HYDRA researchers during measurements and experiments around natural CO2 seeps near Panarea Island, Sicily
In the urgent need to reduce the atmospheric concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide the capture and storage of CO2 (CCS) is considered a potential technological measure. In a EU-funded project researchers set out to the volcanic island of Panarea to study the effect of CO2 that might leak out of sub-seabed storage sites in a natural setting for the first time on all trophic levels, from microbes to macrofauna. At the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily natural CO2 gas is seeping out of the seafloor providing a natural laboratory to study the effect of higher and lower CO2 concentrations on marine organisms and their ecosystem.
The study showed that high CO2 fluxes in the sediment lead to the dissolution of sediment carbonates, and to a co-transport of silica and iron from the sediment. Locally, productivity and biomass of photosynthetically active bacteria and protists at the sediment surface were 3-5 times higher. However, the biomass of sand-dwelling animals was reduced to 20 percent, and the trophic diversity was substantially reduced. There was also a strong effect on the composition of the bacterial communities, and their performance in some important metabolic pathways was reduced down to 10 percent. Transplant experiments of sediment between impacted and non-impacted sites confirmed that high CO2 permanently alters community compositions and important ecological functions. This has to be considered in the risk assessment of CCS applications in the marine environment.
Title of the original publication:
Massimiliano Molari, Katja Guilini, Christian Lott, Miriam Weber, Dirk de Beer, Stefanie Meyer, Alban Ramette, Gunter Wegener, Frank Wenzhöfer, Daniel Martin, Tamara Cibic, Cinzia De Vittor, Ann Vanreusel, Antje Boetius (2018):
CO2 leakage alters biogeochemical and ecological functions of submarine sands.
Science Advances, 07 Feb 2018 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao2040
Find videos about the expeditions and the ECO2 project here:
The test systems in the water column and on the seafloor off Elba
The increasing amount of plastic littered into the sea may provide a new substratum for benthic organisms. These marine fouling communities on plastic have not received much scientific attention. We present, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive analysis of their macroscopic community composition, their primary production and the polymer degradation comparing conventional polyethylene (PE) and a biodegradable starch-based plastic blend in coastal benthic and pelagic habitats in the Mediterranean Sea. The biomass of the fouling layer increased significantly over time and all samples became heavy enough to sink to the seafloor. The fouling communities, consisting of 21 families, were distinct between habitats, but not between polymer types. Positive primary production was measured in the pelagic, but not in the benthic habitat, suggesting that large accumulations of floating plastic could pose a source of oxygen for local ecosystems, as well as a carbon sink. Contrary to PE, the biodegradable plastic showed a significant loss of tensile strength and disintegrated over time in both habitats. These results indicate that in the marine environment, biodegradable polymers may disintegrate at higher rates than conventional polymers. This should be considered for the development of new materials, environmental risk assessment and waste management strategies. The authors emphasise the definition of "bio-degradation" as the complete remineralisation of the polymer to carbon dioxide (or methane), water, biomass and heat by the metabolic action of microorganisms.
Title of the original publication:
Nora-Charlotte Pauli, Jana S. Petermann, Christian Lott, Miriam Weber (2017): Macrofouling communities and the degradation of plastic bags in the sea - an in-situ experiment. Royal Society Open Science. 25 Oct 2017 doi: 10.1098/rsos.170549
For more information please contact Dr. Miriam Weber from the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences.
Free download at
This study was supported by AQUEIS e.V. with a scholarship to Nora Pauli.
Different consortia of Bacteria and Archea that together can metabolise methane anaerobically (fluorescently labeled)
Methane is an odourless gas and 25 times more efficient as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Certain marine microorganisms are able to use methane as an energy and carbon source. Most studies were done on deep-sea communities and only recently there has been increasing evidence that in shallow marine sediments there might be a great diversity of methane-eating microorganisms.
In a joint project experts from Bremen's Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences have been studying the sediments around gas seeps off the Island of Elba that had been know for more than 20 years. Gas and sediment samples were taken by divers and subsequently analysed in the laboratory. This resulted in the dicovery of a surprisingly high diversity of bacteria and archea known to metabolise methane anaerobically, especially with respect to the hithero studied deep-sea communities. The researchers explain this diversity with the wide distribution of microorganisms, the availability of different energy sources, the prevailing hydrodynamic forces acting on the shallow seabed, and the permeable sediment that is easily flushed by porewater flow. However, although the biogeochemical conditions differ strongly from the ones in the deep sea the microbes from Elba are closely related. The results support the hypothesis that the presence of methane has the strongest selection effect on the lower taxa and that the general groups are globally distributed.
