Following up on our recent European trip, we paid a visit to Sjöfartsmuseet Akvariet in Sweden to give a little talk at a nordic coral symposium. Sjöfartsmuseet Akvariet is a Maritime Museum and Aquarium located in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden and the fifth largest of the nordic countries. Not only is this historic museum rich in cultural maritime history, it also boasts a commendable public aquarium and a rather surprising and well equipped DNA laboratory.
Founded in 1923, Sjöfartsmuseet Akvariet has developed and evolved from a historical maritime exhibit to a museum which includes diverse aquatic displays showcasing and tying together rather cohesively the animals that live in the sea. Since its renovation in 2005, the museum has refocused to include activities revolving around these public displays to increase knowledge and create awareness of the marine environment, and at the same time providing a time capsule of sorts to the historic maritime culture of the nordic region.
Transitioning to a museum featuring exclusively marine set ups came rather naturally. Majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water, yet most of which is unexplored. Gothenburg being located on the Swedish coast has an obvious connection to the sea, which has had a huge cultural impact on the history of the city and its people with its busy ports and a rich opportunity for research at the city’s university.
The incorporation of various marine aquarium exhibits therefore seemed fluid, and although there are no coral reefs in the temperate seas of Europe, it is just as, if not more important to feature such displays, to broaden the horizons of intrepid visitors and onlookers.
Such displays include species specific get ups that feature venomous marine animals, seahorses, jellyfish and various other educational tanks.
Although predominantly geared towards educational development and research, the various displays that pepper the museum floor are remarkably well maintained and groomed. In particular the reef flat set up with its populous growth of healthy SPS corals and fish. The corals here double up as mother colonies for propagation and research, in which the museum staff carry out in a back room.
As mentioned above, the museum also plays host to a DNA laboratory where research is conducted by tertiary level students and scientists alike. The lab is well equipped with instruments and machines that allow for gel electrophoresis, polymerase chain reactions and other experimental protocols. Dr. Björn Källström, head of research and the aquatics department here does most of his work which includes a distributed gene bank repository for various coral species.
The objectives of this project is to develop a distributed repository for coral species and clones with associated data of their genotype and resilience to climate change and ocean acidification, which are obtained through experiments carried out in the museum laboratory department. It also relies on coral collection from private aquariums of hobbyists, turning this into a citizen science project where hobbyists and scientists can work together for a virtual database of coral information.
Aquarists and hobbyists can contribute coral tissue for genotyping and data for optimal coral culture, and the information is stored in a database to facilitate easy identification of coral clones from various set ups and their response to different water conditions and environments. In simple words, one can see exactly who owns the same strain of corals as another, and how they differ in response to the environment in which they are grown in.
The museum and the research group aims to achieve four objectives. The first is to build an international distributed repository for the study of taxonomy, genetic diversity and resilience to human induced stressors brought upon by climate change and ocean acidification. The second, to collect genetic and morphological data from registered clones by acquiring tissue samples from volunteers. The third is to gather various ecological and environmental data for optimal growth and resilience to environmental stressors and lastly, to create a web-based aquarist interface for exchange of clones and associated data.
The objectives would hopefully provide a better understanding on coral reef impact from human stressors, and possibly provide better information for ex-situ coral culture.
As mentioned previously, the museum is not just a place of education, research and learning. It’s also a place of sharing, and twice every year a coral symposium is held where Swedish and nordic reefers gather to exchange information, swap frags, attend lectures and just be merry.
The museum has a lecture hall and this year, Ehsan Dashti, Leon Green, Kjell Fohrman, and myself all gave short presentations. Ehsan talked about the Triton Methon and ICP testing, Leon talked about his research on Pomacentrus and I did a talk on Pseudanthias. All three presentations are linked below, with the exception of Kjell’s who requested for his speech not to be filmed. Leon’s talk is in Swedish, but we’ll try to obtain a subtitled version.
A big thanks to Dr. Björn Källström, David Sällström, Henrik Maack, Peter Sandén and Emma Utgård for the wonderful invite and hospitality.