Sampling with the next generation of marine scientists

CEI · Mar has organized a summer school on the analysis of metals in the oceans with 39 graduate students on board the ‘Intermares’ school vessel

While society begins to demand greater attention to the oceans, science continues to follow the path that oceanographers have traced since more than a hundred years now. Global climate mobilizations start to put pressure on international politics at the same time that a new generation of scientists, the best trained so far, is trying to enter in the global labour market with very limited resources.

They are the best brains on the planet to study the oceans, they all speak in English regardless of where they came from and, for now, they do not bother of gender differences, however: do they know where the data they will later study and use to define models to preserve the marine environment came from? The truth is that they often do not have the possibility of being trained on this basic part of the science to which they dedicate their lives.

To solve this, the GEOTRACES International Programme which is an extensive worldwide network of marine geochemists that follow accurate protocols to sample, analyse and share their trace metal knowledge and data, has chosen Cádiz to held its training programme through the ‘International Summer School GEOTRACES-Spain’.

The Campus of Excelencia del Mar (CEI · Mar) has taken over the coordination, with the support of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) through ICMAN-CSIC and the University of Cádiz (UCA). Moreover, several collaborating institutions have also participated: the Secretaría General de Pesca and the Spanish Navy have provided the school vessel where all the training has been carried out; and the Port Authority of the Cadiz Bay has facilitated the docking and supplies, among others.

The selection of participants was tough. Only the 39 best candidates under 40 years old from more than a hundred of applicants were selected. To attract them to Cadiz, coming from countries such as the United States, India, Brazil, Germany, among 15 other nationalities, the Summer School offered a series of sampling workshops on board the ‘Intermares’ vessel and a faculty composed of word-leading international experts. A list of scientific excellence: Bob Anderson (LDEO, Columbia University – USA); Catherine Jeandel (LEGOS, France); Reiner Schlitzer, Alfred Wegener Institut (AWI), Germany; Susanne Fietz (Stellenbosch University, South Africa); Eric Achterberg (GEOMAR, Germany); Maite Maldonado (British Columbia, Canada); Mohamed Adjou (Brtish Oceanographic Data Center,UK); Géraldine Sarthou (CNRS – France); Rob Middag (NIOZ, The Netherlands); José Antonio López (Universidad de Cádiz); and Antonio Tovar (ICMAN/CSIC Spain)… a very, very intense schedule remained.

Among the most exciting experiences of the summer school were the field sampling workshops on board of the ‘Intermares’ vessel. Every morning, after the master lecture, the vessel was heading to a point away from the Bay of Cádiz looking for 100 meters deep to submerge a rosette including eight bottles from which seawater samples were extracted. Each pair of students took a bottle and brought it to the laboratory installed on the ‘Intermares’ school vessel. In there they continued learning how to follow the strict GEOTRACES protocols that allows getting uncontaminated seawater samples.  Trace metals are available in very low concentrations in the ocean so any accidental addition may ruin the entire process. First, and dressed for the occasion, they entered in the “bubble”; a clean environment of particles and metals for a first extraction. Next, they went to the laminar flow hood, where the air was filtered in order that the samples were not contaminated with other particles when it is manipulated. From there, to the laboratory where marine students usually work whatever the place of the world in which his/her research institution is located.

Despite the intensity of the summer school, the strength of these young scientists made it possible to achieve the second objective of the course: establishing a working network that will last and become strong over time. All of them were representing the “crème de la crème” of the world-leading research groups in marine trace metals, not very abundant but key to the functioning of marine ecosystems.

The ‘International Summer School GEOTRACES Spain’ has been a great experience, a unique opportunity to see these students work and even more, to grow. They will be basing on their acquired knowledge to design and execute policies that truly preserve the oceans and improve the effects of global climate change. Thanks to the teamwork of all the organizations that have made it possible: GEOTRACES, Universidad de Cádiz, Scientific Committee on Ocean Research (SCOR), ICMAN-CSIC, Fundación CSIC, EIDEMAR, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; and Ministry of Defense. Each and every one of them has been necessary so that the next generation of marine scientists specialized in trace metal research receives a training of excellence.

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