A life-size floating university
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The RESILIENCE campaign is the site of an important innovation as for the first time, the Marion Dufresne is taking on board a floating university for the 35 days at sea.
21 Master’s students from the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, the Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale, the Université Côte d’Azur, and the Nelson Mandela University (South Africa) will be supervised to experience life-size scientific work and experimental manipulations.
A life-size scientific experiment
The aim of creating a floating university on board the Marion Dufresne, a legendary ship on its 237th oceanographic mission, was to offer students from various oceanographic research disciplines (chemistry, biology, marine ecology and conservation sciences) a life-size scientific experience: close to the researchers, benefiting from their respective expertise and being accompanied on a daily basis in this experience at sea. During the 35-day campaign, the students had the opportunity to join the various teams on board and participate in the work, sampling and analysis in the laboratory, as well as in the visual observations of birds and marine mammals.
Visits to the ship were organised to discover the different scientific instruments permanently deployed, such as echo sounders, located above the ship’s hull, and the ferrybox, thermosalinograph etc. During these visits, the students were also able to visit the storage areas, which are generally limited in access and contain a wide variety of equipment for the scientists and for the maintenance of the ship. Finally, the crew was able to give the students tours of the machinery (water pumping systems, engines, heating systems etc.) and to demonstrate in more detail the operation of an oceanographic vessel.
But the commitment is mutual between the scientific teams and the students. The latter go far beyond a few observations and help with logistics. In particular, they have just made themselves indispensable during the last leg, when the scientific team experienced cases of Covid with strict confinement imposed. The students were able to take over the vacant scientific posts so that the research work was not affected. Seawater sampling at the CTD stations was carried out entirely by the students, under the supervision of their supervisors of course.
Communicating ‘live’ about oceanography
In addition to the active participation of the students in the scientific activities, they ensure most of the communication on board and to the general public, in particular thanks to the organisation of scientific seminars, a daily and popularised restitution of the activities carried out on board, summaries on the methods, the tools used and the jobs encountered within the teams.
These communication and scientific popularisation products are used to feed different media as the campaign progresses: the project website, posters, social networks such as twitter or instagram (@uf_resilience).
They are essential to enhance a collective and collaborative experience at sea with as many people as possible. Showing the behind-the-scenes of a campaign and telling the story of what goes on there is an effective way to inspire, or at least to generate a wider interest in marine science among the younger generation.
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