Imagine being able to plan, design and carry out your own scientific survey into the seas around us. Last week research students from across Europe were given just such an opportunity when they joined scientists onboard the Irish national research vessel RV Celtic Voyager in waters off Cork.
This unique opportunity for students to gain practical experience in carrying out multidisciplinary marine scientific research is part of the European Framework 7 project EUROFLEETS, and was designed, developed and co-funded by the Marine Institute, Ireland.
Over the course of six days, between the 14th and 19th August, 20 European postgraduate students learned the skills necessary to map the seabed, identify the animals and plants living there, and investigate the local and oceanic currents that influence them. Training focused specifically on operational research and included the deployment of equipment and instrumentation, sample recovery and processing, and data acquisition. Other modules investigated designing and planning a survey, operations and capabilities of research vessels and safety at sea.
An additional shore-based day in University College Cork saw students processing and analyzing the data acquired during the course of the survey. The course, which aimed to provide a holistic ecosystem approach to studying the marine environment, concluded with integrating the data to produce a three - dimensional, interactive model of the study area.
”This was a unique opportunity for students to acquire the practical skills necessary to conduct offshore operations, whilst also providing invaluable experience of life onboard a research vessel,” said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute “These courses will increase European capacity for multidisciplinary marine research as well as contributing towards the employability of graduates internationally.”
(EUROFLEETS student Tiago Ribeiro, University of Aviero, Portugal processing a benthic grab sample on deck. Photo: Marine Institute)
The training was led by Dr Pauhla McGrane - coordinator of the Marine Institute-funded National Research Shiptime Training Programme (NRSTP) - and was modelled on previously developed national ship-based training programmes. “These practical training programmes equip the next generation of marine scientists with the skills necessary to carry out offshore marine scientific research,” she says. “The NRSTP courses have been shown to be hugely successful at national and European level. The challenge is now to continue to develop innovative research vessel-based training programmes for the national and international market.”
The training was carried out by scientists from Universities and Institutes across Europe including professors from the National Institute of Oceanography and Geophysical Research (OGS), Italy, the Foundation of Science and Technology (FCT), Portugal and Tallinn University of Technology (TUT), Estonia as well as scientists from the Marine Institute.
The EUROFLEETS courses are recognised by the Institute of Marine, Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) as contributing towards the continuous professional development of marine scientists.
(EUROFLEETS Students sorting trawl catch on deck. Photo: Marine Institute)
EUROFLEETS is a European Union FP7 research infrastructure project which aims to foster the cooperation within research fleets across Europe.