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- Programme 2007-2008

Practical Exercises and Field work in ECOMAMA

Practical exercises and field work receive much attention in the first year’s training programme, where students learn (1) to determine an optimal sampling strategy and experimental design to investigate a given marine ecological problem and carry this out autonomously and (2) to analyze the data obtained with the appropriate tools (e.g. statistical test) and critically discuss and report his results (both written and oral).

We focus on the ecology of three different types of habitats: sandy beaches, coastal waters and rocky shores.


During the first part of the field work, you are taken on board a well equipped research vessel, called De Zeeleeuw, to sample various components of the marine ecosystem in the Belgian coastal waters of the North Sea, both in the water column and at the bottom of the sea. We study the diversity of the macrobenthos, sampled with a Van Veen grab, along a grain size gradient. Phytoplankton, is sampled with a Niskin bottle and you will perform primary production experiments on board, the sampled water is filtered for determination of carbon, nutrient and chlorophyll content in the laboratories of the biology department of the VUB later on. Zooplankton is sampled with a bongonet, allowing to determine the density and diversity of zooplankton. We will also demonstrate a typical meiobenthos sampling with a Reineck Box  Corer and a sampling of the hyperbenthos with a beam trawl. 

In the second part of the field work, you will focus on the macrobenthic community structure and intertidal zonation on a Belgian sandy beach.

LabIn the laboratory you will analyze all samples collected and you will acquire techniques to determine primary production, zooplankton feeding activity, benthos and plankton identification, richness and diversity. You will also learn how to quantify chlorophyll pigments, suspended matter concentration, organic carbon and nutrient content of sea water samples.

In the third part of the field work you will be introduced to the ecology of rocky shores. We will investigate the causes of the typical zonation, diversity and richness of intertidal organisms. 

On each of these studies you will report your results in various ways, for example by presenting a scientific report, a poster or a power point presentation. Throughout the course of the field work, you will become a more and more autonomous researcher, gaining more expertise in designing your own experiments and sampling, in interpreting and presenting your results and in playing your part in environmental management.  

The ECOMAMA Practical Exercises Syllabus is available here.

See ECOMAMA students in action on our promotion films.