Class of 2018 Grounded in Ocean Science
As part of aligning the WMU curriculum with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Class of 2018 began their first week of studies with an intensive Marine Environmental Science course that ran from 18-27 September. The 113 students from 47 countries were introduced to sound and sustainable management of maritime sectors and their role in lessening the impact of human activities on the marine environment.
In preparation to address, in particular, Goal 13 on climate change and Goal 14 on sustainable use of the oceans, the students were introduced to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports which present unequivocal evidence that climate change is happening for which humans are responsible. The course addressed the benefits that the oceans and our climate system provide as well as how the impacts of human activities, including climate change, disrupt the function of ecosystems.
To emphasize the importance of the subject, WMU Associate Professor, Dr. Mary S Wisz, organized a number of guest lecturers including Professor Minik Rosing, Guest Professor Peter Rask-Møller and Professor Carsten Rahbek from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Professor André Visser, Professor Torkel Gissel Nielsen, Professor Michael St. John and Dr. Patrizio Mariani from the Technical University of Denmark, National Institute of Aquatic Resources (DTUAqua), and Professor Callum Roberts from the University of York. Over the course of seven days, the eminent scientists shared their knowledge and experience with the students. Topics included our planet’s first oceans, diversity of sea life from the tropics to the Arctic, the unprecedented pace of change in our world, food webs, marine plastics, marine observation technologies and the future of coral reefs.
As part of the course, the students were invited to a special screening of the climate change film "An Inconvenient Sequel." It was one of the first screenings of the film in Europe, made possible by former US Vice President Al Gore, Paramount Pictures, United International Pictures and SF Bio. The film is the follow-up to Al Gore’s 2006 climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The sequel addresses the progress made to tackle the problem of climate change, illustrating just how close we are to a real energy revolution. WMU President, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, attended the screening that was followed by a lively discussion with a panel of climate scientists who served as guest lecturers during the course.
An anonymous poll at the end of the course indicated that all participating students accept the scientific evidence that climate change is happening, and all agree that changes to human behavior are essential to mitigate the effects of climate change. Their experience during this course, and ongoing studies at WMU, will equip the future maritime leaders with skills and understanding to assist their home countries in the global efforts to achieve the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.