Tag Archives: Arctic Station

Good-bye Greenland!

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

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

Photo: I Meyer-Wachsmuth

Bathing between icebergs – who can resist?

Photo: A Mucharin

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

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

Photo: D de Abreu

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

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


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


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

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

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


Photo: AH Tandberg

Our Favourite Things

The participants of “ForBio Marine Course Greenland” represent a highly diverse group. This is our presentations of ourselves through our favourite organisms (“things”):

Near the end of the Greenland Adventure, full of unforgettable experiences and close to collapse of exhaustion after long days of sampling and sorting, our Arctic explorers took a few minutes of their precious time to write about themselves and which organism made them head North, up till latitude 69 degrees.

Photo: A AltenburgerAndreas Altenburger (University of Copenhagen): 

The aim of my project is to investigate the embryonic development of animals in the phylum Kinorhyncha. During the course I use the possibility to collect several kinorhynch species and try to make them reproduce.


Anne Helene Tandberg (Institute of Marine Research, Tromsø):

Photo: AH Tandberg

Amphipods from the genus Metopa are my favourite animals. This is a photo of Metopa alderi, who, just like its “cousin” Metopa groenlandica has been found here; they both live inside mussels. I love the way the tiny details help us determine which species we look at, and that they have found such clever ways of living – nice and cozy inside another animal…


Christiane Todt (University Museum of Bergen):

Photo: A AltenburgerMy special interest are molluscs, and especially the shell-less and worm-shaped aplacophoran groups. The small solenogaster (or neomeniomorph) on this picture has already gained some fame in 2011 by being featured as “Greenland neomeniomorph” in a publication in  the journal Nature (480: 364–367) – but it has no valid name yet! We found 10 more specimens – enough to analyze its anatomy and spicule morphology to come up with a proper species description and a scientific name!

Photo: AH Tandberg


Daniela de Abreu (University of Gothenburg): 

Yes! Slow moving amphipod. My favorite animal, so far, is Socarnes vahlii, the cutest, most colorful, and slowest amphipod I spotted on the Lithothamnion aggregation samples of Disko Fjord. This guy has the most amazing chromatophore patterns and colors of the crustaceans collected in this trip.


Photo: H Flørenes

Henning Flørenes (University of Bergen): 

Here on Greenland we’ve had a great variety of fauna that are absolutely fascinating. I’m currently working with calcareous sponges that are as amazing as anything you can imagine. My personal favorite is the fabulous Brattegardia nanensi. With its elegant form and lovely network of asconoid tubes, it ranks as the top sponge on my favorite list. It’s known to be around the Disko Island area so I’ve had the great opportunity to get a specimen and take a closer look at it.


Inga Meyer-Wachsmuth (Stockholm University): 

Photo: I Meyer-WachsmuthMy favorite animal didn’t show up, but there were a few close relatives that were unexpectedly colorful. This is a possibly undescribed species of Acoela of less than a mm length, with a beautiful red coloring. It was found with the Lithothamnion aggregations.


Photo: J Thyrring

                                                                    Jakob Thyrring (Aarhus University): 

I am working with blue mussels as they are ecological important species. I will investigate how this species that are susceptible to expand their current distribution range will influence the Arctic ecosystem structure and function.


Photo: J Egardt

Jenny Egardt (Gothenburg University): 

I am a PhD student working with biodiversity and habitat change as a measurement of human impact in shallow marine coastal areas. In Disko, I am interested in learning more about arctic species and their abundance, and compare video footage taken during this course with footage from two years ago to see if the habitats are still the same.


Jeroen Brijs (Gothenburg University): 

Photo: Jeroen BrijsI’m doing a PhD on gastrointestinal motility and blood flow in fish, specifically shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius). I have captured a few here in Greenland to examine their stomach contents to determine what prey species they feed on so that I have a better understanding of their feeding ecology as this will assist me in understanding the digestive processes which occur within this fish species.

Photo: J Sefbom


Josefin Sefbom (Gothenburg University): 

I am investigating population genetic patterns of the diatom Skeletonema marinoi – a common and important bloom-forming primary producer found in many coastal waters.





Mari Heggernes Eilertsen (University of Bergen): 

For my PhD I will be working on several different animals, but at the moment my favorite animal is a small calcareous sponge called Sycon abyssale, which is found in the deep North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea. Interestingly it is also found in shallow waters (<100 m) in Norwegian fjords, and I will use genetic analyses to establish if these populations are the same species and investigate the geneflow between populations, especially across the Greenland-Iceland-Faroes ridge, which is believed to be a major barrier to dispersal for deep-sea organisms.


