CURRENTLY FUNDED RESEARCH PROJECTS

MAREEL – The importance of the marine habitat for the critically endangered European eel

Funding agencies: The Research Council of Norway, MARINFORSK Program + The Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program.
Project period: 2018-2021
Project leader: Caroline Durif
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Even Moland, Eva Thorstad, Francoise Daverat, Michael Arts, Janet Koprivnikar, Michael Power, Leif Asbjørn Vøllestad.

Project summary
     The European eel, (Anguilla anguilla) is semi-catadromous: it spawns in the sea but spends most of its life in freshwater (FW). Some individuals either skip the FW phase or shift habitat throughout the growth phase of their life history. Despite habitat shifting sometimes being a dominant trait at high latitudes, little is known about eels that remain in marine habitats (saltwater (SW) residency). A. anguilla is currently red listed as critically endangered. Causes for the decline are associated mainly with FW residency: dams and power plants, parasites and elevated contaminant levels. Although the proximate and ultimate drivers of FW vs. SW residency are unknown, residing in SW, or shifting habitats, may confer considerable advantages. To test whether eels that have lived in the marine environment are fitter and have a better chance at reproduction than FW eels, we will investigate condition, growth, length and age at maturation of eels caught in different salinity environments along a latitudinal gradient in Norway. The salinity history of eels will be retraced using microchemistry analyses on otoliths and compared with back-calculated growth rates. Their overall condition will be linked to the parasite load, their fatty acid (FA) profile and their long-term dietary patterns obtained by stable isotope analysis (SIA). Once FA and SIA profiles are established, we will use these proxies to infer the salinity histories of a larger sample of eels at different latitudes along the Norwegian coast. We will investigate seasonal movements of eels between SW and FW, using tags and fixed monitoring station. Habitat use in the sea (behavior, depth, effect of the swimbladder parasite) will be investigated using acoustic telemetry. This project will provide unique knowledge on the determinants of diadromy and on the SW and “shifting” life history strategies of eels that will contribute to worldwide efforts to conserve this ancient species. MAREEL will explore the drivers of catadromy vs. marine residency in the Norwegian subpopulation of the European eel.
     MAREEL’s objectives are: 1) To understand the factors that drive European eels to either colonize freshwater systems or remain in saltwater systems or shift habitat by determining their relative ecological advantage in terms of growth, fatty acid profiles, dietary pattern and parasite load; 2) To identify patterns in the different life-history strategies of eels (saltwater, freshwater, or habitat shifting), for example along a latitudinal gradient 3) To determine the proximate drivers (environmental and biological) of migrations between freshwater and saltwater. 4) To characterize habitat use of eel in marine waters and investigate the effect of the swimbladder parasite on their swimming behavior.

Read about the project here:
In English
In Norwegian

Fine-scale interactions in the plankton – empirical observations to parameterize trophodynamic and drift models

Funding agency: Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program
Project period: 2015 – 2018
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Anne Berit Skiftesvik, David Fields, Caroline Durif

Project summary
This is a long-term project in which we make behavioural and physiological observations of ichthyoplankton and zooplankton, in the laboratory and in situ, with the aim of delivering empirical relationships on vital rates, swimming and orientation for parameterization of various components of ecosystem and trophic interaction models. For the laboratory-based observations, we use microrespirometry, electrophysiology, microspectrophotmetry, flumes, plankton kriesel tanks, a plankton grazing wheel, a magnetic coil system to manipulate the field orientation and strength to which organisms are exposed, and silhouette and schlieren imaging for behavioural observations of swimming and escape response kinematics. For the in situ work, we use Drifting in situ Chambers, passive acoustics and tagging.

