45. Navigating the Ocean's Wonders with Mayibongwe Buthelezi
A Journey from Nongoma to the Atlantic Ocean: Mayi, currently in the second year of his Ph.D. at the University of Pretoria, takes us through his remarkable journey. Born and raised in the small village town of Nongoma in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, Mayibongwe's connection with the ocean began unexpectedly during a school trip in grade 10 or 11. Despite being inland, he pursued microbiology, eventually participating in prestigious cruises, exploring the Atlantic Ocean's marginal ice zone.
Microbial Marvels in the Ocean: Mayi's research focuses on marine microbial communities, specifically bacteria and single-cell algae. He delves into the intricate world of microbial ecology, emphasising the importance of understanding microorganisms' role in processes like carbon sequestration and nitrogen cycling. His work, centred around Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), seeks to uncover microbial physiological responses to environmental fluctuations. Mayibongwe explains the significance of studying microorganisms in the ocean, highlighting how these tiny organisms, with their enormous impact, play a crucial role in maintaining Earth's balance by cycling essential gases and nutrients.
Sailing the Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT): Mayibongwe shares his experience aboard the RRS Discovery during the latest AMT. The AMT, an annual multidisciplinary program, conducts biological, chemical, and physical oceanographic research between the UK and the South Atlantic. Mayibongwe's role involved collecting seawater samples for his Ph.D., contributing valuable data to the AtlantECO project. Mayibongwe reflects on the unique experience of being the only representative from his region, the joy of encountering penguins in Falklands Island, and the unexpected birthday celebration during the crossing of the line. He expresses gratitude to his supervisor, Prof. Makhalanyane, and the AtlantECO programme for exposing him to these extraordinary opportunities.
Future Aspirations: Looking ahead, Mayi acknowledges current collaborators like Prof. Jonathan Todd and his research group at the University of Norwich, emphasising the importance of collaboration in DMSP research. His immediate goals include completing his Ph.D., publishing papers, and continued engagement with the AtlantECO program. Ultimately, Mayibongwe aspires to establish his own research group and collaborate with scientists globally.
Stay tuned for the next episode and more engaging conversations with scientists shaping the future of marine research.
More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu
The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
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3. 47. Shallow sea mining18:45In the latest episode of the AtlantECO podcast, we delve into one of our case studies, which aims to apply the knowledge and resources developed in the project to existing challenges in shallow sea diamond mining. Our guest, Natasha Karenyi, sheds light on the considerations necessary for developing and implementing environmental regulations of coastal areas.Natasha, a marine biologist and lecturer at the University of Cape Town (UCT), shares her journey toward studying and researching marine biology. With a childhood curiosity sparked by high school biology classes and a love for swimming, Natasha's passion for the ocean led her to specialise in benthic ecology and pursue a PhD at the Nelson Mandela University.In our case study, we focus on two countries, Namibia and South Africa, both of which have keen interests in diamond and phosphate mining, as well as petroleum extraction. However, these countries have different policy frameworks, data limitations, and understandings of their marine systems. Natasha highlights the specific challenges and needs within each country and the importance of addressing them to develop effective environmental regulations.Supporting Policy Making through AtlantECO: to address these challenges, AtlantECO implements various strategies. In Namibia, they collaborate with the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Debmarine Namibia to provide baseline benthic information for informed policy decisions. In South Africa, they work with the Department of Mineral Resources to develop guidelines for environmental management of ocean mining.Through research and collaborative efforts, Natasha and her team have identified several challenges that hinder effective environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and marine spatial planning (MSP) processes. These challenges include the lack of consideration for cumulative and indirect impacts, insufficient inclusion of social and economic aspects, and limited access to information; these aspects were all included in the recommendations made recently. As we progress, we aim to further support the different stakeholders in their endeavour to develop EIA processes, streamline reporting standards across sectors, and enhance the integration of social and economic considerations.More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
2. 46. Mega marine heatwaves in the North Atlantic21:49In the latest episode of the AtlantECO Podcast, we delve into the critical topic of mega heatwaves in the Atlantic withguest Thomas Frölicher. The conversation covers the causes, consequences, monitoring, and future expectations of theseincreasingly observed phenomena, including the recent heatwave observed in the North Atlantic.Thomas Frölicher, originally from landlocked Switzerland, shares his unique journey into oceanography. Growing up with a curious mind inspired by his father's interest in physics, Thomas eventually found his passion for environmental science. His focus on atmospheric physics led him to explore oceanography during his PhD, where he investigated the variations in oceanic oxygen concentration and its connection to human-caused global warming.We then discuss marine heatwaves, defined as periods of persistently warm ocean temperatures. Thomas explains that these events are becoming more prevalent globally, affecting ecosystems, weather patterns, and land conditions. The North Atlantic, in particular, is experiencing mega heatwaves, with temperatures significantly higher than ever