GEBCO/Nippon Foundation Trains World’s Ocean Scientists at UNH
GEBCO (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) is the only international organization with the mandate to map the entire World Ocean, providing the most authoritative, publicly-available bathymetric (a kind of underwater topography) datasets for the world’s ocean floor. A largely volunteer-driven organization, GEBCO operates in affiliation with the International Hydrographic Organization and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. UNH also plays a key role—by hosting a deep-ocean mapping training program, enhancing participants’ theoretical knowledge and practical skill sets for ocean mapping.
UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center was selected, after a competitive selection process involving universities in five countries, to host the Nippon Foundation/GEBCO Postgraduate Ocean Bathymetry training program in 2004, and has hosted ever since. Each year, the intensive one- year program provides six international scholars with the necessary skills to forge a career in deep-ocean mapping and is the only one of its kind in the world.
Since the World Ocean is so vast, international cooperation is essential and the program includes the development of networks that link the scholars with other ocean mappers worldwide. The impact of the training as well as the intensive interaction with international colleagues is profound. For, Xinh Le Sy, a current participant from Vietnam, it is a life transforming program: “It made my new dreams come true. Here at UNH, I found possible solutions for what I and my department at Vietnam Maritime University were struggling with for years.”
Eunice Tetteh, from Ghana, appreciates the community of participants and teachers. “Being a GEBCO scholar puts me into the network of an already big family of experts doing a diversity of work to show the world the great benefit that we can derive from the world's oceans.”
GEBCO/Nippon Foundation scholars study alongside other postgraduate students at CCOM and are required to meet the University’s course requirements for its Certificate in Ocean Mapping. In addition, scholars complete at least two additional courses including geological oceanography and a hands-on, six-week hydrographic field course in early summer. Most students also serve on a research cruise to allow them to observe and personally engage in active deep ocean data collection.
More than 95% of the 54 GEBCO scholars are still actively engaged in ocean mapping in their home countries. In addition, to the delight of GEBCO and the Nippon Foundation, a group of alumni of the program are leading a regional project to generate a new bathymetric grid and map for the Indian Ocean.
Karolina Chorzewska, a Polish scholar, sums up the experience for many of the program’s participants: “The GEBCO training project is a fine example of how to combine extremely hard work in a unique branch of science with a great deal of fun— in the company of representatives of vastly different cultures, working in harmony and with common passion.”