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Annual meeting

Aberdeen Meeting


July 6-7 around 50 MAR-ECO participants met in the congenial setting of the University of Aberdeen for the annual project meeting. After almost seven years activity most participants know one another well. As a result, the two days of meetings, although intense, were also quite effective.

MAR-ECO meeting participants

July 6 was devoted to short lecture presentations of research highlights and results. July 7 was filled with formal and informal group meetings to discuss collaborations, publications, future directions etc.

The meeting actually started 5 July with a day-long session for the project steering group. Their discussions must have been efficient because the meeting actually wrapped up an hour or so early!

Participants have much to discuss. Two well-known scientific journals are going to devote special issues to MAR-ECO work next year: “Deep Sea Research II” and “Marine Biology Research” (both have submission deadlines of 30 September, 2006). In addition, MAR-ECO is going to help support the publication of a work by a group of Russian scientists led by Andrey Gebruk about the fish associated with North Atlantic sea mounts.

Following a suggestion from last year’s annual project meeting in Lisbon, past MAR-ECO steering group member, Peter Boyle has been developing a popular book idea based on the recent unique scientific material that MAR-ECO has been revealing. Designed to make maximum use of the project’s extensive visual records, the book, tentatively entitled “Mid-Atlantic Life”, now just needs a publisher

The success of the 2004 G.O.Sars cruise has been instrumental in encouraging other significant national efforts to explore same area. The Americans will sail to the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone area for around a month in the summer of 2007, and the new state-of-the-art British research vessel, the James Cook, will begin a series of one-month cruises to the same interesting region next summer, and for the next two summers after that.

poster on cephalopods

Around 80 000 biological specimens were collected during the summer cruise of 2004. Of these, some 60 000 are fish. Researcher Filipe Porteiro reports that unbelievably, nearly 97% of the fish specimens have been identified. This information is also posted in the CoML database, OBIS. The collections from many cruises may languish for decades and some are never even completely catalogued. MAR-ECO researchers have cooperated to complete this huge task in only two years!

The cephalopod specimens collected are harder to identify than fish are. Their soft-bodies are generally damaged in the trawl nets. Researcher Uwe Piatkovsky explained that features such as the animals’ hard beaks can be used for identification purposes. The cephalopod scientists are meeting in Bergen at the end of the summer to conduct an all out blitz to try to identify more of the 2004 collection.

By any standard the summer 2004 MAR-ECO mid-Atlantic Ridge collection is outstanding. Its extensive documentation makes it, as was underlined by many researchers at this year’s meeting, one of the most extensive and useful in the world.

The Zooplankton group reported that there are significant latitudinal differences in zooplankton diversity and biomass with “hotspots” occurring near the sub-Polar Front and Charley Gibbs Fracture Zone and between 600-1200m depth. The fragile nature of gelatinous plankton organisms may result in an underestimation of their biomass and importance in the ocean. Rapidly digested, stomach contents’ analyses means that stomachs that were once full of jellyfish may appear empty when the fish are finally taken to the surface.

Mike Vecchione's presentation

Participation in MAR-ECO activity has resulted in graduate degrees for a number of young people in different lands. Many had the opportunity to present their work in this multi-disciplinary, international setting.

MAR-ECO scientists and students are keen about their work. Many stressed the advantages of participating in a long-term, multidisciplinary, international project such as MAR-ECO. And there is no question that project leader, Odd Aksel Bergstad has been effective at keeping everyone focused and productive, in addition to excelling at profiling and funding activities for the project as a whole.

Odd Aksel Bergstad

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