recorded. Thomas discusses potential causes of marine heatwaves, such as enhanced air-sea heat uptake, changing ocean currents, and various other factors. The global ocean currently faces record-high temperatures, with about 30% experiencing a marine heatwave. The North Atlantic stands out with temperatures 0.5 degrees higher than previous records, raising concerns among scientists.To understand these heat waves, scientists rely on high-temporal-resolution datasets from satellites, ARGO floats, buoys, and ocean models. Thomas emphasises the importance of collaboration among researchers with diverse expertise to comprehensively analyse the multitude of factors contributing to the current temperature anomalies. We then touch upon the consequences of mega heat waves on marine life and ecosystems, and Thomas highlights the sensitivity of ecosystems to high temperatures, leading to damages worth billions of dollars in industries such as fisheries and tourism. In AtlantECO project, Thomas and his team aim to assess the impact of a combination of multiple extreme events in the Atlantic, providing valuable data for managing ocean resources and mitigating risks.More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
21. 44. Exploring plankton biodiversity22:53In this podcast episode, we are starting a new series looking at the Early Stage Researchers in AtlantECO. Our guest in the first episode of this series is Fabio Benedetti, marine scientist specialising in plankton biodiversity and its role in ecosystem functioning and climate regulation. Fabio, who is based at ETH Zurich, explains that his fascination lies in studying the small creatures in the ocean, particularly plankton. He has been researching plankton diversity for a decade, focusing on understanding their distribution, patterns, and their future trajectory. Fabio's research falls within the field of macroecology and biogeography, where he maps the biodiversity of plankton. By analysing observational data collected over the years using data mining and machine learning tools, he extracts hidden information and maps indicators of plankton diversity in space and time. He emphasises the importance of combining disparate datasets to gain new insights that might have been missed when working with individual datasets.Fabio's work contributes to a better understanding of the biodiversity and ecological dynamics of plankton in the ocean. His research helps uncover valuable information about the distribution and characteristics of these vital organisms, ultimately aiding in the conservation and protection of marine ecosystems.Within AtlantECO, Fabio’s main role is to aggregate and curate plankton observation data from various sources. This data includes information on different plankton species, their diversity, and productivity. By bringing together diverse datasets, the aim is to create a comprehensive understanding of plankton biodiversity in the Atlantic Ocean. The aggregated data is then made available to the scientific community for further research and analysis. In collaboration with colleagues in the project, Fabio also develops statistical pipelines and mapping packages to extract valuable information from the aggregated data. By generating maps of plankton biodiversity and productivity, scientists can identify global patterns and study interactions between different plankton species. These maps serve as a foundation for developing indicators to monitor and predict the response of plankton to future changes in climate variables. With ongoing climate change and rising anthropogenic CO2 emissions, understanding how plankton biodiversity and production will respond to these changes is crucial.In addition to his data aggregation and mapping activities, Fabio also supervises early-stage researchers, explaining his passion for mentoring future ocean scientists and his desire to find a permanent position in academia or a related field where he can continue to support and inspire young researchers. Fabio also offers advice to those starting their careers in marine sciences, so make sure to listen to the full episode to benefit from his wisdom!Get in touch with Fabio: email@example.com More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No Pilot The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
20. 43. Unleashing the Potential of Citizen Science in AtlantECO: Sail for Science and the Plankton Planet Initiative17:02In the 43rd episode of the AtlantECO podcast, we chat about citizen science and how we use it in AtlantECO with Anna Oddone, from Plankton Planet. Anna tells us about the Sail for Science initiative, delivered through the Plankton Planet project, which aims to engage citizens in collecting data on the ocean microbiome.In the context of AtlantECO, Sail for Science activities are being carried out to contribute to the overall scientific goals. One such activity involves developing and testing instruments to be deployed on sailing boats, for “planktonauts” the citizens participating in the initiative. Three instruments have been developed: the high-speed net, the Lamprey DNA kit, and the PlanktoScope. The high-speed net allows plankton collection during normal cruising speeds of up to eight knots, unlike traditional nets that require the boat to be stationary or moving very slowly. The Lamprey DNA kit filters seawater through a membrane, capturing plankton, which is then dried on the membrane and sent to laboratories for genomic analysis. The PlanktoScope, a semi-automated microscope with a 3D system, enables quantitative imaging of plankton, capturing their morphology. This instrument provides not only information about species presence but also visual insights into their size, colour, and other characteristics. The instruments have undergone testing on board Tara, demonstrating their effectiveness comparable to standard instruments used by scientists. Feedback from experts within the AtlantECO network has further refined the prototypes. The next phase involves deploying these instruments on sailing boats, for which a set of protocols and manuals are prepared. Dozens of "planktonauts" will be trained to use the instruments, collecting data and providing feedback on usability. The main sampling route will be the North Atlantic route, commonly used by sailing boats. Additionally, there will be routes in the southeast