Four and a half years after the iAtlantic community gathered for the first time in Edinburgh for the project kickoff meeting, project partners and collaborators returned to Edinburgh in early October 2023 to mark the closing stages of the project. Whilst many remarked that it seemed only short time since the project last met in Florianopolis, Brazil, a full year has passed and – rather incredibly – the project is now in its closing phase. Set in the grounds of the University of Edinburgh’s Pollock Hall Estate and overlooked by the ancient volcanic rocks of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat, the iAtlantic Final Meeting brought together 120 participants to present, discuss and celebrate the project’s work and achievements.
To share results with the broadest audience possible, the first two days (9-10 October) of the week-long meeting was open to anyone who wished to join, either in person or online. Stakeholders from a range of sectors were invited to attend, and with that in mind the meeting programme aimed to highlight the bigger-picture relevance and application of iAtlantic’s research, as well as showcasing the many science results. Plenary sessions focused on the main research themes of the project, led by a high-level overview of achievements and outcomes and followed by presentations of selected spotlight results. During the course of the 2-day programme, a total of 29 presentations were made, along with a further 26 posters that were on display for the duration of the meeting. Stakeholder response and open discussion was an integral part of the programme, with external expert panels leading discussions focused on iAtlantic’s science impact and policy relevance. The wider All-Atlantic research project portfolio also featured on Day 2, with a dedicated session for sister projects to present their progress and highlight synergies with iAtlantic.
A highlight of the meeting was the conference dinner – complete with the obligatory Scottish ceilidh and announcement of the annual Atlantic awards. Winners of the 2023 round of awards are:
- Winner: Sonia Romero-Romero: Assessing the Trophic Plasticity of the Cold Water Coral Desmophyllum pertusum (Lophelia pertusa)
- Winner: Danielle de Jonge: Insights into abyssal benthic ecosystem functioning under reduced POC flux through in situ incubations and linear inverse modelling
Best Early Career Researcher presentation:
- Winner: Beatriz Vinha for Who are they, where do they live, and what do they eat? Discovering the cold-water coral communities of Cabo Verde on board the iMirabilis2 expedition
- Runner up: Daniel Tha for The socio-economic effects of fauna tropicalization in the SW Atlantic: reshuffling economic and nutritional benefits
Best Senior Researcher Presentation:
- Christian Mohn “The role of hydrodynamics for shaping cold-water coral distribution in slope waters off Angola, Southeast Atlantic”
Objective 1 Standardise South and North Atlantic Ocean observations to enable short, medium and long-term assessments of Atlantic Ocean circulation and its physico-biogeochemical environment.
- Winner: Alan Fox for Fox et al. (2022): Exceptional freshening and cooling in the eastern subpolar North Atlantic caused by reduced Labrador Sea surface heat loss. Ocean Science, https://doi.org/10.5194/os-18-1507-2022
Objective 2 Map deep and open-ocean ecosystems at basin, regional and local scales
- Winner: Mia Schumacher for Schumacher et al. (2022): The Atlantic Ocean landscape: A basin-wide cluster analysis of the Atlantic near seafloor environment. Frontiers in Marine Science, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.936095
- Winner: Daniela Yepes Gaurisas for Gaurisas et al. (2023): Benthic biogeographic patterns on the deep Brazilian margin. PeerJ, https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.14585
Objective 3 Assess the stability, vulnerability, and any tipping points of deep and open-ocean Atlantic ecosystems to changes in ocean circulation, and effects of single and multiple stressors.
- Winner: Angel Perez and Rodrigo Sant’Ana for Perez & Sant’Ana (2022): Tropicalization of demersal megafauna in the western South Atlantic since 2013. Communications Earth & Environment, https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-022-00553-z
- Winner: Vanessa Stenvers for Stenvers et al. (in final review in Nat. Comms) Experimental mining plumes and ocean warming trigger stress in a deep pelagic jellyfish.
Objective 4 Align and enhance human, technological and data inter-operability capacities for cost-effective cooperation and planning across the Atlantic
- Winner: Tim Schoening for Schoening et al. (2022): Making marine image data FAIR. Scientific Data, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-022-01491-3
- Winner: Carlos Dominguez-Carrió for Dominguez-Carrió et al. (2021): A cost-effective video system for a rapid appraisal of deep-sea benthic habitats: the Azor drift-cam. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13617
Objective 5 Define requirements for sustainable management with industry, regulatory and governmental stakeholders to reflect societal needs and inform policy developments that ensure and encourage a sustainable Blue Economy
- Winner: P Daniël van Denderen for van Denderen et al. (2021): A policy-based framework for the determination of management options to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems under the EU deep-sea access regulations. ICES Journal of Marine Science, https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsab237
- Winner: Christine Gaebel for Gaebel et al. (2020): Recognising Stakeholder Conflict and Encouraging Consensus of ‘Science-Based Management’ Approaches for Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). Frontiers in Marine Science, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2020.557546
Spirit of iAtlantic Award
- Winners: Murray Roberts, Pierre Legendre, Vikki Gunn & Saskia Brix
The open meeting was followed by an internal iAtlantic meeting to conclude final business (11 Oct), and then a 2-day writing retreat (12-13 Oct) during which project partners and close collaborators focused on discussing, planning and drafting papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals. iAtlantic already has more than 100 papers published or under review in the scientific literature, but there are many more to come. The writing retreat presented a rare opportunity for our scientists to focus on these manuscripts (and plan for others that will emerge after the end of the project) away from the everyday distractions of working life. At the last count, the retreat session provided space for 34 papers and a number of science/policy briefs to be discussed and progressed.
iAtlantic will now formally come to a close on 31 March 2024, following the European Commission’s recent approval of an additional 4-month no-cost extension.