Avainsana-arkisto: Finland

A strong relationship with Joensuu

Moi,

This is Joan, a Spaniard environmental scientist ,who was born some years ago in a very small village called Moixent, located in the southwestern part (the warmest area) of València, Spain. My experience in Joensuu goes back more than 5 years, when in September 2012 I landed in Helsinki after being accepted as an exchange student for the whole academic year at the University of Eastern Finland. I still remember that long journey: Moixent-Madrid-Oslo-Helsinki-Joensuu. Yes, it took more than 24 hours to arrive to my new apartment, located firstly in Tikkarinne, and later on in Karjamäentie.

Enjoying the Midsummer night at Kevo Subartic Research Station, Lapland

New city, new people, new food, new culture, new language… and of course first time studying for part of my Bachelor’s in English (quite challenging at the beginning I must admit). Back then, I took a couple of courses in aquatic ecosystems taught by Dr. Jarkko Akkanen, who without knowing then, would later become the supervisor of my Master’s thesis. Furthermore, in one of the courses, I had the pleasure of meeting Sebastian; but, I will talk about him soon.

I hardly realized it, and May 2013 arrived.  31st of May, the time to pack, to say “see you soon” to a lot of wonderful people…It was the time to start another 24 hours’ journey back to my hometown (drama, drama), but keeping in mind just one thing: I will be back in Joensuu, sooner or later!

The last academic year of my Bachelor’s started in September 2013.  As you can imagine, half of my heart was left in this amazing city; quite close to the Russian border, and surrounded by lakes and hectares of forest where you can enjoy the Northern lights. Just one mission on my mind: get my Bachelor’s diploma as soon as possible and apply for a Master Programme at the University of Eastern Finland.

Northern lights, revontulet in finnish at Joensuu’s sky

I didn’t tell anyone (not even my parents), and in May 2015 I got a letter at home: “Dear Joan, it is my pleasure to inform you that you have been accepted in a 2 years Master Programme in Environmental Science at UEF”. Yeah, August was the month to pack again, apply for a new flat and look for the fastest way to get to Joensuu. This time it took 10 hours, not bad at all (you learn from your experiences)!

The academic year started in September, and I was fully ready to meet old and new friends, learn as much as possible, and enjoy every single day of this opportunity. First year of the Master was complete, and at this point, it was the moment to choose the topic of my thesis. After being trained in different research groups, I made a decision: “I want to do the thesis in the Aquatic Ecotoxicology Group”.

So, after some informal meetings with Jarkko and Sebastian (yes, the guy that I met in 2012, became my second supervisor), we got a topic: “improved application system for activated carbon based sediment remediation”.  Briefly, we are evaluating the efficiency of granular activated carbon vs. carbon pellets to verify which one has better remediation capability (PCB bioaccumulation) by causing fewer unfriendly effects on the aquatic community (Lumbriculus variegatus has been used as toxicity test organisms). In the laboratory I had the chance to meet the other colleagues of the group: Marja, Kukka, Kaisa, Kristiina, Bhabishya, Victor and Eric. I have to thank you all for being such a great group of people and for all the help (specially, in making you some space at the office by taking boxes)!

PCB bioaccumulation (left); growth and reproduction (right) test set up

Experiments were finished by the Ilosaarirock 2017 weekend and currently I’m in process to write the thesis. Nowadays, this process is being done in Denmark, where I moved at the beginning of January 2018 for a four months’ internship on microplastics remediation at the Nordcee Institute, University of Southern Denmark.

Don’t think I have forgotten you, because Joensuu and the Ecotox Group is each single day in my mind, and I will do my best to be back in town and continue my career with the group! Thanks all of you for accepting and for giving me all the knowledge in Aquatic Ecotoxicology!

Have a nice Spring,

Joan

Text and photos by Joan Carreres

An adventure in Joensuu

On the 14th of March in 2017 I left Valencia with 30 degrees, nervous but excited, because I knew that an amazing experience was starting. I arrived in Helsinki, and after some delay I landed in Joensuu, where it was full of snow and 50 degrees lower than when I took off. Someone that I didn’t met before was waiting (some hour more because the delay) for me at the airport, Sebastian, who took me to my new home. I couldn’t get in this house if Kaisa hadn’t taken the keys at Joensuun Elli student housing office.

Landing on the snow at Joensuu airport.

Next day, the experience at the UEF started. Kaisa picked me up, and before arriving to my new office and getting to know my new colleagues, Kaisa went with me to do some bureaucracy. We arrived, and after showing me the laboratories, she introduced me to Kukka, Kristiina, Joan and Bhabishya – all colleagues from the research group. It was time for a coffee for me but lunch for the Finnish people. After this, we made a tour for some high school students  that came to visit the laboratories.  Next day was the time to meet the supervisor, Jarkko. It was a nice meeting where we started to plan our experiments.

Me in the laboratory teaching some new techniques to a student (not high school though).

