Category Archives: LIfe in Stareso

some time for non-scientific activities ;)

During one of the Yoga sessions at Stareso

The wind keeps blowing powerfully and samplings from today were cancelled. Although is bad news, we will surely occupy the time in other activities besides filtering and measuring. Some only want to sleep, others might go for a walk on the beautiful mountains around, plans to get to walk around Calvi might develop, and others plan to join the already established Yoga classes (daily at 18.20).

Cecile, besides on charge of the experiment now, is also in charge of giving those who want to learn, the right description of the Yoga positions in the class. She is telling us to breath, to lead our heads go. Yoga is something half the class hasn´t try before and we are glad to be able to relax our backs after the pulling down and up of the sampling bottles and the carrying of boxes from the harbor to the boats. Fish, candle, warrior, cat, tree…each of us has its favorite.

Yoga sunset

(NOT!) gone with the wind!! (by Cécile)

Sampling with wind conditions at least 15 kt has become very usual for the MedSea mesocosm team and we are now able to work such very difficult conditions. It is amazing and the participants are amazing on their cubi. We have put diving weights in the samples boxes to avoid any flying boxes to the water! Yes, we have been experiencing high winds since several days now and yes, we are ok but most surprisingly, the mesocosms are still in very good shape and no damage were found by our diving team (Amélie and Sylvain) who go to the mesocosms everyday to change the sediment traps. As they go under water from the Stareso station using funny ‘underwater scooter’, they could go to the site, even yesterday. They said it was very nice and calm at 15 m depth! Indeed yesterday, the wind was so strong that we were not able to go out with the boat as the security was concerned. We have been deciding on the sampling strategy by following very carefully the forecast: for those who are used to sail in the Med Sea, they know as the wind can change rapidly, and as it can increase its speed even more rapidly. We have a ‘Special Forecast Warning’ since 4 days now and it seems difficult in the present condition to predict what will really happen in term of wind …. Apparently, the worse has to come as they predict a huge wind event for tomorrow (figure from… Huh, no doubt that tomorrow will be a quiet day in the labs, except for the incubated samples that hopefully we will be able to withdraw quickly with the rubber boat early tomorrow morning!

Here is the forecast map. Corsica is surrounded by red wind areas! This is for tomorrow (Sunday) at 12pm.

Apart from being quite annoying for our daily sampling routine, this event is going to be very interesting in term of results as a specific forcing on the structure of the surface mixed layer, on the air-sea exchanges and on the functioning of the ecosystem.

Mauro’s vision of the story

Part of Stareso´s fauna.
Once upon a time a bizarre concrete landslide gave birth to the station of Stareso in the savage coastline of Corsica. The place was soaked with grey magic and many biodiverse creatures started settling. The undiscussed king of this realm was the Vampire Eel, having as subjects carnivourous pirana-like marine fishes, French speaking wasps, immortal mosquitoes (you can smash them but they never decrease in number), a zombie cat, diarrhoea-generating sea gulls and a variety of electricity-resistant flying bugs.
more of Staresos´s fauna (introduced)

Since when the human kind initiated the so called global change that kingdom has remained preserved by unwanted invasions… until now… A bunch of intelligent, good-looking, brilliant, nice, sexy, over-the-top scientists arrived in that magical place to study the effect of increasing C dioxide on its marine system. That apparently peaceful system could just not stand those unwanted creatures and reacted. Yes, it reacted. Will those scientists survive to such a massive reaction?

will they?

The food at Stareso ;)

First day: Paella!
There is key factor making our days easier, tastier, and happier here in Stareso research station; that is: the FOOD! (capital letters are needed because it reflects the size of our dishes). Since the first day it was clear to us that food was not going to be something to worry about. We were welcoming with a delicious paella, salads, sweets and cheese, always present French cheese, and specially the nice Corsican cheese with fig mermelade….yummmi

Some of the dishes we have had

And so, our days pass awaiting for 12:30 and 19:30 were the bell rings and everybody gathers around the table. Team work is a constant even when making the table: one puts the napkins, someone else the plates, forks, knives, water for all (Oasis for Samir)…and the table is ready!. During our meals we hear happy conversations and laughs in English, French, Spanish, Greek, Italian and international laughs. Then, always with full bellies, one by one stands up and goes filtering, sampling, or just for a break.

