Woman sitting in boat on the ocean
Carina Bunse is one of four researchers at the Department of Marine Sciences to be awarded a research grant.

Four marine researchers awarded project grants


Research on sea lettuce, marine microbes, contaminated groundwater, and the ocean's role in climate change have received project grants from Formas and the Swedish Research Council. Carina Bunse, Swantje Enge, Tristan McKenzie, and Fabien Roquet at the Department of Marine Sciences will together receive close to SEK 15 million for new projects.

Increased crop productivity in sea lettuce farming

Swantje Enge
Photo: Susanne Liljenström

Macroalgae have great potential to contribute to a sustainable food supply in the future. The green macroalgae sea lettuce, Ulva fenestrata, is a popular and protein-rich algae that has recently begun to be cultivated commercially in Sweden. One challenge is that sea lettuce in cultivation easily transitions into a reproductive state and begins to convert its biomass into spores. In this way, large losses occur in production. The project aims to reduce the loss of biomass by controlling reproduction and preventing unwanted spore release.

"I will investigate the effect of so-called sporulation inhibitors, signaling substances that have previously been shown to be produced by algae in the genus Ulva to control their reproduction. Part of the project involves unraveling the chemical structure of these substances. In a second part, I will test how these substances work in large-scale cultivation tanks, for example what quantities are required and how often you need to add them", says Swantje Enge.

Effects of climate change on marine bacteria and the turnover of organic matter 

Carina Bunse

In seawater, there is an abundance of bacteria and other microbes. The microbes break down organic matter, and because they are so numerous, they have a big influence on how much carbon is sequestered in the seabeds and how much is returned as carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. With laboratory experiments and field studies, Carina Bunse will investigate how the microbes are affected by, and contribute to, the global environmental changes.

"We have large knowledge gaps about how marine bacteria react to environmental changes in the sea. This project will generate important data and knowledge that can be used to model future ecological impacts of climate change. The project will also increase awareness of, and spread knowledge about, the role of microorganisms in ocean processes", says Carina Bunse. 

Does groundwater discharge spread pharmaceutical residues to the Baltic Sea?

tristan mckenzie

Coastal groundwater discharge is a major contributor to poor coastal water quality in many areas around the world. While previous work has largely focused on nutrients or metals, recent studies also show that coastal groundwater discharge may be a significant source of pharmaceuticals flowing to the coast. Pharmaceuticals, even in trace quantities, can be toxic to aquatic wildlife, disrupt marine biogeochemical cycles, and contribute to antimicrobial resistance. The goal of this project is to quantify the role that coastal groundwater discharge plays in delivering pharmaceuticals to the Swedish coast and Baltic Sea.

"We aim to not only quantify the pharmaceutical flow to the Baltic, but also better understand the interplay between land-use, geology, and other environmental factors in terms of the concentrations and types of pharmaceuticals we see in different locations. I hope this project leads to a better understanding of the sources and transport mechanisms for potential pollutants to reach the Baltic Sea, ideally resulting in improved mitigation of pharmaceutical discharge to the coast", says Tristan McKenzie.

The role of the ocean in future climate change

fabien roquet

The ocean has a huge impact on the Earth's climate, as it has the capacity to store, and later release, large amounts of excess heat and carbon. Yet, there is still a lack of fundamental understanding on how the ocean circulation responds to changes in atmospheric forcing. Knowledge of the global ocean circulation is largely based on general computer models. This project will test the current models and compare them with new high-resolution models that are now becoming available. The project aims to improve the ability to answer several fundamental questions about the sensitivity of the global ocean circulation to different types of impacts. The hope is to better predict what role the ocean will play in future climate changes.

"The scientific novelty of this project resides first in its global scope. Work on the overturning circulation in models tend to focus exclusively on changes in the North Atlantic basin. Here, we want to widen the focus, recognising the global nature and inter-connectedness of the overturning circulation and the equal importance of Southern Atlantic and Pacific processes. It is going to be a real challenge, both technical and practical. Climate models are large beasts, hard to tame, spitting terabytes of data on a weekly basis. While they have proved invaluable for the study of the climate, we have still a lot to learn from them and I am impatient to dive in," says Fabien Roquet.


Text: Susanne Liljenström & Annika Wall


Formas annual open call  – Research projects
Success rate 15 percent (116 applications of  778 granted).

  • Swantje Enge
    Project: Enabling sustainable seaweed aquaculture of sea lettuce - A biotechnological application of sporulation inhibitors to increase crop productivity
    Funding: 2 999 418 SEK

Formas annual open call – Research projects for early-career researchers
Success rate 15 percent (73 applications of 481 granted).

  • Carina Bunse
    Project: Effects of nutrient stoichiometry on marine bacteria and organic matter cycling
    Funding: 4 000 000 SEK
  • Tristan McKenzie
    Project: Is groundwater flow a source of pharmaceuticals to the Swedish coast?
    Funding: 3 983 412 SEK

Swedish Research Council (VR), Research project grants within Natural and Engineering Sciences
Success rate 23 percent (273 applications of 1209 granted).

  • Fabien Roquet
    Project: Variability of the global overturning circulation in high resolution climate models 
    Funding: 3 840 000 SEK