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Staff exchanges

Caroline Sá visit to PML

Last May, in the framework of PORTWIMS, I had the opportunity to work for three weeks at PML under the guidance of Dr. Giorgio Dall’Olmo. The objective was to start working with particle size distribution (PSD) and flow-cytometry data from past AMT campaigns in order to investigate the contribution of phytoplankton to the total particle size distribution throughout the Atlantic Ocean.

Until now I had mostly worked with HPLC pigment datasets for ocean colour applications and product validation focusing on the phytoplankton component (i.e. Chl-a and size-classes) off the Portuguese coast. This exchange program is allowing me to explore other types of data which can be complementary and understand the particle size distribution patterns at a different spatial scale: the Atlantic Ocean basin.

During these three weeks I have specifically analysed PSD data and developed a method to automatically extract the diameters of each identified size class using the Octave programming language. Staying at PML was essential as it permitted discussion of results and progress work on a daily basis as well as to plan and define sampling strategies for the AMT29 campaign.

I had also the chance to participate in the AMT29 preparation workshop and meet the colleagues and projects that will be conducted during the cruise; and I have jumped from a 3m height diving board to get my Sea Survival course diploma, which was required for participating in the campaign!

Overall this has been a great learning experience not only in terms of data processing but also in data analysis, interpretation and experiment planning. The work will now continue remotely until the AMT29 departure on the 13th October, where I will be responsible for making measurements of PSD in order to characterize its horizontal and vertical patterns throughout the Atlantic transect.

Mara Gomes, Polarstern, July 2019

mara_polarstern2.jpgPORTWIMS enabled Mara Gomes from Lisbon University to participate in the Polarstern cruise where she conducted research on radiometric properties for validation and taught the students about phytoplankton. Mara said "the participation of experts in different science and technology fields and curious young scientists made the expedition a life-changing experience".

On the South North Atlantic Transect (SoNoAT) of R/V Polarstern, Mara was responsible for teaching phytoplankton topics within the biology and microplastics module of the POGO (Partnership for the Observation of the Global Ocean) floating summer school. The focus was to give the opportunity to POGO scholars from all over the world to join a marine sciences expedition providing hands-on onboard research and laboratory training.

In her blog Mara said "The teaching experience on R/V Polarstern has been by far the one from which I learned the most, not only scientifically but from a social perspective. The participation of experts in different science and technology fields and curious young scientists was made this expedition a life-changing experience, both for teachers and students, and especially for me! Motivated by the same need to protect our blue planet, we will never stop exploring the oceans. For further information read Mara's blog post.


First PORTWIMS on-site training of FCUL young staff at AWI

Maria Gomes at AWI in front of the model of the RV PolarsternIn June 2019 the German RV Polarstern will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Port Stanley (Falkland Islands) to Bremerhaven (Germany) as part of the expedition PS120 programme. Within a wide range of research topics that will be covered during this cruise Mara Gomes, a masters student from FCUL, will be studying the ecology and distribution of phytoplankton communities living in different biogeochemical provinces of the Atlantic Ocean.

Scenery outside the AWI buildingIn collaboration with AWI, Mara will be running inline the AWI hyperspectral in situ spectrophotometer (AC-S) instrument to obtain continuous measurements of phytoplankton absorption spectra at the surface ocean along the cruise transect. The data will be further processed and analysed in conjunction with pigment concentration measurements (performed back home in the FCUL lab) when she is back from the cruise in order to derive a high temporally resolved data set on the overall and major phytoplankton groups’ abundance (indicated as chlorophyll concentration) in this ocean surface waters.

In order to gain the knowledge to run her measurements successfully, Mara spend one week in February in the Phytooptics Group (lead by Prof. Dr. Astrid Bracher) at AWI. Here she received hands-on training by the group’s technician Sonja Wiegmann on operating and calibrating the AC-S instrument and an introduction by the group’s PhD student Yangyang Liu into python analysis tools to further process the data. The AWI (Phytooptics Group) was happy to host Mara for the training, as she brought the sun from Portugal to northern Germany!

First PORTWIMS exchanges

Andreia Tracana and Afonso Ferreira preparing to leave for AMTAndreia Tracana and Afonso Ferreira had the 'experience of a lifetime' (Andreia) as the first participants to benefit from a PORTWIMS exchange. They set sail on-board RRS Discovery on the Atlantic Meridonial Transect (AMT) research cruise in September.

Afonso Ferreira said:
"AMT28 was a special opportunity all-round. I had the chance to work under two great scientists and professionals in Giorgio Dall'Olmo and Bob Brewin, from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, who were not only always ready to help me out during work, but also made sure I had everything I needed during the cruise. As my first long research cruise, AMT28 was a challenge at several levels. The long working hours, the unusual work schedule and the fact that you're at sea for over a month can be quite stressful at times. In hindsight, however, I can say that our work was successful and my time during the AMT28 undoubtedly improved my ability to adapt and find a way to overcome difficulties during work. Plus, it was a privilege to be able to integrate such a helpful, large multi-disciplinary and diverse team. All in all, having the opportunity to participate in the AMT28 cruise was unique, and I hope to be fortunate enough to repeat the experience in the future."

Andreia described her experience onboard AMT:
"My participation in AMT28 was the experience of a lifetime. As a marine biologist, going on a oceanographic research cruise across the Atlantic Ocean, from Plymouth to the Falkland Islands, was one of my goals and the high point of my career so far. Being able to work on a ship with a scientific team from different countries and backgrounds inspired me to pursue to a PhD. My tasks aboard the cruise where demanding, but constituted a different and exciting experience. I have learned more than I could have ever expect, both professionally and personally and I’m quite excited to proceed my career with the knowledge obtained during AMT. I’ve also discovered that I’m able to work long hard hours and that I don’t suffer from sea sickness! I hope that more opportunities like this one appear in my path because this experience was indeed enriching in all aspects of my life and seeing icebergs and penguins for the first time was unspeakable, a memory that I will forever keep in my heart."



EU banner with the words: 'Co-funded by the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union'
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 810139.

Partner Institutes

Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)
Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon (FC.ID)
Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)



Project office

Campo Grande,
Edificio C1,
Piso 3,
Lisbon 1749 016,


Prof Vanda BrotasProf Vanda Brotas
Project Coordinator


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