At the Seagrass Ecology Lab students work on a wide range of topics, including a combination of laboratory, field and modeling work. I am always looking for motivated individuals to join my research group. Members of my lab are highly-motivated, curious, diligent, creative, persistent, enthusiastic and we all work very hard. A positive, can-do attitude and intellectual curiosity are very important. If you are considering applying to join the lab, please spend some time reading our publications and projects to get an idea of the types of questions we address before contacting me. Students are typically fully funded to pursue their research, eg. Erasmus+. Students are required to read, write and speak good fluent English Language and comply with all the rules and regulations from the University of Gothenburg.
1) Feedbacks preventing seagrass restoration
Seagrass meadows and the ecological and economical services that they provide are declining worldwide as a result of human perturbations. This decrease has led to many restoration programs but their success rate is low. The main reasons for this low success seems to be due to (i) regime shifts and feedback mechanisms that prevent natural recovery, (ii) natural variability, (iii) poor planting methods and (iv) direct human disturbances. Seagrasses are ecosystem engineers as they significantly modify the abiotic conditions of their ecosystem to benefit their own success, by reducing hydrodynamics, stabilizing sediments and trapping inorganic and organic material. Feedbacks described for seagrass meadows is for example sediment stabilization, which improves light conditions for plant growth. Regime shifts in seagrass beds are characterized by a collapse of the seagrass dominated ecosystem and a transition into an alternative state. After an ecosystem has shifted into a new regime, it might be difficult to restore it due to feedbacks that prevent seagrass establishment. For example, after the vegetation cover is lost, sediments can easily be re-suspended, causing high turbidity preventing recovery.
The aim of the project is to assess the importance of feedbacks on previous seagrass restoration efforts. For this, all the causes preventing the recovery (feedbacks and no feedbacks) will be collected, and determine their importance compared to other causes. Results of this study will indicate effective management necessary to I) identify dominant feedback mechanisms preventing seagrass restoration II) quantify the area/density scale dependency of the feedbacks, III) to develop restoration techniques to break feedbacks and IV) to effectively spread risks, at the appropriate scale(s).
2) Coastal mapping using drones
Remote sensing technology has proved to be highly effective in acquiring data for coastal environment monitoring and management. However, remote sensing imagery with high spatial resolution data can be highly costly and might not be easily accessible to the entire scientific community. Unfortunately, since drone technology is relatively new, so far very few studies have been performed. Developing efficient and cost-effective methodologies for coastal mapping using drones could extend the scope of monitoring programs by including detailed measurements at a spatial scale and temporal resolution that was previously unfeasible by satellite images. The drone proposed to use in the present project, is a consumer-use model (DJI-Phantom 3-Pro) that is accessible for low research budgets in develop and developing countries. As coastal ecosystems can vary seasonally, the present study can provide researchers and coastal managers with a practical tool for seasonal coastal surveys.
The project aims to evaluate and develop a methodology for coastal mapping by identifying sandy areas, eelgrass bed and macro algae environments using a drone and underwater videos. Specific objectives of the project are, 1) Collect aerial photographs of 10 shallow bays in the Gullmars Fjord and Kosterhavet National Park using a drone, 2) Ground truth the aerial observations with an underwater survey using an innovative underwater camera system, 3) Identify the extent of seagrass beds, sandy areas and macro algae using the aerial photographs and underwater data with a Geographical Information System (GIS), 4) Assess the quality of the coastal maps produced and 5) Investigate the actual eelgrass cover increase/decrease by comparing with existing maps. Knowledge of GIS tools (eg. ArcGIS/QGIS) are required.
3) Small-scale transport of microplastics: the role of hydrodynamics on particle dispersal and trapping
Pollution of the marine environment with plastic is an increasing worldwide problem with a challenging solution. Plastics can decompose in small fragments or particles called micro-plastics. These particles are hazardous in the environment because they can be ingested by marine organisms (eg. fish, turtles, mammals, birds). Microplastics have a long degradation time and during this time they can travel and disperse over large-scales by currents. On a small-scale little is known about the transportation patterns of different types of plastics (eg. particles size, buoyancy, density). The west coast of Sweden is affected by microplastics that are transported from other coastal regions and accumulated in the area. Little is known of the local small-scale transport of microplastic in our area. Coastal habitats have different levels of hydrodynamic exposition and bottom complexity, for example, particles could be easily transported in shallow coastal areas with higher waves and currents than deeper areas. In the same way, eelgrass beds have higher bottom roughness than sandy bottoms which increase the trapping of small particles, thus been a location where microplastics could accumulate. Information about these processes could be useful to increase general knowledge about plastic transport and trapping, but also provide some empirical parameters that can be used for oceanographic and coastal dispersion models.
The aim of the Master project is to 1) quantify the hydrodynamic conditions to disperse floating and submerge microplastics in the marine environment and 2) determine the level of bottom complexity or substrate type that will experience higher accumulation or trapping of particles. A hydraulic flume will be used to quantify small-scale transport of 3 different types of microplastics (eg. densities and sizes). Different environmental substrates will be reproduced in the flume representing common Swedish coastal habitats (eg. sandy bottom, rocky bottom, macroalgae, oyster/mussel beds and eelgrass meadows).
Laboratory assistant (Internships)
- Participate in field campaign onboard of the boats assisting scientific SCUBA divers. Snorkelling and diving are optional, not required to be in the water.
- Analysis of sediment composition (water content, bulk density, organic content)
- Analysis of seagrass biomass and morphology
- Assist in hydraulic flume (wave/currents) experiment in the lab.
- Participate in group activities such as meetings, journal club and discussions.
- Organize, clean and maintain the laboratory. Introducing to new team members the location of lab material.