• SciEnvy

Eurofleets | Seth Thomas

Training appears to be relentless when doing a PhD. Of course, a large part of it is to be expected, but there’s definitely a void in the quality of some training in comparison to another. Over the past few weeks, I’ve experienced the two extremes of the Training Quality Spectrum (patent pending). At the lower end, was a fairly mundane talk about how to use my institutions internal purchasing system. In the upper echelon, a two week on-board oceanographic training cruise in Croatia.

EuroFleets 2, ran from the 16th-27th of June 2015, with 12 international, multidisciplinary students from EU countries - selected from 114 applicants. The course was set to encapsulate the interdependencies and linkages between different aspects of oceanography - namely biology, chemistry, physics and geology - while conducting a oceanographic sampling transect of the Adriatic Sea.

Departing the Croatian Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, students were living on board a regional sized research vessel, BiOS DVA - pictured below. With 12 students coming from different institutes in entirely different countries, diversity of research aims was ensured. This created huge networking opportunities, as speaking from experience, when you’re in a confined space with 11 strangers, it’s essential to get on with each other.

”12 international students embarked on a multidisciplinary research cruise investigating the interdependencies of oceanography”.

Before attending this course, I was unsure of what to expect. Prior to starting at UEA, I was interviewed by Gardline Marine Science, for an offshore position. They informed me that days would be 12 hours long, slow, arduous and at times tedious. This experience was not reflected in the EuroFleets course, and as such it was not as beneficial as I had first hoped. Where I do not believe I was subjected to an authentic cruise experience, I still acquired a number of techniques that may prove invaluable in my scientific future. Techniques ranged from ADCP current measuring for ocean physics, CTD deployment for marine chemistry, statistical methods for geological field studies as well as software for graphical representation of data. Particularly in the UK, via funding bodies like NERC - who very kindly fund my own research - there is a huge push towards multi-discplinarity across the scientific community. Due to the content of the EuroFleets course, my research horizons were broadened, and the number of techniques I acquired would stand me in an excellent position if I was to ever conduct a field campaign.

”In the UK, there is a huge push for multidisciplinary research across the scientific community.”

One area that EuroFleets proved phenomenally useful, was networking. If you go to any employability session, in fact any session on furthering your own science, one word always appears. Networking. The golden phrase that can be simplified down to talking to people. Well, living in cramped conditions for the best part of two weeks creates relatively unique networking opportunities. The other student on board become your family for this period of time, and as such, undoubtedly fruitful networking opportunities arise from this. Since attending, I have already had offers to go to participants home institutions to view their own research - which in turn may vastly improve the content and quality of my own.

”Where I do not believe I was subjected to an authentic cruise experience, I still acquired a number of techniques that may prove invaluable in my scientific future”

I think that a literary account of the cruise experience would not do it justice. Where I have faith in my ability as a wordsmith, I think attempting to not only convey the scientific methodologies used in a readable manner, but also adequately describe the beauty of Croatia, would sell you short. There sheer scale of the activities conducted, visiting unique locations in the Adriatic Sea such as Jabuka Island, pictured below. In addition to this we visited other scientific institutions, such as the national marine aquarium, associated with the University of Dubrovnik.

Therefore, to make this task easier to describe, while I was on deck of the BiOS DVA, I shot the following video:

EuroFleets was a one of a kind opportunity. I don’t think I will experience such a high standard of training again, nor in such a stunning location. All the images included in this short article were taken either on deck or around the ports where the BiOS DVA docked.

The EuroFleets programme has EU funding for additional field courses in the near future. Where I am informed they will not be as long as the iteration I obtained a place on, I would whole-heartedly encourage any early career researcher or graduate student to apply.