A journey from land to sea in Naples

News   •   2 – 6 July 2023

Photos by Maira and Ulisse

Text by German, Johanna, Maira

Hey there, fellow science enthusiasts! We want to share with you an exciting adventure that we, the Marine Symbiomes research group, embarked on in the mesmerizing Gulf of Naples. It’s all about exploring marine ecosystems and how they respond to human activities!

We know that the coasts are crucial hubs for urban, industrial, and agricultural development. These human activities significantly impact the delicate balance of marine ecosystems, introducing substances that flow from land to sea and affect its biology differently moving away from the coast. Understanding these interactions is what drove us to Naples on this occasion! To get a deeper insight into the functioning of these ecosystems, we decided to use heavy stable isotopes of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N) as tracers. Think of them as tiny detectives helping us calculate the productivity of planktonic communities. By comparing the areas close to the coast and those farther away, we hope to grasp the impacts of human interactions on marine life.

It wasn’t just science that brought us together: we recently welcomed two new members, Alice and German, to our team! And believe it or not, our adventure had us flying across the globe to physically meet each other! Germán flew all the way from Chile, enduring a long journey with jetlag, to join the Marine Symbiomes Research Group for his postdoc. He had just one night to sleep (!?), before joining Ulisse and Alice for a six-hours car drive from Genoa to Naples! In the meantime, Johanna travelled from Bremen to partake in the experiment and collect sponge samples for her PhD thesis.

Finally, we gathered in the enchanting city of Naples. With our sleeves rolled up, we set up the incubation experiment, with Maira leading the way and all of us contributing in various laboratory tasks. It was a true team effort!

We took a break to explore the “Schiacchetiello” beach, admiring the patchy distribution of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica. There, we snorkelled and collected samples of the symbiont-bearing sponge Chondrilla nucula. These samples will be analysed to uncover the complete set of proteins expressed within this sponge, tying in with Johanna’s PhD thesis goals.

After five intense and amazing days, our incubation experiments were a success, and the sponge samples were carefully stored, ready to be sent for analysis to our collaborator in the USA. As we parted ways, we returned to our respective cities, driven by our shared passion for marine research.

And it wasn’t all work and no play! While we were in Naples, the city was celebrating their football team’s national tournament victory. The atmosphere was electric! Germán, who remarkably resembles the famous South-American player Diego Armando Maradona, thoroughly enjoyed the experience in a city where Maradona is almost considered a god!

When we weren’t knee-deep in science, we basked in the warm sun and strolled along Lungo Mare on the Neapolitan coastline. And how could we resist indulging in the heavenly Neapolitan cuisine? Our taste buds rejoiced!

So, dear science-loving friends, this journey was as personal as it gets. It brought us together, both physically and intellectually, and the data we collected will contribute to understanding our impact on marine ecosystems. As we continue this quest to safeguard our oceans, we’re grateful for the memories we made and the knowledge we gained in the beautiful Naples. And we promise, there’s more to come as we uncover the mysteries of the deep blue together!

Stay tuned!

Special thanks to: Francesca, Maria and Marta for all their help and good disposition during our days working together.