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07.01.2020

IfAÖ supports up and coming scientists at "Schüler StAUNen"

Isabel, 15 years old and student at the Reutershagen High School in Rostock leans over her microscope in the student research center (Mikro-MINT). Today, she wants to identify the species that she and her two classmates have collected during sampling using colonization plates. Until March 2020, the high school students will continue researching in the current round of "Schüler StAUNen" (English: Astonished Students). They are supervised by two biologists, Lisa Schüler and Frank Gloede, from IfAÖ - Institute for Applied Ecosystem Research. The topic of the group is "Neozoa in the Warnow". IfAÖ expert Lisa Schüler explains the research spectrum: "Neozoa are non-native species introduced by humans that form stable populations in the new area and thus become part of the native fauna and can influence it". The theme, the graduate biologist emphasizes, is highly topical. According to the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the occurrence of such species is also a criterion for assessing water quality. "This shows how close to nature an area is or how strongly it has been influenced by human activity."

Especially in focus: the brackish water dark false mussel

The investigations of the three students focus specifically on the brackish water dark false mussel Mytilopsis leucophaeata, an invasive species that was introduced into ballast water of ships from North America to Europe and was detected for the first time in 2001 in the Lower Warnow by IfAÖ.

The students want to examine the species inventory of the Warnow according to salinity at four different locations. "This is done with the help of so-called colonization plates", explains Frank Gloede. The graduate biologist supports the students in many ways, including during sampling. "The colonization plates are suspended at certain water depths. Pioneer organisms, including many neozoa, mainly settle on this artificial hard substrate. This allows us to determine the proportion of introduced species compared to native species," says Gloede. In addition to the description of the species, the distribution of the individual species along the Warnow can also be determined.

Schüler StAUNen successful for 25 years

The program "Schüler StAUNen" has been in existence since 1994 and is an initiative of the State Office for Agriculture and Environment of Central Mecklenburg (StALU MM). IfAÖ has been a permanent partner of the program for eight years now and has previously donated the main prize. The current student research project to determine the species inventory in the Warnow River is the result of cooperation between IfAÖ and the Institute for Education and Research (BilSE), the participating schools and StALU MM.

On the trail of the brackish water dark false mussel with a microscopic examination. | Source: Student Research Centre Rostock/Thomas Borowitz

the brackish water dark false mussel