travelouge from the Hardbunnsfauna-project: On a quest for samples

Tide pools and kelp forests in Lofoten (Photo: K. Kongshavn)

In late April Endre, Jon, Katrine and Tom set out from Bergen for what would turn out  to be a rather epic road trip (we ended at 4380 km..!) aiming to collect material for our project on Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats: species mapping and DNA barcoding (Hardbunnfauna), the other ongoing Artsprojects, and for the museum collections in general. We had little to no shallow water material in the collections from the region we targeted:

Dark dots are where we have museum material from (though it may be treated in such a a way that it is (no longer) suited for genetic work), and the pink stars are where we collected now (map by K. Kongshavn)

Details of our sampling – we used a variety of gear to collect material, and set up lab where we were staying to process the samples. (Graphic: K. Kongshavn)

Sampling in various habitats using different kinds of gear

The samples were processed (sorted and photographed) at our homes away from home; we managed to rig up quite serviceable lab spaces for ourselves in each spot.

One of the things we were after was kelp stems – or rather, the animals living associated with them

A part of our catch!

A closer look at some of what we found: Hydrozoa and Bryozoa, various crustaceans (pictured are two Mysida, an Isopod and an Amphipod), Nudibranchs and other Gastropods, Polyplacophorana, Ascidians, a Platyheminth and various Cnidaria. 

It was a highly successful – and very lovely! – field trip, and the samples collected will benefit a multitude of ongoing and future research.

Follow us on social media for frequent updates, we are at Instagram and Twitter,  as @hardbunnsfauna

-Endre, Jon, Tom & Katrine

 

Workshop week at Espegrend field station

The final week of March was teeming with activity, as no less than three Norwegian Taxonomy Projects (Artsprosjekt) from the Invertebrate Collections arranged a workshop and fieldwork in the University of Bergen’s Marine biological field station in Espegrend.

The projects – Sea Slugs of Southern Norway(SSoSN), Norwegian Hydrozoa (NorHydro) and Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats: species mapping and DNA barcoding (Hardbunnfauna) fortunately overlap quite a bit in where and how we find our animals (as in, Cessa’s seaslugs are eating the organisms the rest of us are studying..!), and so it made sense that we collaborated closely during this event.

That meant more hands available to do the work, more knowledge to be shared – and definitely more fun! All projects had invited guests, mostly specialists in certain groups, but also citizen scientists, and our students participating. We stayed at the field station, which has excellent facilities for both lodging and lab work.

Participants on our Artsprojects workshop in March. Left from back: Peter Schuchert, Manuel Malaquias, Bjørn Gulliksen, Jon Kongsrud, Tom Alvestad, Gonzalo Giribet. Middle row from left: Heine Jensen, Luis Martell, Endre Willassen, Eivind Oug, Front row from left: Katrine Kongshavn, Cessa Rauch and Jenny Neuhaus (Photo: Heine Jensen)

The fieldwork was carried out in the Bergen region, and was done in various ways. We had the R/V “Hans Brattstrøm” available for two days, where we were able to use triangular dredges, plankton net, and grab to sample.

Other days we used a small boat from the station to go to the islands close to Espegrend to examine the tide pools and tidal belt. We also went to local marinas and scraped off what was living on the piers, and a brave soul donned her wet suit and went snorkeling, which enabled us to sample very specific points of interest (“take that green thing over there!”).

We are fortunate here in Bergen in that we have a very active local student dive club, SUB-BSI, whose divers kindly kept an eye out for – and even collected – some of our target animals, as well as sharing their photos of the animals in their natural habitat, all of which is amazing for our projects!
We gave short presentations of each of the projects at SUB in the beginning of the week, and invited the divers out to the lab to on the following Thursday to show some of the things we are working on. It was a very nice evening, with a lot of interested people coming out to look at our critters in the lab. We also decimated no less than 14 homemade pizzas during that evening – learning new stuff is hard work!

Guests in the lab (photos K. Kongshavn)

All together, this made it possible for us to get material from an impressive number of sites; 20 stations were sampled, and we are now working on processing the samples.

The locations where we samples during the week (map: K. Kongshavn)

We are  very grateful to all our participants and helpers for making this a productive and fun week, and we’ll make more blog posts detailing what each project found – keep an eye out for those!

You can also keep up with us on the following media:

 NorHydro: Hydrozoan Science on Facebook, and Twitter #NorHydro

@Hardbunnsfauna on Instagram and Twitter

SeaSlugs: on Instagram and in the Facebookgroup

 Cessa, Luis & Katrine

Sea slug hunt in Egersund!

I’m always scared to look at the current date, time flies! It was already two months ago that we went on a blitz fieldwork trip to Egersund with a very special group of people. But nevertheless, good times become good memories (and especially good museum specimens) and it definitely does not get too old for a small blog about it.

