SEAmester - South Africa's Class Afloat

30 Jun 2016 - 11:45

Professor Isabelle Ansorge, Head of Oceanography Department at UCT has been motivating to run a SEAmester programme for two years and is delighted that it will finally come to fruition in the first week of July 2016, when a floating university experience takes place on the polar research vessel the SA Agulhas II.  SEAmester aims to introduce marine science as an applied and cross-disciplinary field to students who have shown an affinity for these core science disciplines. It will combine traditional class-room lectures with hands-on ship-based deck activities for the students, while providing them with opportunities to network with and support specialist scientists in recognised marine research activities. The programme strives to gain greater awareness of the oceans' physical and ecological response to climate change.  

A total of 41 postgraduate University and Technikon students from 15 institutes across South Africa have been selected to participate in the ten day trip at sea.  The participating students come from a range of backgrounds and for many of these students it will be their first time out at sea - a life changing event no doubt! There are 7 post graduate students from the Faculty of Science who will be on the expedition - from the Department of Biological Sciences, Oceanography, Environmental & Geographical Science and Statistics. In addition SEAmester involves senior researchers from a number of tertiary institutes across South Africa, who will present lectures, assist with research and provide hands-on training, and in doing so will foster and strengthen new and current collaborations between historically white and black universities.  Academics from UCT's Science Faculty who will be participating include, Associate Professor David Gammon, Emeritus Professor Geoff Brundrit, Dr Sarah Fawcett, Dr Raymond Roman and Professor Isabelle Ansorge..  Ms Tahlia Henry, a former Btech student from  CPUT and 2017 MSc student at UCT has been coordinating the entire SEAmester programme - a student running the show for other students.  Tahlia is passionate about being at sea and has spent more than six months at sea on the SA Agulhas II since 2014.

Running in parallel to SEAmester is the ASCA (Agulhas System Current Array) which is an international oceanographic project with partners from South Africa, the US and the Netherlands, and funding support from the South African Departments of Science and Technology (DST) and Environmental Affairs (DEA), the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). ASCA is designed to provide long-term observations of Agulhas Current volume, heat and salt transport and its variability from mesoscale (eddies), through seasonal to inter-annual timescales. The ASCA shelf and tall moorings were deployed in 2015 and  extend 200 km offshore through the core of the Agulhas Current, with Current and Pressure Recording Inverted Echo Sounder measurements extending the array to 300 km offshore. 

The SEAmester/ ASCA cruise will not only provide valuable ocean data to understand the role of the Agulhas Current in a global ocean better, but also provides an exciting scientific background for the SEAmester to engage in - not only in science, but also with the ASCA core scientists.    

SA Agulhas II - will be home for the students aboard SEAmester for 10 days

The student's time about the SA Agulhas will not be a holiday cruise - they will be required to complete daily written assignments, compile a video presentation and undertake practical activities on deck and taking measurements. They will have lectures during the day and in the evenings they will have talks on birding, lectures on photography and climate change and even a pirate party on the last night!