Field course in marine biodiversity

October stars with pleasure, every year, teaching a field course in marine biodiversity. An enthusiastic crowd of teachers and students set out to sea, to teach and learn how to study the marine realm off the Trondheimsfjord. The students work on projects giving them practical training resulting in a good learning outcome. At least that is our experience. The course “Marine biodiversity” is held for students in their last year of the bachelor or first master year. Following a week with lectures we set out to sea onboard NTNU’s research vessel “Gunnerus” with a small group of 16-17 students.The aim of the course is to train the students to see the connection between systems and habitats supporting marine biodiversity. The plankton community is an essential part in marine life. Samples of horizontal and vertical hauls provide insight into primary and secondary production, and the important food source for benthic deep sea organisms. In this case the 600 m depth of the Trondheimsfjord serves as deep sea. A CTD profile supports with background environmental conditions.

Studies of diversity of fish from the trawl catch. Photo: Torkild Bakken.
Studies of diversity of fish from the trawl catch. Photo: Torkild Bakken.

Day two the main focus is on fish. A shrimp trawl is used. Over the years we have got a good view of diversity and abundance off the fjord, as we have sampled the same site in Frohavet. To get an understanding of what the fish species live from benthic organisms in the trawl is studied. To support this with further knowledge a short haul with an Agassiz trawl sampling large benthic organisms is also used.

The littoral zone is a very interesting place, as well as the succeeding sub-littoral habitats. The kelp forest is an important ecosystem on the coast of mid-Norway. Which species live there and how do they interact? Unfortunately we don’t have time to study all invertebrate species living in the kelp forest, which may reach as many as 600 in this area. Students also get a chance to compare epifauna and epiphytes on different kelp species, which over the years has given increased insight of this habitat.

An exciting and challenging environment, the littoral zone. Photo: Torkild Bakken.
An exciting and challenging environment, the littoral zone. Photo: Torkild Bakken.

The last day of field operations is usually the most exciting for the students, ROV exploration of deep water coral reefs. Using the ROV Minerva on a reef system of the deep sea coral species Lophelia pertusa, the aim is to map and describe the structure of a reef. The students are working alongside the ROV pilot to gather all necessary data and information. After the field course many hours of video analyses is needed. Using the ROV is an advantage we draw from the AUR lab (Applied Underwater Robotics Laboratory) at NTNU.

The ROV Minerva being launched for studies of a deep sea coral reef. Photo: Torkild Bakken.
The ROV Minerva being launched for studies of a deep sea coral reef. Photo: Torkild Bakken.

The course provides insight into marine biodiversity, not only locally but also in comparison to other parts of the world such as polar and tropical environments. For us as teachers we obtain new knowledge from these habitats. And we have a unique possibility to combine competence, tools and equipment seeding ideas for new projects.

Description of the course BI2036 Marine biodiversity at NTNU