The UWI Mona Campus hosts participants from the ‘One Ocean Expedition’ research vessel

Participants aboard the Norwegian, Statsraad Lehmkuhl research vessel which docked at Jamaica’s Port Royal earlier this month, were hosted by The University of the West Indies (The UWI) Mona Campus on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

The 33 visiting students and lecturers who are on the One Ocean Expedition led by University of Bergen (UiB), toured the Mona Campus’ Port Royal Marine Laboratory, then participated in an organised Knowledge Exchange Forum.

Mona Campus point and lead organiser, Dr. Suzanne E Palmer, Lecturer in the Department of Life Sciences and Academic Coordinator at the Port Royal Marine Laboratory described, “It was an inspiring day of knowledge exchange and discussions between international students and lecturers of the One Ocean Field Course and those from the Faculty of Science and Technology here at UWI. We are very much looking forward to building out the partnership with the University of Bergen and colleagues.”

The group comprised postgraduate students from Norway, USA, Canada, Spain, Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands, together with two students from The UWI Mona, Jamaica: Chauntelle Green and Deron Maitland. They are enrolled as sailing trainees on the ‘floating university’ for three weeks studying ocean sciences. The programme employs active learning methods together with discussions on the consequences and sustainable solutions to climate change. They are being led by an interdisciplinary team of lecturers from the University of Bergen, Scripps/University of California San Diego, University of Washington, University of Texas at Austin, Stanford University, and McGill University.

The tour of the Port Royal Marine Laboratory was led by Dr Palmer and Mr. Hugh Small, the Lab’s Chief Scientific Officer. It included a visit to its scuba diving facilities and the mangrove nursery which underpin current research projects in coral reef and mangrove restoration.

The Forum was held at Science Lecture Theatre 3 in the Faculty of Science and Technology. Students from the research vessel who completed a One Ocean Field Course webinar series, which ran from September-October 2021, presented their project findings on historical ocean data (including The UWI’s Chauntelle Green), sea-level change in the Caribbean (including The UWI’s Deron Maitland), hurricanes in the Caribbean, and marine fishable resources (Spiny Lobster).

Postgraduate research students from Mona’s Department of Life Sciences, Department of Geography and Geology, Department of Chemistry, and the Department of Physics also showcased their MPhil and PhD research in marine and climate sciences. This included research on microplastics in mangroves, long-term records of hurricanes and pollution, carbon storage in mangroves, coastal and marine nature-based solutions, coral reef health and water quality, and seagrass ecology.

Professor Michael Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology delivering remarks at the Forum on behalf of Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona, Prof. Dale Webber, stated that “the One Ocean Expedition is an effective way to mark the beginning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. This expedition is an opportunity for people across the globe to achieve a deeper understanding of the importance of the ocean in sustaining life on this planet.”

The UWI, Professor Taylor said, has articulated several strategic objectives under its Triple A Strategic Plan. Among these objectives are the improvement of the quality and quantity of our research and increasing our partnerships.

Commenting on The UWI and UiB formalising ongoing collaborations with the signing of an MOU on November 13, Professor Taylor said it lays the groundwork for an exchange of faculty, students, research ideas and data. Noting that Norway has a history as a maritime nation, he stated that “this expedition is one way of leveraging that strength for global good as opportunities for collaboration and learning are created onboard and onshore.

“As Small Island Developing State (SIDS), we have unique perspectives because of our experiences of the ravages of climate change due to environmental degradation. By combining our strengths through our research, we can amplify the call for urgent action to reduce carbon emissions and increase financing for environmental protection initiatives,” Professor Taylor said.

Speaking at the Forum, Pro Vice-Chancellor Global Affairs, Dr. Stacy Kennedy said The UWI’s participation in the One Ocean Expedition is “a story about the resilience of The UWI in the face of adversity and challenges brought on by the pandemic. It is a story of interconnectedness, not only of the SDGs, life on land, land below water, and climate action, but also the interconnectedness of our regions when it comes to ocean science and marine conservation.” Highlighting the importance of this partnership between the two universities, she further stated, “It is the story of unwavering commitment to partnerships driven by purpose and passion…a passion for knowledge, research, for the application of our research and for global advocacy particularly when it comes to the challenges facing Caribbean islands that have to confront the devastating impact of climate change.”

Professor Kerim Nisancioglu, Professor of Climate Dynamics at the Department of Earth Science at the University of Bergen and the coordinator of the One Ocean Field Course webinar series spoke to the formation of the relationship between The UWI and University of Bergen, noting that it was born out of “a collaboration through the International Association of Universities, which is a global alliance of educational institutions which have committed to working together to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030.”

After being docked in Jamaica for four days, the 107-year old, 98-metre long Statsraad Lehmkukl set sail again on Wednesday, November 16.

Its historic 55,000-mile, One Ocean Expedition continues towards Havana, Cuba, Nassau, Bahamas and then New York, before turning again and sailing south, along South America, then to its Pacific leg. The UWI Mona postgraduate students aboard the vessel, Deron Maitland and Chauntelle Green will disembark in Nassau, Bahamas.

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