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

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.  

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

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; PhD candidate at The University of Edinburgh

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


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!  

EC Blue Growth Infographic (Credit: European Union 2014)

ATLAS is designed with an explicit connection to ‘Blue Growth’, but what exactly is Blue Growth? The third ATLAS General Assembly explored various contending definitions and concluded that ATLAS should not be constrained by any single definition, but rather respond to a collection of nuanced definitions that frame its research agenda. Here, David Johnson, leader of WP6, describes what Blue Growth really means and how ATLAS fits in. 

Image of Íris Sampaio (right) with Dr. Manfred Grasshoff (left) at Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt, Germany

By Íris Sampaio, ATLAS partner, IMAR-UAz

The city of Frankfurt (Germany) introduces itself as an open window to the world. It is no coincidence that a statue of Atlas and his globe stands atop the central station where you observe the diversity and contrast in people from all over the world. Global citizens are as diverse as the organisms I was looking for in the Natural History Museum – Senckenberg: the octocorals. These unique Frankfurt citizens are themselves history tellers, inhabitants of the explored North Atlantic Ocean and the wonderful children of a coral taxonomist I dreamed of meeting.

The Global Ocean Conveyor Belt. Credit NASA/JPL

The ATLAS consortium was very excited to learn of Nature’s decision to publish an ATLAS-funded study on Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the past 150 years. To learn more about this important topic, the Newsletter is proud to present a short explanation of AMOC by none other than the study’s co-author and ATLAS partner Dr Peter Spooner (UCL).

The Atlantic Meridional overturning Circulation (AMOC) is one of the most important climatic phenomena on Earth. Like many natural systems, the AMOC is so complex that in many respects it still defies our understanding. However, simplified models can be useful when thinking about its role in weather, climate, and ecosystems.

Perhaps the most well-known of these models is the ocean conveyor belt in the image above. This vastly simplified schematic of the global circulation shows us the most fundamental view of the Atlantic overturning circulation, with warm water near the surface travelling northwards, only to be cooled in the Labrador and Nordic Seas where it sinks - due to an increase in density - and flows back southwards. The difference in temperature between these northward and southward flows results in a strong northward heat transport, one of the most important climatic aspects of the AMOC. A similar way of looking at the AMOC is in two dimensions. By integrating the ocean currents from east to west across the Atlantic, we arrive at Figure 2 below, which also shows shallow water flowing north and deep water flowing south. This time, we can see that water flows north mainly above 1000 m, and southwards below. 

Mean AMOC Stream Function. Credit Buckley and Marshall 2016

Fig. 2. Mean AMOC stream function from Buckley and Marshall (2016). Water flows clockwise around the red area along the colour contours. The stream function, in units of 106m3s-1 (Sv), is obtained by integrating the total flow in the Atlantic both from east to west, and from top to bottom: i.e. at 24oN and above 1000 m, about 20 Sv of water flows northwards. The maximum stream function is also called the AMOC index. Grey shading indicates the ocean bottom, and the black line is the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.






This way of looking at the circulation can also tell us its total strength (i.e. the volume of water flowing northwards in the upper Atlantic per unit time). This is the most commonly used index when attempting to correlate the AMOC with other climate processes, and it is used to say how much the AMOC will weaken in the future. However, this index hides much of the complexity of the system. For example, the overturning can have different strengths at different latitudes. These ideas also tell us little about what the circulation is like in 3D. To better understand the AMOC, we need to think about all the different components that comprise it, and what ultimately drives them.

For a long time, the AMOC - whose name is purely descriptive - was referred to as the ‘Thermohaline Circulation’, a name that implies a driver: heat and salt. This name was used because changes in temperature and salinity affect ocean density, and therefore the ability of water to sink at high latitudes. However, we also know that in the absence of any physical mixing, an ocean driven only by surface heat and salt fluxes will tend to stagnation. The energy required to keep the flow going is actually supplied by winds and tides, and so the term Thermohaline Circulation has fallen out of favour. We must consider the AMOC as both a mechanically- (wind/tide) and buoyancy-controlled system.

