NICO science expedition to the Dutch Caribbean 2018

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) recently announced that it will be sending is research vessel RV Pelagia on a the seven-month voyage to the Dutch Caribbean early in 2018. Nearly 100 scientists will be able to work for 186 days to answer research questions related to the state of our oceans.

A better understanding of our changing seas is crucial for climate stability and sustainable
economic activities. With NICO, the Netherlands Initiative Changing Oceans, Dutch scientists aim to answer many of the fundamental questions in marine science, which are essential for planning and making decisions about our future livelihoods.

A source of inspiration for the expedition is the policy document published by the Dutch Government (Oceanennotitie, Future-proof oceans, in Dutch) outlining the national view on ocean policies, emphasizing that healthy and resilient oceans are of prime relevance to the Netherlands including the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom.

The ship will leave Texel, in the Netherlands, on the 11th December 2017 on a multi-disciplinary expedition called “NICO” (Netherlands Initiative Changing Oceans). Scientists aim to conduct close to 40 projects researching ocean life, ocean currents, the deep sea and the composition of the seawater.

The NICO expedition will first go to Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire, where the ship will remain for the month of January 2018. Scientists will be studying the geochemistry of the ocean, geology, seabirds and the state of coral reefs as well as mapping near shore environments. From Aruba, the RV Pelagia will sail to St. Maarten where it is expected to arrive in February 2018. On its voyage to St. Maarten, the scientists will carry out research into aspects of physical oceanography, sea mammals and seabirds.

Once the Pelagia arrives in the Windward islands of St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba, scientists will study the ecology, chemistry and hydrology around these islands as well as on the Saba Bank.

Pelagia is due to leave St Maarten in March 2018 when it will head to the Bahamas, the Mississippi delta, Horta in the Azores and Galway, Ireland.

Climate change, human population increase, over-fishing and coastal development are all threats to our fragile tropical marine ecosystem, threatening the rich biodiversity and the survival of coral reefs.

NICO’s committee members:
Dr Maria van Leeuwe and Dr Jacqueline Stefels, University of Groningen
Dr Katja Peijnenburg, Naturalis/UvA
Dr Susanne Wilken, University of Amsterdam
Dr Bas Dutilh, University of Utrecht
Dr Hans Slabbekoorn, University of Leiden
Prof Geert-Jan Brummer, NIOZ/VU
Dr Henk Bolhuis, NIOZ
Prof Corina Brussaard, NIOZ/UvA

RV Pelagia is a 66 metre long multi-purpose vessel used for geological, geophysical, biological (biogeo), chemical and physical oceanographic cruises. Its versatility is ensured  by being able to carry up to ten containerised laboratories and equipment containers, which can be loaded and unloaded all over the world.

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