Effects of seismic sound on spawning behaviour and reproductive success of cod

Funding agencies: The Research Council of Norway, MARINFORSK Program + The Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program.
Project period: 2018-2020
Project leader: Lise Sivle Doksæter
Co-investigators: Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Jon Egil Skjæraasen, Nils Olav Handegård, Ørjan Karlsen, Even Moland, Karen de Jong, Michael Ainslie, Erwin Jansen, Paulo Fonseca, Maria Clara Amorim, Hans Slabberkoorn, Svein Løkkeborg, Petter Kvadsheim, Anders Fernø

Project summary
Impact may vary between species and live stages. This project target cod (Gadus morhua), a widely distributed and important species throughout the Atlantic ocean, with hearing range and sound production overlapping with seismic airguns, as well as spawning sites located in the central north sea where the majority of the seismic activity are conducted, thus causing a major management challenge.

Important spawning sites in Lofoten also makes it highly relevant in terms of assessing potential oil exploitation. Successful reproduction are essential for stock recruitment, and sound production and hearing are essential during cod spawning, as successful mating relies on vacillation to time release of spawning products. Spawning may hence be impacted in terms of a) hampered vocalization/masking or b) avoidance of spawning site due to exposure. This project will explore both vocal behavior and movement in time and space, as well as investigate the quality of spawning products in exposed and control groups. Exposure will be done with a downscaled air gun.

We will work in close collaboration with a large international consortium targeting to assess the population level effects of seismic exposure on cod. This will contribute to exchange ideas, experience and results. Project results are directly applicable into management of fish stocks during seismic surveys, and results obtained will be used to define mitigation to minimizing impact of seismic surveys on fish, but avoiding  unnecessary mitigation restrictions, aiming at a better coexistence between the fishery and oil industry.

Experimental objectives: 
a) Compare fertilization rate, number of eggs and batches spawned between exposed and non-exposed cod throughout a spawning season.
b) Further study the developement, growth and hatching of cod eggs under exposure to evaluate long term effects.
c) Investigate how seismic exposure affect horisontal and vertical distribution of free living cod during the spawning season, including potential avoidance in time and space of young and adult fish.
d) Provide knowledge to improve scientific advice to management and regulatory bodies.

Capacity for adaptation to multiple climate change drivers in sub-Arctic invertebrates

Funding agencies: Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program + Fram Centre for High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment
Project period: 2018 – 2020
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Haakon Hop, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Caroline Durif, David Fields, Neel Aluru

Project summary
Marine cladocerans (Podon spp. and/or Evadne spp.) will be used as a model to investigate the relative roles of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in determining the adaptation capacity of marine populations to CO2 and temperature. Cladocerans are widely used as models to study the evolutionary basis of phenotypic plasticity because they reproduce clonally (asexually) and sexually, which offers a unique opportunity to assess the relative contributions of the epigenetic (in clonal populations) and genetic (in sexually reproducing populations) mechanisms underlying adaption to environmental drivers, and their molecular basis.

 

Effect of multiple climate change drivers on the egg microbiome of Arctic and sub-Arctic copepods

Funding agencies: Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program + Fram Centre for High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment
Project period: 2018 – 2020
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Haakon Hop, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Caroline Durif, David Fields, Peter Countway

Project summary
The bacterial microbiome of copepod eggs protects them from pathogens. Any change in the microbiome of plankton eggs that compromises their resistance to pathogens would have a direct impact on variability in mortality. Only limited knowledge exists on 1) the microbiome of the eggs of marine copepods, 2) the development of the egg microbiome over time, 3) the effect of CO2 and temperature on the species and diversity of bacteria colonizing eggs, 4) the effect of CO2 and temperature on the component of the microbiome that protects copepod eggs from pathogens. The composition of the bacterial community will be compared across different invertebrate species – two key Arctic and sub-Arctic species of copepods, Calanus glacialis and C. finmarchicus – under climate change-relevant scenarios. Infection challenge experiments will be conducted using common bacterial and viral pathogens to determine whether egg susceptibility to infection is related to treatment levels.

The effects of photo-induced toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon on the escape performance and foraging behaviour of larval fish

Funding agency: The Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program
Project period: 2018-2019
Project leaders: Bridie Jean Marie Allan and Sonnich Meier
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Caroline Durif, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Elin Sørhus, Carey Donald, Valeriya Komyakova, Olav Sigurd Kjesbu, Arild Folkvord

Project summary
This project will use laboratory exposures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) and ultraviolet radiation (UV), as well as simulations of predation events and foraging opportunities, to answer three main questions:
• Does PAH exposure affect the anti-predator behaviour of haddock, cod and herring?
• Does PAH exposure affect the foraging behaviour of haddock, cod and herring?
• Does photo-induced toxicity of PAHs increase any observed behavioral effects?