Wind directly drives the ocean gyres, a major component of the AMOC. At 26.5 oN, where we currently monitor the AMOC in the context of the subtropical gyre, almost all the shallow northward flow is confined within the Gulf Stream. Much of the rest of the upper water column in the gyre actually flows slowly southward, which the 2D view in Figure 2 hides rather neatly. The deeper return flow of the AMOC is partly confined to a western boundary current (again due to gyre circulation), but there are also important pathways in the basin interior, and not all of the water below 1000 m flows southwards. In the subpolar regions the flows become even more complex. The North Atlantic current, a meandering, filamentous boundary between the subtropical and subpolar gyres, becomes the main pathway for northward flow, ultimately feeding warm thermocline water into the Nordic Seas and the Labrador Sea. In the deep ocean, waters spilling over undersea ridges from the Nordic Seas in density-driven currents called ‘overflows’ are important features of the mean circulation. A similar overflow water enters the eastern Atlantic from the Mediterranean, where naturally it then becomes part of the AMOC. 

The links between overall AMOC strength and the dynamics of each of its different components are not straightforward. For example, an AMOC slowdown could be driven by changes in wind-forced gyre circulation (often on inter-annual timescales), or by buoyancy-driven changes (decadal or centennial timescales) in Labrador Sea convection, or by convection in the Nordic Seas, or all of the above. At other times, we might get counteracting changes in the deep-water formation regions, which involve very significant changes to local oceanography, but little overall change in AMOC strength. In the presence of a coherent forcing, such as warming and freshening at high latitudes driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, we expect (and are starting to detect) the AMOC to get weaker. But we have yet to fully understand how this thermohaline weakening will interact with each part of the AMOC system, and therefore how it might affect heat transport, carbon cycling and ecosystems. 

By: Peter Spooner, ATLAS partner, UCL

Further reading

  • M. W. Buckley, J. Marshall, Observations, inferences, and mechanisms of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A review. Rev. Geophys. 54 (2016), pp. 5–63.
  • C. Wunsch, P. Heimbach, Two decades of the atlantic meridional overturning circulation: Anatomy, variations, extremes, prediction, and overcoming its limitations. J. Clim. 26, 7167–7186 (2013).
  • C. Wunsch, OCEANOGRAPHY: What Is the Thermohaline Circulation? Science (80-. ). 298, 1179–1181 (2002).
  • M. S. Lozier, Overturning assumptions: Past, present, and future concerns about the ocean’s circulation. Oceanography. 28, 240–251 (2015). 
Image of Marine Spatial Planning in action. Credit: Joint IOC-UNESCO – EC DG-MARE International Forum for Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning.

Prof David Johnson (Seascape Consultants Ltd., UK), represented ATLAS at the kick-off event for the Joint IOC-UNESCO – EC DG-MARE International Forum for Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP), a new International Forum that aims to develop international guidelines on cross-border and transboundary MSP, exchange good practices and generally inspire the MSP community. The forum was started as an offshoot of the 2nd International Conference on Marine Spatial Planning and took place in Brussels from 22 – 25 May 2018. 

Global leaders in the marine sector recently gathered in Galway, Ireland for the 5th  Our Ocean Wealth Summit (OOW) on the 28th and 29th of June 2018. The annual summit forms a key part of Irish and International Government plans to ‘Harness Our Ocean Wealth’ and coincides with SeaFest – Ireland’s national maritime festival.

This year the summit featured a variety of panel discussions and announcements and hosted the Marine Ireland Trade Show. The two-day event also attracted distinguished speakers including Mary Robinson, former Irish president and founder of The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, who delivered a keynote speech on the threat of climate change and its potential impacts on marine ecosystems and coastal societies, which was highlighted in her recently published article in Nature.

We'll be holding the assembly once more in Colonia Sant Jordi, Mallorca from 1-5 April 2019.

Please save the date - registration and further information will be posted early next year. 


