#02 2024

Coastal and Regional Ocean Community Model Workshop attended by participants from around the world

By Nkululeko Memela and Jennifer Veitch, Egagasini Node, NRF-SAEON

The second Coastal and Regional Ocean Community Model (CROCO) summer school, organised by Lionel Renault (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) and Jennifer Veitch (South African Environmental Observation Network) was hosted at the Centre for High Performance Computing in Stellenbosch. 

The first week focused on teaching participants the basics of ocean modelling using the CROCO ocean modelling system, while the second was geared towards more advanced users with a focus on ocean-atmospheric and ocean-biogeochemical coupling. The summer school welcomed 30 participants from various institutes around South Africa, Africa and around the world and was run by nine leading experts in the CROCO ocean modelling system.

The CROCO summer school welcomed 30 participants from various institutes around South Africa, Africa and around the world.

Nkululeko Memela, a junior ocean modeller at NRF-SAEON’s Egagasini Node and a second-time participant, shares his perspectives on the summer school: 

Getting a second chance at the CROCO summer school was a real privilege. Last year, I dipped my toes into the basics course, and this time I dived into both the basics and advanced courses. Being a junior ocean modeller at SAEON, this program holds a special place for me – it served as my introduction to ocean modelling, a field that seemed elusive without this opportunity. The training it offers is on a level hardly found elsewhere in the country, even within the university system.

Hosted by SAEON and featuring experts from France in ocean and atmospheric modelling, the CROCO summer school is more than just a training session, it is a significant initiative to bridge the gap in advanced modelling skills in the geographical south, especially southern Africa. It offers a unique chance for graduate students and professionals from the global South to enhance their modelling skills. I had some great conversations with fellow participants, and it was heartening to find that their experiences resonated with mine.

Many attendees expressed their excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to network with peers in the ocean science field. Swaabow Thapelo from the Botswana International University of Science and Technology, for instance, said the CROCO summer school exceeded his expectations. With a background in computer science, he now envisions weaving his expertise into ocean and atmospheric modelling to create AI solutions for regional challenges – a perspective that stood out, considering his limited exposure to ocean sciences.

Mthetho Sovara from the Centre for High Performance Computing mentioned that he joined the program for dual purposes. He aimed to upskill himself in applying the data (perform research) housed on the large supercomputer hosted by CSIR and to better support modelling researchers by understanding the intricacies of ocean models.

In a chat with Ramontsheng Rapolaki, he shared his enthusiasm about finally having the opportunity to delve into ocean-atmospheric coupling – an advanced skill that brings together ocean and atmospheric science modelling. It involves understanding real-time interactions between these two crucial fields. Ramontsheng was a Professional Development Programme Postdoctoral Fellow at the Egagasini Node before becoming a lead ocean scientist at the South African Weather Service.

Lastly, Dr Azam Chowdhury from the University of Dhaka, an experienced researcher, expressed immense appreciation for the chance to approach his research on the monsoonal swings in the Bengal Gulf region from a different angle. These swings play a key role in the region’s seasonal cycle, making the insights gained during the workshop invaluable. Dr Azam is an impressive gentleman, and it was a pleasure to network with great individuals like these.

Dr Ramontsheng Rapolaki, a lead ocean scientist at the South African Weather Service, attended the workshop at the Centre for High Performance Computing.

Nkululeko Memela, a junior ocean modeller at SAEON’s Egagasini Node (right) with Dr Azam Chowdhury from Dhaka University in Bangladesh.

This training programme perfectly addresses the vision of the SOMISANA initiative led by the SAEON modelling team, which is to develop a critical mass of internationally recognised expert South African numerical ocean modellers who provide accurate information about the changing state of the ocean for enhanced impact.

I would like to express my gratitude to the programme conveners on behalf of all attendees, with a special vote of thanks to Dr Serena Illig, Dr Jennifer Veitch and Dr Lionel Renault.