Success stories | Assemble+

Success stories

The core of the ASSEMBLE Plus project is provision of on-site and remote access to research services offered by our access providers.
Learn from our success stories how we were able to help researchers via our Transnational Access programme!


Characterization of the epizoic microbiota of the Mediterranean sea turtles
Access provider: Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (SZN)


Suncica Bosak
Faculty of Science,
University of Zagreb

In our research project we are studying the microbiota, the bacteria and microeukaryotes that reside on the skins, carapaces and within the body of loggerhead sea turtles living in different areas of the Mediterranean Sea. I have applied to the ASSEMBLE Plus project together with my PhD student Klara Filek to visit sea turtles that are rehabilitated in the Centro Richerche Tartarughe Marine, a part of Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn as SZN is the only institution within the consortium that provides access to these endangered marine animals.

Characterization of epizoic microbiota of loggerheads is of importance for these animals as it can provide the insight to the many aspects of the sea turtle biology including their habitat use or signal the anthropogenic impact on the marine environments. Furthermore, the changes in micro-epizoic biofilms of sea turtles kept in captivity from those in wild animals could serve as an important indication of the animal health.

Our hosts at SZN were very friendly and supportive, as well as the people in the laboratories and administrative support that we received in SZN central building. Overall, a very positive and successful experience!


Assessing impact of bottom trawl fishing and oxygen depletion on benthic invertebrates
Access provider: Gdańsk University, Poland (UG-IO)

Daniel van Denderen
Danish Technical University

"I have applied to ASSEMBLE Plus with my colleague Jan Geert Hiddink (Bangor University) to access the research vessel "Oceanograf" of the Gdańsk University (UG-IO) in Poland and to carry out fieldwork in Polish waters, which are affected by bottom trawling and hypoxia.

These are globally important pressures that affect marine benthic habitats and benthos, animals such as worms and shellfish that live on or in the seafloor. To understand interactions between trawling disturbance and hypoxia on benthos.

Without ASSEMBLE Plus access this project and forthcoming publications could not have happened. Our experience with the ASSEMBLE Plus program was highly positive. We thank the host from Gdańsk University and the crew from the research vessel for their great support, making it both a pleasant and very valuable research expedition"


Molecules meet fossils – an integrated approach to studying palaeodiversity 
Access provider: Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland (IOPAN)

Andrea Waeschenbach
Natural History Museum
(United Kingdom)

"In our project we are studying the patterns and processes of diversification in the marine realm over the last 160 million years, using bryozoans as exemplar group. In our work we analyse fossil and molecular data simultaneously in an attempt to disentangle the effects of key innovations and abiotic factors on diversification fluctuations.

ASSEMBLE Plus offered me the opportunity to join the research vessel Oceania at IOPAN (Poland) during the Svalbard Archipelago cruise to collect bryozoans for DNA sequencing. Many of the species collected occur exclusively in Arctic waters, enabling us to incorporate rare species into our molecular phylogenetic framework.

My experience aboard the research vessel Oceania was outstanding. Our host dr. Piotr Kuklinski provided great expertise in collecting and identifying Arctic bryozoans, took care of all the logistics and provided all necessary equipment and chemicals. Furthermore, the onboard scientific facilities and living quarters were excellent and the food was delicious. Overall, a well-organised and successful trip!"


Establishment of cell fates in the early branching annelid Owenia fusiformis
Access provider: Station Biologique de Roscoff, France (SBR)

Chema Martin
Queen Mary University
of London (United Kingdom)

"I applied to ASSEMBLE Plus to get remote access to the segmented worm Owenia fusiformis, a marine species that inhabits the costs near the Station Biologique de Roscoff (SBR) in France. Over the last years, I have established this marine worm as a research system in evolutionary developmental biology to understand the origins of segmented (annelid) worms, one of the most diverse animal groups on Earth.

The ASSEMBLE Plus program allows me to study the same natural population of Owenia fusiformis over the years, thus assuring a more or less constant genetic diversity in our studies.

Thanks to the remote access provided by ASSEMBLE Plus, my lab has collected samples to investigate how this fascinating marine worm reproduces and develops. Overall, the experience and interaction with the people in charge of ASSEMBLE Plus has been fantastic, always willing to help and make the most out of my research project."


Ichthyoplankton biodiversity on the Atlantic seamount condor using DNA metabarcoding
Access provider: Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Italy (SZN)

Diana Catarino
University of the Azores

"I applied to the Transnational Access program of ASSEMBLE Plus when I was on the verge of completing my PhD in population genetics and I wanted to explore other research fields as metagenetics.

ASSEMBLE Plus gave me the opportunity to access to cutting edge HTS sequencing platforms not present in my institute but available at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples (SZN) in Italy. My project focused on the ichthyoplankton biodiversity on an Atlantic seamount using DNA metabarcoding, and the main goals were to create an inventory of the ichthyoplankton for the region using DNA metabarcoding and compare the efficiency of this genetic approach with traditional methods.

The project ends up being very successful with more than 5 million sequences generated from the ichthyoplankton samples used, and to be analyzed throughout my postdoc. Publications are now being prepared in collaboration with SZN researchers. The use of the facilities together with the expertise and advice from the local team of researchers were key factors in improving the likelihood of success of this project."


Shedding light on the reproductive strategies of Antipathella subpinnata 
Access provider: Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls sur mer, France (OOB)

Martina Coppari 
University of Genoa

"The main topic of my research is the ecology and biology of black coral species. A huge knowledge gap exists about the reproductive biology of these species and their larval ecology. With the aim to shedding light on these aspects, and considering the impossibility to perform such studies in my home institution, I applied to the ASSEMBLE Plus project in order to collaborate with larval ecology and corals experts.

I collected several colonies of the most emblematic black coral species of the Mediterranean Sea Antipathella subpinnata to highlight different aspects of its reproductive behavior. Thanks to the ASSEMBLE Plus project I had the possibility to use the aquarium facilities of the Oceanographic Observatory of Banyuls-sur-Mer (OOB), which set up an experimental tank to host the coral colonies and to perform experiments and observations. During my stay at OOB I could describe qualitatively and quantitatively an asexual reproductive strategy, the bail-out, already know to occur in black coral species but never described in Antipathella subpinnata.

My experience as an ASSEMBLE Plus user was extremely positive and crucial to perform these studies."


Structure and rates of energy fluxes in the plankton assemblages of the Gullmar fjord
Access provider: Kristineberg Marine Research Station, Sweden (KMRS)

Danilo Calliari 
Universidad de la Republica

"The mechanisms that modulate the fluxes of energy and organic matter in the marine pelagic ecosystem constitute one central topic of interest in our investigations. The microzooplankton is a ubiquitous group of (mostly) unicellular protozoans which are thought to constitute the main grazers of marine primary production. Those are also very delicate organisms, and experimental research on their ecology requires carefully controlled conditions.

We applied to ASSEMBLE Plus in order to access laboratories and equipments at Kristineberg Marine Research Station (Sweden) where infrastructure for experimental research on marine organisms and ecosystems is nearly ideal. During one month we developed a series of experiments which provide clear evidence on density-dependent grazing rates by the natural microzoplankton community of the Gullmar Fjord.

It was an overall great experience, where we managed to obtain valuable results on a short time under a very pleasant working environment.

Outcomes of the research activity performed within the Transnational access are and will be Open Access and have already been published in the ASSEMBLE Plus Open Repository, here!

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