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Attendees at the Science Policy meeting, Ottawa, May 2018

The second science-policy meeting for the ATLAS project took place in Ottawa on Friday 11 May 2018.

24 participants - comprising senior policymakers, stakeholders from industry and NGOs, representatives of international organisations, and leading scientists - attended a very productive meeting. Hosted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), this meeting served mainly to bring the project to the attention of the Canadian government stakeholders and to gather their feedback on where ATLAS results will be of benefit to their work in the future development of management of ecosystems in the Atlantic.

Meeting participants were welcomed by Dr Louise Laverdure, Director General of Ecosystem Science at DFO. Prof David Johnson chaired the meeting, a full report on which can be found here.

Image showing chimney of the new field where hydrothermal activity is visible. Image from ROV “LUSO”, Portuguese Task Force for the Extension of the Continental Shelf

An international team of scientists have discovered a new hydrothermal field near the Gigante Seamount in the Azores, a rare finding they are very excited about. The team, including scientists from the EU Horizon 2020-funded project ATLAS, have been surveying the largely untouched seas of the Azores, an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic which harbours some of the most important deep-sea ecosystems in the Atlantic Ocean. Researchers from the University of the Azores (IMAR–UAz) are leading Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) operations in the “Blue Azores” expedition organised by the Oceano Azul Foundation, in cooperation with the Waitt Foundation and National Geographic PRISTINE SEAS, and in partnership with the Regional Government of the Azores.

ATLAS 3rd General Assembly group with ATLAS beanies, Mallorca April 2018

Find here the 3rd ATLAS General Assembly presentations with video recordings and posters.

Georgios Kazanidis (ATLAS) with Eliana Ferretti (MERCES/SponGES projects) at WCMB2018

The 4th World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (WCMB) took place in Montréal, Canada this year. Running from 13–16 May, WCMB is the major focal assembly to share research outcomes, management and policy issues, and discussions on the role of biodiversity in sustaining ocean ecosystems.

Het programma van de NICO expeditie foto NICO

ATLAS colleagues Dick van Oevelen and Evert de Froe have recently returned from a research cruise. Read more about them at their cruise blog here.

A Dutch newspaper, Omroep Zeeland, also featured an article on the cruise. Read more about it below.

IMG 8830 min

Children learning “to be coral scientists" during ocean week on the Azores (IMAR-UAz) 

This one-day symposium on 12 May 2018 is aimed at scientists, practitioners, policy makers and representatives of civil society with expertise and interest in the future of these area-based management tools (ABMTs) in the North Atlantic, and will take place immediately before the 4th World Conference on Marine Biodiversity. Presentations will highlight emerging results from ATLAS, and the status of ABMTs informed by predicted shifts in ecosystem dynamics will be reviewed. Discussions will highlight opportunities and processes for adaptive management and recommend future priorities and directions.

ATLAS is delighted to announce we have secured a session at The ICES Annual Science Conference 2018 (24 - 27 September, Hamburg, Germany) and we would like as many of you to submit your abstracts.

Theme G: Ocean basin-scale research and management: challenges and opportunities

Conven​ers: J. Murray Roberts (United Kingdom) and Ellen Kenchington (Canada)

Deadline: 19 March 2018

Submit your abstract here

This session will explore the themes emerging as both the marine scientific and management communities embrace assessments of ecosystem connectivity, biogeography, and function at broader geographical scales. Research and policy development at ocean basin scale has been driven by the realization that climatic change and human impacts are rapidly altering marine ecosystems at the same time as governments seek to promote increased economic output from the marine environment. This broad context sets a considerable challenge and opportunity for marine science, industry, management and policy to shape the frameworks through which Blue Growth can be achieved.

During December 2017, ATLAS researchers Marina Carrerio-Silva (IMAR – University the Azores) and Lenaick Menot (Ifremer) and ATLAS PhD students Berta Ramiro Sanchez(University of Edinburgh) Yaiza Santana (IMAR – University the Azores) and Crisitina Gutiérrez-Zárate (IEO) attended the International training workshop on the identification of corals from image data at Plymouth University.