The ENCOMPASS 2.0 Program is made possible by a grant awarded within the framework of the applications procedure of the EEA / Norwegian Financial Mechanisms. The cooperation partner of the Project Promoter, Mindentudás Egyeteme Kft., in both the grant application and implementation of the project, is Bergen Museum. The cooperation goal is adaptation of the science communication results of the MAR-ECO international research project co-organised by Bergen Museum to the ENCOMPASS 2.0 Program.

The MAR-ECO project directed by Bergen University (UiB), Bergen Museum (BM) and the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research operated within the framework of the Census of Marine Life global program between 2001 and 2010. The goal of the project was to study the deep-sea organisms and the ecological system of the northern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge stretching in the Atlantic from Iceland to the Azores. The name of the project truly reflects its activity: Mid-Atlantic Ridge ECOlogy. Scientists of 16 countries participated in the research.

An important environmental protection success of the project is that areas protected and areas closed to deep-sea fishery have been designated.

The three main research fields of the project were:

  • Mapping of species composition and distribution patterns
  • Identification of trophic interrelationships and modelling of food-web patterns
  • Analyses of life-history strategies

The research work was carried out in six subprojects: Marine mammals and birds, Pelagic Nekton, Demersal Nekton, Zooplankton, Epibenthos, Genetics and Technology.

During the project period from 2004 to 2010 twelve research vessels equipped with the most up-to-date techniques made expeditions in the area. The main field study was the two-month cruise in 2004 with the new Norwegian research vessel, RV G.O. Sars. In the two-leg cruise 55 scientists from 13 countries participated together with a TV team, a photographer and an artist. In addition to discovering new species the scientists could study the wildlife of the 2 500 m high ridge and 4 000 m deep water column in detail, making use of the measuring, sampling and analytical equipment available. The process, classification and analysis of the immense quantity of samples, data and information ensure occupation for the scientists of the participating research institutions for years.

The management of the MAR-ECO project regarded the provision of information about the results of the project for the widest possible audience as equal to the scientific research work itself. For this reason the public outreach activity closely connected to the actual scientific work followed the research plan; from the site work, through analysis to results. The overall goal targeted was to reach the international public, to arouse and maintain interest and curiosity towards deep-sea life by means of communication.

The direct target group involved the wide public of the countries surrounding the North Atlantic in Europe and the US. The specific communication goal to be reached was performing activities and creating products by means of which large numbers of participants can be involved and a high-level media and web presence can be achieved, i.e. countless visitors, readers, pupils and university students can be informed about the research. The Public Outreach group paid special attention to reaching, motivating and involving young people, to keeping contact and maintaining interest continuously. The international school network also served this goal to which not only schools of the direct target countries connected but also those of Chile, Greece, Lithuania, Turkey and even schools in the land-locked Czech Republic.

The primary site for information, communication, contact and cooperation is the portal of the project. Here visitors can follow the project by means of news, photos, audio recordings and videos published in the “Ship to Shore” daily, so they can become virtual participants of the expedition and the scientific research. The results of the research work, including audio and video recordings, photos, data of the various sensors, sampling and data recording equipment, together with the text-based documentations can be searched by timeline and scientific topics as well.

The Public Outreach group used the complete set of  traditional communication and media tools, organised events attracting scientific communities and the wider public and a travelling exhibition, an especially popular element of which is the deep-sea computer adventure game, Mara.

In 2007 the MAR-ECO Project won the EU Descartes Prize for Excellence in Science Communication in the category of “Innovation for Science Communication”.

BM participated in the preparation and the two-round evaluation procedure of the EEA/Norway Grants application submitted in 2007 for the realisation of the ENCOMPASS 2.0 program as the consortium partner of Mindentudás Egyeteme Kft. The Partnership Agreement signed in August 2009, after obtaining the grant, stipulates the cooperation goal and the tasks of the parties:

  • adaptation and application of the MAR-ECO science communication know-how in the ENCOMPASS 2.0 program;
  • joint preparation of a Feasibility Study for the Hungarian adaptation of the MAR-ECO school network and for the development of the ENCOMPASS portal interactive services.

Mutual study trips were organised for the experts of the partners in order to foster the exchange of experiences and cooperation.

During the study trip of the ENCOMPASS experts (June 2010, Bergen), in addition to discussions with MAR-ECO experts, they visited BM, the Communication and Media Centre of UiB, the New Media Centre of Bergen University College (HiB) and the VilVite Bergen Science Centre. As a result of the expert discussions the MAR-ECO and ENCOMPASS experts extended the scope of science communication fields to be applied in the ENCOMPASS 2.0 development as follows:

  • MAR-ECO web services;
  • MAR-ECO and UiB science document publication activity;
  • MAR-ECO, BM and VilVite school network;
  • HiB e-learning curriculum development.

The primary goal of the MAR-ECO expert, Mr. Jo Hoyer’s Budapest study trip (November 2010) was to evaluate the preparation of the Feasibility Study and to agree on the schedule of further work. In addition to this the experts reviewed the ENCOMPASS 2.0 portal and e-learning development and the planned continuation of the MAR-ECO project in the South Atlantic.

Within the framework of the Hungarian Science Festival series of events, Mr. Jo Hoyer held a highly successful presentation in the Natural History Museum under the title “Deeper than light”. Read the press coverage of the lecture here. Download the presented slides or watch the video record of the lecture below this article.

The draft Feasibility Study was completed by 31 December 2010. The final version was approved by the management of the project on 31 January 2011.

The Executive Summary of the Feasibility Study can be read in English here.