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The Askö bay is calm and a red and pink light is reflected from the sky into the mirror blank water. In the horizon the silhouette of the German research vessel Elisabeth Mann Borgese emerges. The vessel from IOW has allowed the students to sample along an eutrophication gradient all the way from the famous Landsorts Deep into Himmerfjärden and its wastewater treatment plant.

Studies at sea …

While half the group is at the Askö Laboratory, the rest go on board the vessel and then the groups switch. So all students gets to try advanced research equipment on board of the Elisabeth Mann Borgese, even operating the CTD-rosette. The system enables examination of how the water column is constituted. Researchers can e.g. immediately see whether the water is stratified and oxygen is present at the sea bottom or not. Its data and sampled water can be analysed to show how things like oxygen concentration and nutrient composition varies with depth.

Maren Voss is a biogeochemical researcher of coastal oceans, and the German course leader. She says the main aim is to learn how the Baltic Sea really works. Moreover, the students should learn the very basic techniques of sample collection and measurements on board of a research vessel to evaluate the ecological status of a coastal system. The data are used for a final presentation in which the students explain the situation found along the Himmerfjärden and how that relates to previous years.

- The data they collect are nutrient concentrations and temperature, salinity and turbiditiy from the entire water column. They also collect sediments with a device called multi-corer which allows the extraction of nutrient samples from the pore water in the sediment. Finally the animal life in the sediments is studied with grab samples which are sieved and all animals collected and identified, says Maren.

… and on the field station

At the Askö Laboratory the students studied the fish, algae and plant communities. This year the program on the island perfectly supplemented the work on the research vessel. The students learned a lot about the littoral ecology so the very shallow communities which cannot be investigated from a large boat. At the station they also made excursion with the hopes to see mammals like elk, and study the ecosystem by snorkelling and fishing. Most students end the work-day by a relaxing sauna and dip in the mirror-like ocean.

- A part from the fun we have had together, I think it’s unique that the students have an opportunity to connect over country-borders and develop connections for future collaborations, says Michael Tedengren, course leader from Stockholm University. The German students have asked me a lot of questions about possibilities for doctorial studies in Sweden!

Important collaboration

This year was the third year that R/V Elisabeth Mann Borgese set course on Askö Laboratory. But the jointly organized Baltic Sea course is becoming a tradition, and already in year 2000 the first German vessel brought students to Askö Laboratory.

- This joint marine course is a good example of an important collaboration across country borders that Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre wish to promote, says Christoph Humborg, Scientific Director at the centre.

The course participants on Askö with the ship Elisabeth Mann Borgese visible in the background.