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Testing the waters

May 18-20 a group of undergraduates spent three days at UiB’s Marine Research Station in Espegrend getting an intensive taste and overview of Marine Biology.

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BIO

The mini-course is the field component part of BIO202 Marine Ecosystems; a mandatory course for all three bachelor programmes in biology and the only marine biology course offered to undergraduates at UiB. Its goal was holistic; aiming to give students an overview of marine biology by covering some of the main research themes as well as providing some practical experience with sampling approaches etc. From snorkelling (in dry suits!) or being aboard the RV Hans Brattstrøm, the students were active participants - "hands-on" marine biology!

Marine biology is far too large a subject to cram into one course, and certainly not into one weekend. The course leaders are continually exploring ideas for presenting the subject in such a way that students will be interesting in taking further courses to learn more! Lise Langård, one of the PhD students involved, described an initiative they added this year, involving another Marine Biology institution in the Bergen region. She says that students were invited to undertake a mini-research project at Bergen Aquarium into different habitats and fish adaptation. Around 15 students took advantage of this opportunity and were able to present their findings to the rest of the group.

Langård herself chose to travel abroad for her undergraduate studies because there were no courses specialising in marine biology at the bachelor level offered in Norway. She spent three years in Plymouth, England - an experience she heartily recommends!

For the weekend, the students were divided into four groups that rotated through four main thematic activities: zooplankton & phytoplakton, algae, fish biology and fish fauna. For each theme they were exposed to a variety of sampling procedures, standard research protocols and, not the least, scientific experts who demonstrated the techniques involved. BIO202 is supported by a number of research groups at BIO, and responsibility for the course leadership, field activities etc rotates every year. This year's field team included Anne Christine Utne Palm (responsible 2009), Inga Kjersti Sjøtun, Jorun Karin Egge, Audrey Geffen, Arne Johannessen, Glenn A Bristow, and Dag Lorents Aksnes. In addition there were a number of PhD students: Knut Wiik Vollset, Lise Langård, Ana I Paulino Santos De Jesus, Ingrid Wathne, and Paolo Simoneli as well as masters students: Anja Berle, Christian Irgens, and Marit Solberg helping to guide the BIO202 student groups. Finally there were a number of technical staff also on hand including Ståle Kolbeinson, Mette Hordnes, and Frank Midtøy.

This year's field course leader, Anne Christine Utne Palm, reports that everyone, especially the PhD and Masters' students, made a fantastic contribution to the success of the course. She feels that the BIO202 students could not have had a more positive introduction to marine biology and is optimistic that some may choose to continue with studies in this area.

*pictures from the course feature as the summer's main pictures on the BIO home pages (2009)