Richard and Joseph!!

Every day I said to myself I will eat less next day…but that never comes 😉 I guess that happens to most of us… Just now, while I am writing this post, the smell of something being cook by Joseph reach me and Raquel, we look at each other and say…”hmmmm”.
and all this thanks to Joseph and Richard! …Lets see what it will be today!

Las comunicaciones (by Raquel)

Ya son 19 días que llevamos por la estación y ahora empiezo entender la importancia de la buenas comunicaciones.
A la llegada tuvimos unos días mientras que el equipo de Villefranche ponía a punto los mesocomos, tiempo para poder organizarnos y conocernos un poquito. Eso si, al principio fue algo caótico y muy gracioso ver como aquél que no domina el idioma se ingeniaba con gestos y expresiones para entenderse.-Comment Ça va?
-Ciao, come stai?
-Jak se máš?
-How are you ?
-Hei, mitä kuuluu?
-¿Cómo estás?
-Tι Kάνεις?

Como ven, hay personas de muchas nacionalidades pero esto no ha sido impedimento para llegar a una buena convivencia y a realizar un buen trabajo en equipo.

Y ahora, después de 13 días de experimento empiezan los problemas de comunicación , pero no con los compañeros, sino con los equipos, hemos tenido que reparar el cable del radiómetro y después mucha paciencia (miren la cara de Vicent) se pudo poner en funcionamiento de nuevo.

“La paciencia es la madre de todas las ciencias”


It´s been 19 days in the station and now I understand how important good comunications are. When we arrived we had some days while the Villefranche team got ready the mesocosms, days to get to know each other and organize things. At the bginig was very funny to see how those who didn´t master Eanglish were ingenous with gesticulations to communicate.

-Comment Ça va?
-Ciao, come stai?
-Jak se máš?
-How are you ?
-Hei, mitä kuuluu?
-¿Cómo estás?
-Tι Kάνεις?

As you see, there is people from many nationalities but this has not been a barrier to achieve a good community and make a good team work.

And now, at day 13th of the experiment communication problems start, but not within the group, rather with the equipment . We had to repair the radiometer cable, and with a LOT of patience (take a look at Vicent´s face) it was working again.

The end (well just for me…)

After a month in this beautiful place, it is time for me to go back to the North (cold, rainy, as it is always in Nice ;-)). As Andy mentioned, these are mixed feelings, happy to go back home to my partner and my boys, and of course a bit sad of leaving before the end of the experiment. No need to say, I had a great time here, with a fantastic group of people, in this unique area ! Many thanks to Pierre, Alexandre, Nilou, Richard, Joseph, Sylvain, Aurélia, Corinne and many others for their warm welcome. A special thank to the LOV team, the divers, the engineers, they did a fantastic job preparing the mesocosms and setting up an optimal system for our scientific work.

The science

I would like to share with you some results on how the acidification of the mesocosms went. We were planning on having 3 controls and 6 lower pH levels. It took us 3-4 days to add enough CO2 saturated seawater to this quite alkaline water to reach the desired levels. At the start of the experiment, the levels were: 540, 640, 730, 850, 1090, 1290 microatm, very close to the expected levels, while in the controls, seawater was over the atmospheric equilibrium (400 ppm in the atmosphere) at a value of 450 microatm. Now we are at day 8 of our experiment, and everything is going well, it almost became a routine. The chlorophyll a concentration is rather low but we knew we would face very oligotrophic conditions, that makes our analysis work just a bit harder.

The wind

In the last few days, we were so happy to have optimal weather conditions to sample our mesocosms, no wind, temperature of the water increasing to 24 °C allowing a fall from the sampling platform without even noticing it 🙂 but of course everything has to come to an end, the wind is back and actually pretty strong. The 2 samplings from this morning were quite a bit of a challenge and we will have to postpone the addition of 13C (Laure’s experiment) to at least tomorrow.