The effects of the anti-sea lice chemotherapeutant, hydrogen peroxide, on non-target planktonic organisms around salmon farms

Funding agencies: Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries + the Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program.
Project period: 2018-2020
Project leader: Ole Samuelsen
Doctoral student: Rosa Helena Escobar
Co-investigators: Anne-Lisbeth Agnalt, Caroline Durif, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Howard Browman, David Fields

Project summary
Hydrogen peroxide is a pesticide commonly used to treat sea lice in salmonid farming. The compound is added to the sea pens and, after use, as with other anti-sea lice pesticides in salmonid fish farming, is released directly into the environment where non-target organisms are exposed to it. This project will assess the lethal and sub-lethal effect of hydrogen peroxide on planktonic organisms surrounding salmon farms.

Decoding the sensory cues that link the salmon louse to its host: transcriptomics-physiology-behaviour-ecology

Funding agencies: The Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program + Program for Health Management in Aquaculture, Strategic Investment Fund of the Chilean Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism
Project period: 2018-2022
Project leaders: Howard Browman, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Cristian Gallardo
Co-investigators: David Fields, Gustavo Nunez

Project summary
We are investigating the chemical cues that Atlantic salmon produce and that the ectoparasitic copepod parasite Lepeoptheirus salmonis detect and respond to physiologically, morphologically and behaviourally. The objective is to better understand the host-parasite link in order to use this information to disrupt that link.

Optimizing the use of cleanerfish on salmon farms

Funding agencies: The Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF) + Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries + the Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program
Project period: 2018 – 2020
Project Leader: Anne Berit Skiftesvik
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Caroline Durif, Kim Halvorsen

Project summary
To optimize the use of cleanerfish (wrasses and lumpfish) on salmon farms.

Population dynamics of wild wrasse populations along the Norwegian coast

Funding agency: The Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF) + Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries + the Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program
Project period: 2018 – 2020
Project Leader: Anne Berit Skiftesvik
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Caroline Durif, Kim Halvorsen

Project summary
To assess the population dynamics and status of wrasse populations that are now exploited for use as cleanerfish on salmon farms.


RESEARCH PROJECTS SUBMITTED FOR FUNDING

Deep learning in shallow waters (DEELISH)

Funding agency: The Research Council of Norway, MARINFORSK Program + The Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Processes Program
Project period: 2019 – 2022
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Nils Olav Handegard, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Kjetil Malde, Morten Goodwin, Kjell Magnus Norderhaug, Karen de Jong, Kim Halvorsen, Suzanne Alonzo, Paul Fernandes, Diana Perry

Project summary
High definition underwater cameras and other observational equipment are now available at low cost. Large scale deployment would produce unprecedented volumes of observations about marine ecosystems, but video data analysis is extremely labor intensive. Only a fraction of these images can be analysed manually, greatly limiting the potential advances that can be made from these data streams. DEELISH’s objective is to develop computer vision systems to automatically analyse video data – including species classification, abundance estimation, and classifying individuals and behaviours. As proof of concept, this automated analysis will be integrated into ecosystem surveys (ongoing) and case studies (new) [using underwater video] and thus contribute to independent research objectives, such as functional fish-habitat interactions, the effects of marine protected areas, long term monitoring of fish community structure, and studies on how changing environments affect spawning behaviour in a key coastal species (corkwing wrasse). In addition to the direct applied relevance for temperate nearshore ecosystems, the project will advance the international research front for applied machine learning in marine ecology – which ultimately can revolutionize our ability to observe, understand and respond to ecological change at both local and global scales far more refined than is currently possible. Given the constraints on human resources and the vast amount of data that are being collected, DEELISH will provide a starting point for a new era in analyzing and processing marine data from coastal ecosystems.