Stockholm university

Successful investment in ocean research network

The Baltic Sea Fellows initiative, a network of young Baltic Sea researchers from several disciplines, was launched to strengthen the environmental Baltic Sea research at Stockholm University. The results of this year's awarded research grants from the Swedish Research Council and Formas show that it is going well. The group of researchers has raised over 25 million Swedish crowns this year.

Photo: European Space Agency(Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

Baltic Sea Fellows are mainly funded by the Stockholm University Strategic Research Fund for Baltic Sea Research, and coordinated by the Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre.

Issues of importance to society

The climate issue is present in all the funded projects. As is community engagement. All Baltic Sea Fellows explore issues that are of great importance for a more sustainable society. And the network is of great importance both for the interaction between them and between the different departments at Stockholm University. Something that has now yielded great results in grants from research councils.

Forecasts of algal blooms

Inga Koszalka at the research vessel Electra.

The largest of the projects that have received funding is "A new forecast framework for algae bloom hazard to secure future water supply and development of tourism on Gotland", funded by Formas and run by Inga Koszalka, a Baltic Sea Fellow at the Department of Meteorology, MISU.

"I am an oceanographer, and am very interested in exploring and modelling turbulent ocean currents – such as eddies and fronts – and understanding how they affect the marine environment in different ways. Such currents are particularly visible in satellite images of algal blooms," says Inga Koszalka, "My Fellow colleague Agnes Karlson from the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences (DEEP) is also interested in algal blooms, but from a more biological perspective. Among other things, she looks at the effects of algal blooms on fish. We've been talking for a long time that we should collaborate, and now it's finally happening."

The four-year research project is a collaboration between Stockholm University, SMHI, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, and Region Gotland. Lagrangian particle models and biological models will be developed at Stockholm University and integrated with the SMHI marine weather service.

"A project like this is a big challenge," says Inga Koszalka, "I feel like I've prepared myself throughout my career to do this. Putting the idea into practice requires a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together expertise from different research disciplines. It's good to know researchers from completely different backgrounds who are interested in working together to address a scientific question relevant to society. That's how I got to know Agnes. I can hardly imagine that this could have happened without the Baltic Sea Fellows network."

Finding wetlands from space

Fernando Jaramillo, natural geographer at Stocholm University.

Another Baltic Fellows project that was awarded funding was the "Optimal hydrological restoration of Swedish wetlands with deep learning and hydrogeodesy", run by the natural geographer Fernando Jaramillo. This project is about developing important knowledge for the growing interest in wetland restoration. It also takes into account the greenhouse gas emissions that could result from changing water levels.

"The project combines artificial intelligence, Earth observations and state-of-the-art technology, to track water levels from space. It will refine the Swedish wetland inventory and provide the hydrological knowledge that environmental authorities need to prioritise and restore degraded wetlands," says Fernando Jaramillo.

Sustainable mineral extraction

Francisco Nascimento, ecologist at Stockholm University.

Ecologist Francisco Nascimento from the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, together with Baltic Fellow Elias Broman and a few other researchers, will investigate the potential impact of the extraction of rare earth metals from the bottom of the Baltic Sea, on the animals and microorganisms that live there. The project will also research how ecosystem processes related to important carbon and nitrogen cycles may be affected.

"Global demand for these substances is increasing, as the world seeks to move to a low-carbon economy, and there are already areas under consideration for mineral extraction in the Baltic Sea. Ensuring the sustainable extraction of these metals is a key challenge for the whole world," says Francisco Nascimento.

More about the project

More methane from the ocean floor

Christian Stranne, Associate professor of Marine geophysical mapping and modelling at Stockholm University.

Marine biologist Christian Stranne will find out more about the potent greenhouse gas methane.

"Levels of methane in the air have more than doubled since the industrialisation begun. Right now, we are seeing the fastest increase in methane levels since we started measuring methane in the atmosphere, and it is partly unclear what is causing this."

With a warmer climate, emissions of methane from sediments on the ocean floor are likely to increase. The research project will study how large these emissions could be, and what happens in the water column as the methane rises towards the sea surface. When and where our oceans may become methane hotspots is an overarching question that the researchers will seek to answer. Methods include simulations with advanced numerical models and field studies in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic Ocean and Brazil.

More about the project