Caffeine and salicylic acid were the compounds that at the end we decided to use for our experiments. Daphnia magna and Lumbriculus variegatus being our test animals. We started acute toxicity test with interesting results. After these good results, we planned to start chronic toxicity tests with Daphnia magna but these were a bit longer that we thought because there were not enough neonates. Some weeks later, the experiments started with the first generation, followed by the second one. The third generation I could not finish, because my time in Joensuu was over. Kukka and Kaisa took care of the rest of the experiment (thank you once again).

However, not everything was just laboratory in Joensuu. I started practicing some sports (and I am not taking in consideration the rides to the centre by bike). How can I forget the spinning class with Alex (the first and the last one) or the body pump lessons with Kaisa, where I confess the first time I was afraid but then I liked it. The Finnish Conference in Environmental Science was also nice, where I had two posters and one oral communication. I spent lot of evenings with friends I met in Joensuu in JetSet bar, drinking some beers, playing board games and talking about life, something that I loved. In July, it was amazing the Ilosaarirock festival where I was volunteer and I could enjoy one of my favourite bands, Imagine Dragons. If I have the chance, I would love to come back once again to the festival.

My very first but definitely not the last BodyPump class!

August arrived, I had not realized it, and there was not snow anymore. Finally I went to Koli, a beautiful National Park with my lab colleagues, my friends, and I fell in love with those amazing landscapes.  The day arrived, 21st of that month, Kaisa picked me up as lot of days during these five months. But this time our destination wasn’t the university for working or hunting Easter eggs, we stopped at the train station. I loaded the suitcases, full of new knowledge, amazing experience and friends while we made the last pictures. The adventure arrived to the end but feeling that I will be back to this city called Joensuu.

At Koli National Park with Lake Pielinen behind.

Thank you for bringing to me this amazing opportunity.

 

Text by Eric Carmona Martinez.

Photos by Eric Carmona Martinez and Kaisa Figueiredo.

We tested different application methods of activated carbon for sediment remediation

This blog post is based on our recently accepted publication in Water Research (Vol. 114, p. 104-112; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2017.02.025). It is available free of charge until 15. April 2017 under this link.

Activated carbon is a sorbent with the capability of strongly binding pretty much any organic substance to its surface (a process called adsorption). Since a large share of pollution in aquatic ecosystems concerns such organic substances (for example PCB’s), it would hence be a suitable sorbent to remediate them. Once a pollutant is adsorbed to the activated carbon, it is bound so strong that it is no longer available to organisms. This includes even the case where they eat the activated carbon particles “coated” with the pollutant. The organisms would just pass it through their digestive system, pooping it out unaltered. So, long story short, the idea is to render pollutants harmless to the environment, rather than having to remove them (which additionally leaves the question where to put the removed pollutant).

Unfortunately it has been shown that activated carbon itself can actually be quite harmful to certain animals. Therefore, it is necessary to not focus solely on developing these novel remediation methods to be as effective as possible, but to ensure that they are also safe to apply in the environment. After all, what does it help us if we treat the pollution in a place, but at the same time wreck its ecosystem?

In the paper this post is based on, we mainly examined several different methods of applying activated carbon to polluted sediments (which is where the major share of pollutants in aquatic ecosystems are). You basically have two general options: the more laborious one of mixing the sorbent into the sediment actively, or the more “crude” way of thin layer capping. In the latter method you just cover the polluted sediment with the activated carbon (see picture 1). In the field that would mean all you need to do is to take a shovel and spread the carbon. So, while we did know that thin layer capping would be the easier method to execute, what we aimed to find out in our tests was how it compares in matters of effectiveness and safety.

Picture 1: The setup of our test vessels (only thin layer cap tests shown). The activated carbon is applied as a thin layer on top of PCB polluted sediment. Underneath, the burrows of the test organism (Lumbriculus variegatus – a worm living in the sediment) are visible.

We simulated the two application methods in the laboratory in test vessels containing sediment from a PCB-polluted site (Lake Kernaalanjärvi, southern Finland). As a test organism we used Lumbriculus variegatus, small worms that burrow through the sediment. The amount of PCB’s that the worms take up from the test sediments told us how well the different treatments work for remediation, while their biological responses (things like their change in body mass) were used as parameters to measure the adverse effects of the sorbent material itself.

Picture 2: A quick graphical overview on the results of our results: Adverse effects can be comparably high, but remediation efficiency (meaning the reduction of the uptake of a pollutant (here: PCB) is best when activated carbon is mixed into the sediment.

The major results published in this paper were both promising and worrying at the same time (picture 2). We found out that both methods are effective in general. Worms living in sediment under a thin layer cap took up ~50% less PCB’s from the sediment than from the untreated, “raw” sediment. When the activated carbon was mixed into the sediment, the uptake of PCB’s was prevented almost completely. So, while thin layer capping is a method that is a lot easier to use (and hence cheaper), it is not quite as effective as mixing the sorbent into the sediment. Nevertheless, one has to also keep in mind, that animals dwelling in the sediment (and the thin layer cap) can mix the activated carbon with the underlying sediment. This process is called bioturbation and it was actually even visible in our laboratory test vessels (picture 1). It’s just a lot slower than mixing sediment and sorbent right away upon application. In addition, mixing via bioturbation of course requires animals to stay on the treated site and not to flee the site in panic when the activated carbon is applied.

