Trip to Frøya with Marine Biodiversity

The sea makes up 71% of the Earth’s area, and the biodiversity of marine ecosystems is far greater than in terrestrial ones. I got to experience this last week during an excursion to Frøya with the subject Marine Biodiversity, a 3rd year class for marine biology students at NTNU.

Angler (Lophius piscatorius)

Angler (Lophius piscatorius)

Monday morning, R/V Gunnerus, NTNU’s research vessel, took us to the small and beautiful island Frøya, west of the entrance to Trondheimsfjorden. We were 15 students, our lecturers Geir Johnsen and Torkild Bakken and the Gunnerus crew. The boat trip took around six hours, and on the way we harvested plankton; both zooplankton at 500 meters depth, and phytoplankton at the water surface. Already at this point, just looking at these small organisms, we noticed the big range in different kinds of species. Plankton comes in all shapes - some quite cool and interesting-looking - and sizes, from less than 20 micrometers to more than 2000.

Shagreen ray discovery!

On Tuesday it was time to take a look at bigger organisms, and we went trawling in Frohavet, a couple of hours outside of Frøya. Rosefish, rabbit fish, rock grenadier, velvet belly lanternshark, blackmouth catshark, witch flounder, greater forkbeard, blue whiting and angler were some of the fish species we identified. Other species included “Norway lobster”, brown crab, brittle stars, common sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and many many more. Great fun and a bunch of excited students and teachers. In addition we made a very special discovery- a small shagreen ray, a species which is thought not to have been seen in Norway the past 100 years, got to be a passenger on Gunnerus for a couple of minutes (Photo top left by Geir Johnsen). Because of climate change, some species become more common in Norwegian waters, while others disappear. The shagreen ray had seemingly disappeared, so especially our teachers Geir and Torkild, the latter also works at the NTNU University Museum, were thrilled at the sighting. We quickly let our little friend back in the ocean, alive and well, as we would like it to spread its genes. You can read more about the shagreen ray on the NTNU University Museum blog here (in Norwegian).

Kelp forests- the tropical rainforests of the sea

Two-spotted goby (Gobiusculus flavescens) amongst various algae. Photo: Geir Johnsen

Two-spotted goby (Gobiusculus flavescens) amongst various algae. Photo: Geir Johnsen

Wednesday and Thursday were dedicated to kelp forests. We filmed with GoPros with a video rig from the boat, and handheld while freediving. We also collected species from the shoreline. Kelp forests are, together with coral reefs, the marine equivalent of tropical rain forests, both in terms of being important primary producers and making up habitats for numerous marine organisms. On one square kilometer of kelp forests, we can find more than 100 000 small invertebrates like snails and crustaceans of more than 200 different species. We were interested in discovering which species live in the kelp forests, and how the marine biodiversity is affected by factors such as depth, and hence light access and water temperature, and bottom conditions.

Seafood buffet

Thursday night was also the night of an event we had been looking forward to- seafood buffet with the catch from the trawl, made by us, the Gunnerus chef Mats and the rest of the crew. Forkbeard fish and chips, angler wrapped in bacon, marinated Norway lobster and rosefish, crab claws and crab cakes, thai soup with cod, and fried Palmaria palmata (red algae) were among the dishes. It was a great evening with amazing food from the sea, and a perfect end to a nice and educational trip.

The marine biodiversity course is definitely a course I recommend taking, especially if you have a special passion for the ocean and its inhabitants. It’s fun, interesting and social, and the excursion lets you be hands on and really develop an understanding of the vast biodiversity we find in our waters. Everything is connected- from the smallest plankton to the biggest shark- and dependent on the survival of one another. This definitely raises your awareness of the importance of conserving marine ecosystems. Sustainable management of the ocean is vital; both for the future of the environment and the ecosystems, and for the future of our own species.

Written by Ingrid Holtan Søbstad

Me with this lovely Greater forkbeard (Phycis blennoides)

Me with this lovely Greater forkbeard (Phycis blennoides)

World's first autonomous ship!

The world’s first autonomous and fully electric container ship scheduled to launch in 2018.

“Yara Birkeland” is a collaboration between the Norwegian technology group Kongsberg and chemical company Yara. The ship is named after the Norwegian scientist and founder of Yara, Kristian Birkeland.

The ship will travel between the fertilizer plant at Porsgrunn and the ports of Brevik and Larvik. By doing so, it will replace 40 000 journeys of diesel-powered trucks a year, which will reduce CO2 emissions by 700 tons. The final design of “Yara Birkeland” was revealed at a successful model testing at Sintef Ocean in Trondheim last week. The ship is due to be launched in late 2018 or 2019. At first, it will be manned by a small crew, until 2020 when it’s scheduled to be operating completely autonomous.

