Category Archives: Photography

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

Door #9: To catch an Amphipod

As many of you might have read earlier in this blog, the projects NorAmph and Hypno have been regularly sampling in Hjeltefjorden for the past year. As a part of my master thesis, I was lucky to be able to come with! My thesis will be about amphipods and their seasonal variety in Hjeltefjorden, which is super exiting!

The RP-sled used for the sampling.

For each time we go out, we sample with a RP-sled, a WP3 plankton net and we collect CTD data. The samples from the RP-sled will be used for my thesis and other projects if we find something interesting. During the last year we collected samples 9 times, which has given us some great days out at sea!

During these cruises we have had lots of fun! We have had cake, snacks and regularly done yoga on deck! We have been mostly lucky with the weather (except for our original cruise day in February, which had to be moved due to lots of wind, which you can read about here: Solskinnstokt)

 

A great view from our February cruise, with a clear blue sky and no wind! (Photo: K. Kongshavn)

We have been mostly lucky in getting great samples!

Lots of exciting material to get our hands on! (photo: AH Tandberg)

But sometimes not so lucky…

It is not easy to be a happy master student when the codend is almost empty… (Photo: AH Tandberg)

In October we had our last cruise, which was a great end to a year of sampling! We were not as lucky with the weather this time, but the samples look very nice. We also had cake to celebrate the last cruise day!

A great view in Hjeltefjorden (Photo: C. Østensvig)

Coffee breaks on deck are always important! (Photo: AH Tandberg)

It is somewhat sad to be done with the sampling, but with all the material collected, it is time to hit the lab! With all the samples, I sort out and identify all the amphipods I find. So far, I have found lots of cool amphipods, and I am starting to see some patterns in the material.

Here are some of the Amphipods I have found. All photos: K. Kongshavn

My work in the lab is far from done, and I am excited to look for new cool amphipods and hopefully find something interesting in their seasonal variation.

-Christine

Door #7: New shipment of tissue samples for barcoding

In the upper right corner is a “plate”: the microplates with 96 wells where we deposit small tissue samples that are to be processed at the CCDB lab in Canada for NorBOL

On the third day of Christmas,
we sent eleven microplates away:
one plate cnidarians (A)
two with worms a-wriggle (B)
two plates of insects (C)
three plates crustaceans (D)
two (and a half) plates of mites (E)
and a half-plate assorted a-arthropods (F)!

Ahem. Yes.

As Endre explained in the fifth post of the calendar, collecting, identifying, documenting and keeping specimens used for DNA barcoding is an important part of what we do here at the invertebrate collections. Our mission in the NORBOL consortium is to produce DNA-barcodes, particularly for marine fauna in Norwegian waters and to make these barcodes available with open access to records and metadata in the BOLD database. These samples contribute to the building of a validated reference library of the genetic barcodes of the species found in Norway. You can search for different taxonomic groups here to see if they have been barcoded from Norwegian territory: Search NorBOL

The process is fairly straight forward (at least on paper!): Animals are collected and identified. Those species relevant for barcoding are selected, and a specimen (=1 animal) is chosen to be barcoded. We take a small tissue sample from the specimen, and keep the rest of the animal as the barcode voucher; if the need should arise to check if it really is what we initially thought, it is crucial to be able to go back and check the animal again. The tissue samples are collected in wells on a plate like the one pictured above, and the information about the animals – where they were collected, who collected them, what species they are, who identified them and so on is uploaded to BOLD together with images of the animals.

Representatives for the tissue sample plates that we just shipped off. Thank you Steffen, Anna and Per for contributing the terrestrial animals and images! Photos: L. Martell, A. Seniczak, S. Roth, K. Kongshavn. Illustration: K. Kongshavn

On Monday we shipped a new batch of plates – as (attempted) illustrated in song above.

Included is material from several of the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative projects (artsprosjekt) that are happening at the University Museum of Bergen. We are coordinating the efforts on marine life, but are of course also facilitating the NorBOL barcoding of other organisms that take place at the UMB.  There are animals from NorAmph (Norwegian Amphipoda), Hydrozoan pelagic diversity in Norway (HYPNO), Orbatid mites, and the insects found associated with nutrient rich marshes in Hedmark in this shipment.

We have also prepared several plates of Crustaceans collected and identified by the Norwegian marine mapping programme Mareano – one of the great contributors of material to the collections.

