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 (https://kau-se.zoom.us/my/jpconbio) 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:

https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cobi.13526

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10806-018-9711-1

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718305020?via%3Dihub

https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cobi.13067

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1617138117300742?via%3Dihub

You can even read a statement of commitment to ecocentrism, and join a list of notable signatories at the following link: https://www.ecologicalcitizen.net/statement-of-ecocentrism.php?submit=Sign+the+Ecocentrism+Statement

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.”

In early fall 2019, Finja Löher from Germany did an internship with the River Ecology and Management Research Group at Karlstad University. Here she writes about her visit:

“In 2018, I studied at Karlstads Universitet for two terms as part of my bachelor program “Environmental and Sustainability Studies” (Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany). These studies included two of the courses from the master program “Ecology and Conservation Biology” offered here at the biology department. Ever since I left Sweden, I’ve been hoping to return to Karlstad. On the one hand, I simply fell in love with the country with all its lakes and forests and fikas. On the other hand, I also gained a very appealing impression of the research being carried out in this department. Although I mostly focus on environmental chemistry in my studies in Germany, I nevertheless have a strong interest in ecological research, not least because of the courses I took here at KAU. Therefore, I was more than happy to return to Karlstad for three weeks for a practical training this fall.

During my stay here, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work together with several of the researchers here and to be involved in their work. This enabled me to get to know a variety of ongoing research projects and to better understand how much work and thought it takes to develop any such project. Among others, I assisted RNA analyses working with photo spectroscopy and in vitro PCR (polymerase chain reactions) in order to assess how the bacterium C. agnes influences the occurrence of the transmembrane protein PD-L1 in macrophages. I also had the chance to wander around in the woods collecting birch tree leaves and catching some wolf spiders in order to assist PhD projects aiming at assessing the influence of clams on biodegradation of organic material and at decoding the remaining prey DNA in spider gut contents, respectively. Additionally, I was happy to take part in two amazing excursions focusing on regional socio-ecological systems and their resilience. After spending a beautiful birthday on Hammarö and digging into some of the local history, the second excursion took us up the Klarälven River where we had a look at the former steel industry in Munkfors as well as at the hydropower plant and the sportfishing association in Forshaga. I furthermore gained some new insights by listening to several student presentations assessing the characteristics and the resilience of specific socio-ecological systems as well as by attending a seminar offered on the LIFE CONNECTS project which aims to restore several rivers and streams in Southern Sweden. Towards the end of my practical training, I was involved in the student courses some more by leading a discussion seminar.

Furthermore, I set up a small research project together with fellow interns. We aimed at assessing the quantity and diversity of the macroinvertebrate drift in a small forested stream situated in close proximity to the university. In order to work towards this goal, we installed a net in the stream that would trap all the invertebrates drifting with the flow during a specific time frame. We spent quite some time going through these samples and identifying the invertebrates down to the lowest reliable taxon. Being rather inexperienced with drift theory and invertebrate taxonomy previous to this internship, I was able to dig into these topics and extend my knowledge.

Last but not least, this practical training was a great chance for me to enjoy some of Swedish nature and culture, to have some great discussions and way too many cups of coffee, to meet old friends and to make new ones, to attend a climate strike in the country where it all began, and to work on my Swedish language skills a bit. Many thanks go out to John Piccolo for being a great contact person and for all the support before and during my stay here. Also, I want to thank everyone at the department for the warm welcome and for introducing me to their work. Keep it up!”