It’s a huge and innovative project costing around 25 million dollars. Other companies such as DNV GL, Marin Teknikk, Sintef Ocean and the Norwegian maritime authorities are also involved in the project. Developing advanced sensors and control and communication systems are some of the project’s key areas. Because of maritime law, it’s also important to cooperate with the maritime authorities with legislation governing crewless vessels, to even be allowed to launch the ship.

The project “Yara Birkeland” would not be a reality without the combination of innovative industry and advanced maritime technology. It’s likely to believe that because of this project, Norwegian shipping and maritime industry can take new international positions based on new knowledge and technology, as well as their focus on being environmental friendly. As Geir Håøy, President and CEO of Kongsberg said: “This vessel is important for the entire maritime industry. […] It’s a start of a major contribution to fulfilling national and internation environmental impact goals, and will be a global milestone for seaborn transportation.”


Last Thursday was our first OceanTalk this semester, which encompassed the relationship of consumer’s behaviour, the production of waste and microplastics, their effects of the marine environment and how they are related to human and animal health. There was a good show up to hear about this contemporary theme and to eat delicious cake.

We have good bakers in NTNU Ocean Club, There was enough fruit and cake for everyone!

We have good bakers in NTNU Ocean Club, There was enough fruit and cake for everyone!

Our very own Talal Mohammed hosted the show in R9 at Gløshaugen, where speakers told us about how plastics effect our environment, and how we end up eating the plastic we throw out. Microplastics get eaten by animals in the lower part in the food chain and accumulate as is get eaten by larger animals. The speakers was collected from the Institute of Biology, Psychology and Circular Ocean.

We also had representatives from Sailing for Science. Dunia Yunes, who are a master student and a co-worker in NTNU Ocean Club, have spent two weeks on a boat outside the coast of Turkey and Greece. She joined a research team where she and other students assisted to collect samples and participated in research. This is written about further down on our blog, so just keep scrolling down if you want to learn more about it.

We are very happy to be done with our first event for this semester and look forward to our next, hope to see you there!


Kick Off Weekend in Oppdal

This weekend we went to Oppdal to have a kick-off with many new co-workers, but there were also some old ones. We went through a program with many ice breakers and twists planned by our president Preben.

We arrived on Friday at 19 o’clock and immediately started with some ice breakers. One example of the many ice breakers was that we ran around and had to freeze, then we selected a partner from those that were standing next to us and then we had to make a drawing of their face in one minute. I can say for sure that there was a lot of interesting contributions.

On Friday night, we got to know each other a little more with card games and drinks. 

Here we are working with the knowlegde triangle during our work shop.

Here we are working with the knowlegde triangle during our work shop.

On Saturday, we had a tight schedule with team work tasks and some more ice breakers in between. A lot of coffee was consumed that day. The last thing on the schedule was that the new members were going to make the decision ragerding which project that they wanted to work on. After a delicious taco dinner we had a little ceremony where both the old and new co-workers got a medallion before Preben sabled the champagne. The rest of the night went on celebrating with conga, musical chairs and a lot more.

Blindfolded trying to find our groups by making the same animal sound.

Blindfolded trying to find our groups by making the same animal sound.

On Sunday morning, everyone was tired after a night with a lot of fun. The early birds did an amazing job cleaning up and the others were good at helping when they finally got out of bed. I think everyone had a really enjoyable time and we are all quite excited to work further on our projects!

Sailing For Science: Belated update, September 5th

On Tuesday we sailed to Pserimos, a much less populated area. Our intention was to find a pristine beach, but the winds were very high. We were unsure if the boat carrying the bulk of the electrical equipment would manage to cross into the next bay where there were no other boats. One of our boats, the Awareness, decided to make the journey to test out how rough the waters were and see if the next bay would be sufficiently sheltered. The waves ended up being quite large, tossing our little boat quite a bit. When we reached the next bay it was not sufficiently sheltered to perform our tests, so we sailed back to meet Tomana (our other boat) in a more heavily occupied bay. Here there were already some sailboats anchored and also some fish farming activity. Nevertheless, it was much less heavily occupied here than at the busy beaches of Kos.


Here we performed a ´mini experiment´ in order test our hypothesis about hydrogen peroxide propagation in seawater. The basic idea is that titanium, which can be found in some sunscreens, will propagate hydrogen peroxide in seawater under UV light. To see if this reaction was taking place, we started with background samples at the pristine beach. Then, one by one we had to put on sunscreen and jump into the water near the intake line. There was of course no shortage of volunteers!

Videobilde-08.09.2017 10.46.17.jpg

You see the detector on the left, and volunteers with sunscreen on the right.