And that’s exactly where our more worrying results come in: the adverse effects of the sorbent itself. With both application methods it became quite apparent that the worms did not really like our miniature-scale remediation works. They lost their appetite almost completely, stopped feeding and hence lost a lot of weight. While that may sound like a desirable achievement to some humans, for our worms that could be a serious issue.

A possible explanation for this sudden loss in appetite was found on electron microscope images that we took (picture 3). It looked like the activated carbon had quite some detrimental effect to the worms’ gut walls. Their microvilli, which are responsible for nutrient absorption from the gut content, were damaged severely in most worms exposed to sediment treated with the sorbent – no matter with what application method. The exact mechanism on how activated carbon causes this kind of damage remain obscure; one suggestion for example is mechanical abrasion (the carbon particles are quite sharp), but also the strong sorption capacity of the material might be involved.

Picture 3: Activated carbon can damage the gut walls (specifically the microvilli) of Lumbriculus variegatus. Image as seen through an electron microscope at a 6000x magnification.

One interesting thing we saw was that thin layer capping with activated carbon can have quite a devastating effect on Lumbriculus variegatus. This is not too surprising, since the organisms are exposed to a high dose of pure activated carbon at the sediment-water interface. However, when we mixed the activated carbon with clay before applying (thus creating a thin layer cap that resembles natural sediment that is enriched with the sorbent), the adverse effects were a lot less severe.  This doesn’t mean there were no more adverse effects, but rather that they were at a comparable level to our other tested application method of mixing the activated carbon into the sediment.

Picture 4: The transmission electron microscopy images (which you saw above) in the making. Photo: Inna Nybom.

From the results seen in this study we were able to draw some conclusions and implications for future field applications. To sum up, both methods are effective. What the thin layer capping method lacks in immediate effectiveness, it makes up for with its easier application and lower costs. When it comes to the adverse effects, we showed that neither one of the methods has a significant advantage over the other – if certain precautions, like avoiding to apply pure activated carbon, are made. So when deciding on a method, the important factors are mostly the available budget and equipment. Thin layer capping is a better option for sediment remediation in cases where special equipment required for other methods cannot be brought in easily (remote areas) or simply in cases where funds are limited. However, before deciding whether or not to utilize activated carbon in general (and big scale), we will have to make sure that its own adverse effects to the environment are not worse than the pollution effects!

Lastly – if you check our blog post on the first field trial of activated carbon based sediment remediation in Finland, you will probably spot some of these implications already “in action”!

Text: Sebastian Abel

Pictures: Sebastian Abel, Inna Nybom

A time with microplastic, Daphnia and winter in Finland

My name is Meaw. I come from Thailand, the small tropical country in Asia. I got scholarship from Erasmus Mundus action 2 (SWAP and Transfer project) to do the research about microplastic in freshwater ecosystem for 6 months. I’m interested in microplastic because it’s a pollutant with emerging concern and there are many gaps in research about microplastic. I have done many surveys on microplastic in Thai coastal area, but in here I focus on microplastic testing with aquatic animal in laboratory.

Microplastic and Daphnia

I lived in Finland from Dec 2015-May 2016. During that time, I tried to feed daphnia with fiber microplastic and observe the uptake and depuration behavior of daphnia. In our lab, it is very easy to do the test with daphnia, because the facility is well preparation. So that it is very convenient to do the thing as I plan, even if I did not have an experience with daphnia before.

I also have an opportunity to work together with Spectromics research group in UEF, because we try to develop the technique for observation microplastic inside daphnia. I am very happy to have chance to discuss and share the ideas with the other researchers in our lab group and Spectromics research group. That’s very challenging for me.

Daphnia magna and microplastics
Daphnia magna and microplastics

Winter in Finland

By the way, because I arrived Finland in winter, I had been asked a lot that “why I come to Finland in winter time?” Actually I did not think about it before I came. Anyway, after one week past I just realized that why everyone asked me. Snow and ice is such normal things in Finland winter and rarely sunshine at that time. It’s very exciting experience for people from tropical country like me. The winter in Finland is longer and colder than in my imagination. That’s why I always ask everyone in the lab “Is it normal weather in Finland?” and now I know that’s normal, after I passed through nearly 4 months of Finnish winter. Even whether in winter make some difficulty of life, but I think that’s worth to get experience like that. I think if I did not stay in Finland at the winter time, I may not see and understand the real Finland. So if someone ask me what the best period to visit Finland, I will recommend winter. Do you agree with me?

kuva_meaw2kuva_meaw3

13 June 2016, Meaw