updated: 2022-05-07

Who is responsible for VIRTUE?
Until 2021 VIRTUE was run by the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences  at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) in co-operation with the Maritime Museum and Aquarium in Gothenburg. 
From 2021 Gothenburg Marine Biological Laboratory is responsible for VIRTUE.  
In the US, the Maryland Sea Grant College (MDSG) at the University of Maryland runs a counterpart resource known as Biofilms and Biodiversity Project (BBP).
In the future, we hope to establish VIRTUE hubs in other countries.

Can anyone register for VIRTUE?
Yes, VIRTUE is open for anyone to register. Today VIRTUE has participants in 45 countries

Does it cost anything to join VIRTUE?
No, VIRTUE is free of charge. Anyone can register and create a VIRTUE account. All registered Swedish teachers can order "VIRTUE rack" kits free of charge. 

I am not a Swedish teacher - how can I get VIRTUE racks or supplies?
Here is a guide with a list of necessary components and mounting instructions. In the future, we hope to establish VIRTUE hubs in other countries. The goal will be for VIRTUE hubs (hopefully) to provide teachers in their country with VIRTUE kits free of charge.

When must I deploy VIRTUE rack(s)?
You can deploy racks at any time, but the most suitable time is spring. We suggest you deploy rack(s) during April or May and then let them remain in the water until September. But it also depends on regional differences. Making observations of rack(s) along the way is always a good idea.
Read more in the brochure "What's growing on the disc?"

How long does it take before I can see any fouling organisms?
It depends where and when you have deployed the rack. In Scandinavia, during the period June - September, there is plenty of larvae in the water, "waiting" for free surfaces - like a VIRTUE disc! Fouling is quite rapid and you can detect changes every week. Also, bacteria and algal species will begin to colonize the surface almost immediately. 
8 short videos on biofilms, produced for VIRTUE.
During the winter months, you can expect very little new growth of larger organisms in the sea. During this time, mostly bacteria and diatoms will establish on a VIRTUE disc.

Read more in the brochure "What's growing on the disc?"

How long must a VIRTUE rack be deployed?
You can leave the racks in the water for a year, or even several years, but usually  you want to  examine the organisms with the same class/group of students who deployed the racks. Deploy them in early springtime and retrieve them in the beginning of the autumn - if you location is in a temperate region. If your location is in a warmer region, you can expect growth (fouling) the year around.

Can I leave VIRTUE racks in the water over the winter period?
You can leave VIRTUE racks in the sea (or a lake) during the winter. Our VIRTUE discs are durable and can withstand ice. These discs shall be re├║sed, after cleaning. However, it is safest to replace the rope with 2-3 mm stainless steel wire + wire lock. Boat shops have such items for sale. Read more here.

Why is it neccesary with "double discs"?
With a pair of discs on each rack level, one facing upwards and the other downwards, you will get two different environments. One with more (sun)light and more sediment and the one facing downwards with less light and less sediment. You can expect a difference in the amount of individuals for each species or even the number of species. It is also more practical for the analysis in the lab: If you have fouling organisms on both faces of one disc, it would be a bit uncomfortable to place it under a stereoscope to check for the organisms. But, if you have both sides (up and down) separately it would be better to check and record the specimens.

Are there any recommended standard distances between VIRTUE racks?
There is no standard distance between the racks, but we recommend at least 70 cm, so that they do not touch each other when there are high waves or strong current. 

What kind of plastic are the VIRTUE discs made of? Are there any environmental problems with material used?
The discs we use within the VIRTUE project is made of PET-G (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol). PET-G is a thermoplastic polyester that has significant chemical resistance, durability, and excellent formability for manufacturing. It cannot be dissolved in water. In general, PETG is a food-safe plastic that's commonly used for food containers and bottles for liquid beverages. Like acrylic and many other thermoplastics, PETG is fully recyclable. 
In the US, the VIRTUE discs are made of acrylic plastic. You can use any material you want to test fouling on.
A cheaper material is plastic 120 mm Petri dishes, though not so durable.