GMIT scientist on international RV Polarstern expedition to Cape Town


Press Office

Date Article Written: 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The research vessel RV Polarstern arrived in Cape Town on Tuesday, 1 December, after a five-week voyage from Germany during which 32 international young scientists were trained in how to observe and measure the vital signs of the Atlantic Ocean on the North South Atlantic transect (NoSoAT).

These young people from 19 different countries including eight students from Ireland were sponsored by the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) based in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO) and the Nippon Foundation in a concerted effort to increase ocean going training and build capacity for marine research.

“The North South Atlantic Transect has been an incredible opportunity for students from across the globe to traverse the Atlantic Ocean on the world-renowned research vessel RV Polarstern and receive on the job training with marine scientists from across Ireland and Germany. Along the way students have collected and analysed data on everything from microalgae diversity and ocean dynamics, to satellite remote sensing of sea surface temperature” said Dr Pauhla McGrane, Coordinator of SMART.

“Given that Ireland has an underwater territory ten times its land mass it is imperative that we continue to train and produce skilled and experienced graduates capable of researching and sustainably managing this amazing resource for future generations” she says.

Prof Karen Wiltshire, Vice President of AWI and Chair of POGO, says “The Atlantic Ocean with its definite biogeographical gradients in temperature and salinity as well as its zones of upwelling is an integral part of our planet´s acclimatization system. With the backdrop of climate change and an increasing El Niño signature it is imperative to know how our ocean functions.  We therefore need the ships, the instrumentation and, most importantly, well-educated scientists all over the world to secure the ocean’s future for our planet.”

NoSoAT follows on from the Atlantic Summer School held in 2014 on-board the Irish Research Vessel RV Celtic Explorer, which investigated deep cold water coral ecosystems off the Porcupine Bank, again building capacity in offshore marine research.

La Daana Kanhai, a Doctoral student originally from Trinidad and Tobago and now studying at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, says: “The 2015 NoSoAT floating university has been an absolutely amazing opportunity for a young scientist such as myself to receive hands-on training in the field of biological oceanography from a team of enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable marine scientists. Apart from the training, the networks that were formed among the young scientists onboard is something which I think will be invaluable and will foster collaborative research in the future.”

Annette Wilson, a PhD student from NUI Galway, adds: “We, as young scientists need as much practical experience as possible, and ship board training on a professional vessel like the RV Polarstern is the perfect training method.”

Seán Lynch, a Masters student from University College Cork, adds: “This is an innovative ocean learning experience which includes team building, supervised by professionals. This will serve to increase the overall professionalism of future ocean-going scientists”.

Thirty-two young ocean scientists from all corners of the Earth will return home to their countries with new gained experiences. All will have contributed to the ocean data base required for Global Ocean Observation and advancement of climate modeling, securing our planet’s future.

For further information on The Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) and its partners, see: or contact Dr Pauhla McGrane, National Coordinator, SMART, GMIT, Dublin Road, Galway.Mobile: +353 (0)87 950 0911 E: