20 years of Marine Ecology Department IO PAN (1993-2012)

After the IOPAS was founded in 1983, the ecologists joined in 1985 as the Laboratory of Arctic Ecosystems. In 1993 the Marine Ecology Department was formed, with a strong focus on polar regions and littoral ecology worldwide. Department initially consisted of 1 professor, 1 PhD and three MSc assistants. Today there are:1 professor, 4 assistant professors, 6PhDs, 6 MSC assistants and two technicians. From this number 11 positions are funded by IO PAS and remaining 8 by project money.

Every scientist in the Department is specialised in identification of at least one taxonomic group, and his skills are verified internationally – that allows us to identify majority of microplankton and mesozooplankton taxa, and among benthos Foraminifera, Nematoda, Hydrozoa, Bryozoa, Crustacea, Mollusca, Polychaeta and Echinodermata. Systematic botany and zoology is highly valued and treated as a basic tool that permits to undertake projects from the field of evolutionary, dynamic and population ecology. Our team was active in the European Marine Biodiversity Network from its very beginning and in multiple activities (BIOMARE, MARBENA, MARBEF) and this platform have secured our pan-european collaboration. Close cooperative projects are realized with Norwegian, German, USA and Canadian institutions. Our Department took active part in global Census of Marine Life and recently in similar scale initiative: Encyclopedia of Life.

Department employees (mean age 40 years, 60% women) submit in average 10 new grant proposals every year, with success rate 40%. Last 20 years yielded 173 man-years of work what provided 313 peer reviewed papers (average 1,7 paper per person per year), citation median is 120 (two persons exceeded 1000 citations) and mean H index = 7 – all values without auto-citations. Department promoted 15 PhD students, and in cooperation with University of Gdańsk supervised 36 Master of Sciences thesis.

The key competence and interest is marine biodiversity and its linkages to climate change. New directions of research are paleooceanography, food web analyses, chemical ecology, socioeconomy of goods and services provided by marine ecosystems. Among main scientific findings of the Department are:
- discovery and description of several marine species new to science;
- description of high Arctic littoral assemblages, and system of the coastal vulnerability assessment for oil spills;
- assessment of effects of environmental stress produced by glacial activity on the benthic communities in the Arctic fjords;
- description of the consequences of Atlantic water inflow for pelagic food web in the Arctic;
- description of meiofauna role in the functioning of sandy beaches;
- use of the Foraminifera analyse for detection of local changes in Polar Front;
- concept of biological valorization for Polish Marine Areas and publication of the first national Atlas of Sea Bed Habitats.

Outreach and dissemination
Ecology Department initiated the first Scientific Picnic in Gdynia 1999, what later turned to the large Baltic Festival of Science. Locally we organize Bioblitz – one day contest in local flora and fauna identification, give lectures for the Sopot Scientific Society. We have participated in preparation of several TV documentaries about marine fauna, and every year we supervise high school pupils for the school science olympics.

See our web page atwww.iopan.gda.pl/ekologia2/.