Since 1995 HYDRA researchers had been observing the gas bubbles emerging from the sediment in a shallow sandy area just off Pomonte, a village in the west of the Island of Elba/Italy. In 2009 an in-depth study started in the area. During this project two more areas with gas seeps had been found, one at the neighbouring Island of Pianosa and another one close to Scoglio d’Africa, an islet further south. The investigations will now continue to learn more about methane-eating microbial communities in shallow marine waters.
Title of the original publication:
Ruff SE, Kuhfuss H, Wegener G, Lott C, Ramette A, Wiedling J, Knittel K and Weber M (2016): Methane Seep in Shallow-Water Permeable Sediment Harbors High Diversity of Anaerobic Methanotrophic Communities, Elba, Italy. Front. Microbiol. 7:374. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00374
For more information please contact Dr. Miriam Weber from the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences.
Free download at http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmicb.2016.00374/full
In the framework of the EU Project "Open-Bio - Opening bio-based markets via standards, labelling and procurement", in which HYDRA is involved with the work package 5 "Marine Degradation", a review study has been prepared, that compiles the currently applied methods to assess the degradation of substances under marine conditions. European, American and further international standards are listed, critically commented, and validated for their suitability and/or their flaws. The objective of the review is to define still open questions and the need for new, better tests and standards. The text in addition also gives general background information on the current state of research of marine degradation of plastics, and on the ecological basics. The outcome of this analysis will be used for the development of a set of reliable environmentally relevant standard tests, that will be handed over to the European Institute for Normation CEN to be implemented into the body of European norms. The overall aim is to give the European consumers a trustworthy instrument of information, a reliable label, that unequivocally states, whether an item or its packaging made from plastics will be really degradable under natural conditions in the marine environment.
Title of the original review:
Weber M, Lott C, van Eeckert M, Mortier M, Siotto M, de Wilde B, Pikasi A, Briassoulis D, Mistriotis A, Degli Innocenti F, Tosin M, Sinkel C, te Ronde I, van Kruchten S, van der Zee M, Quitzow R, Peuckert J (2015):
Review of current methods and standards relevant to marine degradation
European Commission, Project "Open-Bio", KBBE/FP7EN/613677, WP5-D5.5, 90 pp.
Free Download at http://www.biobasedeconomy.eu/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=123
Andreas Eich and Tobias Mildenberger performed the research for their bachelor thesis at the Elba Field Station of the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences. In an experimental study they followed the scenario "what does happen in the first weeks if plastic bags end up in the sea". Some European countries meanwhile require the use of biodegradable shopping bags instead of shoppers made from conventional polyethylene (PE). The objective of the in-situ study was to gain more knowledge about the early formation of biofilms and its composition on PE and on one of the most often used bio-based, biodegradable polymers, the starch-based MATER-BI.
The authors now present their results in the scientific journal PLOS one. The amount of biofilm rapidly increased on both plastic types and in both studied marine habitats, the free water column (pelagic) and the seafloor (benthic), within 15 and 33 days respectively. Diatoms chosen as indicator organisms significantly differed in abundance and diversity according to plastic type and habitat. The researchers relate these differences with the different specific surface properties. The net oxygen production of the biofilm was negative, meaning that the initial biofilm on marine plastic litter consumed more oxygen than it produced, regardless of the plastic type. Measurements of the mechanical strength of the experimental plastic film could not detect signs of degradation. However, ultrastructural analyses with the scanning electron microscope showed noticeable signs of degradation in the benthic and the pelagic habitat. Their study indicates that the early biofilm formation and composition are affected by the type of plastic and the habitat in which the litter is ending up.
Title of the original paper:
Eich A, Mildenberger T, Laforsch C, Weber M (2015):
Biofilm and Diatom Succession on Polyethylene (PE) and Biodegradable Plastic Bags in Two Marine Habitats: Early Signs of Degradation in the Pelagic and Benthic Zone?
PLoS ONE 10(9): e0137201. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.013720
Free Download at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0137201
Andi und Tobi report on their project in a video blog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8o57hBC0jw
Please contact Dr. Miriam Weber from the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences for further questions.
This study was generously supported by AQUEIS e.V. with a sholarship to Andreas Eich and Tobias Mildenberger.
