A short visit to AWI (Germany) to study toxic microalgae


Morphological taxonomists can be considered to be on the verge of extinction. However, two of them from La Plata Museum (Argentina) arrived at the AWI in the frame of a cooperative project with members of the Ecological Chemistry Division, aimed to study the occurrence of harmful microalgae and their toxins in Antarctic and Subantarctic waters. Allan Cembella and Bernd Krock, our hosts, were waiting for us at Bremen Airport making us feel very confortable from the first moment.

The ideal place for us was inmediatly suggested: the Hustedt Diatom Collection. This is one of the most important collection in the world, which hosts thousands of slides, samples and publications. In other words, it represents the paradise for any person working on diatom taxonomy! Bánk Beszteri and Friedel Hinz kindly shared with us the invaluable richness of this collection. Likewise, we were allowed to use by ourselves the scanning electron microscope for the first time in our lives, which was really unexpected since a specialized technician is mandatory in Argentina. Consequently, we spent very long but productive SEM sessions in the underground of Building C of AWI. This gave us the opportunity to reveal the identity of several potential toxic species that occurred together with toxins along joint sampling expeditions. In addition, type diatom materials deposited in the Hustedt collection were also examined for some key species in order to elaborate future publications. But not only diatoms were in our plans. Considering that dinoflagellates are usually responsible for human intoxications around the world, we explored also this group. Fortunately, it was extremely useful to be helped by Urban Tillman, who has a long experience working on these lovely creatures.


This stay was also a great chance to continue working on the organization of the “Training course on harmful marine microalgae. Biology & Toxicity”, that will be held at Puerto Madryn (Argentina) in November 2014. This course, organized by Universidad Tecnologica Nacional (UTN) -Facultad Regional Chubut-, was originally proposed in the frame of the IMCONet program and has recently been recognized by IOC-UNESCO and FANSA. Several colleagues from Argentina, Germany, Denmark and Spain will participate as lecturers in this important initiative.

We would like to express our gratitude to Doris Abele and Irene Schloss, who introduced us to the IMCONet program. We are also very thankful to our colleagues Allan Cembella, Bernd Krock, Urban Tillman, Bánk Beszteri and Friedel Hinz, who helped us having an excellent stay at AWI.

Best regards from Bremerhaven and please help us to save taxonomists!

Martha Ferrario and Gastón Almandoz