Archipelago Research Institute

Field station full of stories

Q&A, What do we do in Seili in winter?

Some of the most frequently asked questions we get is “What is it like to work and live in Seili in wintertime?” “What do you do in Seili during winter?” and “How can I travel to Seili in winter?” The institute has operated in Seili year round since its beginning and our actions are generally governed by the busy summer field season and the more peaceful winter season.

Seili winter

When summer turns to autumn and winter and the ferry m/s Östern, operating between Nauvo, Seili and Hanka, ends its summer season, we turn our focus towards the upcoming winter. Even though the weather might still be sunny and warm, the approaching winter season is obvious as one by one the summer employees leave the island and visiting researchers end their field work and experiments for the year. What remains is the core group that takes care of the infrastructure.

As things slow down on the island, the University campus is starting the new academic year, which means that the number of university board meetings etc. increases exponentially. For this reason, a part of our staff move their office for the winter to the Turku university campus area (Matthias-building) and work in Seili only occasionally.

A great weekend getaway for photographers and astronomical enthusiasts. The city lights won’t bother you here, but instead, pack a  headlamp.

For those who work in Seili full-time year round, the wintertime is devoted for maintenance tasks. During winter, sampling equipment are inspected and, if needed, repaired and calibrated, and lab stores are refilled for the next summer. Our service men, Pete and Kari, also take the Institute’s vessels and boats out of water and make sure they are ready for the next season. This winter, there are also several renovations going on, something new is under construction..

The lights at the workshop don’t go out in winter. The peaceful wintertime is devoted to maintaining the infrastructure at Seili.

In autumn, some of the sampling programs, like the moth monitoring, end when the temperatures fall below 0 degrees. One of last big sampling efforts is the fishing of herring for The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority’s (STUK) monitoring purposes. The water quality monitoring, however, is continued year round, and every ca. 10 days the Institute’s preparator, together with Kari or Pete, travel to the sampling point, located north of Seili, to take water samples and measure the temperature and salinity of the water column. Every month, zooplankton samples are also collected. The wintertime sampling is mainly governed by ice and wind-conditions, but usually only during rasputitsa the monitoring cannot be continued as it is not either possible or safe to travel to the sampling point with a boat, snowmobile or hydrocopter.

Seili winter sampling

Sampling in winter 2006. Exceptionally, the trip from Seili post jetty to the sampling location was done with a hover craft.

It is easy to travel to Seili even in the wintertime. After the summer season, a public ferry, m/s Falkö operates between Nauvo and Seili. The biggest differences is in the timetables, in winter, it is possible to travel to Seili and back only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The ferry ride also needs to be booked at latest the day before. This winter, the Nauvo guest harbour is also under construction and thus, the ferry operates from Keso shipyard in Ernholm, Nauvo.

Interested in traveling to Seili in winter, but the ferry timetables don’t fit your schedule? We offer transportation services year round. More information and price list here.

Surveying meadows in Seili

Meadows are traditional biotopes in Finland and during this summer we took a closer look at meadow plants in Seili. Proper equipment and careful planning are the basis of sampling plants. It’s wise to keep close to you at least a good plant identification guide and a sampling square (quadrat). Sometimes a magnifying glass is also necessary to check some small details.

Cover and density estimates are important parameters of changes in vegetation. This inventory also gave an opportunity to pause and admire the beauty of the plants, butterflies and other insects.

A quadrat is a plot used in ecology to isolate a standard unit of area for study of the distribution of an item over a large area

Common Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria)

Field Cow-wheat (Melampyrum arvense)

Text and photos: Jasmin Inkinen, Archipelago Research Institute’s preparator

This is a short version of the original Finnish blog post, see the original post here.

See also: Natural environments in Seili (part 1)

Keep calm and keep monitoring – on the importance of environmental monitoring

Last week, the mainstream media in Finland and abroad (e.g., here and here) reported of a research, published in the journal Plos One, where three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany were observed to have vanished in 27 years. The results are alarming as insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife. Thus, the scale of the losses to all insects will have profound impacts on human society.

After reading the article, in addition to the consequences of these results, I started to think about long-term environmental monitoring and its significance. Monitoring programs are often criticized as “costing too much while delivering too little” and most funding is granted to short-term research projects. So, what is so important about environmental monitoring? How do we benefit from these long data sets?

Field course students  examining insect samples, collected in Seili. In the back of the photo is a Malaise-trap similar to the ones used in the German study. Photo from ARI’s archive.

Environmental monitoring can be described as a programme of recurring, systematic studies that reveals the state of the environment and separates anthropocentric effects from natural processes. Monitoring can be conducted for a number of purposes, for example to establish environmental baselines or identify trends. Environmental monitoring programs also vary significantly in the scale of their spatial and temporal boundaries, and scope. Ecosystems in general require long-term monitoring because they are complex and sensitive, and most key changes in the environment take place over prolonged periods.

In zooplankton research, even a 20-year-long data set is sometimes not considered long enough to reveal underlying trends. Decades worth of data contain a lot of sample bottles. In the photo are some monitoring zooplankton samples, collected from the Airisto Inlet, Archipelago Sea. Photo from ARI’s archive.