Jeff (right) and a former colleague inspecting Santeria sacrifices in Miami, Florida, USA. Santeria worshipers use a variety of plants, herbs, and animals to perform religious sacrifices. Some hypothesize that the very invasive African land snail (Achatina fulica) was brought into the United States to use in these rituals. Photo by Kelsey Branch

Jeff Marker 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:

“Hej and hello, my name is Jeff Marker and I am a PhD student here at Karlstad University in the NRRV Research Group. Originally hailing from the Great Plains region of the United States, I am now settled here in Sweden working on riparian ecology, food webs, spider predation, and forestry policy. I began my academic career focused on tropical plant science questions, specifically the best ways to grow and maintain a year round seed corn nursery in Hawaii. After a short stretch in the agribusiness industry, I turned my attention to invasive pests and plant disease monitoring with the United States Department of Agriculture.  As a Plant Protection and Quarantine Officer I was tasked with enforcing USDA quarantine laws related to invasive species, agricultural smuggling, and agricultural trade compliance. It was here that I rediscovered my love of insects, especially the beetles. Over the years I amassed a large working and personal collection of beetles from the Cerambycidae and Buprestidae families from the Midwest and Great Plains regions of the U.S. Eventually I left the beetles behind, put on a suit and tie, and ended up in Washington D.C. as an agricultural policy analyst where I focused on international quarantine regulations and the agricultural quarantine inspection process.

After meeting a wonderful Swedish woman and taking stock of my life, I was easily convinced to move to Gothenburg in 2016. Upon moving to Sweden, I restarted my graduate education and completed my MSc here at KAU through the Ecology and Conservation Biology Program. My thesis focused on the effects of urban areas on Swedish beetles that utilize dead or decaying wood for all or part of their life cycle. I believe that urban areas have a mixed, but often overlooked, effect on insect biodiversity. On one hand increased urbanization and a focus on specific types of habitat removal (i.e. dead or decaying wood) can be a direct threat to ecosystem health and/or function. However, urban areas often have significantly more plant and arthropod diversity when compared to the surrounding natural, managed, and rural landscapes. And while urban areas can be prone to invasive pest outbreaks and poor management decisions, with proper care and monitoring they also have potential to become biodiversity hotspots and some of the most resilient ecosystems in the face of a changing climate and changing attitudes about nature.

Jeff in Gothenburg admiring some giant hogweed/jätteloka (Heracleum mantegazzianum), a European and North American invasive species with the potential to cause a severe phototoxic effect on human skin. Photo by Johanna Jonstrand

As a researcher at KAU I will combine my love of arthropods and my background in public policy to analyze forestry management practices and their effects on riparian ecosystems. While here I hope to share my knowledge about insects and agriculture but more importantly, I am excited to learn about spiders and cutting edge genetic techniques including stable isotope analysis and DNA-barcoding. Under the supervision of Eva Bergman, Lutz Eckstein, Ann Erlandsson, Rachel Bowes, and Denis Lafage I will carry out a range of experiments to examine the link between riparian forest buffer width and its effect on predator community functional diversity, riparian ecosystem function, and food web complexity.  Currently I am conducting feeding experiments on wolf spiders (Lycosidae) to determine the time that specific prey DNA is detectable in their guts after predation events. This lab experiment will act as a primer for our future field studies in the Värmland and Örebro areas that will include intensive ecosystem sampling of terrestrial and aquatic communities. Our project will collaborate closely with forestry stakeholders, Swedish country administrative boards, Skogsstyrelsen, and other scientists involved in similar work. Ultimately we will work with these same groups to craft riparian buffer strip guidelines that intersect the needs of Swedish forestry with the health of Swedish riparian ecosystems to help build on sustainable forestry concepts.

Outside of the research arena I spend my time teaching my daughter to love and respect all the småkryp and playing and collecting board games. If you ever want to talk beetles or board games feel free to swing by my KAU office any time. You can follow my research and occasional musing on Instagram or Twitter both @sverige_saps.”

250+ wolf spider females in the lab at KAU. Inset: a Pardosa sp. (Lycosidae) paralyzing a collembola prey. Photos by Jeff Marker

Jacqueline Hoppenreijs recently joined the NRRV research group. Here she writes about her previous work and what she intends to do as a PhD student at Karlstad University:

Hej! I’m Jacqueline Hoppenreijs and I recently started my PhD in the NRRV group at Karlstad University. During my MSc, which I did at the Department of Environmental Science at Radboud University in Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and the Department of Ecology at SLU Uppsala, I worked on different species groups: plants, birds and insects and wrote two theses. The first one, with fellow student Bas van Lith, explored possibilities for bird population restoration on the Indonesian island of Java, using historical sources on bird population development and land use change over the course of a century. During the second one, I studied the importance of different man-made habitat types for pollinators in Sweden, over the course of a season.

