03 Oct 2023

Welcome to the inaugural edition of our EuroMarine Researchers in the Spotlight series, where we engage in captivating conversations with prominent researchers within our network.

In this article, we asked Ken Andersen about his reflections on the EuroMarine "TraitsBAML" Foresight Workshop that he led, which focused on trait-based approaches to describe, analyze, and model marine life. Below we have documented his insights, experiences and tips.

The Foresight Workshop centered on trait-based approaches to analyse and model marine life, fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Its objectives encompassed advancing research, identifying new directions, and expanding methodologies. Key outcomes included introducing innovative ideas like metagenomics and flux-balance models for plankton analysis. The workshop influenced participants' research trajectories, leading to novel modeling techniques and successful funding applications.

Though its impact wasn't directly translated to policy, the workshop significantly contributed to the development of a bi-annual series of workshops, creating a vibrant community around trait-based approaches to marine science.


Ken Andersen is a theoretical physicist who has worked in marine science for the last 20 years. The goal of his research is to understand how ecosystems in the ocean are structured, how they function, and how they respond to perturbations.

He has used these insights to develop novel size-based theory for strategic fisheries management and trait-based models for fish and plankton to describe their role in climate regulation and how they will change in the future.

EuroMarine: Could you briefly introduce the research topic that your Foresight Workshop focused on and describe its significance in the field of marine science?

The Foresight Workshop centered on trait-based approaches to describe, analyze, and model life in the ocean. The Foresight Workshop series, including subsequent events, became pivotal in creating a vibrant research community centered around trait-based approaches to marine life.

The series' impact has been significant, contributing to my research development and enhancing my visibility within the field.

EuroMarine: How did the Foresight Workshop contribute to the evolution and advancement of your research topic? Did it help identify new directions, methodologies, or emerging issues that were previously overlooked?

The workshop had a wide scope, encompassing marine life from bacteria to whales. Notably, the use of metagenomics to describe trait-distributions of plankton emerged, as well as the application of flux-balance models from biotechnology to analyze bacterial plankton.

EuroMarine: What were the main outcomes or key findings that emerged from your Foresight Workshop? How did these outcomes shape your research trajectory or provide new insights into the topic?

A major insight for me was the introduction of flux-balance models, which infused fresh perspectives into my work and influenced the development of my own modeling techniques.

The upcoming follow-up workshop will feature a flux-balance modeler as a keynote, underscoring the significance of this outcome.

EuroMarine: Did your Foresight Workshop lead to any follow-up actions or collaborations? Have you applied for additional funding to further develop your research? If yes, could you describe the subsequent projects or initiatives that resulted from the workshop?

The workshop facilitated two significant and funded applications within my research group. Both applications were directed at American funding sources, opportunities that we wouldn't have encountered without the insights gained from this workshop.

EuroMarine: Have you published a peer-reviewed article, or any other form of scientific publication based on the research discussed in the Foresight Workshop? If so, could you provide some details about the publication and its impact on the field?

Indeed, an article was derived from the ideas developed during the workshop: "A trait-based approach to ocean ecology" authored by T. Kiørboe, A. Visser, and K.H. Andersen (2018).

Although this publication emerged from the workshop's ideas, due to an oversight, the workshop wasn't appropriately acknowledged.

EuroMarine: Looking back, how would you assess the overall impact of the Foresight Workshop on your research and career? Did it open up new opportunities, enhance your visibility, or lead to further collaborations beyond the initial workshop?

The Foresight Workshop has evolved into a bi-annual series, with the sixth workshop scheduled for August 2023 in Copenhagen.

This series has been pivotal in fostering a vibrant research community centered around trait-based approaches to marine life.

EuroMarine: What advice or suggestions would you give to future Foresight Workshop leads in terms of maximizing the benefits and outcomes of the workshop?

I would consider adopting a format reminiscent of a Gordon-conference, where participants spend time together during meals and have ample opportunity for informal discussions. Such an approach fosters collaboration and the exchange of ideas, maximizing the workshop's benefits and outcomes.

Relevance to EuroMarine Objectives and Priorities:

The workshop aligns with EuroMarine's goals by supporting the emergence of important scientific topics and methodologies in marine sciences. Trait-based approaches are being adopted by many EuroMarine member organizations and are gaining momentum as a crucial method for understanding marine ecosystems.