A small pond in one of the last remnants of native forest and bushland surrounded by townships in the southwest of Florida holds a secret. The team of astrobiologist Prof. Dr. Jennifer Macalady from Penn State University is hoping to use it as a window 2 billion years back in time. The funnel-shaped karst lake, a so called sinkhole, has a diameter of only 78 meters. Every year in fall Little Salt Spring sees a slimy layer of bacteria growing at its rim. This biofilm eventually completely covers the sandy bottom with a purple veil. Together with her colleague Dr. Trinity Hamilton and PhD student Christian Clark Jenn is investigating how these bacteria utilize light and under which conditions oxygen is produced. The occurence of anoxygenic and oxygenic photoynthesis is their main focus. Little Salt Spring is characterized by a special water chemistry: oxygen and hydrogen sulfide are present in low concentrations at the same time and could provide the bacteria with a setting comparable to the conditions in the Earth's early oceans about 3 billion years ago. The goal is to find out why at about 2.5 billion years there was a dramatic rise in the atmospheric oxygen concentration, and which processes might have delayed this phenomenon for almost 1 billion years.
At the beginning of the two week expedition everyone was curiously wating for the divers to return from the first dive. Would there be enough biofilm this year? There was great joy when the dive team led by Christian Clark brought the first samples to the surface and the video shot was reviewed together. The bacteria bloom was in full power. Dr. Dirk de Beer and Dr. Anthony Dron from the microsensor group of the Max-Planck-Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen started immediately in the field lab to test the biofilm for its photosynthetic capabilities under different conditions. Dr. Miriam Weber and Christian Lott from the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences were in charge of measurements and experiments under water. They recorded the light regime in the lake both quantitatively and qualitatively. Day by day the the diver-operated microsensor system DOMS was deployed to monitor pH, oxygen and sulfide concentrations in the biofilm over daily cycles. With a light micro-probe attached to the DOMS the spectral composition of the ambient light within the biofilm could be measured for the first time. At the lake floor there were also incubation experiments with labeled carbon conducted in order to decipher the metabolism within the biofilm. Trinity could process numerous water and biofilm samples for further analyses and culturing experiments in the laboratory. The study at Little Salt Spring could help not only to better understand the development of the early atmosphere on Earth but also to formulate ideas about possible life strategies on other planets.
Website of Jenn's group
Webiste of Dirk's group
The project is co-funded by the European Commission for 3 years and aims at accelerating the introduction of standards, labelling and harmonized product information for bio-based products in Europe. One important aspect is the performance of these products once they end up in the environment, be it during or after their intended use. The HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences is conducting tests on various bio-based plastics under marine conditions. The results will be validated in close collaboration with our project partners and will help to reliably assess the biological degradability of these materials. Based on this knowledge standardised lab tests will be developed that will allow to determine the biodegradability of bio-based materials in the laboratory under marine conditions and to communicate this to the consumer via transparent labelling. The photo is showing HYDRA scientists Boris Unger and Dorothée Makarow during a sampling campaign at the test set-up in 40 meters depth in the Mediterranean Sea.
Please find the leaflet and more information about the project here.
Kristina Stemmer, lecturer and researcher at the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences, together with her colleague Gernot Nehrke from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research at Bremerhaven could map the occurrance of coloured polyenes not only at the surface but also within the shell material of one of the longest-lived animals. The bivalve Arctica islandica thrives in the cooler waters of the Northern Atlantic Ocean and is known to live for more than 350 years. During the investigation of possible effects of ocean acidification the researchers compared shells from different geographical regions to see whether there are differences in the chain length of these pigments according to the microclimate they live in. What was first a study of the quality of polyenes itself turned into the finding of fine polyene lines in cross sections of the clam's shell within the carbonate mineral matrix. This indicates an hitherto unknown role of mollusc pigments in the biomineralization of their shells.
Title of the original publication:
Stemmer and Nehrke (2014): The distribution of polyenes in the shell of Arctica islandica from North Atlantic localities: A confocal Raman microscopy study.
Journal of Molluscan Studies, first published online June 9, 2014 doi:10.1093/mollus/eyu033.
Download the Open Access paper here.
with support from
From 28 May to 07 June 2014 the Second International Field Workshop in the framework of the Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) "SYMBIOMICS - Molecular Ecology and Evolution of Bacterial Symbionts" took place at the HYDRA Field Station on the Island of Elba. Project leader Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen/Germany had invited 15 of the most important experts in the field of chemoautotrophic marine symbioses, as well as 17 students and young scientists to Elba, to do research together, to discuss and to exchange knowledge and ideas.
