The join SEA-EU Alliance research cruise 2022 was initiated by the Rector of the University of Gdańsk, Prof. Piotr Stepnowski, to promote activities of the alliance and to strengthen scientific collaboration of the partner institutions. The cruise aims at combining international expertise of the partners to study important environmental issues at a pan-European scale. The cruise will be conducted onboard research vessel r/v Oceanograf that is owned by University of Gdańsk. The vessel offers high-quality navigation and research equipment, and modern laboratory and storage space for interdisciplinary studies at sea. Out of 17 individual research proposals, three projects have been agreed upon by the consortium to be implemented during the cruise from Gdańsk to Cadiz:
(1) Accumulation of shallow gas in the continental shelf sediments - interdisciplinary approach,
(2) Air quality in the European coastal areas and
(3) Large-scale comparative studies of microplastics in European coastal waters.
For each project, an international research team including scientists from all SEA-EU partners have been created to develop joint and cost-effective research programmes. The teams are composed of renowned and experienced scientists as well as early-career researchers of complementary competence and knowledge which ensures achieving the scientific goals. The projects consist of at sea works (collection of samples and in-situ measurements) and post-cruise analyses of the sampled material and processing of the recorded data. The planned field campaign involves continuous measurements in the profiles along the European coast during the entire cruise, collection of , chemical, geological and biological samples at the selected sites along the route (in total 17 sampling sites, including mouths and estuaries of the main European rivers, recording of water column data (hydroacoustics) along the designated transects, and air quality measurements.
Within the first research project, seismic and hydroacoustic measurements will be performed together with water column sampling (CTD rosette) and surface sediment collection for macrobenthic animals at sites of the documented gas emission from the seafloor. The project aims at assessment of the effect of gas emission on the marine environment and will be implemented by an international team from UG, CAU, UCA and UM. In the second project, aerosols will be collected in ports of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Kiel, Brest and Cadiz for analysis of concentration of particles and the associated chemicals to assess geographical variation of air pollution. The field and analytical works will be conducted by scientists from UG and UBO. The third project plans to sample boundary water-air microlayer, surface sediments and zooplankton which will be examined for the presence of microplastics to define its large-scale distribution in the European coastal waters. The project involves scientists from four SEA-EU partners i.e., UG, UBO, CAU and UNIST.
The results of laboratory analyses and data processing are expected by the end of 2022 and the outcomes will be published in international peer-revied journals.