of the Atlantic, specifically from Cape Town to Europe and vice versa. While oceanographic vessels associated with AtlantECO conduct their research, the Sail4Science initiative will implement simplified versions of the AtlantECO protocols. Comparing the results from these lighter deployments with those obtained from standard oceanographic vessels will yield valuable insights. The enthusiasm from sailors and citizens to understand and appreciate the ocean they sail on is evident. People who sail generally have a deep connection with nature and actively seek initiatives that help them explore and comprehend the ocean better. The instruments used in the project enable sailors to observe the hidden aspects of marine life that would otherwise remain unseen, revealing the richness of life beneath the ocean's surface, a world that only becomes visible through the lens of microscopes and reveals the astonishing beauty and diversity of marine ecosystems.More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No PilotThe AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
19. 42. Measuring the health of the Atlantic Ocean16:59In the 42nd podcast episode, our guest, Serena Zunino, discusses how we measure the health of the ocean. She explains that measuring the health of the ocean means assessing its status and how it deviates from the condition of a healthy ecosystem. A healthy ocean is one where its structure is maintained, ecosystem functions work properly, and the system is stable, resilient, and sustainable. The health of the ocean is crucial to human health and wellbeing as it provides many important ecosystem services. Serena also emphasises the importance of adopting an ecosystem-based approach that recognizes humans as integral components of the ecosystem. She emphasises that the ocean has been subject to increased pressures over the last few decades, such as loss of biodiversity, overexploitation of fish stocks, pollution, and climate change, which have threatened its health. Therefore, it is essential to develop effective tools to monitor the status and health of the ocean to prevent further damage and ensure its sustainability for future generations. The Ocean Health Index is an effective tool to evaluate the marine environment, the OHI is an assessment framework that evaluates the ocean's health based on sustainable provisioning of benefits and services such as food provision, carbon storage, water cleanliness, and biodiversity. The progress toward each goal is assessed against the optimal and sustainable level that can be achieved, with different reference points considered for each goal. The index has been calculated every year since 2012, using nearly 80 different global data sets spanning ecological, social, economic, and governance measures. AtlantECO is working on the implementation of the Ocean Health Index, aiming to add new details of data at higher resolution, both spatially and temporally, and new kinds of data, such as those linked to plastic pollution or genetic information that has the potential to enlighten ecosystem functions yet to be discovered. New indicators are being developed to produce improved estimates of ecosystem status and trends of some services that the Atlantic Ocean provides. The focus is on assessing the status of ecosystem structure, function, health, and services at the whole Atlantic scale as well as some regional case studies, incorporating high data resolution. The assessment aims to predict the capacity of ecosystems to provide services sustainably in the future, considering future projections of climate change and socioeconomic pathways. The results of the analysis using the Ocean Health Index are needed to provide scientific advice on the status and trends of different policy scenarios, guide management decisions, and raise awareness of the threats facing the ocean. The communicative power of the Ocean Health Index must be used to increase awareness among stakeholders and promote the sustainable use of marine ecosystems.More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No PilotThe AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
18. 41. The NAUTILOS project38:02In the 41st episode of the AtlantECO podcast, we discover Nautilos, a Horizon 2020 funded project that aims to fill the gap in marine observations and improve monitoring capacities and resources. The coordinator, Gabriele Pieri explains that the project's main objective is to monitor the oceans' environmental status, spanning from chemical and biological information from deep ocean physics to surface models for forecasting. Nautilos uses a new generation of cost-effective sensors and samplers that are integrated into existing and new observing platforms such as moored buoys, animal tags and underwater vehicles. The project performs long-term deployments in large scale demonstrations across various European seas, including the Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean. One of the project’s demonstrators is animal borne instruments, and two of the guests explain what this entails. First, Jorge Fontes presents the tools, designed to be non-invasive, which combines multiple sensors. The most complex tag includes high-resolution accelerometery, which allows for the measurement of fine details of animal movement and behaviour. It also includes a satellite positioning system and video camera with lights for deep-diving animals. Another sensor measures dissolved oxygen in the water, which is a critical variable for animals that extract their oxygen from the water. This additional sensor will allow researchers to understand how the availability or unavailability of oxygen will potentially determine how animals use their three-dimensional habitats. Understanding these changes can help predict how they will affect top predators, such as sharks, that control the food chain and have a reverberating impact on the whole ecosystem. Christophe Guinet then presents their latest development with a mini echo sounder, which is attached to elephant seals and can detect particles in the water as they dive. The team hopes to use the information gathered to assess the biological component of the oceans and to understand the ecological consequences of global warming. The team also plans to develop a micro camera triggered by the acoustic detection of the mini echo sounder to provide a visual identification of the particles detected. The system has the potential to provide valuable in-situ measurements of the biological component of the oceans that are currently lacking. We further discuss tagging of animals for research purposes. Our guests explain how they aim to move away from invasive tagging techniques towards non-invasive methods such as deploying a harness or necklace on sharks and manta rays by free diving. The NAUTILOS project:Nautilos website: Nautilos Nautilos social media handles:LinkedIn: Nautilos | LinkedIn Twitter: NAUTILOS (@NAUTILOS_H2020) / Twitter YouTube: NAUTILOS H2020 Project - YouTube More about AtlantECO www.atlanteco.eu The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
