Message from the incoming President’s Desk
Mike Thorndyke, president MARS Network
|A key aspect of my research and teaching has always been Life History processes and strategies in marine organisms. In many ways I feel the past few years, first with my appointment as Director at Kristineberg and now with my election as the new President of MARS have somehow been the culmination of my own Life History process that began as a small boy “crabbing” on the beaches of East Anglia each summer while holidaying at my Grandmother’s house. Like my favourite research organisms, echinoderms and tunicates, much of this Life History has been peppered with unexpected and unplanned, but nevertheless very welcome “environmental challenges and opportunities” that have shaped my path. It is a pleasure and great honour to be asked to serve as the President of MARS and I thank my predecessor Fred Buchholz as well as past and current members of the MARS executive for their encouragement and support. In particular Herman Hummel, the executive secretary of MARS deserves special mention in helping make my new role an easy task to take on.
I come to the MARS Presidency at a crucial time for marine biology and marine science in general. Climate change, biodiversity, genomics are all current buzz words, some of which, for example climate change, featured in my predecessors opening statement.
However, now more than ever, marine biologists are facing challenges, the like of which have never been seen before, particularly in the speed of their development. One of these, ocean acidification which results largely from anthropogenic induced changes in carbon dioxide levels, is together with global warming likely to have a very serious impact on marine biota and biodiversity in all marine ecosystems, perhaps coastal ecosystems in particular. Recent years have witnessed an almost exponential growth in biotechnology with genomes being sequenced almost weekly, new biodiversity indicators and new species being described, new deep sea monitoring sites acquiring amazing new data etc. Necessarily this has resulted in specialization and perhaps even a fragmentation of the marine community as it has become important to immerse oneself in the technology or approach of the time. Now however is the time to come together and integrate our respective valuable skills and indeed I suspect our shared ambition to increase knowledge and public awareness of marine ecosystems and the rich treasures they provide. I also suspect this is based on our common love of the sea!
I believe, indeed I am convinced that MARS provides a unique framework or umbrella for uniting these diverse marine disciplines where ecosystem and biodiversity research goes hand in hand with genomics and marine biogeochemistry. All are needed if we are to deal effectively with the global nature of the challenges that we are all sure to face before the end of this century.
MARS was established in the early 1990s as an organization to unite marine institutes and stations, particularly, but not exclusively, those with coastal laboratories immediately adjacent to the sea. By representing marine institutes and stations and the scientists working at these sites it has been the open ethos of MARS that all types of expertise and interest are welcome from chemists, physicists, oceanographers, biologists, ecologists, and geneticists etc., the common and uniting feature being their love of all things marine.
The MARS umbrella has never been more important or needed. Currently MARS is part of a new task force established by the ESF Marine Board “The Aberdeen+ Interest Group”. The role of this task force is to prepare a “Partnership Proposal” that should include all key actors in the marine sphere and be designed to be open and inclusive. In this respect it was recognized that many MARS member Institutes and Stations are partners in a least one, often more than one, of the marine Networks of Excellence (NoEs): MarBEF, Marine Genomics Europe and EurOceans. Thus MARS is in many respects a ready made and well established umbrella organisation that can host the future development and enduring sustainability of the NoEs. Plans for this role are already taking shape with discussions with the various NoEs underway.
In formulating our agenda for the future I believe there are a set of key integrative topics that should lie at the heart of MARS activities. These include the following:
- Open & flexible membership
- Create common purpose and identity
- Identify relevant science priorities
- Identify relevant expertise
- Establish shared training programmes, including PhD networks
- Host Symposia
- Identify and facilitate coordination of common strategic funding initiatives and opportunities
- Facilitate collaborations and shared access to infrastructures and ecosystems
- Databases (cf ”Lifewatch”)
- Create a critical mass and focus for European and Global marine activities
- Engage stakeholders
- Facilitate ”Durable Integration”
These may seem high ideals and ambitions but I am convinced that the MARS membership has that ambition; integrity and not least enthusiasm to lead European, even World, Marine Science in the challenges that face all of humankind in the present and future centuries.
17th April 2008