Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Ocean Informatics

UM LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course



DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION This study-unit provides the practical baseline of oceanography. Fundamental concepts of maths and physics that are required for further data processing and analysis, will first be covered. Dedicated programming sessions that will focus on Matlab for number crunching and Linux scripting for the setting up of operational systems, will then be delivered. Ocean Data View, ArcGIS, and QGIS will also be discussed for spatial analysis. Throughout the course, different file formats that are commonly used to save data derived from numerical models and in-situ instruments will be discussed. Databases that will allow the storing and retrieving of records in an efficient way, will also be defined and accessed.

The focus during the practical sessions will be on the observational technologies and methodologies available for the operational monitoring of the ecosystem health of the ocean and coastal seas following recommended measurements of biochemical parameters for water quality and addressing international directives and protocols. Access to the COPERNICUS Marine Service (CMEMS) will be provided and examples will be carried out on the output from numerical models or remotely-sensed near-real-time (NRT) satellite products.

Study-Unit Aims:

The aim of this study-unit is to provide students with the necessary IT skills that are required to process, visualise, and analyse scientific data. This will be done through the use of professional software packages that are used by the oceanographic community. Students will be introduced to different file formats that are used to encode met-ocean data. During the hands-on sessions, students will be trained to identify, understand, and quantify marine ecosystem processes and forcings, identify their temporal and spatial evolutions, and extract knowledge for assessments and management. Participants will also be engaged in learning how to draw conclusions and prove theories on the basis of scientific data. These practical skills constitute a basic element of the course and will prove useful for the other study-units and are essential to the final project.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Operate on different file formats that are commonly used to save scientific data;
- Discuss the basics of data processing and extract knowledge from data;
- Process marine data records with the expected standards of environmental monitoring, assessments, and management, in support of sustainable development;
- Comprehend how relevant data may be acquired to fit the needs of users such as in fisheries resource assessment and management, water quality monitoring and the general state of health of the sea;
- Evaluate importance of data to prove theoretical concepts and/or draw scientific results.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Apply the scientific method in the design of studies and assessments, in establishing feasible sampling and surveying protocols, in the sound interpretation of data, and in deriving meaningful conclusions;
- Integrate several data sources originating from models, in-situ instruments, and remote sensing;
- Operate on different types of data (such as time series, gridded data, etc.), saved in data formats (ascii vs binary);
- Convert between different data types;
- Practice data processing and analysis through the use of various software packages such as MATLAB, ArcGIS, and Google Earth Engine;
- Use available scientific resources such as the COPERNICUS Marine Core Service (CMEMS);
- Adopt data processing methodologies to prove scientific theories and/or draw conclusions on the basis of a dataset.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Menke, William., and Menke, Joshua E. Environmental Data Analysis with MatLab. 1st ed. Amsterdam ; Boston: Elsevier, 2012. Web.
- Ebrahim, Mokhtar, and Andrew Mallett. Mastering Linux Shell Scripting: A Practical Guide to Linux Command-line, Bash Scripting, and Shell Programming. Packt, 2018. Web.

All texts are available through the University of Malta library's services.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Joel Azzopardi
Anthony Galea
Adam Gauci


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The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2023/4. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.