Cross-project collaboration: United fish researchers

Being part of DLN, we have been introduced to projects with similar interests, which enable a contact and collaboration that is otherwise difficult. Our projects, dCod 1.0 and DigiSal, have experienced first-hand the positive and synergistic effects that can arise from cross-project collaboration. We encourage other projects to also use this chance.

Picture of all the participants attending the workshop

Based at the University of Bergen and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), respectively, dCod 1.0 and DigiSal were two of the initial projects financed in of the first round of the Centre for Digital Life Norway (DLN). As the project names indicate, the research is focused on two different but well-known fish species that are very important in Norway, the cod and the salmon. But the goals of the projects are very different.

Whereas dCod 1.0 is studying how cod reacts to environmental stressors such as pollution, the goal of DigiSal is to address key challenges in aquaculture such as developing the ultimate fish feed. Both important research topics, but the researchers are not likely to meet at the established conferences and meeting places.

Many of the basic approaches and methods in the two projects, however, are very similar.

In both projects, environmental toxicologists and biologists have joined forces with mathematicians and informaticians. This transdisciplinary approach to the research questions enable biological data to be incorporated into mathematical models. The models can be used to model physiological outcomes and predict effects, either from environmental pollutants or feed nutrition. There are many types of models that fit different applications and can be used to answer different questions. The most suitable models for the questions of interest in dCod 1.0 and DigiSal are genome-scale metabolic reconstructions, which have only recently been used for non-model species such as cod and salmon.

The project leaders were introduced to each other in the first phases of DLN. Once the mutual interests were identified, the projects stayed in contact and shared experiences and invitations to interesting meetings.

In April 2019, researchers from the two projects met in the middle, aka Finse, for a reconstruction workshop financed by DLN. Guest experts in the field were also invited. For three days, we worked hard, ate well, hiked in beautiful surroundings, and slept in bunk beds, all the while sharing experiences, discussing and using reconstruction tools.  

In March 2020, just before Covid-19 put a halt to physical meetings for a while, we had a second cross-project workshop financed by DLN. Together with a third DLN project, AurOmega led by Per Bruheim at NTNU, twenty-two researchers met in Bergen. This time, the workshop theme was focused on the use of lipid levels, lipidomics, as an endpoint for effects on the metabolic system. Together, we ventured into the complex field of lipid compounds, lipidomics methods and big data management and analysis.

Some motivational pictures from Finse:

By Marta Eide (dCod 1.0) and Ove Øyås (DigiSal)
Published Dec. 9, 2020 10:59 AM - Last modified Dec. 16, 2020 11:10 AM