Mette Møller Nielsen (Aarhus University): 

Photo: J Egardt                                                                  I am a PhD student from Aarhus University, Denmark working with kelps. Kelps are widely distributed and highly productive and they are important organisms in coastal zones where they form key habitats. They act as substrate for sessile organisms as well as shelter and nursery area for fauna in general, thereby stimulating biodiversity.

Photo: A Altenburger


Arom Mucharin (Aarhus University): 

This small (ca. 3mm long) juvenile of Cucumaria frondosa (Gunners, 1767) we found in the Lithothamnion samples is really cool! I have been working with sea cucumbers in Thailand and in Denmark for some time now, but usually the specimens I deal with are much larger!!!



Photo: Peter Funch


Peter Funch (Aarhus University): 

The penis worm Priapulus caudatus from the mud outside the habour of Qeqertarsuaq (Godhavn), Greenland, was one of the best finds of this course for me. Together with my students in Aarhus I investigate symbiotic bacteria that live in the gut of these creatures.


Peter Kohnert (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich):

Photo: P Kohnert I do my PhD on the evolution and phylogeny of pteropods, my main interest is the sampling of specimens of Limacina helicina and its predator Clione limacina (see picture), generally known as “sea angel”. Besides that I enjoy exploring the diversity of arctic gastropods in general.

Photo: A Altenburger


Maria Perpétua Scarlet (Gothenburg University): 

The small (10-13 length), fragile bivalve shells of the species Ennucula tenuis, are beautiful, olive-yellowish or brown in color outside and nacreous inside; tho specimen was dredged at 50 m depth on mud of Eqalunguit, Disko Fjord.



Sandra Lage (Stockholm University):  

Photo: S Lage

Ceratium fusus found in the surroundings of Disko Island, is my favorite organism of the day. You can find them everywhere, from Tropics to the Arctic, the marine and fresh waters teem with life; a so tiny…microscopic life that ultimately all trophic chains depends on. While most of these species of phytoplankton and cyanobacteria are harmless, there are a few that create potent toxins given the right conditions, and this are the ones that I have been always fascinated about.


Edited by: Sandra Lage (Stockholm University) and Christiane Todt (University Museum of Bergen)

Photo: AH Tandberg

Let’s go to the beach! (Or: Sieve this and sort that!)

What are the most unpopular activities for marine biologists working with fauna from the sediments? Yes, SIEVING! And then SORTING all the samples! What a “painful” moment you can experience, although not as “painful” when you have running sea water to sieve the samples. But, if you don’t, you´re going to have a sore back for the next day or two.

Photo: AH TandbergHere is the tip if you for any reason find yourself at the Arctic Station with a 50 liters tub of soft mud sediment from Disko Island, and you don´t have any running seawater on the laboratory to use. On the most beautiful sunny day go in your best mood ever and with your cheerful colleges to the beach just in front of the station and bring a set of sieves, buckets, plastic cups and tweezers. Oh, and of course, remember to carry the tub of mud with you! This is what we did and it worked! In less than some hours the work was done.

By pouring a portion of mud on the set of sieves and adding sea water with the buckets we started our great sieving and sorting on this great sunny day. To better wash the different fractions of the samples collected on the set of sieves, we separated them and washed each sieve directly into the sea with the waves giving a hand. We repeated the process until all the mud was sieved.

Photo: AH Tandberg

Daniela, Anne-Helene, Henning, and Perpétua enjoying sieving and sorting of samples

Then… the sorting. We started to sort the faction collected on the 4mm mesh size sieve directly at the beach looking carefully at each shell, kelp remains and stones for anything that moved, placing the different animal groups on the plastic cups full of seawater. Completing this process and with our fingers numbed by the cold water and feeling something resembling a sore back, we packed all our stuff, not forgetting the sieves with the smaller fractions of the sample.

Photo: AH Tandberg

Henning chilling out


Before leaving to the lab to take care the rest of the samples, we enjoyed some minutes at the beach chilling out, stretching our backs and warming up.

Photo: AH Tandberg

What a great morning!

