A UNESCO-funded Practical Course in Marine Biology: A Great Success. The Department of Biology of the University of Malta has just organised an intensive training and  practical course in marine biology for Bachelor of Science students taking biology as one of their main subject areas. This course proved to be a great success.

This course, was funded by UNESCO through a grant to Prof. Patrick J. Schembri made available under its Participation Programme for 2002-2003, administered by the Malta National Commission for UNESCO. The course, which was held between the 10th and the 17th of September, was coordinated by Dr Joseph A Borg.

During the opening session, the 35 students attending the course were addressed by Prof Victor Axiak, Head of Department of Biology, who thanked UNESCO and the Malta National Commission for their generosity and explained that the need to hold such a practical course that employs the coast and sea around Malta as a natural laboratory to teach about the marine environment and about practical techniques of field biology has long been felt and has been recommended by practically every external examiner who has visited the Department.

The course was designed to familiarise participants with the major coastal and marine habitats of the islands and sessions include fieldwork on rocky and sandy shores, shallow sublittoral sandy and rocky bottoms, as well as a session during which deeper water marine life were sampled and plankton and water chemistry investigated. Fieldwork was complemented by a programme of lectures and laboratory sessions. Course tutors include Prof. V. Axiak,  Dr. J.A. Borg,  Mr. A. Deidun, Mr. E. Lanfranco and Prof. P.J. Schembri.

The bulk of the funds made available by UNESCO were used to purchase field and laboratory equipment which the Department hopes to use in future editions of this course. Without such additional and external funds, such a course would not have been made possible, especially in the current financial situation of the University.

Although optional for students and held outside the normal teaching period of the University academic year, due its intensive nature, the large number of participants proved that there is a great deal of interest by students in the marine environment and its biological resources, which is encouraging since the Department believes that the key to rational management and sustainable exploitation of marine resources are only possible if based on sound scientific knowledge and its practical application.