After the experiment we were able to spend the evening snorkelling in the bay, looking for sea shells and fish. The Mediterranean has been heavily fished and has very low productivity, so there wasn´t much to see underwater. In addition, large patches of seafloor get scraped clean of plant life such as Neptune grass by anchors from yachts and sailboats.

Videobilde-08.09.2017 11.53.10.jpg

After a day of work (and certainly lots of fun), we set sail back to Kos as the sun was setting. We were quite happy to get back to dry land as the rough waves were an added challenge for some of us!

by Helene Velle Mayer

Sailing For Science: Belated update, September 4th

On Monday we started sampling and adjusting our equipment. The boat Tomana sailed to a tourist beach just outside Kos Old Harbour and took water samples.


Here you see Nico placing the intake line for the FIA (flow injection analysis) on the side of the boat. This will be used to detect levels of hydrogen peroxide in the water.


And Maria handling the apparatus and data during water sampling.

The boat Awareness started collecting samples for micro plastic and phytoplankton. The equipment used for micro plastic is a floating surface net, which is dragged by the boat horizontally along a transect. The net has a mesh size of 300 µm, and a bottle collecting the particles at the end.


Here you can see the manta net for sampling micro plastics.

When sampling phytoplankton we use a smaller net, with a mesh size of 55 µm. This is a semi quantitative sampling method, where a lot of species will be represented.


Here you see our captain, Ata, one of our head scientists Can and Songül sampling for phytoplankton.

by Helene Velle Mayer

Seafood in Sunnmøre

Away from books, lecturers and weekly exercises; it has always been my impression that the biggest and best lessons occur while I'm out DOing stuff. Thus, one of my favourite things to do as a student, is to take advantage of the many great opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. Sett Sjøbein's Marine Student Bootcamp was definitely one of these opportunities - ranking as one of my favourite "extracurricular" endeavours so far.

For one week in Sunnmøre, I got to team up with (and against) this amazing bunch of students, working with problems within the pelagic fish industry.


The pelagic fish industry in Norway mainly concerns the two species mackerel and herring - and thus our assignement was to create a product, process, technology or marketing campaign that increased value creation within the industry, and/or across its value-chain. 


We started by visiting different companies from all over the value-chain, giving us a broad insight into the different components that make up the industry.


Supported by the great people of Icelandic Startups we went through ideation, wrote a business plan, and finally pitched our idea in front of a panel of judges.


The bootcamp was intensive, but I learned a lotAbout the pelagic fishery industry, of course - but maybe even more so about the underlying processes going from problem, to idea, to concept, to business plan, to pitch. These are skills I believe would be valueable for any student, and are highly transferable far beyond seafood.

So for anyone interested in seafood, aquaculture, or just want a platform to learn creative concept-development skills - I would strongly suggest applying for the next bootcamp, which is already now in November.

Oh, and the food was amazing.

by Preben Imset Matre

Sailing For Science has Embarked!

At the moment, two of our volunteers - Dunia and Helene - are on a sailboat in the mediterranean as a part of the Sailing for Science-research cruise. Over the next weeks they'll be sharing their experiences on this blog!

Sailing for science is a new initiative being launched by faculty and students at NTNU. The goal of this project is to facilitate interdisciplinary marine research and offer students the opportunity to take part in hands on field work. Students and faculty will be spending ten days on a sail boat in the Aegean sea, collecting water samples for a broad range of analyses. Topics of interest include organic contamination, trace metal analysis, impacts of tourism on marine chemistry, phytoplankton studies and the impacts of microplastics.


Students from both a bachelor and master level are joining this year’s cruise along with associate professors from the faculty of chemistry. Our chief scientist, Murat Van Ardelan hopes to continue growing the Sailing 4 Science program, eventually acquiring a sailing vessel. This year we are working with Asteria sailing on two 46ft sailing vessels starting our journey in the Turkish town of Turgutreis, and sailing to multiple Greek islands before our return.

This weekend the participants of the Sailing 4 Science project arrived in Turkey. We then met in Turgutreis marina and entered our two sailboats. During the first few days we have been planning and preparing our equipment. On Sunday we sailed from Turkey to Kos, Greece. Today we are sailing to a nearby beach to take seawater samples for three different projects. Masters student Maria Villegas will be looking at the effects of sunscreen used by tourists on propagation of hydrogen peroxide in seawater. Here she is describing the apparatus she will be using to fellow masters student Dunia Rios Yunes.


The second project will analyse the levels of organic pollutants found in beach areas, while the last project will be looking at the types and quantities of trace elements found in these areas.


In addition to our research, we will be spending some time speaking with locals and sharing our research goals. Here Dunia and Helene can be seen getting a sign ready to hang in the Marina where they spent the morning chatting with curious tourists, local Greeks and some friendly stray cats.