Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header



Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-03-31

The overall objective of the TREICLAKE project is to implement, in the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU), a scientific excellence strategy that will shift the Chair of Hydrobiology and Fishery at EMU into higher levels of scientific knowledge and innovation capacity in the field of aquatic ecology. This objective will be achieved by strengthening collaborations with two high-ranking academic institutions, University of Jyväskylä (JYU) in Finland and Aarhus University (AU) in Denmark.

With this cooperation and knowledge exchange, EMU aims to:
(1) improve the use of existing research methods, as well as to develop cutting-edge approaches for understanding lake ecology and lacustrine interactions with the environment;
(2) enhance the international impact of its scientific expertise via publishing in high-impact journals and participation in well-respected conferences and international projects;
(3) improve educational experiences at EMU at BSc, MSc, and PhD academic levels by offering new courses and opportunities from partner institutions.

During the first 15 months of the 36-month project, cooperation between partner universities has been close and fruitful, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tasks of the project are divided into eight, tightly interconnected work packages.
Project Management (WP1) is conducted by the Project Coordinator with assistance from a Steering Committee, an International Scientific Committee, and all WP leaders. The Project Coordinator is responsible for communications related to project work, reporting, and day-to day administration, and succeeded in continuing project activities with only minor impacts from the pandemic.
Under WP2 (Development of Innovative Research Methods), EMU researchers and students at different career levels have participated in workshops organized by JYU and AU. The work shops introduced state-of-the-art applications of stable isotope (SI) methods in aquatic research and methodologies of fatty acid and compound specific SI analysis, including the complementary high-performance liquid chromatographic method for phytoplankton pigment analyses. All of these methods strengthen the research quality of EMU and help to understand aquatic ecosystem function in more detail than was previously possible at EMU.
As part of WP3 (Development and Implementation of Research Infrastructure), a visit to the AU mesocosm facility provided valuable knowledge on the construction, maintenance, and function of such a facility. Possibilities were discussed to develop a similar infrastructure at EMU. In 2021, EMU early career scientists participated in mesocosm experiments at two different mesocosm facilities – AU (Denmark, Silkeborg) and Middle-East Technical University (Turkey, Ankara). These scientists had an excellent opportunity to increase their international networks and collaborate on extensive mesocosm experiments to study the effects of eutrophication.
Within WP4 (Data Management and Modelling), EMU researchers gathered information on research data collection and storage to create a Data Management Plan for the Chair of Hydrobiology and Fisheries in EMU. During training on the Ecosystem modelling task, the Estonian team learned about the functional usefulness of models, such as SWAT+ and Water Ecosystem Tool (QWET) under the guidance of experts from AU. The models will be used for Estonian Lake Võrtsjärv and its catchment to predict climate change effects and impacts of anthropogenic activities. JYU provided valuable advice on application of the MixSIAR Bayesian mixing model for SI data modelling to assess consumer diet sources in a lake food web. Additionally, application of Allometric trophic food web models were discussed and planned to predict the effects of invasive fish species on native fish populations or large-scale perturbations, such as climate warming. The modelling work in collaboration with AU and JYU continues to strengthen EMU modelling skills and to produce joint publications.
The most important achievement in WP5 (Boosting EMU’s International Research Profile in Aquatic Ecology) is that EMU has taken responsibility for organizing the 11th International Shallow Lakes Conference in Tartu, Estonia (2023); the organizational work has been started by the TREICLAKE team. EMU has also developed a publication strategy to have more focus on high-impact journals. During the first 15 months, the EMU TREICLEAKE team has participated in four international conferences, with a total of 20 presentations, including one keynote presentation, published six peer-reviewed research articles, and under the guidance of partner experts, prepared and submitted five research funding applications.
EMU actively worked to boost the scientific activities of early stage researchers (WP6). For this objective, we continually seek opportunities for EMU early stage researchers to participate in courses and workshops of partner universities. To improve the quality of lake ecology education at EMU, the TREICLAKE team has started to prepare two new MSc/PhD level courses: Stable Isotope Applications and Aquatic Ecosystem Modelling, both starting in 2022. We continue to promote student exchange and attract students and Post-Doc researchers from other institutions to study aquatic ecology in EMU. For this purpose, among other relevant activities, flyers introducing learning opportunities in EMU are being developed.
Under the tasks of Improving Aquatic Ecology Awareness and Exploit Research Results (WP7), a fact sheet (in Estonian) was produced about Lake Peipsi, the 4th largest and the largest transboundary lake in Europe: “Six reasons why Lake Peipsi needs attention”. We also contributed to the NGO “Peipsi Center for Transboundary Cooperation” with information on the lake’s condition and effects of climate change so that the NGO could better prepare their public events promoting environmental awareness. Mainly through applied research projects to assess and improve the ecological status of lakes and rivers, EMU contributes to Estonian policy formulation in the fields of climate change and environmental strategies. To promote the study of lake ecosystems, the TREICLAKE team produced an interactive exhibition and gave lectures at the annual Estonian Science Night Festival. In addition, a popular science exhibition on fresh waters and food webs is being prepared for the Lake Museum at the largest Estonian lake, Võrtsjärv.
Under WP8 (Strengthening the research management and administration skills of EMU), a permanent consultation scheme for the Research & Development units of the partner universities was created and implemented. A two-part intensive workshop was organized for EMU scientific staff and early-stage researchers on seeking funding possibilities, as well as preparation and management of research projects. A comprehensive overview was given by the Horizon Europe National Contact Points of Estonia and experts from AU and JYU on potential funding programs in Horizon Europe. The workshop was very useful and encouraging.
The first period of the project has been successful – new knowledge and skills learned, new collaborations have started and widened opportunities for early-stage researchers, and shared information for public awareness are the main results, in addition to the targeted aims of this project.