Bonus Projects

14.04.2017 11:50The lost art of writing (and speaking) (BONUS BALTICAPP - Race Against Eutrophication Blog) Matti Sihvonen

Hi all!


Things have been moving quite nicely in recent times. First of all, we got the first article ready and it’s now submitted to a journal. I must say that it was rather challenge for me. The actual writing process proved to be very difficult in the end. I had some real difficulties to put a discussion, conclusions and abstract sections together. This may be due to the fact that we, students in economics, can graduate with surprisingly little amount of reading and writing, since most of our focus is on the mathematical side of things. Most of my studies were about formulating optimization problems and solving them mathematically. Typically the exams required no excessive amount of reading, whereas the problem sets and mathematical examples are important to learn. As a result, one can graduate with flying colors without being very impressive writer (or reader).


Anyway, I participated a scientific writing course, which turned out to be very helpful at this point. Only now have I really started to understand how important it is to actually learn to clearly express your ideas. I think that in mathematically oriented fields it’s rather common to ignore the importance of writing skills. One learns the true value of such skills just when one really needs to publish something. In addition to scientific writing course, I also attended a statistic modelling with R course. This course has also been a very informative one and I’ve learned a lot of important things. I think that statistical modelling is a next step from the basics of statistics. It has also been a very nice course for me because it takes a more practical approach as it focuses on examining the models through examples that are solved with R. In addition, the course is an online course and all the lectures are just in Internet. In addition to theses courses, we have the PhD level course “Economic growth and environmental resources”, which is basically a macroeconomics course. We have to hand in the exercise sets by the end of this month. There require a lot of attention and it’s hard work because I’m not familiar with macroeconomic models. Nevertheless, I’m familiar with the dynamic optimization, which appears to be a primary tool in solving the macroeconomic problems. Therefore the course is very useful for me, because I have to keep practicing all kinds of dynamic analyses. It’s also good to get basic understanding of the most important macro models although I wouldn’t ever do macroeconomic analysis within my work. 


We also had a project meeting Stockholm. I gave a presentation of our paper there. I thought it went better than my previous presentations since my English speaking has improved quite a bit since I started and also because the work is now ready. Despite of those improvements, I was still very nervous and I talked very quickly so that no one could interrupt me. As a result, my presentation was too difficult to follow at that point of a day; I realized that I used only abbreviation of the soil phosphorus and I didn’t explain it at any point during the presentation. Thus, I may have lost the audience right in the beginning. Thus, the take-home-message from Stockholm is that I must learn to give clearer and simpler presentations in the future. This will be particularly important, because the paper of ours got accepted to EAERE (European annual environmental and resource economics) 2017 conference. This was very good news and it made me very happy. The conference will be held in Greece (I have never been so far a way from home before). Thus, it will be exciting both professionally and also as an adventure. I look forward to it. At the mean time, I must learn the art of giving presentations. In addition, I must make really rabid progress with the second paper, if I want to graduate in time. Thus, the spring and the summer will be busy, but also exciting time.


See you next time!


Best regards: Matti Sihvonen 

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01.04.2017 17:56Equipment explained: part II - the GEMAX / GEMINI corer (Sources & Sinks: A Tale of Coastal Biogeochemistry - BONUS COCOA) Dana Hellemann

Sampling the sea floor is not a trivial task. Frequently, I get the same question: “How do you get your sediment samples, do you dive down there?” The bottom of the sea puzzles people. It is somewhere there, but you cannot see it. Thus, it is not unreasonable to assume diving as solution to the puzzle, as it lends an eye to the sampling process. This is how my colleagues from the benthosphere , who work on shallow coastal ecosystems, get their samples (see Sampling benthos).

Somewhere there, below the sea surface, is the sea floor. Even in the coastal zone, this "somewhere" might however mean many meters of water column.

Yet, with increasing water depth and subsequently decreasing light, sampling via diving becomes complicated. On the dark side of the sea floor we therefore use sediment corers operated from ships. As corers have no eyes, we work virtually blindfolded which can often feel like gambling (and thus holds a certain kick). Sediment maps are helpful for giving directions, especially in early planning phases; however, often they are extrapolated or outdated and when looking at the first sample coming on deck, you might find that the sediment type has changed over the years, e.g. due to a change of current regime or deposition environment.

Surprises for free, excitement guaranteed- that´s sediment coring!

Sediment coring is an exciting task, including joy & disappointment, puzzlement & frustration, and a decent amount of waiting (picture: Franziska Thoms, IOW).

The successful retrieval of a sediment sample from the sea floor depends largely on the right corer. Sediment types vary in sturdiness, resp. softness, e.g. comparing sturdy sand sediment with soft mud sediment; consequently, you have special corers for each type. If you have followed this blog for some time, you will have heard about MUC, HAPS, GEMAX, GEMINI, BOX – over the last 3 years, we have had them all.

Today you will meet the GEMAX/GEMINI corer, which is according to an essay by Boris Winterhalter the “ultimate corer for soft sediment”. Do I need to say more?

A GEMINI corer, ready to be launched.

The GEMAX / GEMINI corers are twin gravity corers for soft sediments. They base on the original Niemistö corer (Niemistö, 1974), which was highly successful with the only offset of a too small sample size. By doubling the core barrels a twin corer was born, self-evidently baptized GEMINI. Sample quality was further improved by increasing the diameter of the core barrels, which created the GEMAX.

Today, both GEMINI and GEMAX are standard corers all along the Baltic Sea coast. They consist of a stainless steel housing which is fitted by acryl core liners with sharpened steel cutters at their ends; those, as the name says, are capable to cut through the sediment. In the end, the core liners will hold the sediment sample. Both corers might look alike, but do not underestimate their difference: even 1 cm variation in core diameter makes a huge difference when trying to fit in a wrong inner core liner. From experience I can say: no, they don´t fit and no, they also cannot be squeezed in. Acryl is a quite solid material.

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A full GEMAX corer back at the sea surface. Its muddy condition is a true sign that it really was in the sediment.

The corer penetrates soft sediments vertically based on its own weight and the lowering speed of the winch. Upon upwards pull a closing mechanism is triggered that locks the sediment securely in the core liners, creating a nice sediment core of ~ 30-40 cm.

capping of sample_DHsediment_core_ÖRE_DH

And action: Laetitia, Wytze and Mathias while retrieving the full core liners. Requirements here: be quick, put the plug tight and don´t be afraid of getting muddy (left). My house, my car, my....sediment core: happy mood while subsampling a fresh core (right). (pictures: Ines Bartl, IOW) 


Some care needs to be taken for the core liners, which somehow have a tendency to roll over board. Your only solution if you want to have them back: diving- and the circle closes.

A dropped core liner being successfully brought back to the surface.

Next time in equipment explained: why a toilet brush is an essential tool in sediment coring.

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