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ASCA-SEAmester III cruise provides multi-dimensional learning experience

By Philile Mvula, Whitney Samuels, Lizelle Carolus, James Maitland and Thulwaneng Mashifane
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SAEON scientists demonstrate the use of scientific equipment to the students participating in the SEAmester programme

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SEAmester activities included lectures, mammal dissections, star gazing and weather balloon releases

On 16 July 2018, the SAEON science team embarked on the ASCA-SEAmester III cruise from Cape Town on board the SA Agulhas II.

The aim was to conduct a full CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) survey across the Agulhas Current on the ASCA line.

The SAEON team was made up of four scientists supervised by Tamaryn Morris. The scientists, Whitney Samuels and Lizelle Carolus (SAEON interns), James Maitland (University of Cape Town) and Philile Mvula (University of KwaZulu-Natal) had the responsibility of collecting oxygen, salinity and dissolved inorganic carbon samples from the CTD. Dr Thulwaneng Mashifane (SAEON postdoc) participated as SEAmester lecturer and trained students and interns on the collection and analysis of dissolved oxygen.

Since the CTD casts were done during the day and night, the team had to be split into day and night shifts to allow enough rest for the team to function efficiently. During the shifts the scientists had the opportunity to take part in microzooplankton sampling, CTD operation (driving of the CTD down to depths of over 4 500 m) and CTD data processing (exposing them to new software such as SEASAVE and ODV).

After processing the data, the team members were able to see the outcomes of their hard work and long nights, which really made the trip worthwhile for them.

Tutoring skills put to the test

The scientists also had an opportunity to test their tutoring skills as they demonstrated the use of the scientific equipment to the students that were on the ship as part of the SEAmester programme. This was a big learning experience as it not only taught them how to convey information to students from different backgrounds, but also showed that several things can go wrong when sampling is done by an inexperienced group of people without sufficient guidance.

The entire voyage was completed without major complications, largely due to the favourable sea conditions that allowed relatively smooth deployment of instrumentation - from the CTD to the Bongo and Neuston nets. Unfortunately, after two days on the job the dredge was driven into a rockface, but thankfully it was saved by the expert crew.

In the free time between samples, the scientists had the opportunity to partake in the SEAmester activities, which included lectures on various topics, mammal dissections, star gazing and weather balloon releases. To allow them some distraction from all the science, they could also take part in activities like mosaic art, photography and videography.

On 25 July a 70s-themed party was hosted for all the students, scientists and crew. Everyone came together from different regions of the ship to interact and to celebrate the success of the SEAmester programme.

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