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Nurturing young scientists in developing countries aboard the Nansen

Research scientists aboard the Nansen bring with them a wealth of knowledge, and the experiences they gain on these survey voyages help enrich their research institutes, universities and ministries.
The new Nansen off the coast of Norway. The Nansen vessel is the only ship in the world to fly the UN flag.
Work on board sampling, sorting and weighing fish.

PEOPLE AND  OCEANS

For over 40 years, FAO has been  working in collaboration with the Norwegian Agency for Development cooperation (Norad) and the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) of Bergen, Norway on a joint program to strengthen national and regional knowledge of marine resources in developing countries, and to build their capacity for fisheries research and management.

The resulting EAF-Nansen project carries this out largely through the operation of a marine research vessel, the R/V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen – the only ship in the world to fly the UN flag.

FAO and Norway have worked closely on this Nansen project since its inception in 1975, undertaking studies around the world – but primarily along the coastlines and waters of Africa.

The information and data collected through the Nansen project  are used to produce reports on the state of the fishery resources, but are also stored in a database managed by IMR for the benefit of all partners.

The available archive contains valuable and scientifically unique information and data on species distribution, abundance, species interactions, environmental conditions and ecosystem characteristics, in many cases describing pristine conditions prior to fisheries development. These provide valuable benchmarks for the development of ecosystem indicators.

In 2015, FAO began documenting some of these survey voyages through an Aboard the Nansen #EAFNansen blog – helping to bring to life the fascinating work undertaken by the marine scientists on board each trip.

Take a look at archived posts from past survey voyages to get an idea about the breadth of the work.

The beautiful, brand new Nansen vessel was constructed in Vigo, Spain and will be christened in Oslo, Norway on 23 March, and we will be sure to begin documenting the next survey voyages of the new, improved vessel, with its advanced laboratories where scientists will carry out their marine research in coming months.

Although the Nansen is dedicated to science and research – it is truly the people at the heart of this project. For each survey voyage, young scientists from the countries being surveyed are selected to bring their expertise on board and to learn and develop their skills through the experience and the wealth of knowledge of the Nansen staff on board.

The Nansen project also has a gender policy, and has been very active in selecting women scientists as members of each survey voyage.

On the Nansen blog, we began interviewing these women scientists, and discovering what sparked their interest in marine research, how the Nansen experience helped them to grow as scientists and what advice they would offer to young people dreaming of a career in marine biology.

Here are some of their answers:

Scientist Abena Serwah Asante of Ghana got a lot of experience sampling, sorting and weighing fish.

Abena Serwah Asante

Abena Serwah Asante of the Fisheries Commission of Ghana joined our Ghana coastal survey voyage in April 2016 as the co-cruise leader and assisted the team with sampling, sorting and weighing the fish and entering data in the onboard  NANSIS database.

Abena said her Nansen voyage allowed her to acquire hands-on experience in fisheries surveys and to estimate fish biomass and abundance in Ghanaian waters. “I also had the opportunity to witness the threatening amount of waste in our waters and was alarmed at the potential impact this will have on the fisheries and food safety of Ghana,” said Abena. And her advice for young people hoping to enter this profession is enthusiastic. “Find those areas of marine research that interest you most and work hard.

We will need your skills and expertise to improve our knowledge of our marine ecosystem.”

Melody Puckridge of Australia says that her work and research in marine sciences continues to challenge her, and to change the way she sees the world.

Melody Puckridge

Melody Puckridge from Australia was doing her post-doctoral work at University Queensland on research concentrating on marine plastics and sea turtles when she joined the Nansen for its Indian Ocean cruise in June 2015. Melody’s interest in marine environments began early. “Growing up near the coast I developed an early love for the oceans by spending a lot of time in the water. I eventually chose to study applied science because of a general curiosity about nature and my love of discovering new things. I was always fascinated to learn about the mysteries of the marine world so different from the visible world around us.”

“A career in marine science has allowed me to enjoy so many incredible experiences, spanning from the tropics to polar regions. My work and research continues to challenge me, and to change the way I see the world.” According to Melody, “While women are not sufficiently represented across the sciences, my current research team has a higher proportion of women than men, which may be a reflection of the continuing shift of women's role in science.” And would she encourage young girls with a passion for marine science to pursue their dreams? “Absolutely. I would encourage any young woman curious about the world around her to pursue a career in science.”

On board the Nansen Eunice Nuerkie Ofoli-Anum of Ghana throws herself wholeheartedly into the sampling.

Eunice Nuerkie Ofoli-Anum

Eunice Nuerkie Ofoli-Anum of Ghana works for the Fisheries Commission of Ghana and took part in the 2016 Ghana survey. On board, she worked with the sampling, sorting, and identification of fish activities and was in charge of zooplankton and chlorophyll sampling carried out during the survey.

Speaking about her Nansen experience while on board, Eunice said, “As an oceanographer, this research cruise offers me the opportunity to learn some aspects of the fishery and marine life that in my daily work I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to experience.” And to young people hoping to enter this line of work, Eunice has this advice, “I would say it is all about passion and the willingness to say: ‘I want to learn, I want to understand the marine environment, I want to do something different’. So, if the chance comes, grab and pursue it!”

Indah Lut says that growing up in Indonesia with its thousands of islands surrounded by both the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, made marine research a natural career choice for her.

Indah Lutfiyati

Indah Lutfiyati of Indonesia joined the Indian Ocean Nansen voyage in June 2015.

“I live in Indonesia, known as biggest archipelagic country in the world, with 17,508 islands and fully 70% of its area covered by waters, both the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

The water mass movement between these islands from both the oceans results in Indonesia's water having unique characteristics and being very rich in nutrients.

This provides a good living environment for marine biota. These facts fascinated and intrigued me as I was growing up, leading me to choose to study Oceanography in the Diponegoro University upon finishing high school.

The more I study about oceanography, the more I realize that there are many aspects of the oceans just waiting to be explored.

Ocean components are also connected to one another like a puzzle. You have to understand about sea currents, waves, ocean bathymetry, and temperatures in one place to understand why such a feature is existing in a regional level. It’s so much fun.”

These impressive young women certainly serve as an inspiration to the next generations of marine biologists, and we are pleased they can bring their Nansen experiences back with them to their universities, research institutes and ministries.

We hope you will join us for the imminent launch of the new Nansen in Oslo, Norway next month, and that you’ll follow our survey voyages and the scientists on board through upcoming Nansen blogs.

The Nansen project is the perfect example of how people and oceans are inextricably linked, and we are very proud to continue building the capacity of a new generation of marine researchers and scientists who can help us conserve our valuable ocean resources through their work in their home countries.

Nansen scientists get a taxonomy lesson on their survey voyage.
The hours are long, but the scientists enjoy some down-time between trawls.
Scientists gathering fish after the trawl off the coast of Northwest Africa.
Work on board can be grueling, and rough seas like this don’t make the research any easier for Nansen scientists.

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