From January 17 to January 21 a small group of sea slug enthusiasts consisting of a student, citizen scientists, a collaborator and museum members rented a van and drove 7 hours down to our Southern neighbor town Egersund.

Egersund was not randomly picked as it is the home town to one of Norway’s most productive and dedicated ‘citizen scientist’; Erling Svensen. Author of a number of books and the most well-known and worldwide used ‘Dyreliv I havet – nordeuropeisk marin fauna’ (English Marine fish and invertebrates of Northern Europe), which amateurs and professionals alike use as an extensive research source.

Erling Svensen’s famous book Dyreliv I Havet

With his almost 5000 dives and counting, Erling knows the critters of the North Sea, big and small, on the back of his hand. Already since the beginning of the sea slug project, Erling was helping providing valuable sea slug species, so it was about time to pay him a visit and bring our team over to make Egersund “biologically unsafe” – enough so to end up in the local news!

We made Egersund unsafe enough to have a small news item about it in the ‘Dalane Tidende’, a local newspaper

The group consisted of Manuel, Cessa, citizen scientist Anders Schouw, collaborator from Havard University Juan Moles and master student Jenny Neuhaus

From left to right Erling Svensen, Anders Schouw, Jenny Neuhaus, Cessa Rauch, Juan Moles and Manuel Malaquias. Photo by Erling Svensen

Jenny just started her Masters in Marine Biology at the University of Bergen in the fall of 2018, she will be writing her thesis on the diversity of sea slugs from the Hordaland county and on the systematics of the genus Jorunna (Nudibranchia) in Europe. The results of this work will definitely become a blog entry of its own.

Jorunna tomentosa, Jennies new pet! Photo by Nils Aukan.

Two of the five days of our fieldwork were basically spendt driving up and down from Bergen to Egersund, it left us only with a good 3 days to get an overview of Erling’s backyard sea slug species. Little time as you can imagine. But time was used efficiently, as Anders and Erling are both extremely good sea slug spotters and with help of sea slug specialist Juan and the eager helping hand of Jenny, Manuel and I were able to identify and add 36 species to our museum sea slug database.

Overview of collected specimens in Egersund

In comparison, we registered 41 one species in Drøbak last year by spending almost a week at the field station! No one thought this would be the outcome (not even Erling himself, as he mentioned that he didn’t find that many sea slug species this time of year on earlier surveys). But we were all very happily surprised, and maybe it was not just luck but also the combination of people we had attending this short field trip. With so many good specialists, either professional or amateur, senior or junior, we were able to work extremely efficient and with a clear communal goal. There was little time spend in reinventing the wheel and explaining the work flow, it was a good valuable exercise that will definitely help us with future brief fieldwork trips and how to make the most from short and tight time schedules. Besides it was a very valuable experience for our student Jenny, as she got first-hand experience with what it’s like to see her study specimens alive, how to handle these fragile individuals, how to sort them from other species and how to document them, which is a good thing to know for her thesis and future career

Jenny learning a lot from the master himself. Photo by Erling Svensen

So yes, all in all our Egersund fieldtrip was short but very sweet!

Furthermore
You want to see more beautiful pictures of sea slugs of Norway! Check out the Sea slugs of Southern Norway Instagram account; and don’t forget to follow us. Become a member of the sea slugs of southern Norway Facebook group, stay updated and join the discussion.

Explore the world, read the invertebrate blogs!

-Cessa & Jenny

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 

Door #15: The eye of the beholder

It’s funny to see the different reactions to fresh material that comes in to the museum;  the exhibition team had  received some kelp that will be pressed and dried for the new exhibitions (opening fall 2019), and I ducked in to secure some of the fauna sitting on the kelp before it was scraped off and discarded. For the botanists, the animals were merely a distraction that needed to be removed so that they could deal with the kelp, whilst I was trying to avoid too much algae in the sample as it messes up the fixation of the animals.

I chose the right shirt for the day- it’s full of nudibranchs! (photo: L. Martell)

 

I then spirited my loot into the lab, and set up camp.

Count me in amongst the people who stare at lumps of seaweed.

 

Who’s there? The whole lump is ~12 cm.

How many animals do you see here? Which ones appeal to you?

I have made a quick annotation of some of the biota here:

Note that these are just some of the critters present…! (photo: K. Kongshavn)

Let’s go closer on a small piece of algae:

Now, what do you see? (photo: K. Kongshavn)

For Luis, the first thing to catch the eye was (of course) the Hydrozoa

Hydrozoans (the christmas light looking strings), encrusting bryozoans (the flat, encrusting growth on on the algae – you might also know them as moss animals), and some white, spiralling polychaete tubes  (photo: K. Kongshavn)

Did you spot the sea hare (Aplysia punctata?) Look a bit above the middle of the photo of the tiny aquarium with the black background. Do you see a red-pink blob?

