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Scientific sections


Chair: prof. dr. Monika Bright (University of Vienna, Austria)

Co-chair: prof. dr. Alenka Malej (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station, Slovenia)

No one lives alone. Symbiosis – the living together of dissimilar organisms in more or less intimacy (De Bary, 1889) - is a fundamental principle of nature. It contributed to the origin of eukaryotes around two billion years ago. Nearly all organisms on our planet today rely on associations with other species, often these partners are microbial symbionts. From mutualistic to parasitic associations, including pathogens, the sea harbors a great diversity of symbioses that thrive in virtually all marine ecosystems. Some even dominate as foundation species, e.g. corals in tropical shallow waters or tubeworms and bivalves at deep-sea hydrothermal vents and cold seeps.
This session covers all evolutionary and ecological aspects of symbiosis, from newly discovered associations (e.g. exotic zombie worms on whale falls) to complex multi-species partnerships. A variety of methods are used to study specificity, dependence, transmission and maintenance of symbiosis, including their persistence in the threat of climate change. Among these, omics tools and experimental approaches have a great potential to elucidate processes and molecular mechanisms involved in function of symbiosis and to understand interactions between partners in their environment.


Chair: prof. dr. Jasna Štrus (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Co-chair: assoc. prof. dr. Valentina Turk (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station, Slovenia)

Visualization in biology is essential for adequate description, explanation and understanding of life processes in the marine environment. An interdisciplinary approach combining advanced imaging methods and non-destructive in situ methods is important in determining the effects of various environmental stressors (climate change, ocean acidification, eutrophication and pollution) on marine organisms. High quality research tools based on imaging that provide automated species identification and generate large datasets (e.g. Video Plankton Recorder, Zooplankton Scanner) are indispensable for the study of marine systems. Fast development of imaging technology offers a plethora of approaches for visualization of the hierarchical structure of life from molecules to organisms. Live cell imaging, microtomography (microCT), correlative microscopy, high throughput (HTM) and high resolution microscopy (HRTEM) combined with analytical approaches offer new challenges in revealing structural features of living matter from cells to organisms.


Chair: prof. emeritus Damir Viličić (University of Zagreb, Croatia)

Co-chair: prof. dr. Genuario Belmonte (University of Salento, Italy)

Benthic-pelagic coupling refers to physical-chemical and biological processes between benthic and pelagic environments. The processes involved in benthic-pelagic coupling are extremely important in the regulation of global-scale biogeochemical cycling. The session about benthic-pelagic coupling welcomes authors to present results of their research ranging from sedimentology to systematics and from physiology to molecular biology. Topics include: 1) The quantification of benthic-pelagic coupling processes using modern methodologies (microscopy, flow cytometry, biomarker analysis, molecular and metabarcoding analysis, computerized sensing etc.); 2)The changes and activity of microbial, animal, plant and macroalgal communities above the seafloor and in the sediment–water interface , where the topography is affected by physical (e.g. resuspension) and biological processes (e.g. bioturbation); 3) Processes related to benthic-pelagic coupling indicating climate change, anthropogenic impacts or the introduction of non-indigenous species; 4) Studies of marine organisms that have both benthic and pelagic life stages.


Chair: prof. dr. Alberto Pallavicini (University of Trieste, Italy)

Co-chair: assist. prof. dr. Andreja Ramšak (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station, Slovenia)

High-throughput sequencing technologies of isolated environmental DNA have dramatically and fundamentally altered our ability to characterize global biodiversity and explore ecosystem function. In particular, the sea harbours a number of ecological niches and has proven to be home to more microorganisms than any other environment. Considering that 70% of our planet’s surface is covered by the oceans, it is not surprising that certain marine ecosystems harbour much higher biological and chemical diversity than what is found terrestrially. Metagenomics can address most of the aspects identified in “Blue growth”, one of the most important long term European strategies to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors. Among the “Blue growth” topics metagenomics it is of critical benefit to marine biotechnology, sea food systems (fishery and aquaculture) and eco-system services. Enlarging the sensu of metagenome analysis, metabarcoding (large-scale taxonomic identification of complex samples via analysis of one or few orthologous DNA regions, called barcodes) is revolutionizing analysis of biodiversity of marine assemblages. Using high throughput sequencing technologies/metagenomic analysis benthic, planktonic, microbial, animal and algal communities can be easily and cheaply depicted. Allowing rapid detection of the impacts of climate change, calculation of marine biotic indices, characterization of food webs and early warning for introduced, non-indigenous species.


Chair: prof. dr. Lovrenc Lipej (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station, Slovenia)

Co-chair: assoc. prof. dr. Patricija Mozetič (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station, Slovenia)

In the General Session among other contributions a subsession entitled "Mesophotic ecosystems: mysteries and research challenges" will be organized by TASCMAR project and chaired by Prof. Yehuda Benayahu, Tel Aviv University, Israel.

The Horizon 2020 project TASCMAR develops new strategies to overcome bottlenecks in the environmentally sustainable discovery and applications of novel marine derived biomolecules. The project investigates applications in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics and technologies for bioremediation. It takes a whole new approach, using as its main bioresource the invertebrates and symbionts found in the mesophotic coral-reef ecosystems (MCEs) that have been defined as comprising the light-dependent  organisms found below 30 to 150 m in tropical and subtropical regions. Current technological advances, however, such as remotely-operated vehicles, and closed-circuit re-breather diving, have now facilitated the investigation of MCEs. MCEs are regarded as extensions of the shallow ones with whom they share common species but also inhabit unique ones, specialized to this twilight-zone. It is hypothesized that mesophotic life forms may serve as refugia for endangered shallow water species and potential sources to replenish degraded habitats.

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