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Connect@NIOZ: sea art, seaweed plastic and cat food

In June, almost 60 colleagues visited NWO institute NIOZ. Were you interested but unable to go? Then read this report to gain an impression of the fascinating world of ocean and sea research. From sea art and seaweed plastic to a seagull who loves cat food.

On 20 June, almost 60 colleagues from NWO and NWO-I were welcomed at NWO institute NIOZ on Texel for “Connect@NIOZ”. There they learned more about the institute's research into how the oceans and seas function and change. The welcome by NIOZ director Henk Brinkhuis was followed by a sumptuous lunch and a fascinating tour of the institute. In the afternoon, the NWO and NWO-I colleagues took to their bikes to discover art objects from the project “Science Encounters Art (SEA)” and to learn about a piece of NIOZ research in Museum Kaap Skil.
NIOZ does research from Texel and Yerseke as well as from several ships around the world. Thanks to the oceanographic research, we understand our waters from the delta to the deep oceans better, know the problems and see the opportunities.

Colleagues from Connect@NIOZ were introduced to the various disciplines during group tours around the workshop, laboratories and research rooms. They saw large research objects made by the workshop personnel, and heard about biochemical research of the ocean floor, how substances are detected down to the molecular level in laboratories, and how a colony of seagulls has been followed for decades leading to some very surprising discoveries. For example, seagulls have a conservative attitude towards foraging: once they have found a good location, they keep coming back to it. Thanks to GPS loggers (location-determining system) one of the researchers discovered quite a bit of personal information about specific birds. For example about seagull 7XKI, which daily flew back and forth to a certain balcony in Amsterdam. What did that seagull do there? Research revealed that there was always cat food at that location! This seagulls' offspring also made the flight and enjoyed the meal too.
After the tour, colleagues had the chance to see several beautiful installations in the entrance hall of the building. One of these was a raised relief globe that clearly showed how deep some oceans are and how flat the Netherlands really is and, for the most part, below the Amsterdam Ordnance Datum or sea level.

Art tour by bike
Next on the menu was some surprising science and a sunny cycle trip past art objects, which NIOZ researchers helped to produce and explain.
Beyond the ferry terminal and in front of the dunes, the colleagues discovered artworks from the SEA Art Route Texel. At each art object, the NIOZ researcher who had developed the object together with an artist explained the idea behind the object and how it was realised. For example, there was a petrel that had died due to plastic in its stomach, a story that needed no further explanation.
The cycle ride ended at Museum Kaap Skil where the group saw a last work of art, which revealed the current status of research into the use of seaweed for producing sustainable bioplastics. The journey back proceeded without a hitch.

About Connect
NWO-I organises Connect meetings to enable NWO and NWO-I colleagues to get to know each other and the organisation better. The meetings can be about a specific subject, but three times per year we also visit an NWO institute. Those visits can include a guided tour, talk from researcher or director, something interactive, a discussion, et cetera.

Read more about this Connect@NIOZ
The mystery of the herring gull, NIOZ researcher Kees Camphuysen in Natura 2014 (PDF in Dutch)
The story of the SEA Art Route Texel explained (website in Dutch)

Newsletter Inside NWO-I, September 2019

Confidental Infomation