Hello, Aplysia punctata! (photo: K. Kongshavn)

There were also several other sea slugs that I have handed over to Cessa for inclusion in the sea slugs of Southern Norway project, here are a few:

Then there were the shelled gastropods:

The brittle star from the earlier image – this is a Ophiopholis aculeata, the crevice sea star (photo: K. Kongshavn)

In fact, they both are Ophiopholis aculeata (in Norwegian we call them “chameleon brittle stars” – they live up to the name!), one of the very common species around here. (photo: K. Kongshavn)

One of the colonial ascidian tunicates (and some of the ever present bryozoa just below it) (photo: K. Kongshavn)

Most of these animals will be barcoded, and will help build our reference library for species that occur in Norway. I also hope that they may have helped open your eyes to some of the more inconspicuous creatures that live just beneath the surface?

2019 will see the start of a new species taxonomy project where we will explore the invertebrate fauna of shallow-water rocky shores, so there will be many more posts like this to come!

-Katrine

Door #10: The Molluscan Forum 2018 in London

Special 20th anniversary 22.11.18
The Malacological Society of London
Conference talk about citizen scientists

A few weeks ago, Manuel Malaquias, Justine Siegwald and me travelled to London in order to attend the 20th anniversary conference of the Malacological Society of London, UK. This society is dedicated to research and education on molluscs. Although based in London (as the name refers to), the society is internationally orientated and welcomes all members interested in the scientific study of molluscs. The society was founded in 1893 and registered as a charity. One of the many activities of the society is to organize meetings and symposia, and this year it turned out to be a 20th anniversary of the molluscan forum!

It was an incredible interesting day with a lot of inspirational posters and talks. My mission for that day was to present our ‘Sea slugs of Southern Norway’ project with the emphasis on how citizen scientist made this project a success. I wanted to share with the audience how citizen scientists with the right approach could be the future for many scientific studies.

Cessa presenting at the Molluscan Forum, 22th of November 2018

But first let us have a look into the meaning of citizen science. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, citizen science is scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions. The term was first coined during the nineties in the United States of America. Since than it has grown in popularity, with multiple projects in the world that rely on the input of data generated by the general public. Some big and well-known examples are eBird, with roughly 411K users, Nasa Globe with 640K users, iNaturalist, with almost 1 million users and OPAL with 930K users and counting.

Increase of popularity of citizenscience projects per year, Nature 2018

Since the beginning of this year we put a lot of effort in setting up a network of volunteers and underwater photographers. We got many good people willing to contribute to our project and most them are located in the South of Norway, but we also have a few located more further up North in Norway. Currently we have around 150 members directly and indirectly involved in helping us with our project. We try to involve our citizen scientist in the project as much as possible and one way is by reaching out to them via several social media platforms. For example, in our Facebook group community members can participate in discussions about species descriptions and share their findings etc. But we also have an Instagram account that functions as a pocket field guide for followers. Besides we try to keep everyone up to date about the project by regular posting blogs.

Cessa showing the different social media platforms used in the project during the Molluscan Forum

But our key element in this project definitely goes to the assembly and design of our sampling kits. These were designed specially for our citizen scientists in order to make collecting easier, more accessible and more standardized for everyone. By trying to standardize the collecting steps with so-called instructed sampling kits we minimized the errors that could occur during sampling of the data. The sampling kits contain plastic jars for the samples, fixative, preprinted labels and a USB flash drive with enough space for high-resolution pictures and a preset excel file that only needs filling in.

Example of the content of a citizen science sampling kit designed for the Sea slugs of Southern Norway project

We noticed that this approach worked out and the data quantity and quality increased as well the recruitment became easier. When we look at all the Norwegian sea slug records from the museum collection since the 19th century, it consists of roughly 1400 records. In just over six months time we see that the contribution of the citizen scientists covers almost half of that.

A comparison of the amount of records collected by citizen scientists since this year compared to our museum collection

Eubranchus farrani species complex, one species or multiple?

The material that is sent in by the citizen scientists is at the moment being studied by us. We have two master students who will start working in January on a variety of taxonomic challenges by studying the different geographical material.

 

An example of this is Eubranchus farrani species complexes that have different color morphotypes from different geographical locations. Do we deal here with one species or multiple?

Stay tuned for a follow up!

Furthermore
Sea slugs of Southern Norway recently got its own Instagram account! Perfect for on the go if you would like to quickly check some species, click here https://www.instagram.com/seaslugsofsouthernnorway/ and don’t forget to follow us.

Become a member of the sea slugs of southern Norway facebook group, stay updated and join the discussion; https://www.facebook.com/groups/seaslugsofsouthernnorway/

Explore the world, read the invertebrate blogs!

-Cessa