UJ Scientists explore the ocean on the RV/SA Agulhas II for SEAmester 2019

Date: Aug 5, 2019 | Faculties, Faculty of Science, News


From July 1st to July 12th, Prof Bettine van Vuuren and Shilpa Parbhu from the Department of Zoology, and Buntu Fanteso and Phakiso Mtimkulu from the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies ventured on the RV/SA Agulhas II for a course called SEAmester – South Africa’s class afloat. SEAmester is a crash course in marine science, from theoretical oceanography to practical sample collection and processing. It is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) and targets young postgraduate students in multiple disciplines from across South Africa.

SEAmester takes place on the RV/SA Agulhas II, a state‐of‐the‐art research vessel that provides the ideal teaching and research platform. The RV/SA Agulhas II is a first-class, first of its kind, icebreaker. SEAmester combines with an on-going long term study on the RV/SA Agulhas II Current, specifically with moorings and stations across the current known as the Agulhas System Climate Array (ASCA). SEAmester was established by Prof. Isabelle Ansorge from UCT, with the first SEAmester taking place in 2016. SEAmester runs in parallel to the scientific objectives of the Agulhas System Climate Array (ASCA) spearheaded by DST SAEON Egagasini node.

Over the years, SEAmester has gained much popularity, with the 2019 course receiving over 200 applications. Of those, 44 lucky students were accepted due to the capacity of berths on the ship. There are two learning streams on SEAmester, the first being oceans in a changing climate. This stream focuses more on the science behind oceanography and various other disciplines. The second stream was tools of the trade, which focused more on the practical aspect of sample collection and data analyses. An additional stream, focusing more on the fun aspect of being at sea was the art stream where students were exposed to photography, pocket microscopes called Foldoscopes, creating journals, and communication in science through various aspects such as social media. In the evenings, we attended lectures that covered several disciplines. Some involved lecturers sharing their past experiences about voyages to Antarctica and sub-Antarctic islands. Other lectures focused on stargazing, and lastly a psychology lecture entitled ‘avoiding conflict in the study place’.

Overall, the students and the lecturers had an amazing experience and would highly recommend SEAmester to anyone else interested. For more information regarding the course and for applications please go to https://seamester.co.za.

“It was a great opportunity for me. It was my first time at sea and the experience was amazing. I met scientists from different disciplines of science and young vibrant students from different institutions across the country. I got an opportunity to spend 11 days learning about life in our oceans and how climate and anthropogenic factors like plastic pollution affect our marine species. What made it more exceptional was the insightful lectures, discussions, and the cooperation of art and science” – Buntu Fanteso

“SEAmester was awesome; I met students and lecturers from other disciplines, and this helped to broaden my knowledge. I also had fun playing games and watching sea creatures and landscapes from the ocean. I learned a lot from other filmmakers since I love making videos. This was an awesome experience for me since it was my first time on a ship, especially for many days.” – Phakiso Mtimkulu

“SEAmester was a fun yet overwhelming experience. Although overwhelming, it was an experience I am grateful for as I was exposed to a new environment that encompassed multiple disciplines. Not having past oceanographic experience, I was able to learn more about the ocean in a biological, physical, and chemical aspect. I highly recommend other young postgraduate students to apply for SEAmester as it is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.” – Shilpa Parbhu

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