Now we wait for the lab to process them, and for the genetic sequences to be uploaded to BOLD – fingers crossed for many interesting results!

-Katrine

Door #3: Mollusc hunting around the world

The study of molluscs (malacology) has a long tradition in Norway. Despite the nearly 50,000 species dwelling in the world oceans and seas, a number only barely supersede by the arthropods, new species continue to be discovered and our understanding of the relationships and systematics of molluscs to change.

At the Natural History Museum of Bergen, the study of molluscs is focal, and research is carried out on various aspects of their diversity, morphology, ecology, systematics, evolution, and biogeography, using state of the art methods like DNA barcoding, molecular phylogenetics, and electron microscopy. Understanding the patterns and processes that drive present diversity in the oceans is one of our main goals and our research foci are framed within several “big questions”: How many and how can we differentiate between species? How do species originate in the oceans? Why some regions in the oceans are more diverse than others? Are mechanisms responsible for the patterns of diversity in the deep-sea the same as in shallow ecosystems?

Our quest for answers necessitate the continuous collection of new specimens and the exploration of remote geographies. We conduct regular fieldwork around the world including Norway, through numerous projects and partnerships.

Here are some snapshots from recent fieldwork from Manuel & team:

Working during October 2017 together with Professor João Macuio from the University Lurio (Pemba, Mozambique) in Nangata Bay (Nuarro, Mozambique) on a survey of the sea slug diversity inhabiting this pristine coral reef area and on an assessment of the structure and conservation status of the population of the threatened giant clam species (Tridacna maxima). Left image: Manuel Malaquias and João Macuio photographing sea slugs at the Nuarro Research Center.

João Macuio measuring underwater the total length of a specimen of the giant clam Tridacna maxima

Working in remote places requires often some capacity to improvise and during a fieldtrip to Taiwan while in the Penghu islands we had to convince the manager of our hostel to let us set up a field-lab in the garage among his gear and pet-cage!

Manuel and Trond Oskars, PhD candidate at the Museum, searching for molluscs during May 2017 at mangrove systems near the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

In the Penghu islands we had the opportunity to work in the field together with students from the National Penghu University of Science and Technology, here depicted in the right image helping collecting sea slugs along a water stream lined by few mangrove bushes.

After a three weeks fieldtrip to Vamizi island in the Quirimbas archipelago, north of Mozambique during May 2015, we were finally brought to shore at Palma village near the border with Tanzania where we had to do some final sorting and organization of samples under the curious eyes of the local villagers (Manuel Malaquias and Yara Tibiriça from the Zavora Marine Lab in Mozambique).

Fieldwork during May 2018 in the Oslo fjord as part of the project “Sea slugs of southern Norway” funded by Artsdatabanken. Left image: part of the team working through the catch of the day at the Tolboden Course Center in Drøbak, University of Oslo (left to right: Cessa Rauch, Manuel Malaquias, Torkild Bakken, Anders Schouw)

You can read more about some of these expeditions by exploring the posts found here (workshops) and here (fieldwork).

Manuel

Door #2: A glimpse of Hydrozoan anatomy

Hydroids and hydromedusae are abundant and widespread, but they can be difficult to identify, in part due to the overwhelming amount of terminology used to describe their polyps, colonies and medusae. The diversity of shapes and life cycle strategies in Hydrozoa is in fact so high that it is almost impossible to find a single set of descriptive terms for all species, and different glossaries have been developed for closely related families, sometimes genera, and also for the different stages in the life cycle of the same organism. To further complicate things, the terminology we use for the characterization of hydrozoan morphology has been adapted in many cases from other fields of science (like botany and geometry), and some of the words ended up with very different meanings depending of the organism we are looking at.

But if you are interested in these fascinating creatures, fear not! We at the invertebrate collections have thought about giving you a little visual aid in the form of four plates including some of the basic structures of hydroids and hydromedusa (courtesy of artsprosjekt HYPNO and upcoming artsprosjekt NORHYDRO).

Figure 1: Thecate polyps, like the ones of Aglaophenia harpago, are protected by rigid structures called “thecae” into which the polyp can retract. In many species they live all together forming colonies. Credit: Joan J. Soto Àngel and L. Martell.

