Success stories | Assemble+

Success stories

The core of the ASSEMBLE Plus project is provision of on-site and remote access to research services offered by our access providers.
Learn from our success stories how we were able to help researchers via our Transnational Access programme!
 

Investigating the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on benthic sedimentary marine carbon stores
Access provider: Tvärminne Zoological Station, Finland (TZS)


Kirsty Eleanor Black
University of St Andrews (Scotland)

I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus to gain access to experimental aquaria facilities at the Tvärminne Zoological Station to carry out a 21-day time series experiment assessing the impacts of massive sediment resuspension effects on particulate and dissolved organic carbon. Sedimentary stores of carbon represent an extremely important yet poorly quantified part of global natural capital due to their ability to store and “lock away” carbon which would otherwise contribute towards greenhouse gas emissions. However, the stability and resilience of these sedimentary carbon stores under increasing anthropogenic pressures (e.g. benthic trawling) is poorly understood.

The aim of my research at TZS was to examine and quantify the potential impacts of benthic disturbance on sedimentary marine carbon stores.

Without the support from ASSEMBLE Plus this research for my PhD thesis would not have been possible. I would like to thank the staff at TZS for making my visit to Finland so welcoming and memorable.

Seabird Ecology, Marine Renewable Energy Installations, Hydrodynamics, Environmental Impacts
Access provider: Institute of Marine Research (IMAR)


James Waggitt
Bangor University
(United Kingdom)

I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus because I wanted to expand my research on coastal seabird communities into different regions, testing for consistencies in animal behaviour and habitat-use. In particular, I wanted to see whether animals repeatedly used similar hydrodynamic and bathymetric features. If they used different features, I wanted to explore what caused these differences. This information can reduce impacts on seabird communities from hard infrastructure including Marine Renewable Energy Installations.

The fieldwork performed in the ASSEMBLE Plus scheme not only answered my original questions, but also facilitated a new line of questions. This new line of questioning has led to ongoing collaborations with people I have met during my access, and the development of larger research proposals. The experience done during my TA project have been invaluable in progressing my career: I am investigating topics I would not have considered before, and I am building a network of contacts and study sites across Europe.

Exploring metabolism patterns of benthic habitats using eddy covariance fluxes and seabed imaging techniques
Access providers: Tritonia Scientific Ltd. (TSL) and Scottish Association for Marine Sciences (SAMS )


Karl Attard
University of Southern Denmark 
(Denmark)

I applied for access to Tritonia Scientific Limited (TSL) and to the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences (SAMS) near Oban in Scotland. TSL are experts in photogrammetry, which is a technique that allows mapping an area of the seafloor (typically ~100 m2) with high mm-scale resolution. In my project, I proposed to try to link seafloor biodiversity measurements obtained using photogrammetry to habitat metabolism dynamics measured in situ using aquatic eddy covariance, the latter being my area of expertise.

We had a great couple of weeks researching a mussel reef nearby SAMS and TSL, and we are currently working up our data for publication. The experience was overall very positive.

ASSEMBLE Plus fills an important void within the funding sphere by allowing young scientists such as myself to pursue interesting side-projects and initiate collaborations that would otherwise be impossible due to funding constraints.

Invasive and cryptic ascidians: discovery and integrative taxonomy
Access providers: Station Biologique de Roscoff (SBR), Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI), and Hellenic Centre of Marine Research (HCMR


Federica Montesanto
University of Bari
(Italy)

I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus to collect ascidians species from the marine environment of three access providers: SBR, IUI and HCMR. Ascidians are one of the main component of biofouling: when introduced, they can rapidly grow and become invasive. My goal is the early identification of non-indigenous species, as well as the identification of possible species complex/cryptic/new species, through an integrated taxonomy approach, since exact specific identification is the major difficulty in ascidians studies.

