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Marine Biology - From Elements to Ecosystems, Elba Summer School Report

The “Marine Biology” field course on the Island Elba in Italy took place from 7th – 17th September 2016 in Marina di Campo, a small village in the South of Elba. Classes took place at the Hydra Institute, located on a hill with view on the Fetovaia bay of Marina di Campo.

This introductory course on Marine Biology gave an insight into marine biology, biogeochemical processes, oceanography and Mediterranean ecology. The course had an academic and practical component, which covered general topics like Climate Change, the marine ecosystem and even dive sessions.

Participants & Lecturers

The course language was German. Most participants came from German, Austrian and Swiss universities, although one participant was from the University of Athena. Most of the participants studied Biology or biology-related subjects. The lecturer Dr. Miriam Weber gave classes and Johanna Wiedling, Stephan Pfannschmitt and Rahel Thommen supervised the dive sessions.

Course Structure and Topics

Classes took place in the morning and participants studied marine organisms under the microscope. In the afternoons dive sessions were held with regard to the topic of the day, namely:

Day 1: The Hydrosphere, general conditions abiotic environment and gradients
Day 2: Chemical elements, conversion cycles, energy metabolisms (i.e. photo- and chemosynthesis, auto- and heterotrophy, production and consumption)
Day 3: Microorganisms functional characteristics were studied (i.e. archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes) including their typical energy metabolism types and symbiosis.
Day 4: Phototrophs, characteristics, ways of phototrophy, impact on the ecosystem. Example: the three main algal groups (i.e. Chloro-, Rodophyta and Phaeophceae)
Day 5: Heterotrophs, characteristics, ways of heterotrophy (e.g. grazers, detritus feeders, filter feeders, predators)
Day 6: Habitat, components, energy exchange. Example of Mediterranean coastal habitats (i.e. hard bottom, sandy bottom and seagrass meadow) with inhabitants.
Day 7: Marine Ecosystem, biotic factors, ecological function and disturbances, biogeography. Focus on "the one large marine hydrosphere", examples of biotic factors in the Mediterranean Sea.
Day 8: Oceans and us, human - ocean interactions, utilization, hazards, management and marine research, plus students presentation.

Overall, Dorothee Stiller felt comfortable with the topics of the course which did not only focus on biology, but covered Global Change related topics. The structure of the course could be individually designed so that students had the chance to focus on their scientific preferences. The course had a nice working atmosphere with the lecturers and the students. She would definitely recommend this course.

Text: Dorothee Stiller

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