Category Archives: Sea slugs of Southern Norway (SSoSN)

Fieldwork during the “Jentedykketreff”

Askøy Seilforening 24th till 26th of August 2018
by Cessa Rauch

Jentedykketreff
Every year a group of female divers from all over Norway organize a meetup at one of the many beautiful dive sites along the Norwegian coast. This year they decided to meet up in Askøy at the local seilforening. As this is close to Bergen, me and my colleague Justine Siegwald decided to check it out and see what the ladies would encounter underwater. The meetup was short, and so was our fieldwork, but nevertheless the participants were able to collect a bunch of sea slugs and we added 6 more species to our database, hurray for our citizen scientists!

Sea slugs of Southern Norway – so far
The sea slugs of Southern Norway project is a two-year project funded by Artsdatabanken with the aim of mapping the biodiversity of sea slugs along the Southern part of the Norwegian coast. The focal area stretches from Bergen, Hordaland, all the way down to the Swedish border. 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. In May the project had its first official launch with a successful expedition to Drøbak, a little village well known for its marine biology institute, near Oslo in the Oslofjords. In just two weeks we were able to collect around 43 species.

Overview of almost all collected species during the Drøbak expedition in May 2018

Two months later we headed to Haugesund to attend the Slettaa Dykkerklubb dive camp. This camp covered two weeks and attracted many participants. During the dive camp I lectured about sea slugs and especially how to find, recognize and collect them. It was a huge hit and Sea slugs of Southern Norway suddenly counted many new citizen scientists. They were able to add another 22 sea slug species to our database.

Overview of all the collected species during the Haugesund dive camp in July 2018

What did you do this weekend?
Friday afternoon Justine and I were picked up from the institute by the organizer of this years’ yentedykketreff; Gry Henriksen.

Grys’ car turned into a game of Tetris

We actually didn’t really communicate well enough about the car size and very soon we realized that with our personal belongings and portable laboratory gear the car changed into a game of Tetris 

Luckily everything fitted and off we went for our short car ride to Askøy Seilforening. Just a little over an hour drive later we arrived at our destination and we were amazed to see what a luxurious weekend was waiting of us. The seilforening lets us use basically all the space they had, which consisted of a big warehouse were the participants could store their gear, a big ‘club’ house with a kitchen and enough space for all participants to have dinner together. Not to mention the eight tiny houses right at the shore, provided with everything you needed and more.

Askøy Seilforening (from www.askoy-seilforening.no)

 

Right after the arrival Justine and I converted the living room of our rental holiday home to a popup sea slug laboratory as that same evening the ladies already went for their first dive and of course collected some sea slugs for us.

Justine sorting sea slugs in the living room

It is not real sea slug season anymore (best times are more towards winter and early spring) so the collections were dominated mostly by two species; Limacia clavigera and Adalaria loveni.

Limacia clavigera up and down Adalaria loveni on brown kelp

But as the weekend progressed we could add some variety to this list with species as Elysia viridis,  Aplysia punctata, Edmundsella pedata and Cadlina laevis 

Elysia viridis

 On Saturday, after dinner, I gave a short talk about the project and showed the participants pictures of the slugs and brought sampling kits for whoever wanted to contribute to the project. That same day some divers had already collected species which we put in a plastic tray so everyone could have another good and detailed look at

Bucket full of sea slugs (and flatworms)

A memorable success of the weekend was that Gry Henriksen found her first Elysia viridis in the wild during her dive after Justine and I carefully described the way to spot them. Elysia viridis is often overlooked by divers because it lives relatively shallow, between 1 maximum 5 meters. It mostly sits in the green algae (or red as we see it in the picture above) . It is actually easier to see them while snorkeling than diving, but it is still possible! On the last day of the event Gry found hers and collected them for the project! Sunday most off our activities consisted of packing our gear and await one more last catch of slugs from the morning dive. Even though the amount of new species to the list was low, I was happy that we were welcome during this get together weekend as both me and Justine met a lot of old and new faces and were able to engage them into the project. The participants inspired us for setting up a ‘sea slug course’ that we hope to be able to realize the end of this year together with Gry Henriksen and the Askøy Seilforening! So, keep your eyes out for the next blog post as a lot off activities within the project are still to come!

