Next week on Tuesday 29 September kl. 13.15 RivEM professor John Piccolo will hold a seminar entitled “Nature’s contribution to people and peoples’ moral obligations to nature”. He says: “In the seminar, I will discuss the concept of “ecocentrism”, the worldview that attributes “inherent” or “intrinsic” value to nonhuman (as well as human) life. The seminar is part of a project I have been working on for some time, with colleagues from several countries, to highlight the importance of ecocentrism for biodiversity conservation and sustainability, as in this recent article in the leading biodiversity journal Conservation Biology.” You’re very welcome to join John’s Zoom room ( on Tuesday 29 September, 13:15 Stockholm time!

In the seminar next week John will focus on the new concept of “Nature’s contributions to people” (NCP) that is currently being popularized by the International Panel of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The concept of NCP is built upon a deeper understanding of the well-known Ecosystem Services paradigm. NCP attempts to capture many of the intangible values of nature that are difficult to measure, especially economically. Thus, NCP encompasses a broader range of worldviews than do previous, largely economic valuations of ecosystem services. Although the IPBES explicitly recognizes intrinsic nature value, they have done a poor job accounting for intrinsic value in their recent publications and reports. He will argue that the IPBES and biodiversity conservation in general requires a much deeper assessment of the philosophical concept of intrinsic natural value. Recognition of intrinsic value is, in fact, the foundation upon which both human rights and nature’s rights are built. Thus, intrinsic value is of primary importance in conservation of biodiversity and the broader concept of sustainability.

You can read more of their recent publications on ecocentrism at the following links:

You can even read a statement of commitment to ecocentrism, and join a list of notable signatories at the following link:

Karl Filipsson, Eva Bergman, Larry Greenberg, Martin Österling, Johan Watz and Ann Erlandsson recently published the paper “Temperature and predator-mediated regulation of plasma cortisol and brain gene expression in juvenile brown trout (Salmo trutta)” in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

In this study, we tested how temperature and the presence of a cold-water adapted predatory fish (burbot, Lota lota) affected primary stress responses (i.e. cortisol and mRNA levels of stress-related genes) in juvenile brown trout (Salmo trutta). We found that trout had elevated cortisol levels in the presence of burbot, and that stress-related gene expressions varied a lot with temperature. In addition, we found that the predator-induced effects on mRNA levels were temperature dependent for some of the genes. This, together with the directly temperature-mediated effects that we observed in our study, suggest that warming winters can have major impact on primary stress responses in overwintering salmonids, for instance in encounters with predators.

In the abstract of the paper, we wrote that:

“Temperature affects many aspects of performance in poikilotherms, including how prey respond when encountering predators. Studies of anti-predator responses in fish mainly have focused on behaviour, whereas physiological responses regulated through the hypothalamic-pituitary-interrenal axis have received little attention. We examined plasma cortisol and mRNA levels of stress-related genes in juvenile brown trout (Salmo trutta) at 3 and 8 °C in the presence and absence of a piscivorous fish (burbot, Lota lota).

One of the experimental aquaria used for the study.

A redundancy analysis revealed that both water temperature and the presence of the predator explained a significant amount of the observed variation in cortisol and mRNA levels (11.4 and 2.8%, respectively). Trout had higher cortisol levels in the presence than in the absence of the predator. Analyses of individual gene expressions revealed that trout had significantly higher mRNA levels for 11 of the 16 examined genes at 3 than at 8 °C, and for one gene (retinol-binding protein 1), mRNA levels were higher in the presence than in the absence of the predator. Moreover, we found interaction effects between temperature and predator presence for two genes that code for serotonin and glucocorticoid receptors.

We extracted mRNA from the forebrain (telencephalon) of the trout. The picture shows a trout brain after dissection, where the telencephalon is the two upper lobes.

Our results suggest that piscivorous fish elicit primary stress responses in juvenile salmonids and that some of these responses may be temperature dependent. In addition, this study emphasizes the strong temperature dependence of primary stress responses in poikilotherms, with possible implications for a warming climate.”

You can read the paper for free on the journal website, as the paper is published open access through funding provided by Karlstad University.

Sebastian Rock recently started his PhD at Karlstad University. Here he writes about his previous work and what he intends to do as a PhD student at Karlstad University:

Well hi there! I’m Sebastian Rock, a new PhD student at NRRV research group at Karlstad University. Originally from the US Virgin Islands, I’ve lived across the US and later, all around Italy as well, as such, I’m hoping to bring a little extra warmth to this cold part of Sweden. Working as a part of the Life Connects project under the supervision of Martin Österling, Olle Calles, Johan Watz and Anders Nilsson (from Lund University), I’ll be working on conservation and reintroduction of highly threatened parasitic freshwater river mussels. I’ll predominantly be focused on the Freshwater Pear Mussel (Margaritifera margfaritifera) and the Thick Shelled Riven Mussel (Unio crassus) in the Skåne region in south Sweden. Where possible I hope to do scientific outreach and education to help raise both the general public interest in the less well-known aquatic fauna as well as the importance of ecologic conservation.

Sebastian with a massive 30+ kg of Laetiporus spp. (aka: Chicken Fungus, Sulfur Shelf) in Maastricht.

