Popular research expedition throws light on algae in Estonia's coast seas

Tagging of samples from the scientific research vessel Tara.
Tagging of samples from the scientific research vessel Tara. Source: Isabella Glušauskaite

A study team of European scientists has arrived in Estonia aboard the research ship "Tara." The initial results of the Tallinn coastal waters investigation will be disclosed to the general public in the coming days. On the boat, workshops and tours will be given in English.

The joint project "Traversing European Coastlines (TREC)" of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the Tara Ocean Foundation arrives in Tallinn.

The project seeks to collect a range of data on the environment, biology, land and sea communities. The data will be collected from a total of 120 study sites and will be compared, analyzed and used to determine whether the effects of climate change are already visible at each of these 120 sites.

The project's aim is to increase people's awareness of the importance of marine and coastal ecosystems and how they support our society.

"It is important to study pristine, industrial, agricultural and marine environments to understand contamination and the adaptation of the marine environment to change," Flora Vincent, a post-doctoral researcher, said.

Activities are meant to allow the public to experience the use of a scientific approach, to find solutions to problems, and to give an overview of why scientific knowledge is necessary.

Water salinity calibration instrument. Source: Isabella Glušauskaite

Diatoms, or single-celled algae adapted to float in water are one of the most essential organisms to study.

The scientists involved in the project have been collecting daily samples from the surface layers of the water in the Kopli Bay in Tallinn for the past two weeks. Once the larger algae have been isolated, the samples are transported to the laboratory and examined using microscopes and other high-tech instruments.

At the same time, the crew of the "Tara" science ship collected air samples to determine the concentration of aerosols and collected soil samples from the shore for indicators of the industrial and agricultural environments.

"The data can be used to investigate further whether there is a link between terrestrial substances and marine organisms," Vincent explained.

In addition to samples from the sea and land, data is also collected from the roof of the ERR radio station in Tallinn to obtain information about the city's air quality.

Every four hours, a measuring device will collect the data and store it in a shared project folder. Such data, according to Sirje Sildever, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Systems at Tallinn University of Technology, will enable comparisons of air samples taken from the "Tara" ship and the radio station, as well as international comparisons.

Water sample before filtration. Source: Isabella Glušauskaite

In addition to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the Tara Ocean Foundations, several universities, such as Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) and University of Tartu, collaborate on the project. Find more information here.

You are invited to attend workshops in Seaplane Harbor from July 2-7: on plastic in the sea and on detecting the sea's invisible creatures. You can also register to visit the sailboat itself. During a visit to the sailboat, you will explore life at sea and get to know the crew members and scientists, who will introduce what kind of tools are used and how science is done at sea. Tours are conducted in English.

More information about the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and TREC can be found on their official website.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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