Thanks to ASSEMBLE Plus I had the opportunity to find and collect several non-indigenous species from all the access providers and this amazing experience gave me the opportunity to obtain a huge quantity of data that I will analyse during my PhD. And more to the point, all the different local team of researchers were incredibly supportive, playing a fundamental role in the success of the project!

Ecological impact assessments of salmon aquaculture using eDNA metabarcoding: distinguishing natural community variation from organic enrichment effects
Access provider: Scottish Association for Marine Sciences (SAMS)


Thorsten Stoeck
Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (Germany)

ASSEMBLE Plus provides an excellent opportunity that enables “land-locked” research facilities to conduct marine research. ASSEMBLE Plus also offers top marine research facilities with breathtaking infrastructure useful for my project: the institute SAMS gives access to a field site I am deeply interested in: an open-water based coastal finfish cage farm.

One of my research topics is to obtain a deeper understanding of the ecology of benthic microbial communities around fish farms. Microbes react very sensitively to environmental stressors so they can be used to identify bioindicators to assess the effect of aquaculture disturbances on the benthic environment. This can help to guide an informed farm management and support environmental compliance monitoring. SAMS was an ideal choice for my project not only for its infrastructure and research possibilities: the staff has been very supportive, organizing everything perfectly and leaving no wishes open!

During my stay at SAMS I have also met colleagues with similar research interests, with whom I established a sustainable and fruitful collaboration. Overall, a very valuable and pleasant experience and scientifically very fruitful.

Tropicalization of marine forest in North-Western Iberia: from kelp forest to algal turf assemblages
Access provider: Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR)


Cristina Piñeiro-Corbeira
University of A Coruña (Spain)

In our project, we study the loss of kelp forest and their replacement by algal turfs. Although there are evidences of this seascape changes worldwide, in NW Iberia have not been studied yet. NW Iberia coastlines are the southern distributional range of some kelp species, and to know if kelps are disappearing from sites where were present before is very useful.

ASSEMBLE Plus offered me the opportunity to go to CIIMAR in Porto and collaborate with researchers with high experience in the study of kelp forests in this region. My stay at CIIMAR was very fruitful and useful thanks to the organization, hospitality and experience in studies of the marine environment of CIIMAR researchers.

CIIMAR has the necessary infrastructure and equipment to carry out any work in the marine environment, and qualified staff to help you in both laboratory and fieldwork.

Niche to Ecozone- Network Analysis of Benthic Structures Through Advanced 3D Photogrammetry
Access provider: Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (NIOZ-CNSI)


Matan Yuval
University of Haifa
(Israel)

The core aim of my research is automated analysis of the benthos. Utilizing photogrammetry, I study sessile organisms along depth gradients. In Israel, we have access to the Red Sea as well as the eastern Mediterranean.

I applied for access in the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) in St. Eustatius to complement our local results with data from a dissimilar region. The main benefit obtained was the opportunity to practice our workflow in a different region. The main challenges encountered were related to the difference in sea conditions and benthic assemblage. For example, fan-corals in surge fail to reconstruct coherently in image-based 3D models. In ten days, we carried out over 25 scientific dives, much obliged to the kind support from the CNSI team and M. Doherty.

We mapped sections of the natural and artificial reefs around the island, and developed ideas and connections. The 3D map-models can be viewed online at https://skfb.ly/6KTp6

Assessing how adaptation and acclimatization influence the skeletal morphology of corals along a depth gradient in the Red Sea
Access provider: Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI)

 

Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (Bermuda)

I am a coral reef ecologist and evolutionary biologist focusing on mesophotic coral ecosystems. In 2016, I had to pleasure of meeting Dr. Tali Mass at a conference. Our mutual research interests and goals, as well as a focus on northerly reef systems, me in Bermuda and Dr. Mass in Eilat, led to the conception of a comparative study. To initiate this new project, we sought funding from the ASSEMBLE Plus, which enabled me to travel to Israel and complete field work at the IUI in Eilat. Our research seeks to elucidate the various roles of phenotypic plasticity compared to evolutionary adaptation in structuring coral morphology along a depth gradient.