Figure 2: Unlike their “protected” relatives, athecate polyps (e.g. those of Pennaria disticha) lack the skeletal protection of the theca, but can also form large colonies with many polyps. Credit: Joan J. Soto Àngel and L. Martell.

Figure 3: The hydromedusae produced by thecate polyps are called leptomedusae, and can be recognized by the development of gonads in the radial canals (among other characteristics). From left to right and top to bottom in the picture are three species present in Norwegian waters: Tiaropsis multicirrata, Modeeria rotunda, and Tima bairdii. Credit: L. Martell and A. Hosia, HYPNO project.

Figure 4: Anthomedusae (hydromedusae produced by athecate polyps) usually have the gonads developed in the manubrium. From left to right and top to bottom in the picture are Leuckartiara octona, Rathkea octopunctata, and Sarsia tubulosa. Credit: L. Martell and A. Hosia, HYPNO project.

Hopefully these images can be used as a starting point for the uninitiated, and why not? perhaps also as a source of inspiration for cool marine-related presents for the season!

-Luis Martell and Joan J. Soto Àngel

SeaSlug Fieldwork during the Haugesund Dive Camp

Haugesund 3rd till 10th of July 2018. 
by Cessa Rauch

The Sea slugs of Southern Norway project is going strong with already the second fieldwork trip checked off from our to-do list. Sea slugs of Southern Norway is a two-year project funded by Artsdatabanken aiming to map the diversity of sea slugs along the Southern part of the Norwegian coast. From around Bergen, Hordaland to the Swedish border, as this particular area of Norway has a huge gap of about 80 years without any dedicated work on sea slugs diversity being carried out. In May the project had its official kick off with a successful expedition to Drøbak, a little village near Oslo in the Oslofjord, where we were able to collect around 43 species, and met up with our dedicated collaborators from that area.

A selection of the species collected during the Drøbak expedition in May 2018. From left to right; top: Jorunna tomentosa, Doto dunnei, Facelina bostoniensis, middle: Doto coronata, Fjordia lineata, Limacia clavigera, bottom: Caronella pellucida, Microchlamylla gracilis, Rostanga rubra, photo credits: Anders Schouw

From the beginning we have made an effort to engage divers and underwater photographers passionate about sea slugs and establish a network of Citizen Scientists, and the response was extremely positive. Citizen scientists are volunteers that help out scientists by providing them with data as a hobby in their spare time. Their many years of experience result often in the accumulation of an immensely valuable knowledge about the taxonomy and ecology of these animals, which they eagerly share with us. We shall say, that the success of our project heavily rely on their input and willingness to help collecting samples, particularly because of the restrictions with scientific diving in Norway that we researchers face, that basically hamper any possibility to use this method for collecting slugs during our working time.

Dive camp Haugesund 2018

So far, we have citizen scientists helping us collecting sea slugs in the Oslofjord area, Egersund, Bergen, and Kristiansund. As you can see we miss a lot of coastline here still. Therefore, we decided to participate in the dive camp in Haugesund this year to see if we could get in touch with more enthusiastic hobby divers.

The dive camp was organized by the Slettaa Dykkerklubb Haugaland. Started in 2015, they are a relatively young club, but they grew very fast and have currently around 200 members. They are well known for the many activities they organize throughout the year that are often open to anyone who likes to participate.

Dive camp Haugesund pamphlet and picture

The timetable for the week (click to enlarge)

This year they decided to organize an actual dive camp that took a week and offered two dives a day, camping spot, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every day an interesting talk or tour related to diving. It was from 4th of July until the 10th and every day between the dives the participants had interesting meet-ups with marine biologists (like Vivian Husa), underwater photographers (Siv Pedersen and Vidar Skålevik from WEDIVE.no), and underwater artist Jason deCaires Taylor. We also visited the company Kystdesign, and we got a safety lecture form Tor Oppegård.

One of the remote-controlled submarines that were presented during the tour

A very busy and informative week! It was a great success for the participants and organizers and there will be a similar event again next year.

There and back again

Microscope in the living room

The day before the camp started, I met with citizen scientist Anders Schouw, and we drove that evening from Bergen to Haugesund to check into our rented Airbnb flat.

Although the Dive Camp had arranged a camping ground for visitors, we decided to stick with renting a flat, in order to have our equipment properly installed. Once arrived, we had to add some adjustments to the apartment. The dining area was converted to a sea slug studio with trays and camera equipment installed. The living room was now our little laboratory with a microscope and laptops.