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Justine Siegwald for being an excellent helping hand during the weekend. And I would like to thank all the participants of the jentedykketreff; Runa Lutnæs, Brit Garvik Dalva, Sofie Knudsen, Laila Løkkebergøen, Silje Skotnes Wollberg, Sissel Grimen, Hege Nyborg Drange and last but not least, the organizer of this event; Gry Henriksen!

 

Furthermore
Interested in where we stayed during this weekend? Check out the website of Askøy Seilforening, they have excellent facilities also for (marine biology) courses; http://www.askoy-seilforening.no

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.

Curious to the other expeditions we did so far? Read about it in our blogs on the invertebrate website; first fieldwork blog Drøbak may 2018 https://invertebrate.w.uib.no/2018/06/04/fieldwork-and-friendship/ and second fieldwork blog Haugesund July 2018 https://invertebrate.w.uib.no/2018/07/20/seaslug-fieldwork-during-the-haugesund-dive-camp/

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!

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!

Fieldwork and friendship!

Drøbak 6th till 15th of May 2018

The Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative  funded project Sea slugs of Southern Norway  had its official kick-off with its first expedition to Drøbak, a little village on the east side of the Oslofjord about 40 km south of Oslo. Main goal, start mapping the sea slug species diversity of that area which we will continue to do so along different carefully chosen locations along the Southern Norwegian coast. But besides finding sea slugs, we had another ambition; meeting up with our hard-working collaborators that would help us out during our stay.

Sea slugs of Norway, a love story

Sea slugs are often a diver’s favourite encounter underwater. They are colourful, have an overall attractive appearance, with their little rhinophores exploring their surroundings, gliding slowly through their habitat.

Caronella pellucida, photographed by Anders Schouw

They are exciting to photograph as, besides pretty, it can be technically very challenging to get a good shot of them since they are often just a few millimetres long. Despite being popular animals, relatively little is known about them. Just recently the attention from the scientific community started to grow, and manuscripts with new records and species for Norway become to be published. However, the target areas were often the Northern territories of Norway rather than the South, and this resulted in a huge gap lasting already for about 80 years within the scientific literature for this particular area. About time to do something about it!

The citizens that are scientists

Southern Norway alone has a coastline of about 8000km, which makes it a monstrous task to really get a proper picture of the sea slug biodiversity (let alone cryptic species variation, invasive species etc.). Therefore, we asked for help from the so-called citizen scientists. Citizen scientist are volunteers that help out scientists by providing them with data as a hobby in their spare time. Many of them are not to be considered amateurs though, due to their many years of experience and enthusiasm, they are professionals when it comes to their knowledge of species and their habitats. Such a tight community is also found here in Norway within the dive community, and during this project of our hunt for sea slug species, we heavily rely on their input and willingness in order to make the mission a success.

Back to Drøbak

It was not a blind pick on the map to go to Drøbak as our main starting point. Drøbak is strategically chosen as former literature describes it as a type locality for a variety of the Norwegian sea slug species. Besides, the University of Oslo has its Marine Biology field station, with sleeping facilities, located here. Near the field station, there is also the – all famous – dive centre called Gylte, were many dive enthusiasts rent their gear, fill up their pressure tanks and go diving in the centres’ backyard. Not surprisingly one of the workers of Gylte is big sea slug enthusiast; let me introduce you to Tine Kinn Kvamme

Manuel Malaquias with Tine Kinn Kvamme

There was great excitement from both parties to finally meet in person and she was able to help us get in touch with other citizen scientists and explain in detail about all the species she encountered in the last years. The list was impressive,and a valuable contribution to our project;

Tine’s sea slug species check list for the area

That week we managed to meet up with her several times, and she brought us more sea slugs. We introduced her to the laboratory facilities in the Marine field station, where she had the opportunity to look at her beloved Doto’s in detail with help of a microscope, while telling us more about other possible interesting locations and possibilities to collect different species! This is what it is all about, happy scientists and happy citizen scientists!