In Eilat, we examined the morphology and gene expression of early life stage corals ranging from 5m to 45m depths. From these experiments, we hope to gain insights to the resilience of corals to changing environmental conditions and the potential of deep reefs to serve as a refuge for coral health.

Our initial research, facilitated by the ASSEMBLE Plus, proved extremely successful and has resulted in a manuscript currently under review for publication and continued collaboration.

Assessment of amoeboid protists in a planktonic community of the Bay of Villefranche
Access provider: Institut de la Mer de Villefranche (IMEV)


Alexander Kudryavtsev & Ekaterina Volkova
Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia)

I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus Transnational Access program to addresses the questions of taxonomy and phylogenetic relationships of the naked lobose amoebae (Amoebozoa), and to analyze patterns of their geographic distribution and species problem.

We chose IMEV, because at this stage of our research we decided to focus on marine planktonic members of the group that hardly ever got close attention as amoebae are mostly considered to be benthic microorganisms. IMEV has a unique location for this purpose that offers a convenient access to marine planktonic communities at the depths down to >200 m where samples could be collected on a daily basis.

The efforts were rewarded by isolation of so far about 30 living strains of marine gymnamoebae mostly representing new species, and re-isolation of some extremely rare unique species of amoebae known since a long time, with the chance to re-investigate them using new tools.

Mechanisms governing the distribution of protistan plankton communities along salinity gradients in the Baltic Sea
Access provider: Husö Biological Station (HBS)

 

Sabine Filker
University of Kaiserslautern (Germany)

My group’s research interest is on the identification of mechanisms that govern the distribution patterns of microeukaryotes along salinity gradients. This knowledge is important to understand the processes that create and maintain biodiversity, and the function and dynamics of ecosystems. Previously, we revealed salinity-specific transition boundaries, which by certain groups of microeukaryotes cannot be crossed. In order to answer the resulting research questions,

I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus to obtain access to Husö Biological Station (HBS) on Aland. We were able to collect important samples from coastal brackish water of the Baltic Sea and also conduct controlled micro/mesocosm experiments to study freshwater-marine transition adaptations at community level.

My experience with ASSEMBLE Plus and the staff of HBS was just excellent. HBS is perfectly equipped for field and mesocosm experiments, with incredibly friendly and supportive staff. I am very grateful for the many advice they provided regarding sampling locations on the island to accomplish our field work.

Assessment of the effect of microplastics in Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) in Northern Adriatic
Access provider: National Institute of Biology (NIB)

 

Stoimir Kolarevic
& Margareta Kračun

University of Belgrade
(Serbia)

I have applied for Transnational Access (TA) in the Marine Biology Station in Piran together with my colleague Dr Margareta Kračun-Kolarević. We were interested in moving the knowledge gained in freshwater ecosystem research to marine ecosystems. The major objective of our project was studying of the effects of microplastics and adsorbed pollutants on Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) as sentinel species. Their effect was measured under ecological relevant scenario for the Northern Adriatic, simulated in the controlled experimental conditions. The focus was placed on DNA damage as an endpoint of specific interest in indicated scenario.

Research started within the TA was a milestone for further cooperation. Currently our institutions are preparing joint project within the call for the projects for bilateral cooperation of republics Serbia and Slovenia.

Visiting Marine Biology Station in Piran was outstanding experience. We had wonderful hosts in the Station providing everything we needed for high quality research. We would strongly recommend Marine Biology Station to future TA users.

Distribution patterns and ecology of (invasive) benthic foraminifera in shallow-water habitats of Crete
Access provider: National Institute of Biology (HCMR-IMBBC)

 

Annekatrin Enge
University of Vienna (Austria)

I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus to get access to marine ecosystems of Crete and to experimental facilities at HCRM to be able to collect benthic foraminifera and study their ecology under laboratory conditions.

