Fieldwork to Gran Canaria (ULPGC, ECOAQUA Lab.)

For the last field mission of my PhD thesis (Year 4, serious things to come!), I was lucky enough to travel to Gran Canaria to join a great team led by Dr Francisco Otero-Ferrer from the Parque Cientifico y Tecnologico Marino de Taliarte (ECOAQUA lab, Universidad Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, https://ecoaqua.ulpgc.es/). Gran Canaria is one of the seven islands composing the Spanish volcanic archipelago of the Canary Islands. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean and became famous as “the Land of endless spring” for its warm weather all year round. I landed on the island on the 29th of September … perfect time to skip some of our most rainy months here in Belgium (lucky me!)

No joke, we decided to work on this project in October-November as sea surface temperatures around the Island are maximal during these months, which is better for our experiment. Our aim is to assess the effects of increasing temperatures on antipatharians (black corals) from the Canary Islands. For this purpose, I was delighted to be working with Adriana Gouveia from Madeira (Portugal) who is doing her master thesis on the subject. Working in pairs is a real plus, allowing us to take turns in the daily tasks (tank cleaning, coral feeding, daily inspection, etc.) but also to be twice more efficient and gaining time. It was also an opportunity for me to train her in the techniques I’ve learned throughout all my fieldwork. Plus, there is always more in two brains than in one and I have no doubt experimentalists know how helpful this can become when work piles up!

We went diving to collect black coral fragments from different colonies at 25m depth. We quickly found several big colonies of unbranched antipatharians. Fran was cutting the fragments and I was taking care of the ziplocks to make sure that we would not lose track of the origin of each fragment. We had some current which made the conditions to collect more challenging but at the end, I think we were amongst the lucky divers as we latter found out that the waves made life harder for those waiting for us on the surface. The story goes that medicine for seasickness were not enough…

Once back to the lab, we directly prepared the nubbin and placed them in aquaria to left them recover from the stress of collection. Later on, we were able to collect new fragments at 40m (Gran Canaria) and 80m depth (Lanzarote). This was possible owing to the collaboration with the ongoing project B-CHARMED (https://b-charmed.eu/en/), which aims at exploring underwater forests of black corals from Macaronesia, using the island of Lanzarote as a case study. All the fragments were used to evaluate the effects of heat stress on antipatharians, by comparing the response of populations from distinct depths.

Results are currently being analysed… updates in the coming months!

Once more, many thanks for the financial support provided by the FNRS and the RBZS institutes in Belgium, as well as to all participants involved in the project: Fran, Adriana, Philippe. Thanks to the precious technical divers: Fran (ULPGC), Fernando Tuya (ULPGC), Fernando Espino (ULPGC), Lorenzo Bramanti (OOB, France), Lucas Terrana (UMons, Belgium). Special thanks to Martial, Sandra, Francesca, Doreen.

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