A year to remember!

June 2020

Guilherme Ferreira, MixITiN’s ESR3, reporting from Barcelona, Spain

Slightly more than one year has passed since I last communicated with you through my previous post and so many things happened since that time… As a starter, and as a means to follow up on the topic of my previous post, I should tell you about my time in Denmark, where I worked under the supervision of professor Per Juel Hansen. Together we investigated what mixotrophic ciliates are actually doing instead of attempting to learn who are they 🙂

It was a great time and I really enjoyed my time at Københavns Universitet (Denmark), in particular, because I was allowed to explore a couple of different techniques that I had not had the opportunity to explore before. Among these, I would like to point out the incorporation of radioactive carbon atoms (14C) for the measurement of photosynthesis and the use of live fluorescently labelled algae to measure ingestion.

You can see that the blue fluorescent inclusions (labelled prey) get smaller as time passes, which is a sign of digestion.

After my stay in Denmark, I attended a couple of PhD courses, whose topics ranged from the effects of ocean acidification on marine life to how to teach a class to a group of students. They were both incredibly interesting and I learned a lot but, truth be told, my mind was already drifting towards the wedding that I was meant to attend at the end of September… My wedding!! I am actually surprised by the amount of things that I was able to accomplish during the time that came before the wedding considering how often my mind wandered 🙂

After the wedding I was feeling particularly motivated and I managed to wrap up my ongoing paper and, together with my supervisor Dr Albert Calbet, submitted and published it in the journal Scientific Reports. I was living the dream! This dream got even better when I had the pleasure of hosting Mena and Nikola during their secondment in Barcelona. We conducted some very nice (and extenuating) dilution experiments which I hope can be used to fuel a model when I go to Cardiff University to work under the supervision of Dr Aditee Mitra, somewhere during the current year. Fortunately, we also had time to enjoy Barcelona together with Claudia and I believe that this period strengthened our relationships. With the wedding settled, the first paper published, and the experiments on track, everything that was keeping me awake at night disappeared suddenly and I was very happy about it! But all good things come to an end, do they not?

There was only a brief period after these events and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic 🙁

As Spain was rather affected by the disease, the borders were closed and it was a nightmare to get back to Portugal, where I spent the lockdown period (after spending 15 days in mandatory quarantine). Between the paperwork and the actual travel home, I was exhausted. Even more because of the uncertainty that this whole period brought with it. Yet, the time to return to Barcelona eventually arrived and I decided that it would be safer for me to travel by car, as it would reduce the chances of contacting with infected people. I drove for 12 hours but I really enjoyed the trip. So much that I am considering repeating it again soon 🙂

And so, after 15 days of mandatory quarantine locked inside my house (yes, again…), I returned to the ICM. I have been counting some samples from a previous experiment and I am going to start new experiments soon. I am eager to get it started because I cannot wait to see the results! I wonder how will temperature affect the physiology of mixoplankton… We shall have our curiosity stated soon! In the meantime, I am going to try to make the most of the sunny weather (with the due safety precautions :P)

Stay tuned! 😀