Written by: Daniela and Perpétua (Gothenburg University) and Henning (University of Bergen)

Featured image: Perpétua, Daniela and Henning on the beach

Photo: P Kohnert

Plankton People

Finally!!!!!! Today was the day for the plankton folk to rule the Porsild, and boy did we rule! We set off at the crack of dawn (or around 8 am…). To our surprise breakfast was waiting for us, despite the early hour. Thanks to the troopers Anne Helene and Perpetua, who got up at 6.15 to prepare that for us!

The group that headed out was Peter K., Sandra and Josefin, who were all on the hunt for plankton. But we also brought our super translator, Jakob, and Jeroen had the duty of assisting and entertaining.

At first the weather was looking promising. The sun was shining and the water was calm, however as soon as we came out onto open water the waves got significantly bigger. The mighty captain of Porsild decided that conditions were too rough for our planned destination, and so instead he took us to an alternative spot. As Peter had some specific criteria for catching his beloved pteropods (planktonic snails), we needed to find a spot were the depth was a minimum of approximately 200 m. As some pteropods migrate down during daytime to avoid predators, the plankton net needed to go down to ca. 150 m.

As Josefin had only recently learnt that the water hose on board collected its water from 3 m depth, her surface phytoplankton samples were extremely easy to obtain!!! She could simply put her Barbie-sized phytoplankton net under the hose and filter out the plankton.

Photo: J Sefbom

Sandra and Josefin – happy plankton samplers

At the spot, the big zooplankton net was thrown over board and hauled at 150 m for a good while. Peter was full of joy and high hopes for his samples. The excitement was building up as the net surfaced, but…as it was pulled back on board the boat, Peter noticed that the collecting bottle attached to the bottom of the net had been smashed into pieces!!! Despite Peter hiding behind his sunglasses we could tell that the tears were building up. Jeroen stepped in and calmed him down by whispering comforting words in his ear. Søren, our boatman, then suddenly appeared from the cabin holding a big role of duct tape. We could all feel the hope beginning to return. Peter wiped away his tears and stepped into the cabin. He duct taped the life out of the small bottle, and back into the water it went. As always, third time is a charm, and Peter could finally retrieve his pteropods. Søren received a massive big hug from the overjoyed Peter. In the catch there were the expected two species, namely Limacina helicina and juveniles of its specific predator Clione limacina. Generally pteropods have attracted special interest being among the species that are considered to suffer most from increasing ocean acidification, but still little is known about their phylogeny and evolution…

Photo: J Sefbom

Sandra and Jeroen enjoying the sun between samples

Next up was Sandra. Sandra wanted to retrieve zooplankton samples from 25 m depth. Although our quick-mouthed and cheeky friend had been surprisingly quiet during the rough ride, it was now her time to shine. She quickly returned the zooplankton net into the water and gave strict instructions on the depth and length of the tow. As Josefin had buttered up the captain with pieces of chocolate, he was finally willing to follow the strict orders, marvellously translated by Jakob. In the end Sandra got the samples she needed without having any further problems.

Last but not least, Josefin needed to collect phytoplankton samples from 40 m depth. This was carried out with the help of diligent Søren and… a water sampler! The 60 litres of water that were collected, were then concentrated to a mere volume of 15 ml!!

On our way back to the harbour winds and waves had picked up. Since Jakob had almost accidently dropped Peter’s samples back into the ocean, Peter was now guarding his buckets of planktonic treasures. He set up camp with a minimum of 1 m radius, which no man was allowed to pass. Unfortunately he had forgotten to bring lids, so for the last minutes of the cruise he had to hold the buckets in his hands to prevent the content from being spilled over the deck.

Photo: J Sefbom

Peter and the Plankton

After 3 hours we arrived back at the harbor without any further incidents. All in all, the trip was extremely successful.

Written by: Josefin (Gothenburg University) and Peter (Bavarian State Collection of Zoology)

Featured image: Clione limacina – commonly known as ”Sea Angel” (photo: Peter Kohnert)

Photo: MM Nielsen

Trip to Disko Fjord

Waking up bright and early Monday morning we all eagerly awaited a call from the captain of Porsild on whether we would be able to go on our sampling trip to Disko Fjord or once again have to change our plans due to bad weather. The call came and like a child on Christmas morning our eyes glistened with hope.

Yes! We are going!

The weather was even good enough to take the small speedboat with us, so three brave guys dressed up in teletubby-like survival suits, which are one size that really fits no one.

Photo: MM Nielsen

Jeroen and Peter rock in the survival suits

We were told this little boat would be slightly faster than Porsild, and as we steamed out of the harbor doing approximately 5 knots it raced passed us at the speed of light with the mighty Johannes at the helm.

