Celebrating marine offshore research at SAEON
By Dr Mary-Jane Bopape, Managing Director, NRF-SAEON
By Dr Mary-Jane Bopape, Managing Director, NRF-SAEON
For this issue, I would like to celebrate marine offshore research that is being undertaken at SAEON. This follows the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) awards ceremony that took place on 13 July, with the 2023 theme of ocean science for sustainable development.
Prof Juliet Hermes, founding manager of the Egagasini Node for marine-offshore research, was a finalist in two categories: Lifetime Award and Special Theme Award for her achievements in the field of oceanography. Juliet, who joined SAEON in 2007, is also the manager of the South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI) hosted by SAEON. SAPRI is one of the thirteen research infrastructures (RIs) of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR).
Ocean modelling is one of the areas of expertise that exists in the node through SOMISANA. This Sepedi word means “working together” and is short for Sustainable Ocean Modelling Initiative. The initiative aims to leverage global advancements in modelling and to develop regional ocean models that run with higher resolution than that affordable for global models. Local capacity means models can be adapted to work better for the surrounding oceans, taking advantage of available observations for data assimilation and verification purposes.
Output from these models can help researchers understand ocean processes better, assist with decision making in the blue economy and inform policy development. The initiative also seeks to develop technical expertise in South Africa and beyond. A training workshop focused on the Coastal and Regional Ocean Community (CROCO) is planned for November 2023. The ocean modelling team members are Dr Jennifer Veitch, Dr Giles Fearon and Mr Nkululeko Memela. More information about the programme can be obtained here.
Prof Juliet Hermes, founding manager of the Egagasini Node, was a finalist in two categories of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Awards for her achievements in the field of oceanography
The first Field Guide to the Offshore Marine Invertebrates of South Africa, compiled with leadership from Dr Lara Atkinson, is a result of many surveys and can assist the community to identify over 400 species of invertebrates
One of the pleasant gifts I received when joining SAEON, was the first Field Guide to the Offshore Marine Invertebrates of South Africa, both in digital and hard copy format. The field guide was compiled with leadership from Dr Lara Atkinson. This publication was a culmination of work that started in 2011 with the implementation of SAEON’s long-term offshore invertebrate monitoring programme, undertaken in collaboration with other government departments and entities. The photograph-based guide is a result of many surveys and can assist the community to identify over 400 species of invertebrates.
Surveys have not stopped since the publication of the guide. From 23 May to 1 June 2023, SAEON successfully led a research survey on the west coast of South Africa onboard the R/V Ellen Khuzwayo, during which 21 stations were surveyed using the towed seabed camera, SkiMonkey, and the drop camera in eight different ecosystems. Specimens were collected for barcoding through the FBIP (Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme) SeaMap large grant project. This research survey provided the first at-sea capacity building for the majority of the scientific team to gain experience in operations of the towed camera and in dredging and processing specimens for barcoding.
Another aspect of the node is its internationalisation. One of the SAEON highlights of the previous quarter is the hosting of the 8th SA Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG) meeting in Cape Town on 19 April. The meeting was attended by ~40 participants, with most attendees being from designated groups. This included stakeholders from institutions such as Unisa, North-West University and various government departments and entities.
A BRICS project focused on ocean modelling was awarded in the previous BRICS round of calls. The project includes all five BRICS countries, focuses on validation, intercomparing and publication of global forecast systems, as well as on capacity building. Juliet serves in several international committees, including in the Africa task force to contribute to the implementation of the UNESCO Ocean Decade Roadmap, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Climate and Ocean: Variability, Predictability and Change (CLIVAR).
In my previous message on science engagement, I indicated the active involvement of the node in science engagement, including Thomas Mtontsi’s involvement with the Marine and Coastal Educators Network (MCEN).
I have selected just a few activities and achievements of the Egagasini Node since its inception. Both the node and SAPRI are continuing to grow. Four SAPRI coordinators joined SAEON in the previous quarter for each of the integrated facilities namely Data, Products and Society (DPS), Terrestrial Long-Term Observations (LTO-Land), Ocean Long-Term Observations (LTO-Ocean) and Polar Lab. I expect SAPRI to achieve exponential growth in the next few months to years.
Earlier this year, SAEON led a research survey on the west coast of South Africa onboard the R/V Ellen Khuzwayo, during which 21 stations were surveyed using the towed seabed camera SkiMonkey (pictured here), and the drop camera in eight different ecosystems
The South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI) hosted by SAEON is one of the 13 research infrastructures of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap