Long-term research

Marine biologists from around the globe meet on Helgoland

50 European Marine Biology Symposium
[21. September 2015] 

The 50th European Marine Biology Symposium takes place on Helgoland from 21th to 25th September 2015. Around 200 participants from 24 countries meet to discuss long-term changes to environmental conditions and ecosystems. This jubilee is a return to the roots: In 1966, the Biological Institute Helgoland hosted the first of these symposiums, which have since been held annually at different locations.

Long-term data series is the main topic of the Marine Biology Symposium, where researchers present current and future methods for collecting and analysing long-term data, and explain how these can be made compatible. Such long-term observations have a tradition at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) on Helgoland: since 1962, researchers there have been analysing water and plankton specimens on a daily basis. In fact, the “Helgoland Roads” plankton time series is one of the longest in Europe, and also has the highest temporal definition.

Comparisons with data from other geographical regions like the Arctic are important in order to make an educated estimate of the effects of global warming on marine life. To this end, long-term researchers from around the globe present their current projects and discuss, among other things, how to manage and link large data series. Biologists, climate researchers and modellers who collect data in different regions work together at the AWI. “The symposium is a great platform for us to share our experiences with the international research community and to learn from one another,” explains AWI biologist Dr Alexandra Kraberg, who is one of the symposium organisers.

The appearance of algal bloom is a practical example of the effect of climate warming on marine life. It can affect various parts of the food chain and so influence the availability of nutrients for fish larvae. The consequences for fish stocks and other ecosystem services is one of the discussion topics for the symposium participants. Other focal points include coastal protection, the effects of invasive species on ecosystem function and the significance of new observation techniques for long-term data research.

“The symposium brings together marine biologists form around the world, who use very different methods and work in highly diverse geographical regions. As such, it offers great networking potential,” says Prof. Karen Wiltshire, Vice Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), to which the Biological Institute Helgoland belongs. Direct exchanges were also Prof. Otto Kinne’s main goal when he organised the first European Marine Biology Symposium (EMBS) on the island back in 1966. The aim was for marine research, which with the growing number of researchers and institutions was in danger of becoming impersonal and complex, to profit from the direct exchange of ideas. “We are proud to be able to host this jubilee here on Helgoland,” says Wiltshire. “I’m particularly delighted that even after half a century, the EMBS still attracts top researchers, welcoming guests this year from places as far afield as Canada, Australia and New Zealand,” adds the marine biologist.