Name: Cristina Gutiérrez-Zárate

From:  Madrid, Spain

Education: BSc in Environmental Science at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Erasmus scholarship at Umeå Universitet, Sweden; MSc in Marine Biology at Universidade da Coruña

Current role: PhD student, Instituto Español de Oceanografía

Cristina on research vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa (Credit: MEDWAVES cruise)

Cristina on research vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa (Credit: MEDWAVES cruise)

Welcome Cristina! Tell us, how did you get involved in ATLAS?

My first experience with the ATLAS community was on board the research vessel (RV) Sarmiento de Gamboa (SdG) during the ATLAS oceanographic cruise MEDWAVES (MEDiterranean out flow WAter and Vulnerable EcosystemS), in October 2016. On board the RV, I assisted with aquaria-based CWC ecophysiological experiments, as well as the live recording of video-annotations of the underwater transects. For me, MEDWAVES has been not only an incredible opportunity to witness top quality off-shore research on board of a state of the art scientific vessel, but also a unique personal experience of meeting a wide variety of researchers from ATLAS, with whom I had the opportunity to talk about and gain insight into the possible scientific career of mine.

Fantastic. So, are you are using the data from MEDWAVES for your PhD? Can you tell us more about your work?

Yes, my work is focused on the ROV video analysis of the deep-benthic communities to describe the different assemblages and try to understand the distribution patterns they display. I am currently working with the video material of one of the study areas of MEDWAVES, Ormonde Seamount, located at 150 nautical miles of Cape St Vincent (Portugal). This study is being carried out alongside ATLAS researchers from IEO (Spanish Institute of Oceanography) of the headquarters of Majorca, Málaga and Madrid, as well as from IMAR (Institute of Marine Research) in Azores.

How does ATLAS enhance your work? And what do you hope to achieve within the project?

Being a part of ATLAS community has given me not only the opportunity to understand the complexity of deep-sea benthic ecosystems, but also the meaning of being involved in a multidisciplinary, large-scale project such as ATLAS, which has allowed me to learn about the importance of collaboration between institutions and the need of knowledge transfer. I hope my work will support this project by means of new tools and knowledge about Atlantic and Mediterranean deep-benthic ecosystems. My determination is to contribute with this new acquired knowledge in higher-scale studies within ATLAS project, from predictive habitat mapping to maritime spatial planning.  

Name: Yaiza Santana

From:  Reus, Spain

Education: BSc

Current role: Master student, Institute of Marine Research, Azores, Portugal

Yaiza fixing a plankton net on board the Fleu de Passion (Credit: The Ocean Mapping Expedition)

Yaiza fixing a plankton net on board the Fleu de Passion (Credit: The Ocean Mapping Expedition)

Hi Yaiza! Why did you choose to study marine science? And what brought you to ATLAS?

I was born on the Mediterranean coast and I've been bounded with the sea all my life. I've been working on boats for almost 10 years, sailing and diving all over the world collaborating with NGOs and research teams to protect the oceans. My passion for the sea took me to study it in a more detailed and scientific way and I started a master's degree on September 2016. In turn, that gave me the opportunity of getting involved in the ATLAS project working with the researchers at the Institute of Marine Research (IMAR) in the Azores Islands and other partners from different countries.

You were also involved in the MEDWAVES expedition – Please, tell us about your work.

I'm currently finishing my master's thesis working with video analysis from recordings taken during the MEDWAVES cruise around Azores. I'm focusing in the deep-sea communities in the Formigas seamount (Azores), investigating the composition of benthic fauna, distribution and relationship with the habitat, geological features and the track of the Mediterranean Outflow Waters.

Amazing! We like your multidisciplinary approach! What does ATLAS mean to you?

I feel so fortunate to be able to collaborate with ATLAS, knowing that my work will contribute to the knowledge of the deep-benthic ecosystems, identify Marine Vulnerable Ecosystems in the Atlantic Ocean and protect marine areas with an astonishing biodiversity.  

Name: Berta Ramiro Sánchez

From:  Madrid, Spain

Education:  BSc (Hons) Biology at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain; MSc Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

Current role: PhD student, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

 Berta Ramiro Sánchez

Berta, it’s great to meet you! Can you tell us about yourself and how you came to be involved in ATLAS?

Originally from Madrid, Spain, I completed a master’s degree in marine and fisheries ecology at The University of Aberdeen (UK) and later worked for a few years in the UK in projects including fish stock assessment and marine conservation. After this time, I decided to return to research and study deep-sea ecology, always my main interest. An exciting ATLAS PhD position came up at The University of Edinburgh and I took it!

What will you work in ATLAS focus on?

My work within the ATLAS project focuses on the biogeography and its drivers of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in the high seas in the North Atlantic. In particular, I aim to revise the Global Open Oceans and Deep-Seabed (UNESCO, 2009) biogeographic classification system, a tool specifically developed to divide the deep-sea pelagic and benthic areas into distinct provinces that share some commonalities. The classification is, however, purely based on physical proxies rather than actual biogeographic species data and it doesn’t account for climate change either. My work will consist of validating the GOODS tool for complex habitats formed by VME indicator taxa, and of testing the biogeography of VMEs under projected climate change scenarios in the North Atlantic.

That sounds like an exciting challenge! What would be the highlights from ATLAS so far and why is the project important to you?

During my time in ATLAS I have already had the opportunity to participate in a deep-sea coral identification workshop and, gained training in barcoding techniques and species distribution modelling, skills which will help develop my research career. ATLAS tackles exciting research with partners from Europe, US and Canada and I find that being part of this research framework is unique as it opens the doors to collaborations, ideas and many more learning opportunities. I look forward to the rest of my time in ATLAS!

Thank you all very much for taking the time to tell us about your research within ATLAS!