On the Porsild we were all taken by the beautiful scenery, large icebergs and steep cliffs that plunged into the sea made almost every moment a Kodak one. The sea was calm and not a single whale spotted so the trip was somehow uneventful in this matter.

For our speedboat crew the story however was quite the opposite. Having arrived hours ahead of Porsild, our brave boys decided to do some fishing. This resulted in them catching not one, not two, but six large cods which we later prepared for dinner with the only spices at our disposal, salt and beer.

Photo: J Egardt

Very happy boat crew

They also had a taste of the Inuit everyday life when a curious seal approached the boat. Quicker than any gunman in the wildest of the west, Johannes reached for his rifle and that seal is now swimming happily in the eternal seas.

At the arrival of Porsild we all met up for some sampling of blue mussels. Oddly enough, the only one of us who actually works with this organism was still at the Arctic Station having us do his dirty-work for him. What a clever Dane he is, that Jakob.

Photo: MM Nielsen    Photo: MM Nielsen

Sorting mussels

So, after replicating sampling grids and sorting and cleaning mussels until our fingers were the same temperature as the surrounding water we headed to a nearby village, population of 50.

Half of us were to spend the night on Porsild and the other half were camping on land and therefore had packed both warm sleeping bags and thermal mattresses. The “campsite” turned out to be a house where government officials stay while visiting the area so needless to say, our campers was not particularly uncomfortable in their palace with a panorama view of the fjord and surrounding mountains.

After a good night on board Porsild being gently rocked to sleep by the sea we woke up to the smell of fresh coffee ready for an exciting new day in Disko Fjord.

Photo: AH Tandberg

First on the agenda(after collecting our campers) was to go look for a radioactive hotspring, not to worry though, it was not radioactive enough to make us glow in the dark. Even for the crazy German Andreas who walked barefoot.

This spring is homeothermic and thus never freezes. This creates a very unique environment that allows species like orchid and Angelica to grow in an otherwise harsh environment. Rumor has it that the vikings used to smoke Angelica and further the Inuits have a tradition of using it for producing an alcoholic beverage.

Photo: J Egardt

Withered orchid – apparently they do not bloom in September…

So, armed with GPS-coordinates and survival suites very suitable for boat rides in the arctic (but definitely not for long walks) we were put to shore within a short walking distance from this elusive spring. Or so we thought.

Apparently our captain didn’t care much for those coordinates. This could either have been a miscommunication (none of us speak Inuit very well) or he just felt we needed some exercise (he was probably right considering the high amount of potatoes and gravy in our diet up here…), because we ended up walking up and down moss-covered hills for about one kilometer before reaching said spring.

Finally there, everybody was on their hands and knees taking pictures from all kind of weird angles of Angelica, gypsum fluorite precipitation on rocks and withered orchids. Surprisingly enough, the orchids were no longer flowering at this time a year – but what do a bunch of marine biologists know about that stuff anyway.

Photo: MM Nielsen   Photo: J Egardt

Photographing Angelica can be tricky                    Gypsum fluorite precipitation

Back on the boat we had a very quick cup of coffee and then off we went for the next agenda of the day, Lithothamnion sampling!

Lithothamnion are coralline red algae which creates either crusts on rocks or globular aggregations on the seafloor. These globular Lithothamnion were of particular interest due to their importance in creating unique habitats for meiofauna…

So tune in on our blog tomorrow for more exiting scientific facts about this topic.

Photo: MM Nielsen

Written by: Mette (Aarhus University) & Jenny (Gothenburg University)

Photo: AH Tandberg

Disko amphipod experiment

Saturday 14th of September, a day with a handful of events throughout history: Stephen V ends his reign as Catholic pope (891), The Netherlands and England sign a peace treaty (1662) and Walt Disney gets the Medal of Freedom at the White House (1964) to mention a few. Moving towards present day and we find scientist and researcher Anne Helene setting up her traps on an experiment to catch amphipods at the local harbor in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland.

Photo: AH Tandberg

The amphipod trap team: Daniela, Henning and Anne Helene

With a warming sun and clear sky in the back she is assisted by enthusiastic students Henning and Daniela heading towards the chosen localities for the traps. To understand this experiment a little better we need to go back in time to the happy 90’s.

