UvA and VU researchers on NICO ocean expedition

12 December 2017

How can we gain a better grasp of the opportunities and threats for the changing seas? In the months ahead, researchers and students from both the UvA and VU will join the national multidisciplinary expedition Netherlands Initiative Changing Oceans (NICO) to better equip the Netherlands in this regard.

Over the next seven months, nearly 130 scientists aboard the RV Pelagia – the research ship of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) – to study the changing oceans in various locations, including the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Biscay. The RV Pelagia will depart from Texel in mid-December.

A range of disciplines on board

NICO is a special expedition, since academics from all possible disciplines were able to submit research proposals. The NICO programme has been compiled from a total of 42 proposals by universities, research institutes and organisations. Its topics are diverse: from foraminifera (microscopic marine animals) to sea snails, from viruses to coral reefs and from migratory birds to whales.

NICO expedition

Route of NICO expedition (click for details)

The route

The full expedition will consist of twelve stages, ranging in duration from a few days to several weeks. From the home port of Texel – where the NIOZ is based – the ship will sail south to Gran Canaria, then cross over to Curaçao and Sint Maarten before heading back via Ireland.

Several researchers from the Institute for Bioversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED-UvA) will join stages of the expedition to carry out research.

  • Stage 2: Katja Peijnenburg and PhD candidate Lisette Mekkes will embark together with student Livia Sinigaglia to conduct research on ‘The thermostat of the climate’ along the route from Las Palmas to Willemstad.
  • Stage 3: Assistant Professor Petra Visser will serve as expedition leader of ‘The state of the coral’ on the Willemstad–Oranjestad leg of the journey, to which Mark Vermeij (UvA/Carmabi) and Bas van Beusekom will also contribute.
  • Stage 8: Professor by Special Appointment Corina Brussaard and Susanne Wilkens, who begins her appointment at IBED in February, will come on board for the stretch from Nassau to Galway in order to examine the ecological consequences of changing conditions in the Atlantic Ocean.

Corina Brussaard also coordinates the participation of Master's students (so-called NICOs) on the Pelagia. The students will sample a number of fixed variables during the entire expedition. This way they gain valuable experience with activities related to an ocean expedition such as NICO. 'We aim to train the next generation of oceanographers on board,' says Corina Brussaard.

From the Vrije Universiteit, Geert-Jan Brummer, professor in Oceanography by special appointment, and paleo-oceanographer Frank Peeters will join the research cruise. Also joining is Sofie Bosmans, VU Master student in Earth Surface Processes, Climate and Records. She will investigate Sahara dust.

Better picture

'It is very special to work on a research ship because it offers so many unique possibilities do research. With measuring equipment, videos and water and soil samples we get a better picture of what is present at the greater depths,' says Petra Visser (IBED-UvA), expedition leader of stage 3 in the Caribbean. 'For the first time the deeper situated reefs, so-called mesophotic reefs (depths> 30 m), will be investigated around Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba.'

Source: NWO-NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Published by  IBED Water