Prof. Han Dolman, director of NIOZ
The new fleet drastically changes our sea going capabilities
2022 was a year which started with hopes high. Finally, after three years, we had a year which was at least partly devoid of major Covid-19 troubles. After the last lockdown, NIOZ was fully opened up and PhDs, postdocs and staff were able to get back to their normal research work, albeit sometimes in a more hybrid way.
Output has picked up
Indeed, our output definitely shows that we were able to pick up our work. We published 312 papers in 2022 and eight PhD candidates completed their thesis. Several large research projects were awarded a Vidi, an NWO XL project on the North Sea, various EU Horizon 2020 projects and an NWO Knowledge and innovation grant on seaweed. Apart from these larger projects, a series of smaller projects were awarded. We had 11 science cruises with the RV Pelagia and the RV Navicula was in operation virtually all summer at the Wadden Sea and Grevelingen.
Talking about ships. On 6 July 2022 the RV Adriaen Coenen was christened in Lauwersoog. The building of the RV Wim Wolff progressed further in 2022. We hope it will be ready by the end of the summer in 2023. And, just before the closing of 2022, on 16 December, the building of the ocean-going RV Anna Weber van Bosse formally started by signing a contract with the Spanish Shipyard, Armon. The new fleet drastically changes our sea going capabilities. As part of this, we upgraded our infrastructure with three new gliders and signed the contract for an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Keeping abreast of these developments in new technology is the task of our National Marine Facilities (NMF) that are currently taking the new autonomous fleet into operation. In the longer term we expect expansion of this type of ocean observation, as it not only wonderfully complements our ship-going campaigns, but it is also friendlier in its energy use, not being dependent on fossil fuel.
Marine research and universities
New professorships were established for Anja Spang at University of Amsterdam (chair Symbioses in Evolution) and Myron Peck at Wageningen University and Research (chair Life Cycle Ecophysiology of Marine Animals), while Rob Middag gave his inaugural address at the University of Groningen. To better fulfil our national role as an NWO-I institute, NIOZ formed a new university forum that allows improved and more regular interaction with universities involved in marine research. A successful first meeting was held in November 2022.
We published 312 papers in 2022
Dr Laura Villanueva, new head of department Marine Microbiology & Biogeochemistry
Our aim is to operate at carbon neutrality in 2030
Improving our work environment
We expanded the Management Team with younger members of the four science departments and NMF so that we now have a somewhat larger MT, but one that is more diverse and a much better reflection of the population of NIOZ and their views. We appointed new heads of department for MMB, Laura Villanueva and for NMF, Aarnoud van de Burgt. And, after long preparation we finally launched the NIOZ PhD policy and established a NIOZ PhD Oversight Committee. Main areas where we can still improve are: putting more emphasis on skills such as teamwork, other ways of presenting our work, achieving a better work-private balance or finding other ways to regenerate our energy and creativity.
In 2022, the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO) called for the establishment of a new Climate Initiative. The main purpose of which would not be to do the best possible climate science, but the best possible science to speed up transitions such as the energy and food transition.The Climate Initiative was formally agreed upon and started late 2022. Also, after several years of negotiations, agreement was reached between the six founding organisations, including NIOZ, to set up the Delta Climate Centre (DCC) in Zeeland in 2023. The DCC reflects a similar strategy as the Climate Initiative and involves close collaboration with mbo (secondary vocational education), hbo (universities of applied science) and businesses and societal stakeholders. Our department of Estuarine and Delta Systems at Yerseke is playing a major role in the Center with food and Building with Nature studies. For NIOZ it implies diversification in the way we approach science at the benefit of increasing visibility of our role in society.
Grappling with issues of our time
We daily experience the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crisis in our work and lives, but NIOZ has also taken some hits resulting from the war in Ukraine. This occurs as uncertainty and anxiety at staff level, cancelled fieldwork and impacts on the energy price. We are still very much dependent on fossil fuel in our daily operations, both for our ships and in our own energy use and supply. Scientists and lab staff have started to look at how we can reduce our energy use, for instance by restraining temperatures of our freezers. We have asked assessments of our energy use and heating and are looking at plans how to reduce our dependence on gas in the future. Our aim is to operate at carbon neutrality in 2030. Closely related to this, and one of the more difficult issues we are facing, is how to deal with collaborations on ecological research by major fossil fuel companies establishing wind parks on the North Sea. In principle, this is work aimed at producing green or blue energy with ecological benefits such as increasing or restoring biodiversity and stimulating the energy transition. However, we do not wish to participate in “greenwashing”. To decide how far we want to go in these collaborations, we have started an open discussion on these issues within NIOZ to refine and define our position. At the same time, and partly also to prepare for the 6-yearly evaluation of the institute, we are refining our strategy. This will involve establishing the two broad overarching themes of climate and biodiversity more coherently in our work, management structure and outreach. The new strategy will be more comprehensive and involves new aspects of learning and development and diversity and inclusion. 2022 was an important year for NIOZ, it prepared us well for an even more exciting 2023.
The main purpose of the Climate Initiative is to do the best possible science to speed up transitions