(back row, from left to right) Freddy Cadera (HYDRA), Pete Girguis (Harvard University), Jessica Panzarino (Havard University), Manuel Liebeke (MPI Bremen), Dan Distel (Northeastern University), Reuben Shipway (Northeastern University), Chuck Fisher (Penn State University), Mike Hadfield (University of Hawai'i at Manoa), Mario Schimak (MPI Bremen),
(middle row, standing, from left) Nicole Dubilier (MPI Bremen), Margret McFall-Ngai (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Boris Unger (HYDRA), Miriam Weber (HYDRA), Jofi Fischer (HYDRA), Niko Leisch (Uni Vienna), Jörg Ott (Uni Vienna), Hannah Marchant (MPI Bremen), Christian Lott (HYDRA), Miriam Brandt (MPI Bremen), Julian Rau (HYDRA), Colleen Cavanaugh (Harvard University), Manuel Kleiner (MPI Bremen), Simon Niederbacher (HYDRA), Brandon Seah (MPI Bremen), Johanna Wiedling (HYDRA), Harald Gruber-Vodicka (MPI Bremen), Rich Dannenberg (Penn State University), Joey Pakes (Harvard University), Julia Kesting (Uni Vienna), Doro Makarow (HYDRA), Marie Wolff (HYDRA),
(middle row, sitting) Marcel Kuypers (MPI Bremen), Silvia Moriano Gutierrez (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Anne-Christin Kreutzmann (MPI Bremen), Florian Scharhauser (Uni Wien), Ned Ruby (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Oliver Jäckle (MPI Bremen), Nadine Lehnen (MPI Bremen),
(front) Kristina Stemmer (HYDRA), Monka Bright (Uni Wien), Jingchun Li (Harvard University), Rebecca Ansorge (MPI Bremen), Andie Chan (Penn State University), Juliane Wippler (MPI Bremen), Hanna Kuhfuß (HYDRA), Matze Schneider (HYDRA). Missing: Dirk de Beer (MPI Bremen).
Find more information here.
The new course program of the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences for 2014 is still open for online registration. Students and other persons interested can still choose from six courses with five different topics. The excursions run for a period of ten days and take place at the HYDRA Field Station on the Island of Elba, Italy. All courses are suitable for certified SCUBA divers. Participants without diving experience participate in an integrated diving course leading to an internationally recognized SCUBA diver certificate. Additionally we offer training modules to become a European Scientific Diver and another two modular combinations for scientific diving training in marine sciences. The course "Methods of Underwater Research" can only be booked by certified divers. All courses are structured according to the requirements of the ECTS program and are accepted by many universities.
in German only
MONTAG, 07 April 2014, PORTOFERRAIO/ISLAND ELBA
During his trip along the Mediterranean Sea James McClintock is visiting our Field Station and will give a public lecture about his experience from 30 years of research in Antarctica. The presentation will be in English and Italian and his pictures will speak for themselves anyway.
Information on James B. McClintock: www.lostantarctica.com
LUNEDÌ, 07 Aprile 2014, PORTOFERRAIO, ISOLA D' ELBA
Mentre gira per i paesi del Mediterraneo James McClintock sta visitando anche la nostra Field Station all'Isola d'Elba e darà una presentazione pubblica sulla sua esperienza di trent'anni di ricerca in Antartide. La presentazione si svolge in inglese ed italiano, ma sopratutto parleranno le immagini.
più informazioni su James McClintock: www.lostantarctica.com
Our ichthyologist and deep-sea expert Matthies Schneider was asked by the divion's curator of the Deutsches Museum to do the revision of the tables for deep sea organisms.
At the opening ceremony a delegation of the HYDRA youth was present, deeply interested in the objects presented by the Museum.
Our tip: a trip to Munich is always worthwhile last but not least to take a profound look into deep sea oceanography!
Watch the full magazine with another 2 stories (09:55) or check out the HYDRA story from 06:10 on.
and 10 more languages at the EURONEWS website.
Two years of shooting for the Mediterranean series. Some impressions:
Thousands of kilometers by car, hundreds of days at sea, many weeks under water sitting still for minutes in front of a tiny creature, trying to put it in focus with a long swell shaking you back and forth. Crawling into so far unexplored underwater caves on a small Aegean island to find the rarest marine mammal of the Mediterranean Sea, the monk seal. Zig-zagging the deep blue waters of the Ionian Sea on the hunt for the biggest predators of the planet, the gigantic Sperm whale. Mixed-gas night dives with several knots of current in the Strait of Messina to film the rare six-gill shark. Getting caught in the deep fog far out at sea off the Balearic Islands with no wind on a 102-years old pirate ship like research ship. And after that riding a severe Mistral storm with two anchors out, and dragging. Schools of dozens of dolphins around the ship, filming fearless loggerhead turtles basking at the surface from touching distance, pods of pilot whales all around and bulls nervously watching their newborn….
more info on ARTE TV: http://www.arte.tv/guide/fr/045506-003/mediterranee-sauvage-1-5
Our 5-part documentary series on ARTE again!
