Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Oceanography Boot Camp - Field survey involving instrument deployment and laboratory data analysis

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION This study-unit consists of a dedicated intense field-work activity intended to train students to make measurements of key parameters at sea in a real case oceanographic survey targeted to study a coastal scale marine domain. Training will cover all the stages required for a successful survey including the preparation, calibration and configuration of marine equipment, survey planning, deployment of sensors and data retrieval, as well as data processing, analysis and use in a dedicated scientific assessment. This study-unit will give students the opportunity to practice the theoretical concepts presented in the other credits, understand why certain procedures are required as well as have hands-on training on state-of-the-art marine equipment.

Students will be divided into small groups each of which will be assigned different aspects to the study. The first phase will consist of the actual field measurement campaign using oceanographic equipment owned by the PO-Unit or hired on purpose for this activity. The survey will also avail of already existing data and information sources. Common equipment and methodology for oceanographic surveying will be used including profiling instruments (CTD, chlorophyll meter, etc.), fixed point data collection instruments (like Eulerian current meters) and other means like water sampling, GPS positioning and mapping, Secchi Disks, drogues, drift cards and cartographic maps. Standard solutions and procedures will be explained and shown to provide training in all the survey aspects. Common deployment practices, tips and tricks are also covered for successful data collection. Depending on weather conditions and the number of students, samples will be taken from the coastline as well as by means of a survey boat.

The second phase of the survey will involve the scientific analysis and processing of the collected data. Observations will be quality controlled, post-processed, plotted and geo-referenced, and subsequently analysed using standard techniques and software. The collected data will be supplemented by additional information deriving from existing databases, forecasting and satellite platforms depending on need and availability.

Apart from the intrinsic need of the activity, the sessions in this study-unit will be mainly conducted off-campus, in a location close to the surveyed area. The full activity, apart from the preparatory phase will be conducted over a full dedicated one-week period. Coastal domains like Marsaxlokk Bay, the Grand Harbour and Mellieha Bay are target areas for these surveys.

The activity will be organized as a live-in experience in which the students will live together, gain team building experience and enhance their problem solving skills. The conduction of the activity within a common shared environment and effort will enable the students to better focus on the assigned task, and be able to share efforts against demanding deadlines for delivery.

Study-unit Aims

This study-unit is intended to provide students with practical hands-on experience in conducting scientific data collection efforts in the marine environment to apply in specific investigations. The Unit aims to:
- Allow students to learn the scope of field studies through active participation in group projects and individual research efforts. Activities include planning and execution, analysis and interpretation of data, and presentation (written and verbal) of the results;
- Introduce students to the baseline principles involved in oceanographic field studies, data collection planning and execution, instrument calibration and deployment, data extraction and processing;
- Swell the participants’ expertise not only on a personal level, but also in working as a member of a team. Students will develop team working and time management skills as well as learn how to delegate and organize work with other members in order to finish the task on time;
- train students to conduct research on real case scenarios, put into direct practice the knowledge and skills gained in the other SUs of the course, in particular to analyze the collected data through the use of specialized statistical and visualization software such as Panoply, SAGA, ArcGIS and Matlab.

This study-unit will be mainly conducted as an intense live-in experience in which the students will spend a week together close to the area being surveyed. At the end of the activity, each group will give a presentation to describe the findings, and each team member will be expected to explain the personal experience and role.

Learning Outcomes

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

- Apply in practice the scientific method to investigate and understand processes or resolve questions and problems specific to the marine environment;
- Plan and conduct oceanographic surveys tailored to fit specific targets, and how to - adapt fieldwork schedules depending on metocean conditions and findings during execution;
- Practice the common methods adopted in oceanographic surveying by making the best use of marine equipment to obtain high quality data at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales and resolution;
- Merge and integrate physical, biological, geological, and chemical data to study the marine environment in a comprehensive manner;
- Share individual efforts through the active participation in group work.

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

- Prepare, calibrate, operate, deploy and extract data from marine equipment for oceanographic field surveys;
- Collect sea water samples and analyse for selected physical and biochemical parameters;
- Document the operational conduction of oceanographic surveys and the sampling methodologies used;
- Better familiarise with the processing of delayed-mode data in a real case study, including basic statistical and spatial analysis;
- Use standard formats for writing professional scientific reports;
- Communicate and discuss results (knowledge and rationale behind) to an audience;
- Organize and participate to team work, while specifying the personal specific role in the team;
- Validate and compare the collected data with other data sources and existing studies concerning the domain under study.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings

Main Recommended Books:
Data Analysis Methods in Physical Oceanography. William J. Emery and Richard E. Thomson. Pergamon Elsevier Science. 1998. hardbound. 400 pp.
A manual of chemical and biological methods for seawater analysis. Timothy Richard Parsons, Yoshiaki Maita, Carol M. Lalli. Pergamon Press, 1984. Digitised 30 Nov 2007. 173pp.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite qualifications: Preferably a first degree which includes any two in combination of the following subjects: mathematics, physics (including computational physics), IT, and statistics as well as to applicants with an engineering degree. Students with a degree in just one of these subjects, in conjunction with biology, chemistry and geography will also be considered if the maximum course uptake numbers are not reached. Mature students and professionals with experience and already engaged on related jobs will be eligible for admission.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Fieldwork and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Logbook SEM2 No 10%
Presentation SEM2 No 20%
Report SEM2 Yes 70%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
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 study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.