Summer School on the functioning of Tropical and South Atlantic marine ecosystems

From the 25th September to 1st October, the “TRIATLAS – TAPIOCA – CANEMS – UFPE Summer School and Workshop on the functioning of Tropical and South Atlantic marine ecosystems – from physics to top predators and fisheries” took place in Tamandaré, Brazil. 12 Lecturers and 27 Early Career Researchers (ERCs) from around the world including Brazil, Angola, Argentina, Germany, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the USA participated in this one-week course.

The Summer School and Workshop (SSW) was composed of formal lectures, poster presentations, invited speaker seminars, practical sessions, and two field trips: one to the local reefs and the other to the mangrove forests.

The SSW focused on the Atlantic Ocean, more specifically, its basin-wide features, eastern boundary upwelling system, western boundary current system, and tropical and subtropical gyres. Topics such as primary productivity, fisheries, mesopelagic ecosystem functioning, and seabird foraging were presented and discussed among professors and ERCs. In addition, practical activities in which the ERCs formed multidisciplinary groups to discuss and present regional issues were conducted. These multidisciplinary groups worked on solving “super-questions” as posed by the lecturers about the future of the Atlantic Ocean. For example, the possible climate change impacts on the ecosystem structure in the western boundary current system and how human communities could adapt to future changes were examined by diverse groups of ERCs who put their own expertise and perspective together.

To observe the local ecosystems in action, two field trips were organized. The first field trip was to the reefs of Carneiros beach. The SSW participants met with a local Ph.D. student, Ítala Gabriela T. Lima, who was assessing the impact of recent oil spills on the Brazilian reefs. She showed how the reef monitoring is done and presented her findings on how the oil spill impacted the region.

The second field trip took place on the last day of the SSW. The students visited the mangroves, learned about the main vegetation species and crabs, met with local communities, and tasted some local food like “caldinho de aratu.” In fact, participants enjoyed local cuisine everyday while boarding at CEPENE/ICMBio dormitories.

In summary, the SSW was an excellent opportunity for all who attended to learn about the tropical regional ecosystems, share knowledge, and widen their network. This opportunity was realized through many people with different educational and cultural backgrounds from around the Atlantic Ocean working together on some of the most urgent issues facing our world.

Text: Edson Silva, Nilgun Kulan