For part 3 „Canada“ (Wednesday, 04 December, 15.45h) and part 4 „Atlantic Ocean“ (Thursday, 05 December, 15.50h) together with Florian Guthknecht (BR) we were facing hundred thousands of salmons in roaring rivers, went after sea lions and elephant seals, tracked down Giant Octopus and Wolfeel and were "embraced" by humpback whales.
more info on
With a maximum age of more than 350 years the ocean quahog Arctica islandica is one of the most longlived animals on Earth. It serves as a "lab rat" not only for longevity studies but is also a model organism for investigations on the effect of changing environmental factors on calcifying shell-forming organisms. In her PhD project Kristina Stemmer had been working on the effect of altered carbon dioxide levels on the mechanisms of shell formation. Together with her colleagues she could show that elevated CO2 levels do not affect shell growth or crystal microstructure indicating that A. islandica shows an adaptation to a wider range of pCO2 levels than reported for other species. Accordingly, proxy information derived from Arctica islandica shells of this region contains no pCO2 related bias, making this animal a valuable tool for e.g. paleo-climate studies.
Dr. Kristina Stemmer is biologist and lecturer at the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences.
Titel of the original publication:
Stemmer K, Nehrke G, Brey T (2013) Elevated CO2 Levels do not Affect the Shell Structure of the Bivalve Arctica islandica from the Western Baltic.
PLoS ONE 8(7): e70106. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070106
Since two years HYDRA has been involved in producing a five-part series on the Mediterranean Sea. The last filming was done just about a month ago and the work now remains for our colleagues to finish editing. The series will be shown on ARTE first in winter, and one of the parts will be the opening presentation for this year's Greenscreen Festival in Eckernförde in September. We met so many wonderful people who let us participate in their research and conservation efforts, and have made it possible to collect many interesting stories and stunning images. Thus German First Channel/Bavarian TV branch chose to give more space to single stories than could be accomodated in the 52 minute series. One of the films in the format "Welt der Tiere" (World of Animals) will be shown on August, 18th at 15.00 h on Bayerischer Rundfunk.
Thanks again to our biologist colleagues Panos, Stella and Alexandros from the Greek Monkseal Conservation Society MOm for their friendship and dedication that made this project a very special one. More information on MOm's work here
The Italian Island of Pianosa southwest of her bigger sister Elba had been a penitentiary for centuries and was integrated into the National Park Tuscan Archipelago only 15 years ago. Since this summer the park authority has taken the first steps to selectively open the marine protected area to sports divers. Up to now there are four dive sites marked by permanent moorings that can be dived. Only accredited dive centers are allowed and the divers must be led by governmentally approved nature guides. But it's really worth the effort: within the protected zone 1 there are drop-offs to 50 meters, gorgonarian forests and a good population of Mediterranean grouper. Seasonally you can encounter eagle rays, oceanic sunfish and schools of barracuda and amberjacks. To discover the Med at it's best contact the Association of Dive Centers of Elba ( ) or the National Park Tuscan Archipelago ( ). The HYDRA Field Station Centro Marino Elba is accredited at the National Park and is authorized to visit the dive spots for its marine biology courses. (fotos: Fabio Agostinelli/Christian Lott/CED)
HYDRA is member of CED, the consortium of dive centers of Elba and closely collaborates with the National Park.
In April the initiative „Mare pulito“ took place in the municipalities of Elba and Capraia island. Nearly 100 pupils of the school from Marina di Campo came to Galenzana bay to clean the beach. Beside the trash, the action focussed on pure nature experience – ecology lessons at the seaside with biologists from the HYDRA-Institute for Marine Sciences. A look through the microscopes helped to bring the animals of shallow waters literally closer to everybody. In the end, all had not only collected a lot of waste, but also had a nice experience and learned a lot about ecological relationships.
"Mare pulito" is initiated every spring by the consortium of the diving centers of Elba and Capraia. Find more informations here:.