The fun

Cubis fight in Stareso harbor

I would like to emphasise one aspect of our stay here: after a long day sampling, filtering, measuring, repairing, swearing :-),  some fun never harms. Two days ago, after a nice Gin-Tonic aperitif offered by our british colleagues, we decided on taking some pictures of us all on the sampling platforms. So we brought 2 platforms in the Stareso harbor in which we were supposed to stand nicely without moving too much… of course, this lasted for only 2 mins, as it quickly turned into a “Cubi” fight! We ended up all wet, it was great fun, people living in the area wondered what happened, as apparently we were “a bit” noisy….

For all these aspects, I will miss you guys and the Stareso station.


My stay in Stareso (by Andy)

It is with mixed feelings that I leave Stareso. My partner is 8 months pregnant and our baby is due in mid-August and so I am very keen to be home with her, to help in the last few weeks preparation and just in case we have an early arrival. But I am also sad to be leaving a great bunch of people, in a fantastic research station on a very beautiful island. The MedSeA team here in Corsica have bonded well and most of the initial difficulties have been overcome so that the sampling effort is now a very smoothe operation and there is a great team spirit alive throughout the camp. My French speaking has not improved as well as I’d hoped (nor my Spanish, Italian, German) due to the multi-national group of people here – or that is my excuse, it could be my laziness that really prevented me from learning more!

I probably should not admit this, but when I arrived two weeks ago, I had great hopes of swimming daily and regular fishing trips and kayak expeditions, but all that ended on day 2 when a hungry moray eel came up to taste an English finger while I was washing bottles in seawater on the rocks close to the station.

Fortunately I was able to carry on with the most of my work here, although I have been unable to take part in the sampling on the cubi platforms, I have been able to help a little by driving the boat to the mesocosms and running an occasional water taxi for people going to Calvi – and can now add ferryman to my CV!

And so I travel back to rainy England with a scarred finger and an ever growing collection of samples in the freezer. I will be replaced by Denise who will work alongside Lisa, who has been here with me from the beginning and they will continue our investigations into the impact of ocean acidification on the Mediterranean nitrogen cycle.
We collect water from the mesocosms at 0400 , which is a fantastic time of the day despite what Martina and Walter say, and are making measurements of the rate of nitrogen fixation, nitrification and nitrate uptake. We also collect samples for the determination of the presence and activity of nifH, the gene responsible for nitrogen fixation, which will be analysed by our colleagues at the University of California Santa Cruz. In other areas of the world nitrogen fixation has been found to be stimulated at elevated levels of CO2, whereas nitrification has been inhibited and to our knowledge nitrate uptake has not been investigated directly. There is currently no information available for the impact of OA on these processes in the Mediterranean and so hopefully we can make a start in describing the impact of OA on the biogeochemistry of this area.
I would like to thank everybody here in Stareso for making this an exceptionally good two weeks, fieldwork is always the best part of this job, fieldwork in Corsica with the MedSeA crazy gang has been one of the best trips ever. I would like to thank the team from Villefranche who have performed a huge job in setting up of this experiment, each one of them has played a major part in the success of this project, but in particular my gratitude goes to my ambulance driver and medical translator – Samir.

A kukurukoo story made by Aggeliki

My last day today and feeling kind of sad that I am going, knowing that I leave work behind for my colleague Anastasia and good friends that I met during my stay. It was a pleasure. Somewhere between the hard work we had our moments…our moments of silliness. We managed even to laugh with our mistakes especially during the tests on how to sample, how to save the boxes when they fall in the water, how not to let go the rope because you start your journey to Genova…Oh we helped…we helped Villefrance team to realize almost anything that could go wrong on the cubi (platform). But as I said we laughed and I use the word kukurukoo for each silly action.

Trying to explain this to our colleagues here was some kind of difficult. Thank fully Raquel helped me a lot. She did the best kukurukoo action of the experiment so far. This is how the story goes:

We were all having dinner as usual, all together with our trays and plates in order. That day was the days that Patricia Ziverri (MedSeA coordinator) had arrived and by coincidence she was sitting near us and she was making polite conversation with all. Out of a sudden, Raquel with her poor English but with a beautiful heart says to Patricia: ‘Hello, I am Raquelle, and you??’ Patricia replies politely: ‘I am Patricia, how are you doing’. Raquel replies: ‘I am well, thank you. Are you working with us???’……at that point we all froze and stared at each other…It was then that Francesca said to Raquel: ‘She is the coordinator’…..And after that awkward moment passed, we started laughing so hard because Raquelle had explained in a really good way what kukurukoo is…….

