Marine biodiversity
Researcher school course

The Joys of Information Overload!

“Marine Macrofauna – systematics and taxonomy” was the somewhat dry title of the course, a title not at all reflecting the enthusiasm students and teachers showed facing the diverse and fascinating marine fauna of the Swedish west coast.

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written by Christiane Todt

The Koster area is known for its deep-water environment in direct vicinity to coastal habitats, quite similar to the Bergen area. The marine biological station at Tjärnö provides excellent facilities, including huge teaching laboratories provided with running seawater, an auditorium with up to date technical equipment many universities would wish for, cozy dormitories, and full boarding.

For ten days (8.-17.9. 2010), a group of 11 students from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Spain with backgrounds from he fields of biosystematics, systems ecology and biodiversity faced a team of 21 teachers, international experts in taxonomy, systematics and phylogeny of various animal taxa. This exclusive teaching team of invertebrate enthusiasts was gathered for a two-week workshop running in parallel to the student course on Swedish marine macrofauna, and funded by the Swedish Taxonomy Initiative (Svenska Artprojektet). ForBio – the Norwegian-Swedish Research School in Biosystematics – was a co-organiser of the course, which was held at the Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences (Tjärnö).

Each day of the course focused on a different animal phylum and was taught by the respective experts. In the evenings, additional presentations were given – including short talks by the course participants about their ongoing projects. This setup guaranteed for high quality teaching, but was also demanding on the students – in the end some called for at least four additional days to cope with all the information!

The goal of the course was to provide the participants with up-to-date phylogenetics / systematics background knowledge on the most diverse and common marine invertebrate phyla using the local fauna to demonstrate handling, fixation, and species / taxon identification of samples, including use of taxonomic keys as well as the local identification literature. There was a lot of theory and a lot of lab experience, but maybe most importantly, everybody returned from the course feeling a part of a small but very special network of national and international experts and colleague PhD candidates.

Ten days on the beautiful coast of Sweden, ten days of hard work and short nights, ten days of discussions and laughter – this might not change lives, but maybe opens up new ideas and outlooks within this area of science. At the very least it was the start of new friendships and will form the basis for future cooperation.

The course “Marine Macrofauna – systematics and taxonomy” was co-organized by Per Sundberg (Gothenburg University), Malin Strand (Swedish Species information Centre), and Christiane Todt (ForBio, Institute of Biology, University of Bergen).

Funding came from:

Swedish Taxonomy Initiative

The research school in Sustainable Marine Ecosystems at University of Gothenburg, Faculty of Science

The Norwegian-Swedish Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio)

via Artsdatabanken/The Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative

and: The Research Council of Norway

List of experts and taxa represented:

Mollusca: Lucas Cervera (Spain), Marta Pola Pérez (Spain), John Taylor (U.K.), Emily Glover (U.K.), Christiane Todt (Norway - organizer)

Tunicata: Thomas Stach (Germany), Rosana M. Rocha (Brazil)

Porifera: Dirk Erpenbeck (Germany), Claire Goodwin (Ireland)

Bryozoa: Matthias Obst (Sweden), Dennis P. Gordon (New Zealand)

Annelida: Christer Erséus (Sweden), Fredrik Pleijel (Sweden)

Crustacea: Ronald Jenner (U.K.), Les Watling (USA)

Cnidaria: Daphne Fautin (USA), Dale Calder (Canada)

Echinodermata: Bernard Picton (Ireland), Sam DuPont (Sweden)

Nemertea: Malin Strand and Per Sundberg (Sweden) – organizer