By Mara Gomes, MARE FCiencias, University of Lisbon (Portugal) |
Marine phytoplankton, the floating microalgae of our oceans, plays an important role in the Earth system. On one hand they are the main primary producers in our oceans and on the other hand critically influencing the biogeochemical fluxes in the marine environment. This pivotal role of phytoplankton and its value as a highly sensitive ecological indicator makes its study a key approach for evaluation of the status and changes of marine ecosystems, and to understand its influence in the pace of climate change. At MARE FCiencias, University of Lisbon (Portugal), phytoplankton ecology and dynamics have been studied by the Marine Botany Group, where I have been working for the last year. In the scope of the EU twinning program PORTWIMS, MARE-FCiencais cooperates with the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI, Germany) and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK). In the scope of this project, I had the opportunity to be trained at AWI on phytooptics data acquisition with the aim to further combine it with approaches used in my home laboratory.
On the South North Atlantic Transect (SoNoAT) of R/V Polarstern, I am responsible for teaching phytoplankton topics within the biology and microplastics module of the POGO (Partnership for the Observation of the Global Ocean) floating summer school. Its focus is to give the opportunity to POGO scholars from all over the world to join a marine sciences expedition providing hands-on onboard research and laboratory training. Thus, throughout the expedition course, different approaches were applied for the study of marine microalgae along different oceanic regions. Water samples from discrete depths were collected using the CTD rosette (see previous blog post) for further pigment analyses, phytoplankton cell abundances, and species identification. High-resolution bio-optical measurements were made continuously during the cruise track, complementing the traditional sampling methods and providing large datasets of our biological environment. These datasets are of immense importance for validating remote sensing products. The multidisciplinary nature of this summer school further allows combining the data acquired in my module with atmosphere and other ocean data (e.g. oceanographic and remote sensing related) from the remote sensing module allowing a holistic assessment of the Atlantic Ocean.
The teaching experience on R/V Polarstern has been by far the one from which I learned the most, not only scientifically but from a social perspective. The participation of experts in different science and technology fields and curious young scientists was made this expedition a life-changing experience, both for teachers and students, and especially for me! Motivated by the same need to protect our blue planet, we will never stop exploring the oceans.