In 1990 Yves Scailteur and Claude De Broyer examined feeding in amphipods at the Arctic Station, Greenland from July 25th to August 18th. In one of the experiments traps were laid between 80 and 180m depth to catch the temperature and light sensitive amphipod Anonyx makarovi, in another experiment they examined the scavenging amphipods that were present at shallower depths.

Drawing: G.O. Sars

A scavenging amphipod (Onesimus sp.) – what we hoped to find. Drawing by G.O.Sars, 1891

23 years later scientist Anne Helene decided to set up a similar experiment to study scavenging amphipods. She made three homemade amphipod traps consisting of plumber tubes, plankton net, horse clamps and funnels and the result looked like this.

Photo: AH Tandberg

Traps “armed” with fresh seal blubber.

Photo: AH Tandberg

Preparing the blubber – the smell was quite intense… 😉

So on a sunny Saturday afternoon Anne Helene, Daniela and Henning set out to place these infamous traps to gather some amphipods for further examination. For bait the traps were fitted with fresh seal blubber straight from the fish market and a nice good chunk was put in to keep the amphipods well fed. There were chosen two localities for the experiment, the royal dock (actually just a floating dock with a bridge) by the museum of Qeqertarsuaq and at the harbor next to the research vessels docking point. The traps were hung with a solid rope roughly 2m down into the water with different colors to differentiate the two locations when collected; blue rope would indicate the dock and white would be the harbor.

Photo: AH Tandberg    Photo: AH Tandberg

Site 1: “The Royal Dock”                                        Site2: The harbor.

After 24 hours of exposure in the different sites, on a windy Sunday afternoon the three characters went to collect the traps, and to their relief they were still there! The traps were collected and on their way back to the Arctic Station they spotted a sunken ship, sledge dogs and friendly people greeting us as we passed by.

Photo: AH Tandberg

Retrieving the traps

So what was the outcome? Not a single amphipod…. Why? They really don’t know. It could be a number of factors from leaving them for a too short amount of time to feeding the scavenging munchkins something other than delicious seal fat. But wait! The traps weren’t completely empty! There were a couple of polychaetes  (Phyllodoce maculata) gathered around in one of them that seemed to be fascinated by the blubber and the blood. And even if the plan wasn’t to catch polychaetes, a failed attempt doesn’t have to mean that the findings don’t matter. In science we don’t discriminate!

Photo: AH Tandberg    Photo: AH Tandberg

The sampling result: a bucket of worms                  Empty seal blubber pieces and clean net


Photo: AH Tandberg

Our sampled species: Phyllodoce maculata (Linnaeus, 1767) with seal blood in the gut.

Written by: Henning (University of Bergen) and the girls (Daniela (Gothenburg University) and Anne Helene (Institute of Marine Research))

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Sampling with Porsild

Porsild is the research vessel of Arctic Station and our workplace when we go out for collecting samples. 

It’s a 15m long and 5m wide vessel that can transport 12 passengers and three crew members during daytrips. Eight people can stay over-night on board.

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Porsild in the harbor of Qeqertarsuaq

Prior to sampling we plan which stations we are going to visit and which sampling gear will be needed. This has to be done with care as space on the ship is limited so we only want to take equipment that is absolutely necessary.

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Packing of gear from a small boat to Porsild

In order to get an overview over the marine biodiversity around Disko Island, Porsild takes us to places such as Disko Fjord and deeper waters south of Qeqertarsuaq.

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Porsild in Disko Fjord

On board we use several sampling tools and two winches. The larger winch has a 400m wire and a lifting capacity of two tons. The smaller winch has a wire length of 800m and is mainly used for lighter sampling such as with the plankton net.

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

The plankton net is prepared for a tow in deep water

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Content of the triangular dredge is examined

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Examination of specimens on board

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Sieving of mud samples on board

Photo: Andreas Altenburger

Relaxing on board on the way home after all sampling work is done

Written by: Andreas (Natural History Museum, Denmark)




