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Naturalis at Sea

Posted on 04-01-2018 by Hilde Pracht

Seven months, five ocean provinces and a whopping 130 scientists: the RV Pelagia (NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research) has started a large and important expedition. The big question to be answered: How do we get a grip on the opportunities and threats of the oceans that are changing?

Coverphoto: RV the Pelagia, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

During the expedition, entitled “NICO” (Netherlands Initiative Changing Oceans) 20 organisations join forces to conduct research into life in the oceans. Naturalis is also involved in the expedition. What makes NICO so special, is the fact that scientists from all kinds of different disciplines were allowed to submit research proposals. This makes the final programme very varied: from small unicellular plankton to big whales, but also viruses, coral reefs, birds and sea snails will be covered.

The expedition is subdivided into 12 stages, called ‘legs’. During each leg, which covers a few days to weeks, another subject will be central. On December 11, the RV Pelagia left from Texel to La Palma for the first leg. In this leg, it was investigated what CO2 and salt content, acidity and the temperature of the seawater can tell us about how marine life will react to future climate change.

Photo: the route of the expedition is subdivided into 12 legs. NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

In four of the twelve legs, researchers of Naturalis will sail along. Arjen Speksnijder will be on board during leg 5 to investigate marine life at great depths around St. Maarten, using DNA barcoding. During leg 8, the Atlantic Ocean will be crossed and researchers Katja Peijnenburg and Le Qin Choo will examine the effect of acidifying oceans on pteropods. These tiny, free-swimming snails are in fact very sensitive to the acidification of the oceans. Researchers Berry van der Hoorn, Frank Wesselingh and Willem Renema will sail from Texel to Amsterdam during leg 10, to unravel the secrets of our own North Sea.

Photo: When you look at this picture of a pteropod, you immediately understand that in Greek this word means: 'wing-foot'. Also in Dutch these animals are called 'vleugelslakjes', which means: wing snails.

Just before the end of this year, leg two has started and LIsette Mekkes and master student Livia Sinigaglia were the first  Naturalis researchers to board the RV Pelagia. LIsette and Livia will sail from Las Palmas all the way to Willemstad and are currently on the Atlantic Ocean. They are investigating plankton. In our next blog, you can read more about what they are exactly doing, what life on board looks like and their adventures. Stay tuned!


Follow the NICO expedition on Twitter: @NICOexpedition

and Facebook: NICO-expedition