Our planet is full of water, from lakes and rivers to the Oceans which cover 70% of the Earth. These environments play essential roles in our lives – with algae producing half of the global oxygen as well as being the base of all food resources supplied from coastal and freshwater ecosystems. The aquatic environments are increasingly under pressure, due to climate change and pollution. To understand how ecosystems are impacted, we can conduct lab experiments, or observe nature and measure “real” changes. However, lab experiments are not representative of real-world scenarios, and field experiments can have too many variables to determine which are important for the observed changes. Mesocosms represent a middle ground between these two. A mesocosm is an experimental enclosure, where water is added from the environment and manipulated in some way, for instance, by raising the temperature compared to a control system. This allows us to investigate effects that stressors can cause on a complex ecosystem. It is essential to understand this, but equally important is communicating our results to society, including the public, educators, and the media.
In AQUACONNECT, we aim to increase the ability of scientists to communicate aquatic research to the public, particularly the media, educators, and citizens. The main method of this, is to host a workshop where we bring together these different societal groups, as well as researchers to develop and share the best methods of communicating science. AQUACONNECT will also create scientific drawings of mesocosm experiments, and important biological organisms we study within these experiments, to allow a fun and active way of teaching children about mesocosm research. Through this project, we aim to increase the knowledge of marine and freshwater research, as well as the challenges and solutions for ensuring sustainable management of these precious environments.
Global aquatic ecosystems are facing a number of challenges related to climate change and human induced impacts. AQUACOSM-plus seeks to provide the infrastructure through mesocosms (experimental enclosure systems) to understand how these stressors will impact entire ecosystems, but also to develop technology and innovative solutions to tackle these grand challenges. The AQUACOSM-plus project aims to bring together a research community specialised in mesocosm-based research covering fresh and marine ecosystems, across the entirety of Europe.
The purpose of AQUACONNECT is to enhance the communication of aquatic and mesocosm-based research to Norwegian stakeholders, including the media, educators at different levels and the general public. The main method for this will be to host a workshop in November 2022 where we bring together researchers from academia and industry, the media, and education providers to develop and share best practices for communicating science to different audiences and stakeholders. We will also create scientific illustrations of mesocosm experiments and important biological organisms from aquatic ecosystems to design an activity for school children.