Photo: J Brijs

A day at the Arctic Station

Woke up bright and early on day 6 of the ForBio Marine Course in Disko Island, Greenland to the beautiful sight of blue skies and the sun reflecting off the icebergs in the bay.  After a delicious breakfast the group divided up to tackle multiple tasks, which included activities such as sorting samples gathered on the Porsild trip, identifying multitudes of exciting species and a trip to an intertidal area outside the village.  After weaving our way past bands of fearsome sledge dogs aka ‘wolves’, the band of intertidal researchers arrived in a premium location for investigating life in the rocky pools, blue mussel communities and macroalgae. To observe macroalgae communities, a brave (and slightly crazy) Danish researcher (Mette Möller Nielsen) snorkeled around the coast in water with a temperature of around 3°C with icebergs as her companions.  As a safety precaution a rope was attached to her and held by a shore person, this technique was later dubbed as ‘orca fishing’ as she closely resembled a seal in her wetsuit, fortunately for her no orcas were sighted. The blue mussel expert present (Jakob Thyrring) was jubilant as the area had thousands of blue mussel specimens, which will be important for his research on understanding climatic changes in Greenland. Meanwhile, another enthusiastic researcher (Peter Kohnert) had discovered a ‘gold-mine’ of nudibranchs which will probably take the better part of the rest of the decade to identify…..but he was excited nonetheless. Once sampling had finished we enjoyed a slice of frozen bread with herring and a hot steamy cup of coffee in the sunshine whilst enjoying the beautiful views.

Photo: J Brijs    Photo: J Brijs

“Orca-fishing” with human bait…                            Sampling phytoplankton from the shore.


In the afternoon more identification of amazing arctic species ensued and terms such as chaetae, papillae, dactylus, subchela and rostrum were thrown around with abandon interrupted by the occasional cheer once someone had successfully identified one of the many cryptic species.  A small party attempted to catch some arctic fish species and phytoplankton at an amazing location dominated by large cliffs, icebergs, the occasional whale and beautiful tundra-like vegetation. Unfortunately the level of expertise in the fishing department was not quite up to scratch resulting in a catch of one piece of seaweed and little else, luckily we are here for at least another two weeks and can work on our techniques.  The phytoplankton scientists had more success, getting a large haul of the microscopic organisms.  Satisfied with our sampling success for the day we headed back to enjoy a delicious meal of local lamb and exciting presentations given by members of the team.

Photo: J Brijs

Pete enjoying his frozen sandwich


Till tomorrow,

Photo: J Brijs

Jeroen Brijs (Gothenburg University) and Jakob Thyrring (Aarhus University)

Photo: MH Eilertsen

First day of sampling at Disko Island (Qeqertarsuaq)

The first day of sampling did not go exactly as planned, which is more the rule than the exception when it comes to marine sampling.

Photo: MH Eilertsen

The hardships of sampling -not every day comes with calm seas and bright sunshine

Due to bad weather and some technical issues with the boat it was not safe to go as far out to sea as we wanted to, but instead we stayed near the harbor in Qeqertarsuaq and took samples there. With the triangular dredge we got some macroalgae (kelps), including one beautiful species with circular holes in the leaves. This alga is a common species here, but it was new for most of the students attending the course. The roots of the kelp are a habitat for many small animals, which we picked out by hand when we got back to the lab. We also sampled mud with associated fauna, most of which was sieved on deck to wash out the animals. Some of the mud however was taken back to the lab undisturbed to look for meiofauna, small fragile species that would be crushed or lost in the sieving process. In addition to the benthic sampling we took plankton samples with a plankton-net that was dropped down to approximately 25 meters and pulled slowly back to the surface. This turned out to be not very successful probably due to high seas and small manoevering space.

Photo: MH Eilertsen   Photo: MH Eilertsen

Mette shows the “holey” kelp.                                  Seaweedy and muddy catch. 


Photo: MH Eilertsen

Samples on deck!

The most abundant animal groups in the benthic samples this day were polychaetes (bristle worms) and amphipods (crustaceans). When we started looking at the samples under the dissection microscope the diversity of polychaete families and species were much higher than expected, and to begin with nearly every new specimen represented a new family. It was, however, very challenging to identify the polychaetes to species for many groups, because the literature and keys that are available usually only include European or Scandinavian species, but with a combination of keying and googling for local Greenlandic fauna we managed to identify a large proportion of the material.



The student group is very varied, with PhD students in fields ranging from neurotoxins and fish physiology to population dynamics and meiofaunal taxonomy. Although everyone has their own little project during the course, we all chip in with the general identification work and compiling species lists of the collected material. Even our fish physiologist, Jeroen, got to identify some polychaetes, and he was fascinated to see that what only looks like small, boring worms to the naked eye are in fact beautiful creatures when you get them under the microscope.

Photo: MH Eilertsen

Making friends – there are sledge dogs everywhere!

Written by Mari (University of Bergen) and Inga (Stockholm University)