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Reflecting on a successful capacity building opportunity through the Ocean Teacher Global Academy Project

By Jordan Van Stavel, Intern, SAEON Egagasini Node
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Daily transportation to the UNESCO/IOC project office took place on board this ferry

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The morning view on the way to the ferry

In October 2018, a Research Cruise Planning and Management course offered by the UNESCO/IOC (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)/ (International Oceanographic Commission), was held in the coastal city of Ostend, Belgium.

The UNESCO/IOC has developed a comprehensive Learning Management System called the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) Project in collaboration with the Flanders Marine Institute. By applying classroom-style training they offer a variety of ocean science and science-based ocean management courses.

The course

Participants from various IOC member states such as South Africa, Namibia, Portugal, Poland, Malaysia and Indonesia attended the course, which was led by Dr Claudia Delgado, project manager and International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) training coordinator, and Mr Greg Reed, IOC consultant.

The content of this course covered the requirements for organising a research cruise and submitting a request for ship time. Being the first of its kind to be offered by the OTGA/VLIZ, the course was initially designed for a European audience; however, numerous skills and concepts taught during the course are transferable for research in other regions as well.

Topics covered throughout the week ranged from various aspects of planning a scientific cruise; the IOC criteria and guidelines on transfer of marine technology; data storage and processing; access and benefit sharing; the Nagoya Protocol and the Convention on Biodiversity; and marine research policy and research infrastructures in Europe. Emphasis was also placed on research data management plans, marine data archives and integrators.

The course included two field trips; one being a visit to the Flanders Marine Institute coastal research vessel, the RV Simon Stevin, during which various vessel operations and onboard equipment and instruments were explained. On the second day participants visited the Marine Station Ostend, a group of multifunctional laboratories that provides space for Flemish marine scientists to make use of as well as being a storage capacity for scientific equipment.

My personal experience

When I received the news that I had been accepted to attend this course, I couldn't contain my excitement. This was my first trip overseas and my first time attending an international course.

Due to a relatively short notice period before the commencement of the course, this excitement was momentarily dampened once I realised the heap of admin and preparation required for international travels. Nevertheless, this was soon forgotten upon my arrival to the picturesque city of Ostend.

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Participants visited the Marine Station Oostende on the second day of the course

Each morning started with a refreshing and scenic ferry ride to the UNESCO/IOC Project Office where the course was being held, which was a pleasant change from Cape Town’s traffic. This, together with life-changing waffles, made it hard for me to return home.

Overall the week was a valuable experience, not only because of the skills obtained throughout, but also as it provided a platform for networking and exposure to future opportunities. As a young marine technician/scientist building a career, opportunities such as these are vital and for that reason, I would like to acknowledge the endorsement and support of SAEON by making it possible for me to have attended this course, and the value that it has added to my career.

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Visit to the Flanders Marine Institute coastal vessel, RV Simon Stevin, on the first day of the course

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