The aim of my project is to study benthic foraminiferal communities in coastal habitats of Crete and to document the presence and distribution of species that have not been reported for Crete before. The ongoing rise in water temperature and the opening of the Suez Canal make it possible for warm-water species to occur in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which can lead to changes in community structures and biodiversity. With ASSEMBLE Plus I was able to obtain samples from a variety of marine habitats around Crete and to successfully run experiments with the desired species.

I would like to thank the scientific divers, researchers and staff at HCMR for their support and to make my stay a great experience.

 

Characterization of the epizoic microbiota of the Mediterranean sea turtles
Access provider: Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (SZN)

 

Suncica Bosak
Faculty of Science,
University of Zagreb
(Croatia)

In our research project we are studying the microbiota, the bacteria and microeukaryotes that reside on the skins, carapaces and within the body of loggerhead sea turtles living in different areas of the Mediterranean Sea. I have applied to the ASSEMBLE Plus project together with my PhD student Klara Filek to visit sea turtles that are rehabilitated in the Centro Ricerche Tartarughe Marine, a part of Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn as SZN is the only institution within the consortium that provides access to these endangered marine animals.

Characterization of epizoic microbiota of loggerheads is of importance for these animals as it can provide the insight to the many aspects of the sea turtle biology including their habitat use or signal the anthropogenic impact on the marine environments. Furthermore, the changes in micro-epizoic biofilms of sea turtles kept in captivity from those in wild animals could serve as an important indication of the animal health.

Our hosts at SZN were very friendly and supportive, as well as the people in the laboratories and administrative support that we received in SZN central building. Overall, a very positive and successful experience!


 

Assessing impact of bottom trawl fishing and oxygen depletion on benthic invertebrates
Access provider: Gdańsk University, Poland (UG-IO)


Daniel van Denderen
Danish Technical University
(Denmark)

"I have applied to ASSEMBLE Plus with my colleague Jan Geert Hiddink (Bangor University) to access the research vessel "Oceanograf" of the Gdańsk University (UG-IO) in Poland and to carry out fieldwork in Polish waters, which are affected by bottom trawling and hypoxia.

These are globally important pressures that affect marine benthic habitats and benthos, animals such as worms and shellfish that live on or in the seafloor. To understand interactions between trawling disturbance and hypoxia on benthos.

Without ASSEMBLE Plus access this project and forthcoming publications could not have happened. Our experience with the ASSEMBLE Plus program was highly positive. We thank the host from Gdańsk University and the crew from the research vessel for their great support, making it both a pleasant and very valuable research expedition"


 

Molecules meet fossils – an integrated approach to studying palaeodiversity 
Access provider: Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland (IOPAN)


Andrea Waeschenbach
Natural History Museum
(United Kingdom)

"In our project we are studying the patterns and processes of diversification in the marine realm over the last 160 million years, using bryozoans as exemplar group. In our work we analyse fossil and molecular data simultaneously in an attempt to disentangle the effects of key innovations and abiotic factors on diversification fluctuations.

ASSEMBLE Plus offered me the opportunity to join the research vessel Oceania at IOPAN (Poland) during the Svalbard Archipelago cruise to collect bryozoans for DNA sequencing. Many of the species collected occur exclusively in Arctic waters, enabling us to incorporate rare species into our molecular phylogenetic framework.

My experience aboard the research vessel Oceania was outstanding. Our host dr. Piotr Kuklinski provided great expertise in collecting and identifying Arctic bryozoans, took care of all the logistics and provided all necessary equipment and chemicals. Furthermore, the onboard scientific facilities and living quarters were excellent and the food was delicious. Overall, a well-organised and successful trip!"


 

Establishment of cell fates in the early branching annelid Owenia fusiformis
Access provider: Station Biologique de Roscoff, France (SBR)


Chema Martin
Queen Mary University
of London (United Kingdom)

"I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus to get remote access to the segmented worm Owenia fusiformis, a marine species that inhabits the costs near the Station Biologique de Roscoff (SBR) in France. Over the last years, I have established this marine worm as a research system in evolutionary developmental biology to understand the origins of segmented (annelid) worms, one of the most diverse animal groups on Earth.

