Hurra, UNISprout is back, and it is better than ever!
Are you wondering what UNISprout is all about? Here’s a quick overview of the project:
UNISprout is a bioCEED funded project, designed to support the planned fieldwork of Guest Master and PhD students by offering Bachelor students the opportunity to act as a field assistant. The project aims to benefit both parties, by giving Bachelor students the chance to broaden their knowledge and gain valuable experience in the field, and support Master students/ PhDs by providing an engaged field assistant and improve their teaching skills in the field/lab.
2021 starts off with four exciting projects in terrestrial Biology:
1. Development of permafrost thaw along topographical gradients and its links to vegetation
Vegetation, especially mosses, play an important role in insulating the soil from increasing air temperatures, potentially reducing permafrost thaw, thus leading to a reduced active layer depth (ALT). As of now, we have little knowledge on how the different plant communities on Svalbard affect ALT beneath them…
2. Herbivore-induced disturbances in tundra and their effect on active layer depth
Bryophytes dominate in wide regions of the Arctic, also presenting the dominant vegetation cover on Svalbard. The layer of bryophytes in moss tundra, with its insulating abilities, is a significant factor in preserving permafrost. Herbivore activity such as goose grubbing may damage and remove parts of the moss layer…
3. Setup of a warming and moss removal experiment monitoring effect of vegetation on active layer depth
In high-arctic tundra, vegetation is facing severe challenges due to climate-change-induced warming, shifts in seasonality and potentially increased herbivore pressure. We expect shifts in vegetation from moss-dominated to vascular plant-dominated communities, as well as species shifts within these groups. While mosses are a major component of high Arctic vegetation that is subject to climate-induced change…
4. Insulation capacity of moss species and their effect on permafrost thaw
Mosses play an important role in insulating the soil from increasing air temperatures, reducing the impact on the permafrost. As a result of increasing temperatures and precipitation, the vegetation composition in the Arctic is changing. This shift will likely impact the active layer and permafrost underneath, which could lead to a change in the release…
Curious about of the projects? You can check them out by following this link: https://unisprout.w.uib.no/category/projects/
We are really looking forward to the upcoming field season and hope that more projects, especially some marine Biology projects, will be available later in the season!
For more information visit UNISprout at http://unisprout.w.uib.no or contact Tina Dahl (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Christina Hess (email@example.com)
by Samira Terzenbach
UNISprout is a bioCEED initiative that provides Bachelor students with the opportunity to gain fieldwork experience by helping PhD or Guest Master students with their research project. This summer, Samira Terzenbach joined PhD student Victor Gonzalez Triginer and Guest Master student Milan Beck out on Billefjorden where they used an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) to investigate spatiotemporal impacts of climate change on Arctic fjord biodiversity.
It‘s 7:56, I’m sitting in front of Victor’s office. In the hallway, two dark pelicases wait on a trolley, equipped with a field notebook, a converter, paper towels, and more. After a short talk with logistics, we grab our survival suits, load the car, and head down to the harbor. Near the road, a small black trailer is parked next to a big white one. We get more equipment out of the field trailer and take the small one with us to the robust UNIS Polarcirkel boat.Inevitably, we end up parking in a huge mud puddle which makes loading the boat, jumping in the suits, and carefully carrying the project’s treasure into the water instantly more challenging. Once onboard, we tie up the orange USV and head out to Billefjorden, all the way in, to where Nordenskiöldbreen meets the icy waters. After installing the batteries, checking that everything is in place, and heaving the USV into the water, it basically is a one-man’s job.
While Victor remotely maneuvers the robot boat along the 5 m depth isocline, recording the echosound and CTD data on its way and stopping every now and then to take footage with the drop camera, Milan and I chat about the project. It is part of FACE-IT, an EU project which I already got interested in back home at the hosting University of Bremen. The study investigates the importance of land influx and cryosphere changes for marine biodiversity and abundance, with a focus on littoral fish and macroalgae communities.
In times of climate change, the decline of sea-ice and sea-terminating glaciers in the Arctic, are assumed to impact the ecosystem’s diversity and its functioning in the littoral fjord areas of Spitzbergen. The increasing influx of Atlantic waters, the so called Atlantification, moreover, brings along invasive species that may compete with native Arctic species.
While we are sipping our tea, we suddenly spot a female polar bear with two cubs in the distance. As they take to the water, not swimming straight at us, but observing us constantly, we decide to take out the USV and leave to another sampling area. Around 15:20 the batteries run low and force us to abort the sampling.
The drive back, re- and unloading, rinsing everything with fresh water, etc. takes us another two hours, so we call it a day and agree to take a look at the processed data together some other time, for me to gain a more comprehensive understanding of measurements. Back home, I can still feel the slight rocking of the boat and am very satisfied after such a nice time out in the field!
- help bachelor students in biology (the “sprouts“) get a taste of practical biology by participating in a more experienced student’s project on the field or at the lab
- give Master and PhD students the chance to inspire the younger ones by inviting them in their project and communicating their passion, while they get a bit of help collecting samples or data
- facilitate networking for students within the department and between different levels of education