18 July 2024

Nearing the end of the MaMa course

Written by Sjanne Schoone, Master student Earth Sciences, Earth and Climate, at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Once we had collected all the data in the lab, it was time to write. My group is researching the impact that the Wadden Sea can have for storage of CO2 in a changing climate. I chose this project because climate change is a hot topic and I am interested to see in how many ways we are able to make a difference to the changing climate. However, the topic was more complicated than we thought and included a lot of chemistry. To get the whole project group on an equal level, our supervisor had prepared a “Chemistry for dummies” - lecture on Monday. We were able to ask a lot of questions and from there, we could start interpreting the data that we had collected on the research vessel Wim Wolff and in the lab at NIOZ.

We spent both Tuesday and Wednesday working on our results, hoping we could find an answer to our “million dollar question”. In my group, each group member has a different background and we each feel more comfortable with different tasks. Quickly, we were able to divide certain tasks based on our talent. People that felt comfortable with programs like R-studio and Python worked on the graphs and people that felt more comfortable with creating a coherent story for the audience went on a hunt for relevant articles on Google Scholar. I was really happy to see how smoothly this went.

Because of our nice planning, we were finished before dinner and there was still enough relaxing time left. So our evenings were spent with chatting with all the MaMa course students. It felt nice that we could all clear our heads in the evening. We played games, sung songs and danced until the skies turned pink at the Potvis and the sun went down.

Then all of a sudden, it is Thursday: the second to last day. My project group is quite relaxed as today is all about making our presentation and we don’t have to interpret any data anymore. If you walk through the NIOZ, you will able to see focused project groups staring at their laptops everywhere. Today is a very sunny day and the sun helps us to stay positive. After lunch, we did a “test-presentation” for our supervisors after which we received critical but very helpful feedback. We fine-tuned the presentation. Now, all that there is left for me to do, is pack my bags and have a good last night of sleep at the Potvis campus. It is crazy to think that we will step out of our “MaMa course-bubble” tomorrow but I have enjoyed every bit of it.

The happy project 6-group (photo credit: Sjanne Schoone).

15 July 2024

Exploring the island

Written by Marloes Vaessen, Master student Marine Sciences at Utrecht University

Over the weekend, we had some time to recover from all the impressions we gained during the first week of the course. Some of us started off by going to a local bar on Friday night. Much to our surprise, the bar transitioned into more of a club as the evening progressed, so we happily danced to a nice mix of well-known and not-so-well-known songs.

On Saturday, Henko, one of the course coordinators, organised an excursion for anyone who was interested in getting to know the island a bit better. Although I didn’t join myself, my roommate tells me they took a tour over the dykes and through the dunes, while Henko talked about how Texel’s coasts developed over time. Despite the heavy rain, they still had a good time with a nice picnic in between. In the meantime, I decided to visit Museum Kaap Skil to see the famous dress that had been recovered in remarkably good condition after spending almost 400 years in sea. Definitely worth the trip!

On Sunday, we organised our own little field trip to Ecomare, a sanctuary for seals and marine birds. We learned about how they find out about animals in need and all the steps they take to nurse them back to health and get them back to sea. Most importantly, we saw some very cute seal pups and baby birds. Afterwards, we visited Texel’s capital, Den Burg, for some shopping and coffee. Once we got back to our accommodation, it was time to get back to work to finalise our presentations for Monday. Time for another busy week!

Taking a break at Café Texelse Branding in Den Burg (photo credit: Sjanne Schoone).

12 July 2024

Hands on the data!

Written by Mira Anguelova, Master student Climate Physics at Utrecht University

The first week of the MaMa 2024 summer course has reached its end, and many of us master students have wonderful memories and pictures of it! As we now prepare for our project presentations, our task for the second week of the course will be to work with the data we got from the first week. Each project works with slightly different data, so we’ve got benthos samples from along the seashore, surface and deep (around 20-25m depth) water samples taken during the 13-hour station at the research vessel Wim Wolff, lots of salinity data as well as temperature profiles from the beautiful CTD on board, and much more. The most exciting part of it? We were on the backstage of getting the data :)

Quite a significant share of data scientists works with already processed data - ready to go through manipulation and plotting. And that has been my experience as well up until now, with hydrographic and meteorological data. This summer course provided us with insights not only on how the data is collected, but also on what can go wrong during the process of getting it and how to deal with it afterwards so that we’re still able to use it. In Project 1 (on tidal dynamics), for example, we’re all working with data from the CTD and ADCP from the 10th of July, and we were there on board of the research vessel Wim Wolff when those were in action! Some CTD castings were not perfect, and during the first few hours of the day there was a connector problem with the CTD that had to be taken care of. These moments happen all the time with data collection and they taught us that we have to be aware of conditions and accidents later on when we’re looking at our final results!

