Lakes, labs, and a lot of collaboration

We are the “lakes group”, busy with unravelling the dynamics of P and Fe in lake sediments. The common goal of our projects is to find a recipe for treating lakes against eutrophication with Fe recycled form drinking water production. We are Melanie (Utrecht University) and Karel (Bayreuth University), constanly exchanging knowledge, discussing results, trying to figure out which methods work best and also chatting a lot, since after all having fun keeps everyone motivated and happy.

Since the P-Trap kick-off conference in Bayreuth in January 2020 we both have been in the field several times, collecting cores from our respective lakes of study. Melanie has been focussing on finding suitable sequential extraction methods for P and Fe in lake sediments and managed to collect a extensive data set despite of the Covid restricitons. Meanwhile Karel selected his field site in the Nürnberg area, dived into core incubatios and calculated the phosphorus dynamics of his lakes. On the way we kept teaching each other the methods we used to ensure that we generate comparable data. We both supervised our first master students and set up collaborations with the local water authorities. For both working together with government institutions is highly motivating as it shows the immediate relevance of our research and challenges its applicability.

Melanie taking a sediment core at lake
Terra Nova, Loosdrechtse plassen, the Netherlands.

Karel taking diment cores on the Grosser Brombachsee, Mittelfranken, Germany

Melanies sediment samples during sequential P extraction.

Karel`s sediment incubation with different metal ions added

The first major challenge to our project came with the first lockdown due to the Covid pandemic in March 2020. Karel was visiting Utrecht to learn how to do sequential extractions from Melanie and luckily we had just finished our labwork when the labs were closed down. So we patiently worked from home, diving into literature, modelling and meeting up remotely at least once a week. The weekly group meetings of the Utrecht fraction of P-Trap grew into a weekly mini-symposium of several P-Trap members where we take turns in presenting our results and discussing the science but also personal challenges. These fruitful meetings have been carrying on ever since.

We both moved to a new country in order to take our positions. Melanie who is Swiss moved to the Netherlands and Karel who is Dutch moved to Germany. Finding a place to live has been a challenge for Melanie in crowded Utrecht. For Karel in quiet, almost rural Bayreuth this has been less of a problem. Karel now lives with a few German flatmates and tries to learn German from them. Since for both of us the cultures of home country and host country are not separated by oceans, we found it easy so far to get along even though joking about the cultural differences is a steady part of our small talk. In general being part of a diverse and multicultural research project is a treat we are both grateful for.