The MAST group is seeking for master students for working on the following thematics:
Analysis of the functional and taxonomic diversity of macrofauna on the Black sea’s north-western shelf. Link with the variability of the environment.
BENTHOX is a research project financed by the Scientific Research Foundation of the Wallonie-Bruxelles region and targeted towards the understanding of marine coastal hypoxia (i.e. O2 < 62 µmol/l) and its consequences on benthic-pelagic exchanges, diagenesis and ecosystem functioning. BENTHOX gathers physicists, biochemists and geologists from the Liege University and Brussels University. It involves field and laboratory work combined with mechanistic and statistical modelling. In May 2016, sediment samples have been collected in the frame of an UNDP (United Nation Development Program) expedition in order to understand the impact of hypoxia on the status of the benthic ecosystem and biogeochemical cycling in the Black Sea. Macrobenthos samples have been collected by Vanveen grabs at 15 stations and the macrofauna has been identified to the species level. The aim of the master thesis is to use statistical tools (e.g. constrained and unconstrained ordination techniques and clustering methods) in order to analyse the collected data sets and explain the variability of the species distribution in terms of environmental variables. Additionally, the functional composition of the macrobenthos will be described in terms of selected traits (e.g. bioturbation potential, sensitivity to perturbation, feeding behavior) and statistical tools will be used in order to identify the traits that allow differentiating the macrobenthos distribution and the environmental variables that explain this differentiation. Results will be compared with those found with previous data sets and differences will be interpreted in terms of modifications of the Black sea environment during these last years. Taxonomic and functional diversity indexes will be estimated and communities of particularly high biodiversity values will be identified for conservation purpose. (This master thesis topic will be done in collaboration with the University of Brussels)
Linking Biodiversity and ecosystem services using a trait based approach Marine organisms provide a wealth of services to humans.
The Millennium Assessment report classified these services among different categories which are “Provisioning services” (Products obtained from ecosystems, e.g. food, medical resources, biotechnology resources, energy), “Regulating services” (Benefits obtained from regulation of ecosystem processes, e.g. climate regulation, organic waste processing), “Cultural services” (Nonmaterial benefits obtained from ecosystems e.g. recreation, culture, tourism), and “Supporting Services” (Support services: Services necessary for the production of all other services, e.g. Primary production, Oxygen production, Nutrient Cycling). Using existing collected data on macrobenthos biomass and abundance (Calvi bay and Black sea), the aim of the master thesis consists in assessing the services delivered by the benthic ecosystem through a biological trait analysis of its species. The traits will be selected to be linked with the investigated services. Once the different traits are determined for each dominant species of the investigated communities, statistical analysis will be performed in order to assess the functional diversity of each community and between communities. The diversity between sites will be explained in terms of variability of environmental variables (e.g. substrate composition, organic matter content and composition). Correlations between the different types of traits (e.g. traits related to different processes, sensitive traits and traits related to ecosystem services) will also be determined. Communities including species with traits that are important for the delivering of ecosystem services to humans will be identified and compared with regions of high diversity (this master thesis topic will be done in collaboration with the STARESO team, Corinne Pelapra, Annick Donnay).
Modelling Biophysical conditions in the Calvi Bay (Corsica, France)
Since 30 years, the Liege University has access to a Marine Research Station (STARESO, http://www.stareso.com/) in the Calvi Bay where pluri-disciplinary data are collected and stored in a database since several years. This place is considered a reference unperturbed site where a large a Posidonia meadow can be found until ~40m depth. The management of the resources of the Bay requires the development of a mathematical model coupling the hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry including a representation of the benthic ecosystem. This model has to be at high resolution since it has to be able to simulate coastal processes. The master thesis consists in implementing such a model starting from an initial configuration already running for the Bay. Model results will be validated with satellite products (Sea Surface Temperature, chlorophyll) specifically processed for the Bay. (Marilaure Grégoire, Alexander Barth, Aida Alevera, Arthur Capet)