SEREAD sets out to foster ‘ocean observation for all’

6 August 2001. This month, a steering committee will be undertaking a comprehensive review of progress over the first six months of SEREAD, a new project designed to generate substantial knowledge, awareness and discussion among Pacific island students, teachers and communities of global ocean observing systems, climate change, sea-level rise, global warming and the local impacts of these dynamics.

SEREAD stands for Scientific Educational Resources and Experience Associated with the Deployment of Argo Drifting Floats in the South Pacific Ocean.

‘Argo’ refers to a new global inter-agency programme of the same name, which gathers data from the world’s oceans in order to better model and predict weather and climate.

Once fully operational, Argo will be composed of a global array of 3,000 free-drifting profiling floats measuring temperature and salinity in the upper 2,000 metres of the ocean. This network of profiling floats allows continuous monitoring of the ocean, with data being relayed periodically via satellite from each float and made available to researchers and the public within hours of transmission.

The launching of the Argo programme offers a wealth of educational opportunities in the Pacific region and will serve as the departure point for SEREAD, which is essentially a capacity-building project.

The World Conference on Science recognized that, for a country to have the capacity to provide for the basic needs of its population, science and technology education is a strategic necessity. As part of this education, the Science Agenda recommends that students ‘learn to solve specific problems and to address the needs of society by utilizing scientific and technological knowledge and skills (para. 24)

SEREAD aims to make it possible for Pacific island secondary school pupils to ‘adopt an Argo float’ launched in the vicinity of their respective countries and to track the data transmitted by that float in classroom sessions using regionally-specific educational materials developed by SEREAD with technical support from the project’s partner organizations.

An interagency project, SEREAD combines the active contribution of a wide range of organizations, including the IOC Regional Programme Office in Perth, Western Australia; International Ocean Institute Headquarters (IOI) and IOI-PI at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji; New Zealand Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), UNESCO’s Regional Office for the Pacific States in Apia, Samoa; South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC); National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO).

The SEREAD steering committee will be using this month’s meeting to plan the further development and consolidation of SEREAD.

A project coordinator has been appointed since the committee first met at the beginning of the year and work has begun on identifying partner countries and institutions in the region.

As Hans Thulstrup in UNESCO’s Apia Office puts it, ‘It is early days yet, but expect to hear more from SEREAD in the months to come!’

Source: Hans Thulstrup: hans@unesco.org.ws