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Practical Training Course On-board R/V Urania

Messina, Italy; July 4-9, 2014

Photo 1. The R/V Urania and some activities carried out on board the vessel during the Eurofleets onboard training course (July 2014).

On January 2014 CNR it was obtained confirmation that four days of the Urania ship-time would be dedicated to the on-board training course: July 5th to 8th, with departure and arrival in Messina harbour, Sicily island, Italy.
Additionally, the possibility to include trainers from the WP7 group was discussed, as well as, to extend the course, on land, before and after the cruise, for a previous introduction to the course and the vessel (the day before), and to finalize the data processing and the Cruise Report (the day after).
By mid April the call for application was published on the Eurofleets2 website and publicized in more than other 10 scientific sites, with deadline May 23rd 2014. More than 60 on-line applications have been received. The evaluation of the applications was made by three different institutions (CNR - Italy, Marine Institute - Ireland, and Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) - Estonia) and 12 students were finally selected, based on experience, motivation and background.
Prior to the course one of selected students withdrew her participation, thus, the course was attended by 11 students from 10 countries: Spain (2), Turkey (1), Ghana (1), Tunisia (1), Greece (2), Germany (1), United Kingdom (1), Portugal (1), Italy (1).



The course was organized on 6 days, started the 4th and ended the 9th of July in Messina harbour. The days on land were organized in a hotel  courtesy room (before the cruise), and by the CNR Institute for Coastal Marine Environment, which hosted all students and trainers in the nearby headquarter.

This practical ship-based training course was designed to enable European postgraduates and graduate students to acquire the basic practical skills necessary to conduct offshore multidisciplinary marine science research through the core disciplines of physical and biological oceanography, benthic ecology and marine geophysics. Training focused on integrating these disciplines to provide a multidisciplinary ecosystem approach in managing the Marine environment.

Prior to the course some materials including practical information, timetable, and bibliography related to the "study area" were made available for the students.

On the first two days of training students were introduced to the operational features of the R/V Urania and to the Marine Environment of the Mediterranean Sea and its sub-basins: the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ionian Sea, and the connecting channels. The survey plan and data collection and sampling breakdown was also presented and discussed with students. An overview of discipline-specific sampling methodologies, equipment, instrumentation and other considerations for designing a multidisciplinary survey were given in a series of brief presentations and these were followed by practical sessions demonstrating the methods and techniques used by each discipline to collect samples and acquire data. Meanwhile the ship sailed toward the study area.

Photo 2. Eurofleets2 course participants and instructors onboard the research vessel Urania (August 2014).

On the third and forth days Urania reached the study area and the multidisciplinary research survey on a 24 hours operations basis started with practical activities. Students were requested to operate software and instrumentations under supervision of trainers. They were divided into teams to ensure sufficient coverage over the different activities and disciplines at each sampling station.

After they followed some presentations on basic topics, the students created their plane sampling using charts and calculating time navigation and operation. During sea operations they worked over 24 hours in shifts of 4 + 4 hours, carrying out: CTD and water sampling with rosettes; analysis of oxygen, salinity, nutrients and phytoplankton; net vertical zooplankton; grab samples of benthos; display data from ADCP, LADCP, chirp and multibeam. During the campaign historical transects were taken into consideration, in order to monitor a water mass exchange choke points transect. The transect between Sicily and Sardinia was chosen to study the inflow and outflow of Atlantic Water and Levantine Water, which are crucial to observe the water inflow from the Eastern to the Western Mediterranean. The campaign also aimed to collect useful data in order to continue Cal/Val (Calibration/Validation) activities.

On the last two days, during the transfer back to Messina, the post processing phase and analysis of the results began. Students divided into teams worked up the data, compared them with historical one, corrected measurements with results from samples. At the Messina CNR headquarter the student finalised the cruise report. At the end of the activities, all the students received the certificates on the completion of the practical training course.