The participation by amateur naturalists and other collaborators can be invaluable to the monitoring program because of  funding shortfalls and the large amount of work that goes into the collection and analysis of samples. For example, the data used in the German study, was largely collected and analyzed by amateur entomologists (Krefeld Entomological Society).

Environmental monitoring is a central part of many field station’s work. The location, infrastructure and trained staff make it possible to sample year round.  In Seili, the abundance of ticks have been monitored since 2012. The aim is to eventually have a long time series of tick abundances. Photo by Esko Keski-Oja.

The condition of the spawning herring population has been monitored in Seili for over 30 years and this cooperative effort has resulted in data sets that are unique in even in the Baltic Sea scale. Local fishermen have been an important part of this project as without their help, the collection of fish samples would have been difficult. Photo by Juha Kääriä.

What is good quality monitoring? For one, systematic sampling is key in order to get trustworthy and comparable results, and neglecting this step might make the whole data series completely useless. In the German study, this meant for example that the size, shape,color, location and placement of the trap had to be similar in each of the 63 sampling locations. Also, the way the insects were preserved, handled and analysed had to be the same. Thus, quality assurance certainly isn’t easy, and systematic work is required in each step of the way as more often than not, several people participate in the collection and handling of the time series.

Systematic sampling is key in environmental monitoring in order to get trustworthy and comparable results. In the photo, the species composition from a sample, collected with a light trap in Seili, is under analysis. Photo by Katja Mäkinen.

Monitoring programs are often criticized as “costing too much while delivering too little” and the lack of funding has often forced officials to curtail monitoring and data collection. However, environmental monitoring serves a vital scientific role by revealing long-term trends that can lead to new knowledge and understanding. For example, Charles David Keeling’s long-term measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa island, Hawaii, provided the first unmistakable evidence that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities were warming the Earth (the famous Keeling’s Curve). As a result of this careful and consistent work, global climate change is now widely accepted as a scientific fact!

The results of monitoring are also of fundamental importance for evaluating environmental planning and policy as it is only through such careful observation that we can evaluate the health of our natural resources and make science-based management decisions. Also, the drafting and prioritization of environmental policies is based on the findings of environmental monitoring.

Cost-efficiency requires that monitoring programs  adapt new methods. Environmental monitoring is becoming increasingly automated. The ODAS buoy of Seili (in the photo) measures seawater parameters from a water column 4 times a day and sends the data automatically to the ARI’s administered Saaristomeri.utu.fi website. In 2015, also a weather station, measuring e.g. air temperature, wind speed and direction was added to the assembly. 

See also: The long tradition of environmental monitoring in Seili (an English translation at the end of the post)

Text: Katja Mäkinen, research technician and PhD researcher, working with long-term environmental data and monitoring.

Watching nature’s family drama unfold on live webcam

In the eastern side of the Seili island, on top of a leading mark, is a nesting  Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) couple totally unaware of its fame. The breeding of this second largest predatory bird species in Finland has been monitored through a web camera since 2006. The Osprey web camera was installed in Seili by the Turku University of Applied Sciences as part of NatureIT-projects and later, continued as part of Saaristomeri.info and BalticSeaNow projects. The last project, EU-funded BalticSeaNow ended in February 2013. Since 2015, the Archipelago Research Institute has participated in the maintenance and funding of the web camera and connections. The latest addition to the camera was a microphone, added to the camera assembly in 2016, so that sound can be transmitted. The Osprey cam can be found in the Saaristomeri.utu.fi website, updated and administered by the Archipelago Institute.

Like several other web cameras in Finland and worldwide, the Osprey cam of Seili has been very popular since its beginning. At its best, the ospreys have reached one million views per year! The camera is operated year round. During winter, viewers can admire the changing archipelago scenery and white-tailed eagles, crows, and ravens, occasionally visiting the nest.

At the moment, it is quiet, only the whistling sound of wind is heard through the speakers. The male osprey, called Vasuri (loose translation “lefty” or “left hand”), and the oldest two chicks, unofficially called Pomo (“the boss”) and Kakkonen (loose translation “the second” or “number two”), started the migration to Africa in August. The year has been a dramatic one for the osprey couple. The female osprey, called Tilda, disappeared from the nest in June. The couple had been nesting in Seili since 2011; before that, e.g. an osprey couple, called Tapani and Liisa, occupied the nest.

This spring, Tilda and Vasuri laid 3 eggs. The chicks were ringed in June. After the disappearance of Tilda, another dramatic event occurred in July, when the youngest sibling fell from the nest to its death as a result of food competition with the older siblings. This sort of behaviour, called siblicide, is rather common among birds and has been found to e.g. improve the survival of the remaining young (for more information on avian siblicide see e.g Mock et al. 1990).

Next spring, in March-April, when the ospreys return from their wintering grounds, nature’s drama continues and it remains to be seen whether Vasuri will return to the nest or will the nest be occupied by a totally new osprey couple..

References and more information:

Edit: corrected date.

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