How can we gain a better grasp of the opportunities and threats for the changing seas? In the months ahead, UvA researchers and students will join the national multidisciplinary expedition Netherlands Initiative Changing Oceans (NICO) to better equip the Netherlands in this regard.
Over the next seven months, nearly 130 scientists aboard the RV Pelagia – the research ship of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) – to study the changing oceans in various locations, including the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Biscay. The RV Pelagia will depart from Texel in mid-December.
NICO is a special expedition, since academics from all possible disciplines were able to submit research proposals. The NICO programme has been compiled from a total of 42 proposals by universities, research institutes and organisations. Its topics are diverse: from foraminifera (microscopic marine animals) to sea snails, from viruses to coral reefs and from migratory birds to whales.
The full expedition will consist of twelve stages, ranging in duration from a few days to several weeks. From the home port of Texel – where the NIOZ is based – the ship will sail south to Gran Canaria, then cross over to Curaçao and Sint Maarten before heading back via Ireland. Several researchers from the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) will join stages of the expedition to carry out research.
Corina Brussaard also coordinates the participation of Master's students (so-called NICOs) on the Pelagia. The students will sample a number of fixed variables during the entire expedition. This way they gain valuable experience with activities related to an ocean expedition such as NICO. 'We aim to train the next generation of oceanographers on board,' says Corina Brussaard.
'It is very special to work on a research ship because it offers so many unique possibilities do research. With measuring equipment, videos and water and soil samples we get a better picture of what is present at the greater depths,' says Petra Visser, expedition leader of stage 3 in the Caribbean. 'For the first time the deeper situated reefs, so-called mesophotic reefs (depths> 30 m), will be investigated around Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba.'