There’s something special about working with information that was collected before our eyes; it gives an extra feeling to it all. And in such a beautiful region! Well, now I’m off for another meeting with my project group, so I wish good luck for everyone out there working on their projects! :)

CTD on board of the research vessel Wim Wolff. From left to right: Astrid Moosmüller, CTD, and Marloes Vaessen. Photo by Mira Anguelova.

11 July 2024

Time for some hands-on action! – Student Projects at NIOZ

Written by Astrid Moosmüller, Master student Biology at Radboud University

It is Thursday of the first week, which means that all group projects have kicked off! Although we have been quite active in the previous days collecting samples and data for all projects, it is now that things have gotten more serious. Students have finally settled into one of the many group projects that were presented earlier in the week and have chosen to work on them for the remainder of the course. Most groups are formed based on student’s selected preferences, which brings together students from diverse study backgrounds. In our dorm room, all my roommates and I are involved in different projects, so we always look forward to coming back together at the end of the day to catch up. For instance, one of us had an extra day on board of the RV Wim Wolff and enjoyed a treat on the mainland, while another started processing lots of coding data from the research vessel, and yet another began examining samples taken from it!

I was in one of the newly added projects for the course: working with fungi that have the potential to degrade oil! On our very first day, we attempted to cultivate them in the lab and measure their activity, which introduced us to many laboratories, machines, and techniques that we will be using in the coming days. Soon, we will hear about everyone’s initial progress and what the different project results might look like by the end of the course. For now, the weekend is approaching, and many students are planning to stay around Texel to explore the various activities available on the island!

One of our supervisors showed us a method to cultivate fungi on petri dishes under the fumehood (photo credit: Annika Vaksmaa).

10 July 2024

Going on board

Written by Sjanne Schoone, Master student Earth Sciences, Earth and Climate, at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

This day started with a lab tour at the molecular lab where you can see ‘CSI’-stuff in real life. Here, they work with DNA and RNA and they can use it for multiple things. It was really nice to see these futuristic labs. They even use robots for processing samples so it all stays super clean. Then, we went on from ‘CSI-NIOZ’ to the moment we had all been waiting for: ship time!

Early in the morning at 5:30am, the brand new NIOZ boat ‘Wim Wolff’ went off to a station in the Waddensea where it would stay for 13 hours. Within those hours, several groups went on the boat to do measurements. We went aboard on the Wim Wolff for four hours around 10:00am. During this period, we were allowed to walk around on the ship and look at the fancy cabins (there is even a gym aboard!). But of course, there was also some serious work to do. A so-called slurf was installed in the water to pump water up so we could store it in bottles. These samples will later be used for research on sediment in the Waddensea. A CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) was also brought down into the water. This device can measure the salinity, temperature and depth. Apart from the sampling, we also had to go upstairs to the bridge where we learned how to log the data. For example, every time the CTD went in, we would log it into the system to keep track of all the measurements we had done.

It was very nice to be on the boat and the weather was good so thankfully, no one got seasick. The crew on the boat also loved to answer all of our questions and it was cool to hear their experiences from previous cruises.

Ready for work on the RV Wim Wolff (photo credit: Henko de Stigter)..

9 July 2024

Second day of the MaMa course

Written by Paulien Koster, Master student Climate Physics at Utrecht University

On the second day of MaMa, the time was ripe for the start of the practical programme! With the lab tour we got a little taste (even literal!) of the work being done at NIOZ.

Going by the fine mechanical service showed us that the way of making instruments for observations in deep ocean is a science on its own. Creating an instrument that can exactly do what one researcher wants, takes a lot of knowledge and also creativity. It is for example extremely important to regulate the pressure within instruments that make observations in the deep ocean at 6 km depth and choose the right materials for these instruments as well. At the fine mechanical service there even was an ocean glider being rebuild for public showings. The gliders can go up and down through the water only by shifting a weight inside it.

Edwin Keijzer, instrument maker at the National Marine Facilities, explains to some students how the glider works (Photo credit: Paulien Koster).

The fact that the real-sized model was being built with such accuracy reminded me of the fascination some people have for stars and why people usually really like to visit astronomical observatories: usually you cannot look into the depths of the night skies, just as you cannot look into the depths of the ocean. With gliders and telescopes a part of the unknown is shown to the outer world. I really liked the fact that this model was being great for the purpose of science communication too.

Next to the fine mechanical services we visited the seaweed lab. In eleven tanks, green and brown sea weeds are grown and kept, and we were given insights in the life cycle of two of the weeds. We got answers to all of our questions, which were sometimes loads more scientific (by the marine biologists among us) than others:

One of the physicists: "Can you eat it?"
Answer: "Yes."
Reaction: * Several people trying out the seaweed *

The different backgrounds of everyone in the course make it even better to have these lab tours: everyone is enthusiastic, dares to ask questions and comes with a different approach.