Anchors Away- CAPSTAN voyage 2!

The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected –UNESCO Ocean Literacy Principle 6

All CAPSTAN students and trainers participating in the 2019 voyage gather in front of RV Investigator before boarding the ship in Hobart.
The 2019 CAPSTAN Team gathers for a photo in front of RV Investigator before boarding the ship in Hobart.
  • Did you know ~85 % of Australian’s live with in the coastal fringe?
  • Did you know the Australian Blue Economy is estimated to be worth $100 BILLION per year by 2025 with an additional $25 BILLION in ecosystem services? Despite this rapidly expanding market, less than 3% of higher degree research (masters, PhD) projects have an explicit marine science focus.
  • Did you know most of the oxygen we breath comes is produced by phytoplankton (little tiny floating plants in the ocean)?
The south coast of Tasmania peaks through the clouds as RV Investigator continues its transit to our first station.
The south coast of Tasmania peaks through the clouds as RV Investigator continues its transit to our first station.

I’m back on board RV Investigator for the second CAPSTAN (Collaborative Australian Post-graduate Sea Training Alliance Network) voyage. The goal of the program is to provide students interested in marine science hands-on interdisciplinary experience with the state-of-the-art blue water research facilities on board RV Investigator. Through the experience, students gain science communication skills, discipline specific skills training, and begin to understand the connections between the chemistry, geology, physics, and biology within the ocean as well as the connections between the oceans and society.

Throughout the voyage I’ll be posting from my perspective as Director of CAPSTAN this week, but I encourage you to also hear about the voyage from the student’s perspectives (check them out at the CAPSTAN blog).

Two students and one trainer sit in front of the computer monitors in the operations room on board RV Investigator to discuss written and electronic logging as well as geophysical data collection.
Students Sian and Bella in the geophysics/operations orientation learning from one of our CAPSTAN trainer James about logging all deployments and assessing geophysical data to determine study locations.

This year we have 18 students on board, representing universities from every Australian State. Our trainers cover geology, geophysics, physical oceanography, geochemistry, and biology. We started the program a bit differently this year than in the first program (2017), with a two day on-shore workshop to get to know the participants and cover some basic material before moving on board the ship. All of our students and trainers introduced themselves, including their background and their current research interests. On shore, we heard about the ocean circulation in the Great Australian Bight, how microfossils can help us learn from the sediment record, upwelling regions and their connections to biogeochemistry, and the connectedness of marine systems.

CAPSTAN students and trainers gather on the deck of RV Investigator with life jackets and hard hats during a muster drill on the first day of the voyage.
CAPSTAN participants gather during a muster drill on the first day at sea.

Knowing the team before boarding the ship seemed to make the adjustment a bit easier, and let the students have a more relaxed couple of days to find their sea legs. As always with field work, safety first. As soon as the ship was away from the wharf, it was time for our muster drill. You can think of this as the at-sea equivalent of a fire drill, the emergency alarm sounds along with a ‘this is a drill’ announcement and everyone is to take their safety gear and gather at a designated location (the ‘muster station’). At the muster station, one of the ship’s officers takes roll call and then provides further instructions.

Students watch as MNF support staff demonstrate the features of the hydrochemistry laboratory.
CAPSTAN students learn about the equipment in RV Investigator’s hydrochemistry laboratory from MNF Support Staff.

With our safety drills and ship tours completed, it was time for the science to start! Students began rotations between 5 areas on board 1) geophysics and operations, 2) mammal and bird surveying, 3) hydrochemistry, 4) sedimentology, and 5) plankton. With a 2 day steam to the first station, the first few shifts are mainly learning the ropes. Trainers and MNF support staff work with the small groups of students to learn proper recording protocols, go over what they may expect to see, and work through what would happen once the samples were on deck. Those who have their sea legs have begun to explore and many have discovered the best views are from Monkey Island (very top deck) and the bridge. Everyone is excited to start getting samples!

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