17. 40. It's a wrap on Mission Microbiomes19:35In episode 40 of the podcast, we spoke with Romain Troublé, CEO of the Tara Ocean Foundation, about the foundation's mission and Mission Microbiomes, one of our flagship expeditions in AtlantECO, as well as the most recent activities of the Foundation. Mission Microbiomes lasted 22 months, visited 14 countries, and journeyed over 70,000 kilometres. The expedition was challenging, with logistics being a major issue, especially with Covid restrictions. However, the team managed to make it as smooth as possible for the crew and scientists involved. The expedition yielded a lot of data and samples that are now being analysed in AtlantECO. A total of 168 scientists participated in the expedition, and the team used sails instead of the engine for a significant part of the journey, reducing carbon impact. The team had the opportunity to visit some unique oceanic artefacts and locations and study the biodiversity there. A highlight of the expedition was when scientists talked to French president Macron in real-time from Antarctica about climate change and the need to protect the area. Romain also discussed the foundation's mission, which is unique in its approach, as it encompasses scientific research, education, political advocacy, and sailing. He highlighted the foundation's work and the importance of ocean exploration and biodiversity research. The foundation has enabled the collection of over 100,000 ocean samples across 12 expeditions. With the help of scientists, politicians, and the public, the foundation continues to raise awareness of the ocean's importance and the need to protect it. And now, Tara, the schooner, has just left on its new mission called Tara Europa, part of the TREC expedition. In this two-year-long expedition, which will begin in Estonia and sail along the European coastlines to Athens in Greece, the team will study various forms of pollution, which is largely invisible, and its link with the microbiome. The foundation is also working on the Tara Polar Station project, which aims to document the changes in the Arctic Ocean due to climate change and melting ice. The Arctic Ocean is a unique and extreme environment threatened by global warming and pollution. To improve our understanding of its biodiversity and the impact of climate change, the Tara Polar Station will embark scientists from various fields until 2045. This multidisciplinary scientific approach aims to reveal unique adaptations of organisms, analyse the consequences of melting sea ice and pollution, and discover new molecules, species, and processes. The aim is to better understand the Arctic, so that we can protect the health of the planet.The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
16. 39- Following plastics from land to sea on the Casamance river17:54In episode 39 of the AtlantECO Podcast, Leïla Meistertzheim, a researcher from Banyuls-sur-Mer with expertise in toxicology and microbiology, who was chief scientist of the last topic study of the Mission Microbiomes Expedition in Senegal, discusses the importance of studying the Casamance River.The goal of that study was to trace the origin of plastic pollution in the ocean, and to understand the flow of plastic from the land to the sea. The Casamance River was an ideal environment for this study as it is a mangrove environment, a hotspot of biodiversity, and has different types of human activities that can impact the environment. The team used a manta net and different types of filters to increase the quantity of DNA, enabling them to identify the microorganisms living in the surrounding environment and the plastisphere, the life that develops on plastics. The study will help increase knowledge of the exact number and different types of plastic pollution found in the river, and how they can be affected by UV radiation and hydrometry. The ultimate goal is to understand the mutual impact of plastic on biodiversity and marine ecosystems, and to share this knowledge with local people so they understand the impact of plastic not only in the river but also in the sea. During the study, the team encountered unexpected challenges with sampling methods. Due to the river's size, at first, they were able to enter directly on Tara but had to resort to renting a car and transporting equipment themselves to sample further up the river. They were able to obtain help from locals, and their interactions were mutually beneficial as the researchers and the community exchanged about microplastics in the environment. The researchers found a significant amount of plastic waste near a small population on the riverbank, which highlights the impact of single-use plastic on the environment. The locals understood the problem and were keen to find solutions, but it was not easy in their part of the world. Overall, the experience was rewarding and educational for both the researchers and the locals. The leg was dedicated to Tracy Edwards, a woman who has played a significant role in supporting women in the sailing world. Edwards created the first all-women crew 30 years ago, and her story was turned into a movie. Leïla shares her positive experience on board Tara and she emphasises on the importance of working together as a team to achieve the common goal, in what can be challenging conditions. As we had heard in previous stories of the Mission Microbiomes, this message of teamwork and shared passion is common among those who have been on board Tara.More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No PilotThe AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.