The ASSEMBLE Plus program allows me to study the same natural population of Owenia fusiformis over the years, thus assuring a more or less constant genetic diversity in our studies.

Thanks to the remote access provided by ASSEMBLE Plus, my lab has collected samples to investigate how this fascinating marine worm reproduces and develops. Overall, the experience and interaction with the people in charge of ASSEMBLE Plus has been fantastic, always willing to help and make the most out of my research project."


 

Ichthyoplankton biodiversity on the Atlantic seamount condor using DNA metabarcoding
Access provider: Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Italy (SZN)


Diana Catarino
University of the Azores
(Portugal)

"I applied to the Transnational Access program of ASSEMBLE Plus when I was on the verge of completing my PhD in population genetics and I wanted to explore other research fields as metagenetics.

ASSEMBLE Plus gave me the opportunity to access to cutting edge HTS sequencing platforms not present in my institute but available at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples (SZN) in Italy. My project focused on the ichthyoplankton biodiversity on an Atlantic seamount using DNA metabarcoding, and the main goals were to create an inventory of the ichthyoplankton for the region using DNA metabarcoding and compare the efficiency of this genetic approach with traditional methods.

The project ends up being very successful with more than 5 million sequences generated from the ichthyoplankton samples used, and to be analyzed throughout my postdoc. Publications are now being prepared in collaboration with SZN researchers. The use of the facilities together with the expertise and advice from the local team of researchers were key factors in improving the likelihood of success of this project."


 

Shedding light on the reproductive strategies of Antipathella subpinnata 
Access provider: Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls sur mer, France (OOB)


Martina Coppari 
University of Genoa
(Italy)

"The main topic of my research is the ecology and biology of black coral species. A huge knowledge gap exists about the reproductive biology of these species and their larval ecology. With the aim to shedding light on these aspects, and considering the impossibility to perform such studies in my home institution, I applied to the ASSEMBLE Plus project in order to collaborate with larval ecology and corals experts.

I collected several colonies of the most emblematic black coral species of the Mediterranean Sea Antipathella subpinnata to highlight different aspects of its reproductive behavior. Thanks to the ASSEMBLE Plus project I had the possibility to use the aquarium facilities of the Oceanographic Observatory of Banyuls-sur-Mer (OOB), which set up an experimental tank to host the coral colonies and to perform experiments and observations. During my stay at OOB I could describe qualitatively and quantitatively an asexual reproductive strategy, the bail-out, already know to occur in black coral species but never described in Antipathella subpinnata.

My experience as an ASSEMBLE Plus user was extremely positive and crucial to perform these studies."


 

Structure and rates of energy fluxes in the plankton assemblages of the Gullmar fjord
Access provider: Kristineberg Marine Research Station, Sweden (KMRS)


Danilo Calliari 
Universidad de la Republica
(Uruguay)

"The mechanisms that modulate the fluxes of energy and organic matter in the marine pelagic ecosystem constitute one central topic of interest in our investigations. The microzooplankton is a ubiquitous group of (mostly) unicellular protozoans which are thought to constitute the main grazers of marine primary production. Those are also very delicate organisms, and experimental research on their ecology requires carefully controlled conditions.

We applied to ASSEMBLE Plus in order to access laboratories and equipments at Kristineberg Marine Research Station (Sweden) where infrastructure for experimental research on marine organisms and ecosystems is nearly ideal. During one month we developed a series of experiments which provide clear evidence on density-dependent grazing rates by the natural microzoplankton community of the Gullmar Fjord.

It was an overall great experience, where we managed to obtain valuable results on a short time under a very pleasant working environment.

Outcomes of the research activity performed within the Transnational access are and will be Open Access and have already been published in the ASSEMBLE Plus Open Repository, here!

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