The dining area converted into our mobile sea slug studio and picture

I can reassure you that we left everything clean and tidy!

The review of the owner, after I left our converted laboratory for an actual apartment

The next day we met very early in the morning at the seashore to be picked up by one of the organizers of the dive camp.

Pick up by speedboat in order to cross the water

The actual event took place on a tiny island just a short boat ride away from the city center of Haugesund. From there we took the boat Risøygutt from Thomas Bergh that we used in order to commute from the island to all the beautiful diving spots surrounding Haugesund. The first day we met up with Klaus and Are Risnes (father and son) as one of the participants of the camp that day.

During the week, and especially during the weekend, the number of participants increased and at a given time we had to go out with two boats in order to bring the more than 20 divers to the dive spots. Anders would be diving with Thomas while Karl Oddvar Floen and Torbjørn Brekke were leading the dive.

Originally built as a shrimp boat, Risøygutt has converted to a diving boat years ago, and the current owner Thomas Bergh, continued to use it for diving activities

My main purpose during the dive camp was providing everyone with collecting jars, that they took with them every dive, in search of sea slugs.

Klaus Risnes after a dive within his collecting jar with the sea hare Aplysia punctata, notice the purple colored water, ink from the sea hare they produce when they are disturbed

The cool box with sea slug samples on Risøygutt, accompanied with Anders’ photography gear

Because we needed the species alive for photography and species identification, I brought a cool-box with ice with me on the boat were the jars with sea slugs were kept, in order to keep them cool.

I was running around on the boat  providing collecting jars to the divers during the whole week, but as the number of participants during the week increased, the collecting jars were running out.

Halfway, Anders and I decided to visit the local supply store and purchased a bunch of extra collecting jars for all the enthusiastic participants willing to catch some sea slugs for us

Collecting jars full with different species of sea slugs

Different sea slug species in a collecting jar (accompanied with three flatworms)

Every day after the two dives, Anders and I returned to our “Airbnb-lab” and started working on the sea slugs, that meant sometimes short nights, and as you guessed it, the more species, the less sleep

Working on collected specimen far past bedtime

The species collected were luckily all photogenic and we were very happy with the results!

Anne Mari With Ottesen helping out with sea slug sorting

 Luckily we got many enthusiasts helping out and one evening Anne Mari With Ottesen joined us on the identification of the sea slugs.

Halfway in the dive camp week I gave a lecture about sea slugs in general and about the Sea slugs in Southern Norway project. It helped divers to spot sea slugs easier as they become better informed about what and where to look for.

This helped tremendously as we continued to get different species of sea slugs after every dive. At the end of the week, the count was on 22 species!

Catch of the week, as it is our most rare species so far in our Artsdatabanken database, Aegires punctilucens, photo credits Anders Schouw

Photogenic Edmundsella pedata, photo credits Anders Schouw

Besides the good weather, the delicious seafood and many new friendships made, with the number of new slug species added to our list and the many new citizen scientists volunteering for our project now, I could say that the dive camp was a success. We will continue to collaborate with Slettaa Dykkerklubb and hopefully in the future will host a sea slug course for its members and participate with the dive camp again next year, I can’t wait. Tusen takk!

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Anders Schouw for all his effort in helping out during this week and I especially would like to thank him for his stamina during long days and short nights sorting the sea slugs!

We also would like to thank the organizers of the dive camp and Slettaa Dykkerklubb members; Åge Wee, Lars Einar Hollund, Thomas Bergh, Elisabeth Bergh, Torbjørn Brekke, Karl Oddvar Floen, Anne Mari With Ottesen and the numerous other enthusiastic participants that helped us out during the week! And a warm welcome to our new clan of citizen scientists!

Interested in our Sea slugs of Southern Norway project? Become a member of our Facebook group and get regular updates.

 

Further reading

Are you interested in the Slettaa Dykkerklub Haugaland? Visit their Facebook group or their website for more information.

Want to know more about underwater photography? Check the personal underwater photography blog on Facebook or visit this website for tips and tricks.

Always wanted to know more about Jason deCaires Taylors’ underwater art? Visit his website. Did you know that Jason has also underwater art installed in Oslo? Check this out;

Explore the world, read the invertebrate blogs!