Within the new alliance of the Marine Science Training Network our Spanish partner KAI Marine Services developed a field course program on Open Sea Science. During the 1-week field courses students actively participate in ongoing research projects like the EU-funded LIFE+ MIGRATE on cetaceans and turtles in the waters around Malta, and the OASIS project in collaboration with NOAA. How to study large pelagic animals in the "blue desert" of the open sea, how to gather scientifically sound data that will help to better protect this vulnerable ecosystem? How to behave on a research vessel and how to organize daily life? How to search, find, identify and sample whales, dolphins, turtles and the other great pelagics of the Mediterranean Sea? These are some of the questions that will be addressed during the courses.
The new course program of the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences for 2013 is now open for online registration. Students and other persons interested can choose from eight courses with four different topics. The excursions run for a period of ten days and take place at the HYDRA Field Station on the Island of Elba, Italy. All courses are suitable for certified SCUBA divers. Participants without diving experience participate in an integrated diving course leading to an internationally recognized SCUBA diver certificate. The course "Methods of Underwater Research" can only be booked by certified divers. All courses are structured according to the requirements of the ECTS program and are accepted by many universities.
Co-author Michael Janke shows his catch. The lure was used as a scale (25 cm length).
Marine biologists Ricardo Sagarminaga (KAI Marine) and Boris Unger (HYDRA) bring the captured turtle to the ship to attach the tag.
Ricardo Sagarminaga (KAI Marine) and Christian Lott (HYDRA) release the turtle "HYDRA" that carries the satellite tag on her carapace.
A healthy coral reef (left) is a very diverse and rich ecosystem. The input of organic-rich sediments can smother reefs and leave them degraded. (Photos: B. Unger, C. Lott/HYDRA)
Corals smothered by organic-rich sediment will die quickly. Fotos: M. Weber/HYDRA
Miriam Weber measures the effect of sedimentation on corals directly in the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: C. Lott/HYDRA
Please use the following link to download the paper (Open Access)
First Scientific Diving Expedition finds high microbial diversity
Expedition leader Dr. Danny Ionescu retrieves the first samples from freshwater springs at the bottom of the Dead Sea
425 metres below sea level, in the middle of the desert, ten times saltier than the world’s oceans lies the Dead Sea – one of the most hostile places on our planet. A team of researchers from Israel and Germany led by microbiologist Dr. Danny Ionescu from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen dived there for the first time for a systematic scientific exploration of unusual features: freshwater springs on the bottom of the Dead Sea. Where you would expect nothing than mud and bizarre structures made from pure salt crystals – and overall just a few hundred bacteria per liter of water there is more life than previously thought. The first analyses showed that a huge variety of microorganisms thrive right where the springs enter the salt-saturated waters of the Dead Sea. In October 2011 there will be the next mission to these salty depths to investigate how organisms can exist under these extreme conditions. For the divers the conditions are extreme as well. Outside temperatures of 45 °C, 30 percent of salinity and toxic sulfide in the springs pose potential risks. Up to 50 kilogram of weights are needed to immerse a person. Danny Ionescu from MPI Bremen and Christian Lott from HYDRA dive without the usual neoprene suit, but full-face masks and communication systems are a must to protect the scientists under water and connect them to their colleagues at the surface. Be ready to get an up-date on the findings of the next mission by the end of October ...
Check the website of the MPI in Bremen for the full press release.
Watch our underwater video...
Thanks for support with special equipment to:
Adventurous voyage with spectacular images and new discoveries in deep-sea research
Copyright: Bayerisches Fernsehen
The film will be repeated the next morning, 03.09.2011, 9h55
and will be available on-line at for the following week.
Leben am Limit / La vie extrême
(Deutschland, 2011, 52mn)
Regie: Florian Guthknecht
On behalf of the „Internationale Regierungskommission Alpenrhein“ from 2009 to 2011 HYDRA examined the biological communities of one of the largest alpine rivers. With this study not only the last gaps in our knowledge about the River Rhine fauna could be closed, the team also explored the deficits and the potential for improvements of the river's habitats. The research report was published in July 2011* and provides important information for future water protection control and river development on this regulated and over-exploited mountain river.
* Rey, P., Werner, S., Mürle, U., Becker, A., Ortlepp, J. & J. Hürlimann: Monitoring Alpenrhein. - Basismonitoring Ökologie. Herausgeber: Internationale Regierungskommission Alpenrhein (IRKA), Projektgruppe Gewässer- und Fischökologie. 150 S. St. Gallen 2011.
You can download the full report (in German only):http://www.alpenrhein.net/Publikationen/tabid/68/Default.aspx
More than half of the body of the flatworm Paracatenula is made up by bacterial symbionts. The bacteria and their host are thought to have co-evolved in this symbiosis for over 500 Million years.
