When I get asked – what are you studying? what is your job? what is your internship? – and I reply – Oceanography–, I very often get the reply – Ah! fish, right? –, and then when I say specifically Physical Oceanography...you sometimes get a poker face reaction, because they have never heard of Argo buoys or gliders for example. There are thousands of oceanographic instruments in the ocean which make it possible to obtain information about temperature, salinity and even oxygen and chlorophyll. This information is later used to determine the speed and trajectories of ocean currents, the best fishing areas, how heat is transported by the oceans...
During my Marine Science degree which I studied at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, some fellow students and I felt the need to make known the environmental problems we were discovering and focusing on in our lectures. As I advanced my studies I was able to collaborate with various research centres and associations related to the marine environment. This made my interest in Physical Oceanography and raising awareness of marine sciences grow, especially on seeing the impact of some of the activities others were running and which we were able to participate in.
It was at a congress were I heard about the 'Follow the Glider' project, being carried out by ICTS (Singular Scientific Technical Infrastructures) SOCIB (Coastal Observation and Forecasting System for the Balearic Isles). I thought it was a very interesting project for bringing science closer to the people.
So this was how I decided to spend the holidays between the first and second year of my Masters degree which I am studying for at Brest (France), in the area of Marine Physics. I took an internship at the SOCIB and IMEDEA (Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies) department of science outreach.
During the month of July I learnt more about 'Follow the Glider', since I was able to go over the teaching material they had (in Catalan, Spanish and English), for the purposes of a workshop about the project. A very interesting aspect is that the data collected by the gliders is adapted so that secondary school pupils can monitor the glider and view the data via the program's web page (www.followtheglider.socib.es). This workshop is also useful for introducing different Physical Oceanography concepts through various activities such as: the effect of temperature and salinity on seawater, thermohaline circulation or the phenomenon of upwelling.
Another interesting project which I collaborated with was the 'Sea Suitcase', within the project «Medclick: the Mediterranean in one click». This is a joint project between La Obra Social "la Caixa" and SOCIB, which intends not only to make advances in Marine Scientific Research, but also to ensure the results obtained reach society. My job consisted in making a guide of the project and a series of activities which can be carried out by students at their centres (schools and colleges). I thought this was very interesting and useful as it provides schools with the tools for use in demonstrations and/or scientific experiments which otherwise, in many cases, they would not be able to allocate the resources for. The 'suitcase' will also include activities relating to other fields of SOCIB projects, such as beach monitoring.
During my experience preparing activities I discovered other projects that SOCIB runs (like the Bluefin Tuna programme or the OASIS project with turtles and gliders), as well as learning about the infrastructures such as the beach monitoring systems, the HF coastal radars and the gliders, amongst others. I was also able to see the importance of the work being carried out by the SOCIB department of Public Information: outreach services, which adapts the complex studies and scientific projects they undertake so that everyone (scientists and non-scientists) and especially children and young people can understand the work they do.
Now I have completed my internship I am even more sure that outreach is a vital aspect of research as an intrinsic part of scientific activities. It has also made me realize that it is no easy task, since very often it is necessary to simplify complex scientific concepts, whilst making them fun and interesting.
The second part of my internship was with IMEDEA, a joint research centre of the University of the Balearic Isles (UIB) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). Here I worked with the SWOT simulator (Surface Water Ocean Topography) developed by NASA. The SWOT will be a satellite which NASA and CNES (French space agency) intend to launch in to space in 2020. This satellite will provide data about the sea surface height at a very high resolution, this data will be very useful for observing ocean eddies, and will be of great importance when it comes to knowing the location of nutrients and consequently fish. The simulator generates data very similar to that which the satellite will be providing soon and therefore allows us to study how to process this data.
Finally I would like to thank the members of SOCIB and IMEDEA with whom I worked. Sometimes I needed their help and they were always willing to provide this. I would like to thank Joaquín Tintoré, the director of SOCIB, for giving me the opportunity of working with the team as an intern. Also my tutors Àngels Garau (SOCIB) and Evan Mason (IMEDEA), a huge thank you for all you have shown me and for the time you have invested in so doing. Thanks to Ananda Pascual who was responsible for making this internship possible, and who has taken care to oversee everything went well. Finally, you who are reading this, for taking the time and effort to reach this point.