The cruise from Gdynia to Cadiz on a vessel equipped with the latest measuring and research equipment opens up a multitude of possibilities for biologists, chemists and physicists interested in the sea and ocean. The coordinator of the expedition, dr hab. Adam Sokołowski, prof. UG, explains why the scientific committee of the expedition decided to focus on projects concerning aerosols, greenhouse gas emissions from the seabed and the presence of microplastics at the mouths of European rivers.

- The sea is deep and wide, and the ocean is even wider; in what aspects do you study these vast bodies of water during your voyage with the Oceanographer?  

- Three scientific projects are planned, each focusing on a different subject area. The first concerns the study of gas emissions from the seabed and the impact of these emissions on the marine environment. Geochemical processes, physical phenomena and the reactions of marine organisms inhabiting bottom sediments will be analysed. The second project will analyse aerosols, i.e. different types of particles present in the atmosphere. Samples will be collected over a wide geographical scale, from the Baltic Sea, through the North Sea and the English Channel, to the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean. The research interest of the third project is the presence of microplastics in marine sediments, the water depth and the microlayer at the water-air interface. We want to identify their main sources in the marine environment and verify the hypothesis that their highest concentration occurs at the mouths of large rivers and in the vicinity of urban agglomerations.

- You are the coordinator of the scientific committee of the SEA-EU cruise. How did you select the projects?

- The selection of research projects to be carried out during the cruise was done by selecting proposals submitted by staff and students from all six SEA-EU partner universities. We collected over a dozen such ideas. During the selection, we were guided, among others, by the innovative character of the research, interdisciplinarity and international composition of the team. We decided on three proposals that bring together representatives from all the universities. 

- Were there only representatives of our university on the scientific committee of the cruise? Or also representatives of other SEA-EU universities?

- The scientific committee consisted of representatives from all six universities. On the part of the University of Gdańsk, apart from myself, these were dr Aleksandra Brodecka-Goluch and dr Jakub IdczakProf. Fidel Echevarria, the main coordinator of the SEA-EU project, took part in the work, as did prof. dr hab. Krzysztof Bielawski, Vice-Rector for Innovation and Cooperation with the Social and Economic Environment, dr. Mirosław Czapiewski, proxy of the Rector for maritime infrastructure at UG, and Admiral Jędrzej Czajkowski, Head of the Shipowner's Office.

- How did you find working with such a diverse team?

- Very well. I didn't know the people who were on the committee before, but we quickly established a good rapport. Everyone in the team was interested in international cooperation and interdisciplinary research, so it was easy to talk to each other.

 - The ship is almost halfway through the second one. A certain amount of work has already been done. At what stage of this process are we? Is the Oceanographer expedition the culmination of these months of work, or is there still a lot ahead of us?

- We are actually at the beginning of this journey. All the work so far has focused on preparing the research plan and schedule for the onboard work, verifying the efficiency of the measuring equipment and gathering the laboratory materials and reagents needed for the voyage. We were 100 per cent prepared before the voyage. Now we are waiting with some excitement for the first data and results to come in.

 - Will you be using the full research potential of the r/v Oceanograf during this voyage?

- Definitely yes. The projects are interdisciplinary, each combining different aspects of marine research, so practically all the scientific equipment available on board will be used. We also brought some equipment from our laboratories. Some materials have been sent by other universities in the SEA-EU alliance.

- How large is the team of scientists working on these projects?

- On board at any one time, the scientific team comprises a maximum of a dozen people. Some of the researchers will take part in the entire voyage from Gdynia to Cadiz itself, while others will change at subsequent stopover ports.

 - Are the specialists only marine biologists? Or are there also scientists from other fields?

- The scientific team includes geochemists, chemists, physicists and biologists. So the range of research interests is very wide.

 - What will happen to these materials afterwards? Who will analyse them?

- Some of the measurements are taken directly on board, so the first results will be available before the end of the voyage. Other parts of the research require the collection of environmental samples and these materials will be analysed after the cruise by all SEA-EU partner universities. 

- What can come out of comparisons on such a wide geographical scale?

- Conducting marine research in a profile from the Baltic Sea to the eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean opens up the possibility of comparative analyses on a European scale. This type of research has not yet been conducted over such a large geographical area, so our results will be unique and somewhat pioneering. The project aims to analyse differences and similarities in the pollution of the marine environment in terms of aerosols and microplastics, among other things. It is worth noting that all research in the territorial waters of different European countries will be conducted using the same methodology and even by the same laboratory, which guarantees that the data obtained will be comparable and of a reproducible nature.

- Thank you for the interview

Marcel Jakubowski / Press Office UG