Project SEREAD launched in the Pacific
Schools to help scientists understand oceans
SUVA, 7 March 2001 (IOI-Pacific Islands) – IOI-PI – A truly global collaboration has seen the launching of a new project on ocean observing system in the Pacific region, coordinated by the International Ocean Institute Operational Center for the Pacific Islands (IOI-PI).
The project known as the Scientific Educational Resources and Experience Associated with the Deployment of Argo Drifting Floats in the South Pacific Ocean (SEREAD) began with the formation of a steering committee in January 2001.
SEREAD members include the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Perth Regional Programme Office, Western Australia, the International Ocean Institute Headquarters (IOI) and IOI-PI, the New Zealand based National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), UNESCO Office in Apia, Samoa, the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO).
SEREAD aims to involve secondary school students from a number of Pacific Island countries in monitoring Argo floats, a submersible device that takes measurements of salinity and water temperature in the upper ocean. The schools will have an opportunity to name and “adopt” the floats.
Mr. Bill Erb, chairman of the SEREAD Steering Committee said SEREAD would allow Pacific Island students to contribute to global efforts in understanding ocean and climate issues. “SEREAD will generate substantial awareness and discussion among Pacific Island students, teachers and communities in subject such as global ocean observing systems, climate change, sea level rise, global warming and the local impacts of these dynamics”.
The first phase of the project involves the adoption of Argo floats by secondary schools.
“The students, who will be identified as ‘Argonauts’ might decide a name for the float and it could be marked accordingly”, says Professor Robin South of IOI-Pacific Islands, SEREAD Project Coordinator.
Three thousand Argo floats will be deployed worldwide and as many as 300 may be deployed in the South Pacific Ocean with some already being deployed. The float works by sinking to 2000 meters depth and will rise every ten days recording temperature and salinity profiles. The information is relayed via satellite and the float sinks back to repeat its cycle.
Professor South said that the movement of these floats will be tracked by using the Internet. “The schools that will be chosen must have access to the Internet”.
Pacific Island science teachers participating in SEREAD will be trained on the theory and purpose of float development, deployment and data gathering. The development of school curriculum materials as part of the project will be carried out by NIWA with assistance from IOI-Pacific Islands.
The information obtained from SEREAD and other Argo floats will help scientists to interpret ocean currents, weather patterns and other environmental issues such as sea level rise.
Unprecedented global coral bleaching experienced in 1997/1998 and the South Pacific Ocean bleaching last year highlighted our inability to predict these events. South stressed the lack of information on ocean currents is contributing to a void in most current climate assessments and prediction models.
The new Argonauts (students) will be able to observe the changes and understand the reasons behind these changes at a click of a button.
“We are also offering the opportunity for our Pacific Island students to interact with some of the leading scientists in the world. This will foster a global appreciation that we are no longer isolated islands at the mercy of climate changes”, says Dr Than Aung, the Project Leader from the Physics Department of the University of the South Pacific.
SEREAD is also an important part of the global ocean observing system (GOOS).
“GOOS is an international initiative to collect data over a long-term period about the world’s oceans and coastal areas. Information is produced from the data to manage the ocean”, said Mr. Alf Simpson, Director of SOPAC and a member of the SEREAD steering committee. “SEREAD is a timely initiative that targets the leaders of tomorrow. However, we should not forget our Pacific leaders today and urge them to lend their support”.
SEREAD is a global initiative with a Pacific flair that will no doubt be the envy for many regions of the world and will hopefully be adopted by other regions.