Two University of New Orleans researchers spent time in West Africa this summer as part of the Coastal Ocean Environment Summer School in Ghana (COESSING). Ebenezer Nyadjro and Madeline Foster-Martinez lectured, conducted hands-on labs and led project teams for the school, which serves undergraduates, graduate and faculty participants from across that country.
Since 2015, a group of ocean experts from the U.S., Italy and France has teamed up with colleagues in Ghana to run the weeklong intensive summer school that is designed to increase interest and build knowledge capacity in coastal and oceanography research.
Nyadjro, an assistant professor of research in the physics department at UNO and a native of Ghana, has taught satellite oceanography since the school’s inception.
Foster-Martinez, a postdoctoral research associate in the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, has spent three summers in Ghana pursuing her interest in coastal research by teaching about wetlands and coastal ecosystems and leading a laboratory exercise on plastic transport in the ocean.
The 2019 summer school was held Aug. 5-10 at Regional Maritime University in Accra, Ghana and attracted 350 applicants for the 120 available spots. The participants at the school, which is free, are mainly from Ghana and Nigeria, but others are from Benin, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.
Ghana’s location on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa gives it access to resources such as fisheries, tourism, and oil and gas, but bordering an ocean and having a coastline also brings challenges, Nyadjro said, such as coastal erosion, pollution and piracy.
“There has been limited formal research to understand how people co-exist with, and sustainably use these resources in West Africa,” Nyadjro said. “COESSING was established to help expand the interest and expertise in coastal and ocean research.”
The school offered lectures on a range of subjects in the morning, including wetlands, satellite oceanography, plastic transports in the ocean and Gulf of Guinea oceanography. In the afternoon, hands-on laboratory exercises were conducted on those subjects and participants were taught where and how to obtain data for their research work, as well as how to process and analyze the data.
The school, which receives funding from the National Science Foundation, the University of Michigan, and The International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy, was started by University of Michigan professor Brian Arbic.
“COESSING is important because it provides an opportunity for new experiences,” Foster-Martinez said. “For some participants, it is their first time studying topics like satellite oceanography, hydrography or ocean modeling. For others, it may be their first time programming for data analysis, using oceanographic instruments or going on a boat.
“The school also provides the opportunity to network and build future collaborations.”
Nyadjro and Foster-Martinez said the summer school has been a success because it has helped many budding scientists in the sub-region to develop their research skills in coastal processes and oceanography.
After the summer session, the facilitators keep in touch with the participants, and help them acquire and analyze data for their studies and dissertations.