Marine master’s students design their own expedition

Carrying out a marine project from start to finish and planning and implementing an expedition with the Skagerak research vessel has been a challenge for master’s students in the course Marine Project–From Idea to Action.
‘This masters course is different from previous courses I attended at the University of Gothenburg and more focused on leveraging our knowledge and ability to work independently’, says Fredrik Ryderheim, one of the 18 master’s students taking the course.

It’s the final seminar and day of the presentation. Master’s students at the 15-credit course Marine Project–From Idea to Action gathered in a classroom at the Earth Sciences Centre, facing each other and instructor David Turner, talk about results and experiences from the marine project they designed and implemented.

Before the final part of the course, the students were divided into three groups. Each group has been out with Skagerak examining the condition of Byfjorden and Havstensfjorden.

With the aid of graphics and pictures in PowerPoint, group after group reports on the methods and results from test samplings they had prepared in advance and then performed in Byfjorden and Havstensfjorden during one day in October. A steady stream of questions and answers in the classroom. All the students take part in the discussion of structures, methods and ways of evaluating the results.
‘The master’s students have planned their projects themselves’, says David Turner, professor of marine chemistry. ‘Each group has had use of Skagerak during a full day and has taken about 50 water samples in Byfjorden and Havstensfjorden. They told the captain where he should go and where water samples were to be taken.’

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The course offers students hands-on experience.

The water samples were then analysed for nutrients, such as nitrates, phosphates, silicates and ammonia, while the CTD profiles provided more detailed information on factors like temperature and oxygen content. One of several conclusions they reached is that Havstensfjorden is saltier in its depths than Byfjorden and also richer in oxygen.

An account of the projects has already appeared in the formal group reports, which highlighted the project planning, samplings, calculations and analyses of what worked well and what worked less well. But individual scientific reports have also been submitted. And the written reports have been supplemented with oral statements.

When the last group reported on its project and the PowerPoint was turned off, a faint aroma of coffee wafted into the classroom. Time for ‘fika’, a coffee break with sandwiches, and a discussion about the course as a whole gets started. Almost half the students are from other countries. Artemis Karlatou Charalampopoulou is from Greece. She appreciates the way the course links the education with outside society.
‘It has been very exciting to work together on the research vessel, but it has also been valuable to learn how we can partner with businesses and government agencies. We’ve visited SMHI (the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) and the County Administrative Board, but I would have liked additional study trips.’

During the first part of the course, each project group had a mentor to turn to. It’s the second time the master’s course Marine Project–From Idea to Action has been offered, and David Turner feels the mentor portion is something that can be improved. The students have found that it has been difficult for the mentors to be available when necessary. Otherwise, they are happy with the way the course was structured.
‘It’s refreshing to not only have the lectures. The course also has given me ideas for my master’s thesis’, one of the students says.

Students Fredrik Ryderheim and Artemis Karlatou Charalampopoulou both appreciate the way the course links the education with outside society. One of several conclusions the students reached is that Havstensfjorden is saltier in its depths than Byfjorden and also richer in oxygen.

Students Fredrik Ryderheim and Artemis Karlatou Charalampopoulou
both appreciate the way the course links the education with outside society. One of several conclusions the students reached is that Havstensfjorden is saltier in its depths than Byfjorden and also richer in oxygen.

Turner is glad that the course has become so international.
‘Our aim was to also attract international students. About half of all master’s students have been enrolled in our undergraduate programme, but the remainder come from countries such as Germany, England and Vietnam.’

Master’s student Frederick Ryderheim has previously taken courses at other universities.
‘The most fun thing we did when I studied ecology in Lund was a trip to the forest. Here I spent a week on Tjärnö island and one in Kristineberg, and now I’ve gone on an expedition with Skagerak. You learn a lot, and I feel very privileged.’