As Harald Gruber from the University of Vienna and colleagues report in the online pre-publication of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences small marine flatworms of the genus Paracatenula are stuffed with sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. Many species of these worms are found in sands in front of tropical and subtropical beaches. A common feature they share is that they don’t have a mouth. They don’t eat. Instead, bacterial partners live inside the worm in an organ, called the trophosome. The researchers found that over 50% of the worm’s biomass is actually contributed by the symbionts. Moreover, molecular identification analyses showed, that every worm species harbours its own bacterial species and that the phylogeny of worms and symbionts is congruent for 15 different worm species from the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Caribbean and Australia! Harald and colleagues state that this group of flatworms has been in a partnership since the divergence from other flatworms more than 500 Million years ago. They see the small “backyard sand“ worms to be “the oldest known mutualistic bacteria–metazoan symbiosis, likely dating back to the early evolution of bilaterian diversity in the late Ediacaran/early Cambrian.“
Published online before print June 27, 2011, doi: 10.1073/ PNAS June 27, 2011
Check out the original paper by Open Access download:
For more information see the registration site or write an e-mail to ifm.
The HYDRA Institute for Marine Siences congratulates Stefan Häusler, Vincent Kohl and Matthias Schneider to their successful examination as Instructor *. We also thank Nico Hüttmann and Andreas Lenich for their efforts as lecturers and certifiers.
2-part extended version of "The Beauty and the Shark" on Bavarian Television
There will be an extended version (2 x 30 min) of our TV documentary on sharks in South-Africa on air which was shown with great success on First German Channel ARD last year.
More info on our Documentation Unit webiste.
new 5-part documentary series on ARTE
For part 3 „Canada“ (Wednesday, 23 March, 19.30h) and part 4 „Atlantic Ocean“ (Thursday, 24. March, 19.30h) together with Florian Guthknecht (BR) we were facing hundred thousands of salmons in roaring rivers, went after sea lions and elephant seals, tracked down Giant Octopus and Wolfeel and were "embraced" by humpback whales.
more info on
Although the species preservation of lake trout was achieved, these salmonids still do not meet with good conditions for their reproduction in the tributaries of Lake Constance. By order of the IBKF (Internationale Bevollmächtigtenkonferenz für die Bodenseefischerei), a team of scientists, which is directed by HYDRA, researches in five chosen rivers with spawning activities. Within the next three years, analyses in the rivers Goldach, Bregenzerach, Leiblach, Argen and Rotach should fill existing gaps of knowledge about migration and reproduction. Aim: Optimizing of renaturation actions for the benefit of a natural reproduction of these impressive fish.
Lake trout can reach a length of almost one meter, for their spawning redds they need at least one square meter of well-oxygenated, loose gravel in the river (photo: S. Werner).
Every two years the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht assigns the GKSS Prize “Intelligible Science“ to young scientists who can proof their ability to present their special research topic in an easily comprehensible way to an audience of non-scientists. This year the first prize with a sum of 2.500 Euro was awarded to the physicist Stefan Krause, who is developing a new hard drive technology. The neurobiologist Dominik Paquet won the second prize of 1.500 Euro with a presentation on Alzheimer's disease of zebra fish. Miriam Weber, lecturer and research coordinator at the HYDRA Field Station on Elba took the jury and the audience "On The Track of the Coral Killer" and told about her science on the effect of sediments on corals as a detective story. She won the third prize of 1.000 Euro. The prize for science communication is awarded every two years to applicants from all over Germany. More information on the website of the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht ().
The new course program of the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences for 2011 is now open for online registration. Students and other persons interested can choose from eight courses with four different topics. The excursions run for a period of ten days and take place at the HYDRA Field Station on the Island of Elba, Italy. All courses are suitable for certified SCUBA divers. Participants without diving experience participate in an integrated diving course leading to an internationally recognized SCUBA diver certificate. The course "Methods of Underwater Research" can only be booked by certified divers. All courses are structured according to the requirements of the ECTS program and are accepted by many universities.
The dive centre Oceanworld Cyprus, run by Nico Hüttman, provided space and manpower for the VDTL SCUBA Instructor* to **** exam in November in Greece. VDTL is the German Association of Diving Instructors within the European CEDIP. In total six examinees and four examiners spent an intensive and exciting week together. Finally the VDTL is proud to have two freshly certified instructors*, one instructor **, one instructor*** and Andrea Werner and Boris Unger from HYDRA as instructors **** . Our Dive officers Andrea and Boris are now certified instructor trainers for all levels up to SCUBA instructor according to the EU normative 14413-2. Congratulations !!!
The HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences in cooperation with the bar Pino Solitario and the Acquario dell'Elba was inviting the children of the island and interested visitors to delve into the world of the seagrass meadow Posidonia oceanica, the most important shallow-water ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea.
HYDRA and Aquario dell'Elba staff were kept busy all day long by crowds of children, their teachers and parents around aquaria with pieces of sea grass meadows and typical marine creatures. The direct observation and contact to live organisms normally hidden under the Sea was followed with awe, and myriads of questions and stories of personal experience, by the youngest and the old. A lecture with a video projector presentation was giving additional informations about the ecological interrelations within this important biotope. The visitors were specially attracted by the possibility to immerse themselves into the fascinating microcosm of the seagrass meadow using the six brand new microscopes provided by our partner ZEISS.
The Posidonia Day was a very successful test for the international science outreach initiative "School on the Beach" launched by HYDRA and its partners.
We used the Coastal Clean-up Day as an occasion to combine already existing year-round activities at natural, less accessible beaches with low touristic impact in the vicinity of the HYDRA Field Station on Elba and integrate them into this world-wide environmental project. Thus we were not only collecting garbage but also journaling detailed information by the standards of Oceanconservancy. The data are submitted to the worldwide database of the organization thus giving precious information to governmental authorities and scientific institutions.
This is a project in cooperation with Giovanni Mortula a private nature enthusiast who collects garbage at Le Tombe beach all year round; the HYDRA "Summer-Team" who was collecting and journaling the garbage at Le Tombe during the Coastal Cleanup Day and accomplished the sea transport to the accessible beach of Fetovaia; the association Costa del Sole with Sergio Galli who supported the project; the City Council of Campo nell'Elba taking care of the final disposal of the collected garbage by the initiative of Giovanni Lupi.
Abstract of the program:
"The aim of the workshop is to bring together experts in their field in an intimate and intensive working atmosphere and to open participation to a limited number of junior scientists and outstanding students. In a two-week hands-on workshop all participants should have any possibilities to share knowledge, to learn and teach, to develop new views and to integrate their own capabilities into a broader interdisciplinary framework. Some of the invited scientists have been in the field for well more than 30 years, so another aspect is the transfer of experience as well as maybe unconventional thoughts to the next generation of researchers.
The HYDRA Field Station provides the logistics on Elba and organizes, with the kind support of the Park Authority of the National Park Tuscan Archipelago and the Municipality of Campo nell’Elba, access to the protected area of the Island of Pianosa and set up a field camp."
was on air Friday, 2 April 2010, 19.30 h on ARTE. Will be repeated soon on Bayerisches Fernsehen/Bavarian TV.
Premiere show was on Friday, 16 April 2010, 19.30 h and 23 April 2010, 14.00 h on ARTE.
was on air 4 May 2010, 17.00 h on Bayerisches Fernsehen/Bavarian TV.
What do have deep-sea volcanoes, sunken whale carcasses and the shallow-water sand bottoms around the Island of Elba have in common? All these habitats habor a rich community of animals that evolved an obligate relationship with bacteria and thus can gain their nutrition independantly from sunlight, so-called chemosynthetic symbioses.
Nicole Dubilier, Claudia Bergin (both MPI Bremen) and Christian Lott (HYDRA) report in the latest issue of Nature Reviews Microbiology at least 7 animal taxa in which such an intimate relationship with bacteria has been established. It is an extraordinary efficient concept that enables the animals, that have reduced their digestive organs completely or in parts, to gain energy from reduced sulfur compounds or methane, with the help of their little inhabitants. The first discovery of these until then unthinkable life strategies dates 30 years back. In the late 1970s the "Black Smokers", effusions of hot mineral-rich water in the deep-sea of the Galapagos Rift were found, covered with enormous numbers of giant tubeworms and clams. Soon after clams and worms from shallow-water sand bottoms were described, living also in symbiosis with sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. Nicole Dubilier's Symbiosis Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, studies the symbioses of mussels, clams, snails and worms from deep-sea habitats like Mid-Atlantic Ridge volcanoes, methane seeps, whale-falls and sunken wood. In her group Christian Lott investigates the symbiosis of gutless oligochaetes from sand bottoms around the Island of Elba.
Photo bottom left: MPI/A.Blazejak
Symbiotic diversity in marine animals: the art of harnessing chemosynthesis
Nicole Dubilier, Claudia Bergin and Christian Lott
Nature Reviews Microbiology, Vol 6, Oct 2008, 725-740