Nansen Legacy scientists out in the World

Good science is created by the interplay of different thoughts, work approaches and data. This is why collaboration with scientists around the World is essential for the Nansen Legacy. After years of pandemic and travel restrictions, the project is happy to see that an increasing number of its scientists are now spending time abroad working with scientists from other countries and research fields on Nansen Legacy samples and data.

So far in 2022, fifteen Nansen Legacy scientists temporary moved their work place to different universities and research institutions in the US, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain or Hungary. The research stays varied in length from a few weeks to an entire year. A major motivation for the stays were specific analyses of samples and data, but also writing on joint manuscripts.

The Nansen Legacy collaborates on scientist-to-scientist as well project-to-project level with many different nations

Here you can read about the experience of Nansen Legacy post-doctoral fellow Oliver Müller, who is spending half a year at the Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls-sur-Mer in France.

Working with data from the Arctic in Southern France

– Some impressions from an abroad work stay by Nansen Legacy post-doctoral fellow Oliver Müller

Going to work has been slightly different from what I am used to in Bergen. First, since I have arrived here in mid-March there has hardly been a day where I needed more than shorts and a t-shirt, and most of the people I met on my way to work are on their way to the beach. This is apparently very normal here in Banyuls-sur-Mer, a small town at the Mediterranean coast near the border to Spain, where I am currently working as part of an international work-stay.

Even though Banyuls-sur-Mer is just a small town with focus on tourism and wine, the marine station where I have my office, has a long history of marine research and exploration. In, 1881, Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers founded the “Arago laboratory” in Banyuls in order to study the great diversity of habitats and organisms of the rocky Mediterranean coast. 

Oliver Müller – author of this blog. Photo: Gwenael Piganeau

Then in 1893, the first clear underwater photograph was taken by biologist Louis Boutan here in Banyuls. The Arago laboratory has been growing over the years and today, Banyuls is still famous for marine research.

While I enjoy the French lifestyle, I am mainly here to collaborate with researchers from the GENOPHY (Evolutionary and environmental GENOmics of PHYtoplankton) group, lead by Gwenael Piganeau. Together with the help of researcher Sheree Yau from the GENOPHY group, I am analysing data sets collected during Nansen Legacy research cruises in the Barents Sea. Despite the obvious differences between the Mediterranean Sea and the Barents Sea, the methods that we both use to understand the role microorganisms are the same, and exchanging point of views, expertise and ideas is extremely stimulating. My main focus is on analysing sequencing and flow cytometry data from experiments conducted during the Nansen Legacy cruises to reveal the connections within the microbial food web, that can inform us about the state and productivity of the Barents Sea ecosystem.

I have already been in Banyuls for nearly four months and people are even starting to understand my very basic French (involves mainly hands and pointing). While English is common in the research group, everyday activities outside the marine station require some basic French knowledge, that I not had before I arrived, but that I acquired creatively over time. It certainly helps when travelling around in weekends to explore the more rural areas of Southern France. I have visited many beautiful villages, mountains, coasts and met so many friendly people a long the way.

The new environment, a new language, new colleagues, new methods and different ideas have provided a hugely inspiring working environment. This work exchange has been a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and bring them, together with a mountain of analysed data, back to Bergen and to share this with the Nansen Legacy community.

Group picture from Banyuls, France. Oliver Müller in the back (blue t-shirt). Photo: Gwenael Piganeau