I started my academic life like many others as a bachelor student, myself at Maastricht University’s Maastricht Science Program in the Netherlands. Only founded in 2010, it was designed as an open end Liberal Arts and Science program, where students there are encouraged to develop their own interdisciplinary curriculum to better adapt to the modern vastly interconnected research environment. As the son of two Biologists, and as someone intensely interested in anything to do with animals, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as I focused almost all my attention towards the biological sciences ranging from ecology to psychopharmacology. As part of the program, once a semester, students take part in a month long research project, designed with the intention of not only exposing students to a wide range of academic fields and topics, but also to provide substantial research experience to build future degrees with. Here, I got along with the zoology professor Dr John Sloggett and together organized a series of research projects on the behavioral toxicology of an invasive planarians flatworm species from North America, Girardia tigrina; these projects ultimately evolved in to my BSc thesis.

Petridish full of flatworms with BSc student Nicholas Versé in the background.

From Maastricht, I moved on to a Research Masters degree at Leiden University, also in the Netherlands, where I worked with Drs. Christian Tudorache and Marcel Schaaf at the Institute of Biology Leiden where I was able to apply my interdisciplinary background to the study of stress coping in larval zebrafish. Using Multidimensional reduction techniques, I worked on modeling coping style, the inter-individual differences in behavior (or the animal equivalent of personality) with a more straightforward and concrete measure of gestation time. Over the course of my Masters I continued to design smaller research projects for BSc students as well as working with a local international school to give short seminars and demonstrations of simple scientific projects with wide reaching implications to give them a better idea of, and hopefully inspire them to peruse an education in science.

As a researcher at KAU – NRRV I hope to apply my interdisciplinary education to the study of the effects the parasitic mussels have on their host fishes. In the case of the Pearl Mussel, salmonids, and in that of the Thick Shelled Mussel, predominantly minnows and bullheads. As much of my work will be relating to the reintroduction of these, mostly stationary, endangered parasites, they will need to be reintroduced through their more mobile host fish. As knowledge on the behavioral effects of the parasite on the fish is very limited, I hope to expand it be looking at competition behavior between infested and non-infested fish, as well as other changes in behavior, which may reduce overall fitness. After all, if we kill off all the hosts, that won’t help the parasite any more than doing nothing at all. I hope to include genomic, immunologic and abiotic factors in the conservation efforts with a little help from some multidimensional modeling to stitch it all together.

Away from the office, you can find me either outside, fishing and hunting for mushrooms, or inside building an eclectic collection of reptiles and amphibians in unique enclosures as I experiment with culinary sciences to the sound of a bizarre musical library. Feel free to stop by my office to talk about research, or any of those last three things. If you care to follow any of my sometimes semi-science related stuff you find me on Instagram @srock456.

Cheers and see you around!

Marleen Schwarze from the Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany, studied for a year at Karlstad University as an exchange student. Afterwards she did an internship with NRRV. Here she writes about her experiences this summer:

“Since my bachelor program Environmental and Sustainability Studies includes one year abroad, I spent the fall 2019 and spring semester 2020 at Karlstad University. During that time I got a first impression of the biology department. The interesting courses I had here awakened my interest in fresh water ecology. Also, Karlstad became a new home for me, so I was happy to be able to extend my stay and complete the study experience in Sweden with a practical internship for three months.

My main motivation was to get an insight into scientific procedures and to gain research experience. Therefore, I was glad to spend a lot of time both in the lab and in the field and also, that it was even possible to do this internship, despite the pandemic.

I worked in two research projects, which expanded my knowledge on plant and invertebrate taxonomic identification, riparian zones and research methods. One project examines the impacts of hydropeaking caused by hydropower plants on riparian zones and the benthic fauna. The fieldwork included sampling of plants, invertebrates, chlorophyll measurements, as well as abiotic such as water quality (N, P and DOC) and geological measurements. The other project looks at plant dispersal in regulated and restored rivers. We conducted vegetation surveys along a river that is regulated for hydropower purposes (Umeälven) and a river that has been restored from its channelized form (Vindelälven), and their tributaries. Further, we took soil samples to analyse soil nutrient contents (C, N and P).

Someone said that fieldwork is the best strategy for keeping social distance. After almost eleven weeks of being every day outside, I can say that it is totally true. This summer I got to know more plant species than people and I dedicated more time to macroinvertebrates than to friends. We conducted the fieldwork at different rivers in Värmland, Örebro, Dalarna, Västra Götaland and Västmanland County, as well as in Västerbotten County. Hence, this internship was not only an intense learning experience which enriched my studies, but also an opportunity to see a lot of beautiful places during summer in Sweden.

I am grateful to Lovisa Lind who coordinated my internship and all the other researchers at the KAU biology department, in particular Jacqueline Hoppenreijs, Johan Watz, Lutz Eckstein and John Piccolo. Additionally, I am glad about the great teamwork with my fieldwork collegues and fellow students Andreas Vernby, Mattias Hansson and Andreas Marklund. Further, my thanks go to the International Offices, both in Karlstad and at my home university in Lüneburg, for helping me with the administrative process and support to get Erasmus+ funding which made this internship possible for me.”