Camille is off to the ACE Expedition

This season 2017, Camille Moreau, PhD student at the Universities of Brussels (ULB) and Dijon, is joining a major Swiss-led research expedition circum-navigating the Antarctic: the ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition).

In the framework of his PhD project, Camille will take part as a member of the ASCCC (Antarctic Seabed Carbon Capture Change) team gathering scientists from master students to senior scientists. Their research will investigate the importance of sea bed animals in carbon cycling and how climate change will impact these processes in the Southern Ocean.

The project is led by David Barnes, a marine biologist at the British Antarctic Survey and zoology/ecology professor at the University of Cambridge. He took part in the first leg of the expedition, from Cape Town to Hobart. Camille will join the team in Hobart, Tasmania for the second leg of the expedition, a which will take the ship to Punta Arenas, Chile. The team will have the opportunity to visit rarely studied sub-Antarctic islands (Macquarie, Balleny, Scott, Peter the 1st and Diego Ramirez). They will also carry on researches around the Mertz Glacier in Antarctica.

Collection of benthic organisms using a trawl, investigation of marine debris ashore and use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will organise their daily life for the next few weeks.

For more information regarding the expedition and the ASCCC project follow this link or follow their progress on twitter @ACE_Expedition and @asccc_news.

Back from the Sørfjord

We’re just back from the Sørfjord, Norway, where we collected a series of samples to monitor the contamination status, and to carry out acidification experiments.

Our teams have been working in the Sørfjord since 1995. The fjord is located in South-West Norway and has two ore smelters at its head. The location is an exceptionally contaminated area, where discharges (Cd, Zn, Cu, Hg, Pb) from metallurgical industry have occurred for more than 80 years. During the mission, we collected sediments, starfish and sea urchins at sites close to each smelter (sites Sl and S2), further downstream (site S3) and outside of the contaminated fjord (site S4). We are now processing the samples to determine the levels of metals in various grain-size fractions from the sediments and different body compartments of the echinoderms.

The sea urchin we sampled in the fjord

The sea urchin we sampled in the fjord

In parallel, we have carried out a series of tests with our ROV, to ground-truth its usage in the field for habitat mapping and characterisation of benthic communities. This allows us to be ready for field work in harsh conditions in Antarctica, in the framework of the vERSO project.

A seastar (Asterias rubens), in the typical spawning posiiton, captured on the ROV's screen.

A seastar (Asterias rubens), in the typical spawning posiiton, captured on the ROV’s screen.

We also brought back some organisms to the lab to test the influence of different pH on the loss kinetics of contaminants in starfish and on the acid-base physiology and energetics of sea urchins. Work in progress now…

Gathering the samples by scuba diving

Gathering the samples by scuba diving

Our Diving team: Antonio, Philippe and Bruno

Our Diving team: Antonio, Philippe and Bruno

Untangling the 225m tether before a deep dive wit the ROV

Untangling the 225m tether before a deep dive wit the ROV

Helped by a local, as our van was stuck by the fjord. We paid with Belgian beer.

Helped by a local, as our van was stuck by the fjord. We paid with Belgian beer.

Mission Portman: a short report…

Remediation poster

Poster explaining the ongoing remediation programs in the Bay Portman

A small team from the BIOMAR Lab set a research mission to the Bay of Portman, Spain. The team was composed of Philippe Pernet (technician), three master students (Valérie Rossez, Andrea Garvetto and Maxime Coupremanne) under the supervision of Bruno Danis. The team reached the Bay on October 16th, 2013 for a 10-day stay.

The Bay of Portman was chosen for its exceptional environmental characteristics, from a contamination standpoint. A conference was recently held on the subject, involving our colleagues Drs Maria Jose Martinez and Carmen Perez, both from the Research Group of Soil Pollution in the University of Murcia.

A series of sampling and measurement were carried out in the framework of the master students respective projects:

Valérie Rossez worked on  comparative acid-base physiology  in two species of sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacia lixula), investigating the relationship between this physiological parameters and the uptake of contaminants but the sea urchins

Paracentrotus lividus (image from Encyclopedia of life,


Arbacia lixula

Arbacia lixula (picture from Encyclopedia of Life,

Andrea Garvetto worked on microbial diversity, and took samples to investigate the link between the levels of contamination and microbial community structure in digestive pellets of two species of sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacia lixula), in various algae as well as in the seawater and sediments (various granulometries).

Maxime Coupremanne carried out a fine-scale mapping of the biodiversity and habitats of the Bay and its surroundings using underwater video transects using the lab’s ROV as well as videos shot by SCUBA divers.


Our ROV, Wally, in station S3, ready for deployment

Also, samples were taken for heavy metal levels analyses for each corresponding stations. The team was able to work in a total of 16 stations in the Bay, organised in a set of transects (from inside to outside the Bay as well as along the coast, following the main currents), and has come back to the Lab to process the samples. This pool of samples and video transects constitutes a unique benchmark to address potential future changes, for example in the mining activities of the Bay of Portman.


Sampling station in the Bay of Portman

On our way to Portman

Tomorrow, we’re leaving for Portman, Spain for a sampling mission. We’ll be collecting samples for microbiology, ecotoxicology and habitat mapping. We’ll be using scuba diving and the Lab’s micro-ROV for this purpose. We hope to be able to screen the bay’s contamination status, and determine the impact on selected representatives from its ecosystems at various levels of biological organization. We’ll post more as we go! Special thanks to Guy and Fabienne, for allowing us to tryout the ROV in their swimming pool 🙂

Here’s a map of Portman:


The Bay is located close to Carthagena, in the south east Spain, and displays residual metal contamination caused by the dumping of mine tailings into the bay during the 20th century. High levels of concentrations of Hg, Cd, Pb, Cu, Zn, and As have been measured in different biotic and abiotic compartments of the bay.