Gayathra Bandara, Ghent University (Belgium)

Gayathra Bandara is a Sri-Lankan student within the MSc programme IMBRSea (International Master of Science in Marine Biological Resources), which is coordinated by Ghent University in Belgium. In January 2023, he will start processing sediment meiofauna samples for his MSc thesis project entitled «Impact on meiofaunal assemblages by the pre-prototype nodule collector “Patania II” in the Pacific Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCFZ) » under the supervision of Dr. Ellen Pape.

The samples for this MSc thesis were collected during a two-month sampling campaign to the CCFZ (November-December 2022) aboard the German research vessel Sonne. During this campaign, the sites of nodule collector tests conducted 1.5 years before, were revisited and sampled to evaluate environmental impacts. Using microscopy, Gayathra will analyze sediment samples for meiofaunal higher taxonomic abundances from the collector track area and from areas with varying levels of sediment deposition sampled within the GSR (Global Sea Mineral Resources) exploration contract area. Meiofaunal data will be linked to abiotic sediment data such as sediment grain size, pigment levels and carbon and nitrogen content.

This dataset will be compared to previously collected meiofauna and abiotic data from the area before and shortly (1 month) after the tests.  The complete dataset will provide insights into the impacts of the nodule collector test on the benthic environment. Gayathra and Ellen are very much looking forward to see the results!