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ASCA Training Courses: Training a new generation of ocean scientists and technicians

By Tamaryn Morris, Jordan van Stavel and Jethan d’Hotman, SAEON Egagasini Node
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Skills transfer and capacity development of young scientists, technicians, interns and students is a key objective of the Agulhas System Climate Array (ASCA) project.

To this end, and taking advantage of the Joint Assembly IAPSO-IAGA-IAMAS conference which took place in Cape Town and in which the international ASCA team participated, two courses were co-hosted prior to the Joint Assembly.

Data analysis

The first course, offered by Dr Shane Elipot of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS) of the University of Miami (UM), was co-hosted with the SAEON Egagasini Node and the University of Cape Town (UCT) Oceanography Department, which also served as the venue for the course. Titled “Methods of Data Analysis in Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences”, the course explored the various statistical methods used to analyse and interpret time series data obtained from both the oceanic and atmospheric environments.

Participants were asked to apply for the course by submitting their CV and a short motivation detailing their current fields of study and their need for further training in this type of statistical analysis. Candidates were selected from all over South Africa, with preference given to Masters and PhD students, and included graduate students currently registered and supervised from both SAEON's Egagasini and Elwandle Nodes.

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Candidates for the courses were selected from all over South Africa, with preference given to Masters and PhD students, and included graduate students currently registered and supervised from both SAEON’s Egagasini and Elwandle Nodes

The course entailed theory lectures in the mornings of the first week (14-18 August 2017), with practical applications of the work during work sessions in the afternoons. The second week was reserved for one-on-one discussions with Dr Elipot to assist students with their specific data sets and thus progressing their work.

This workshop covered a wide range of statistical data analysis methods, ranging from the relatively simple calculation of the mean of a dataset to much more complicated methods like an EOF (Empirical Orthogonal Function) analysis. Coming from a relatively technical and descriptive oceanography background, participating in a maths-intensive data analysis workshop was initially quite intimidating. However, as the workshop progressed and methods were explained in more detail, my understanding of the various methods improved significantly. The workshop has equipped me with the knowledge of reading and understanding scientific publications in a lot more detail. These methods will be essential for my Masters thesis and future projects. I was also given the opportunity to show Dr Elipot the research I would be presenting at the IAPSO conference later that month. His feedback was extremely valuable and boosted the overall study. I am extremely grateful for his input. ~ Jethan d’Hotman, SAEON student

Oceanographic field research

The second workshop focused on the hands-on preparation for mooring work at sea, the instrumentation used specifically on the ASCA moorings, and some data processing involved after instruments are retrieved. This course was offered by Mr Adam Houk, also of RSMAS, and was co-hosted with the SAEON Egagasini Node and Oceans and Coasts, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

The course, titled “Oceanographic Field Research Workshop”, was run at DEA’s East Pier mooring workshop at the V+A Waterfront. Participants were again requested to submit a CV to attend the workshop, with preference this time given to young technicians and students who are still mastering their technical capabilities in the field. Mr Houk worked with the Nortek Aquadopp single-point current meters, SeaBird Electronics MicroCat instruments and the RD Instruments Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers. The course ran from 21 to 25 August 2017, with a combination of theory and hands-on work in a workshop environment.

As an intern at the SAEON Egagasini Node, and assisting directly with the ASCA project, attending the Oceanographic Field Research Workshop was fundamental, especially with my background which focused primarily on biology. The practical nature of this workshop certainly gave emphasis to a number of important handling methods of each of the oceanographic instruments, highlighting the suitable pre-cruise, onboard and post-cruise management thereof. Useful suggestions were made regarding pre-cruise preparations such as the ordering and purchasing of instruments, supplies, and equipment. This was discussed together with the optimal utilisation of ship, deck and lab space, and how effective methods of packing and storage should be implemented. This added a ‘work smart, not hard’ approach to ensure timely and efficient future research cruise operations. The final two days of the workshop covered shipboard operations and an introduction to data recovery, management and data processing of selected instruments. From the point of view of an intern, practical exposure of this sort proved to be vital before participation in an oceanographic research cruise for the first time. ~ Jordan van Stavel, DST-NRF intern at the SAEON Egagasini Node

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