 

Bas and I birdwatching in Rancaekek, by Fachmi Azhar Aji

 

Despite studying quite different time frames and taxa, biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and conservation have been recurring themes. Coming from the overpopulated Netherlands, I find myself very interested in the interface of human society and nature, and more specifically nature restoration, conservation efforts and their ethical aspects.

As a junior researcher at the Department of Animal Ecology & Physiology at Radboud University, I dove a bit deeper in the influence that human actions can have on the natural world. I worked in Rob Leuven’s group to identify the potential risks of invasive (alien) species in horticulture, biological control and food forestry.

As from April 2019, I’m working with Lutz Eckstein and Lovisa Lind. We’re focusing on both fundamental and applied aspects of plant ecology and I’m looking forward to unravel the mechanisms that drive plant dispersal and community composition in boreal riparian zones. Next to that, I’m excited to be part of an active education environment and the passionate group of researchers that forms the NRRV, and can’t wait to meet the rest of Karlstad’s community!

 

Vegetation sampling on Omey Island, by Joop Schaminée

Seke Chainda

Global Swede is an initiative by the Swedish government to promote long-term relations with international students in Sweden, with the aim to create cross-border networks and future collaborations.

Seke Chainda, Master student in Biology at Karlstad University, was awarded as Global Swede 2019 together with 25 other international students studying in Sweden. The students have distinguished themselves in their areas of study and in terms of both innovation and entrepreneurship. They have therefore been deemed good representatives for both Sweden and their home countries. Seke Chainda is from Senanga, a town in western Zambia. On 21 May, Seke visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Utrikesdepartementet) in Stockholm to participate in the Global Swede ceremony. Seke received his diploma from Ann Linde, the Swedish Minister for Foreign Trade.

 

 

 

 

Thomas Blom (Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Karlstad University), Seke Chainda and Stina Eriksson (Vice Head of the Biology Department at Karlstad University) at the Global Swede Ceremony

Seke is enrolled in the Master programme in Ecology and Conservation Biology at Karlstad University. In his master’s thesis, he examined the function of the adipose fin for the swimming performance and drift-feeding capability of juvenile salmonids, which usually is removed from juvenile fish reared at hatcheries for stocking purposes.

 

Seke Chainda, Erik Petersson (Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and Elio Bottagisio (master student) doing lab work at Karlstad University

Seke Chainda together with other master students conducting field work

Seke Chainda tagging a fish

Anna Hagelin and the opponent Professor Ian Fleming, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, at Anna’s PhD defense

Anna Hagelin successfully defended her PhD thesis with the title “Conservation of landlocked Atlantic salmon in a regulated river: Behaviour of migratory spawners and juveniles12 April this year.

Anna also presented her research at “forskningspodden” (the research podcast), which is a popular science podcast at Karlstad University. Here you can listen to Anna talk about her research on salmon conservation in river Klarälven (in Swedish).

För ungefär en månad sedan uppmärksammade vi en forskningsartikel som handlade om hur grågåsen genom sin spillning är viktig för växters spridning på skärgårdsöar i Östersjön (läs inlägget här). Lutz Eckstein, Professor i NRRV, är medförfattare på artikeln.

Nu har forskningen fått stort mediegenomslag, och uppmärksammats av bland annat Sveriges Radio (lyssna på ett inslag där Lutz berättar om studien), Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet, Ny Teknik samt en mängd lokaltidningar (Smålandsposten, Kristianstadsbladet, Bohuslänningen, Enköpingsposten, Borås tidning, Uppsala nya tidning, Katrineholms-Kuriren m.fl.).