Will miss you all


Les radeaux de Stareso…

After 5 days of delay, we finally really start the sampling!! To place the events, last week-end the mesocosms tangled in the ropes and water went out of the bags. We had to re-open the bags wait one night close them again and start the acidification step by step during 3 days. The last acidification was on Saturday and to be on time we had to work late the days before (till 11pm sometime!).

The zodiac with the broken board and motor nearly on the seawater!!

So, yesterday (Time 0) we had the first departure at 4am to sample the processes. Well, in theory was 4am but…Louisa, Anggeliki and Mauro didn’t wake up!! Hopefully they don’t sleep in the lighthouse so, we could wake them up and we left only 15min late. But the teams on the sampling platforms were efficient and we arrived at the quay at 6.30am which was more or less the time expected for this team. Not even the time for a coffee and we prepared the vials for the incubations and other.
Fred and myself (Laure) we had to fill 8 vials of 60mL per mesocosm, inject “heavy water” (it’s water with 18 oxygen) in 5 of them and fixe the 3 others for the initial values. Then we incubate the 5 vials during the light period, phytoplankton will split this marked water to O2 by photosynthesis. Later in the laboratory we’ll be able to quantify the production of marked O2 and the decrease of marked water and so, have the Gross Primary Production data. The incubations are done near the mesocosms at 6 meter depth (half of a mesocosm).
The day wasn’t finish and we had a last important step to do: the addition of few grams of heavy stable Carbon (Carbon 13) which will allow us to follow the Carbon in the community.

The boats we use to go to the working area (=the mesocosms): the kayak; the zodiac and the Mini-Jeanne (and the biggest one is the Marie-Jeanne but we don’t use it).

Stop for the “science” and back to the event of the day: le radeau de la méduse. Yesterday, as a big day we had our first problem with the zodiac. While Vincent and Raquel were coming to the mesocosms to run the CTD (instrument to measure many parameters at the same time directly) the board on which the motor is kept broke!! they managed to join the Mini-Jeanne (the boat of the station) but we can’t use the zodiac anymore! We’ll to do a more extensive use of the kayaks to compensate this lost.

My first days in Stareso by Louisa

As preparation days go by, everything seems in order and everyone is more relaxed knowing exactly when and where they need to be. Thus, I (Louisa) among the participants start to enjoy the vicinity and the local cuisine. The food so far is superb with paelia the first day, mixed grill the second and so on…the breakfast is a bit poor…I would love to have croissants but this is already an expensive mission so no need to overspend on small luxuries ☺ We still enjoy to dive off the peer whenever we have free time. Of course avoiding the spot where Andy was bitten. We don’t want to disturb the eel.
On the first day in the afternoon we start cleaning the cubi (the plastic cubes that form the platforms). At first by throwing buckets in the water to collect it and water the cubes while Francesca, Walter and Lisa where rubbing them with brushes. Unfortunately, this was time consuming so Laure, me and Francesca fell in the water while the others were throwing the cubis to us to clean them in situ…more efficient and more effective. In parallel, the rest of the participants were preparing for tests. My oxygen tests were also waiting me to improve them.
On the second acidification day (Wednesday 20th) in the afternoon, Fred and me went on the mesocosm (Cluster K3, P6) that has to be the more acidic. We had 9 bottles of 25 liters of seawater saturated in CO2, a battery (extremely heavy) and a pump. So we managed to balance on the cubi with all of these…As bottles were emptying, I realized that half of the platform was with empty bottles and me just 50 kilos and the other part with the filled bottles and the battery…suddenly the filled bottles start drifting towards the water and the platform due to small currents almost turn. In milliseconds the battery was in the water, together with one filled 25 Liters bottle and Fred’s sun-glasses. We managed to lift the battery and Fred dried it with his T-shirt. He also jumped in the water to retrieve the filled bottle. I love it when troubleshooting stories have happy endings. We finished eventually the acidification of P6.