Young university, young marine researchers. From 11 to 14 September 2018 the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg was a most welcoming host for the ninth and so far biggest gathering in the series of self organised conferences of YOUMARES. With over 250 participants from some 35 countries, 109 talks, 31 posters, the organising team led by Dr Viola Liebig, member of the management of the German Society for Marine Research, and Dr Simon Jungblut of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research pulled off another memorable gathering. Mundus maris was a proud supporter.

 By now, according to "tradition", YOUMARES started with an icebreaker in the evening of 11 September - this time in the premises of the State Museum for Humans and Nature. Those who already had their share of warming up old and new acquaintenances over a drink could enjoy the interesting exhibit on the once extensive peat ecosystems in the Weser estuary, including mumies and all. The extensive drainage works have shrunk the still functional peats dramatically and the long dry spell this summer created the conditions for the fire just starting up as a result of military exercises. The amounts of CO2 released were already prodigious in the first week, not quite the dimensions of what happened with long-lasting peat fires in Indonesia to make place for palm oil plantations, but a most unwelcome addition to the abysmal emission budget.

Dr. Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris opens the panel statementsUndeterred, the conference started the following morning with a plenary discussion around the role of science in conservation. On the panel: Prof. Oliver Zielinski, Dr. Cornelia E Nauen, Morgan L. McGarthy, Thomas Luypaert, Meenakshi Poti, Pradeep A. Singh, Mara Ort and Liam Lachs, moderation by James G. Hagan. Following his introductory remarks about the challenges of conservation, James directed the first question for comment at the panelists: Should we let some even emblematic species go extinct in favour of preserving species and ecosystems that are more likely to respond positively to conservation efforts?

Cornelia of Mundus maris opened the conversation. She reminded the audience that extinctions did not happen over night, but were announced by once abundant species becoming rare. The rapid increase of fish species on the IUCN Red List categories of threatened or near threatened - even marine species that had been assumed immune in the vastness of the ocean - bore witness to the transformative impact of human interventions.

At approximately 1000 times background level, human impact on the world's ecosystem could be compared with mass-extinctions, many species even disappearing before they were properly described by sciences.

As for freshwater fish the greatest threat was through habitat loss (e.g. damming, deepening and increasing flow for navigability by bigger ships), pollution and, of course, overfishing, debasing wild stock with aquaculture escapes etc. Of course, new species were also arising, but Cornelia argued in favour of much increased efforts of ecosystem and climate protection in addition to working on a social consensus that protecting the threatened megafauna and re-creating landscape and seascape diversity, where required, were the most promising avenues to bring down extinction rates.

Other panalists added perspectives from their own project and research perspectives or the legal aspects they had been working on. Without the need to push the audience very hard, James received many comments and suggestions from the floor and triggered lively interaction also with the panel. That led to the second round of comments around the issue of whether it was better to spent money on research or on conservation action. Cornelia argued that this might be an unhelpful dichotomy as e.g. Red List classification was dependent on good research and that lack of expertise was an obstacle in several areas of conservation.

MariAngeles GamazaOthers enriched the exchange by steering the conversation towards the need for researchers to share their research results either directly with a wider public in addition to normal scientific publication requirements.

Several discussants in the audience also argued that research institutions should entertain relations with professional science communicators so as to shorten impact times of their research and ensure regular feed back to the public that pays for it.

The exchange was a good introduction to sessions on conservation research the following days.

Two to three parallel sessions then allowed for more in-depth presentations of research papers in several threads, such as Marine Bioinvasions, Tropical Marine Research Mosaic: Combining small studies to reveal the bigger picture, Law and Policy Dimensions of Ocean Governance, Investigating the Land-Sea Transition Zone, Trends in Plankton Ecology.

Thursday afternoon was reserved for a large number of workshops and excursions, including one on scientific writing and museum and lab visits. As a result of miscommunication fewer people than registered came to the Mundus maris workshop to discuss about the Small-Scale Fisheries Academy and how to prepare teaching materials for such a diverse target group. It still allowed to share the concept and identify opportunities for engagement.

BestTalkInstead the film projection of "Poisson d'or, poisson africain" by Thomas Grand of ZIDEOPROD on the artisanal fisheries in Casamance attracted a full house.

Plastic pollution was the focus of a large number of papers on the last day. Two sessions also addressed the challenge of sustainable management of marine resources and how to integrate the social and natural sciences.

Among the most encouraging examples for practising that were

  • research by Michael Kriegl about his research on cockle fisheries in Chile and
  • feeding integrated research results back to the community and various levels of management authorities in Lombok, Indonesia, by Paula Senff of the ZMT in Bremen.

MariAngeles Gamaza of the IEO reported about her field work with fishers in the Cadiz area. Her account of lacking communication of essential regulations and regular engagement of the various authorities with the fishers sounded amazingly similar to what our own field research in Senegal revealed.

All winnersBased on the fishing practices and work organisation she found, she estimated that seasonal closed areas and reduced fishing effort were likely to be the most effective in achieving much needed recovery of resources, while the new regulations (which most fishers were unaware of, sorting grids in the nets and planned surveillance cameras were not expected to have much impact.

After a short session of project pitches in the main lecture hall, it was time to announce the winners of the awards for the three best posters and papers respectively. Best talk was by Niklas Kornder speaking about "Measuring the biomass of Caribbean coral reef communities in 3D reveals important role of marine sponges", while best poster award went to Hannah S. Earp for her methodological work titled "Do you see what I see? Quantifying inter-observer variability in an intertidal disturbance experiment". All winners received a coupon for Springer books and Mundus maris bags and mugs.

The stimulating atmosphere lasted to the very end of the conference, which ended with a big round of applause for the winners and the organising team of this memorable conference "The Ocean: Our Research, Our Future". Thumbs up for Viola, Simon and the entire team!

In closing the organisers announced that the 10 year anniversary celebration of YOUMARES will take place in Bremen from 24 to 27 September 2019. Registrations for the organising team are already open. See you there!

Meanwhile, click on the full book of abstracts for more info.


Icebreaker Icebreaker
Before the start of the panel discussion Networking during a break
Michael Kriegl Best Poster