Doto fragilis

Two other members of our team that joined us during the length of our stay in Drøbak were the respected divers Anders Schouw (from Bergen) and famous underwater photographer Nils Aukan (from Kristiansund).

Anders Schouw showing his photography skills in the laboratory

It was an honour to be able to work together with them, Anders proved his photography skills both underwater and above water to be of incredible valuable input and Nils great knowledge of Marine life and amazing photography skills made me and Manuel blush on our cheeks more than we would like to admit. They both dived every single day during our stay and brought sea slugs back to the laboratory where we together could identify, photograph, measure and prepare them for transport back to Bergen. Nils Aukan is a known sensation within the Norwegian diving community and ever since the project started we have received many samples from him. He is able to photograph the species in their natural habitat capturing the tiniest details, a valuable asset to later identify the species properly.

Fjordia lineata photographed by Nils Aukan

Anders is the guy every expedition need; he knows everyone, everywhere, and we’re very happy to announce his decision to join us in our next field work trip to Hagesund (in July, facilitated with a blog, obviously).

The gate to grass

At the spot we also met with the citizen scientist Roy Dahl, his son and Heine Jensen

Heine Jensen with Manuel Malaquias

A snapshot of the group, from left to right; A snapshot of the group, from left to right; Roy Dahl’s son, Roy Dahl, Anders Schouw, Cessa Rauch and Nils Aukan

Roy and Heine have been collaborating and sampling for us in the Oslofjord area. They know their favourite diving spots on the back of their hands and shared with us all the details one needs to know about the sea slugs’ habitat. They knew about species diversity, where to find but also when to find them. There is some change in sea slugs’ diversity when it comes to different times of the year, some species thrive just before spring starts, others are more regularly seen throughout the summer. All interesting and valuable information for us in order to see the bigger picture. Most diving spots were easy accessible and well facilitated, but sometimes the hunt for different habitats does not always favour you in a laidback access to the water. Manuel and I were a little obsessed with probing for sea slugs within the seagrass meadows of the Oslofjord. You never know what you can find there! Healthy seagrass meadows are the nursery, hiding, and hunting ground of many marine organisms, and we would not let the opportunity to study this habitat pass by!

Facelina bostoniensis on sea grass photographed by Anders Schouw

Anders was able to find an area of seagrass that seemed to be accessible from the Google maps point of view. But was it in real life though? After driving around, back and forwards for almost an hour we sadly realized that the only land access was through a private condo, closed by a gate and inaccessible to us. Whilst driving around a little unsure about what the next plan of action would be, Anders decided to use his communication skills to find out if there was another way. By a matter of luck, chance, sign – you name it – Anders asked the way to a person that happen to live there and to have a remote device that could open the gate giving us access to the park. All together it took us a whole afternoon to figure out how to get to the seagrass meadow and I think we can vote for Heine Jensen as our most patient citizen scientist! As we were driving in many circles to find the sea grass meadows, Heine jokingly mentioned, ‘look, there is grass just next to the road, why don’t we look for our slugs there’. We definitely own him one for his stamina!

You reap what you sow

After 10 days the sea slug teller was on approximately 39 species, and this without the species collected by the citizen scientists before our fieldtrip. All together we have so far assembled 43 species from areas in the Oslofjord. The work has just begun, and as a consequence of our successful actions in Drøbak, we now have to face the mountain of work waiting; structuring our harvest and make some sense of it all in the light of evolution.

For frequent updates, awesome images, and much more information about sea slugs in Norway than you ever imagined encountering, join the projects Facebook group 

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank our collaborators during this project; Torkild Bakken from Trondheim University who was also part of the Drøbak team for a few days, and our dedicated citizen scientists; Anders Schouw, Nils Aukan, Tine Kinn Kvamme, Roy Dahl and Heine Jensen. We hope that during the two years of this project we will have many more chances to meet and that our teamwork continues to be fruitfully!

By Cessa Rauch and Manuel Malaquias