Masters project, Gullmar Fjord, Sweden

Long before the time came to choose a project for my Masters of Research, I had my heart set on learning more about ocean acidification. I was aware of the basic biogeochemistry involved but I wanted to deepen my working knowledge of this contemporary topic. I approached Professor Eric Achterberg, who was at University of Southampton at the time, to discuss potential projects. It just so happens he offered me a very exciting opportunity I couldn’t turn down. The organisms in question were far from my beloved tropical corals but I knew the skills would be transferable.

Sven Loven Centre, Sweden. Photo - J. Bellworthy

Sven Loven Centre, Sweden. Photo – J. Bellworthy

In March of 2013 I joined GEOMAR’s KOSMOS project team at the Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Infrastructure in Kristineberg, Sweden. Ten KOSMOS (Kiel Off- Shore Mesocosms for Oceanographic Studies) had been moored in the adjacent Gullmar Fjord; half bubbled with CO2 to ca. 800 ppm and the remaining half left as an ambient control. Our international team of more than 70 scientists and technicians led by Professor Ulf Riebesell proceeded to conduct the longest in situ ocean acidifcation study up to that date, more than 100 days sampling. Importantly, this period encompassed a naturally occurring primary and secondary spring bloom. The overview paper, on which I am a co-author, is published in PLOS ONE and can be accessed here.

Individually I completed my masters research on the temporal change in the heme b protein abundance within the KOSMOS. Heme b is an essential iron containing protein to all living organisms with roles in photosynthesis, enzyme transport, and respiration to name a few. My paper is the first to report heme b concentration in iron rich waters, in addition to being the first to report the temporal trend in heme b over the course of a spring bloom, and under ocean adification conditions. The manuscript is now in review.

I was also responsible for the sampling and analysis of the nutrient concentrations. In addition I regularly assisted with water sampling for other core parameters, boat skippering, radio communications, and mesocosm maintenance.

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Despite the often stunning, ice-crisp, sunny mornings at Kristineberg, the project was not without it’s hiccups, including an initial catastrophic change in the local physical oceanography which required a complete restart. I learnt the value of persistent hard work, even under the most challenging conditions (snow storm at -10°C), and the rewards that can, or potentially not, result. I continue to strive for efficiency and effective communication within my everyday work; all values I have taken from this expedition.

This experience dramatically and rapidly increased my lab and experimental abilities, gave me my first taste of the importance of communicating science to the media, heightened my desire to work in interdisciplinary, international teams, and left me with lifelong memories and friends. I will be forever grateful to my project supervisors Eric and Dr. Martha Gledhill and P.I. Ulf for giving me this opportunity.