Ocean Acidification workshop | 13-16 February 2017 | Dakar, Senegal | by Shona Paterson
People and solutions: just say no to acid
Sometimes the literal meaning of words do not do justice to the ethos and outcome of an event. Yes, this was technically just a workshop that incorporated a training and a networking pathway but the reality surrounding OA-Senegal paints a different picture.
From the 13th-16th of February at the Ecole Superieure Polytechnique of the Universite Cheikh-Anta-Diop in Dakar, Senegal, the OA-Africa Network had their first face-to-face meeting to discuss mechanisms for knowledge exchange between ocean acidification scientists across Africa and to build momentum for scientific action. By identifying future needs, collaboration opportunities, and potential funding avenues to maintain and expand OA research throughout Africa this initiative offers a unique opportunity to move from a problem defining era into a much-needed solution space. Eighteen coastal African countries represented by twenty scientists covering aspects of chemistry, biology, economics and social science came together to discuss the best way forward for research across the continent. By including institutions such as the Abidjan UNEP Regional Seas Convention, the opportunities to discuss linkages into policy and long term relevance for such research endeavours remained front and centre at all times.
Most workshops would be happy enough with that outcome but not OA-Senegal. In addition to the network activities, fifteen early-career scientists, graduate students, technicians, and managers underwent practical training in the theory and implementation of ocean acidification research. Specifically designed to build capacity in West Africa, participants hailed from Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and Togo. Practical demonstrations of instrumentation for monitoring were coupled with lectures on carbonate chemistry system and tuition into the use of software to calculate carbonate system parameters as well as the biological response of marine organisms to ocean acidification.
The highlights of OA-Senegal are too many to list but listening to the next generation of OA scientists presenting issues and solutions to the current experts in joint plenary sessions organised throughout the workshop was definitely one. Having Madame Mariline Diara, the Director of the Ministry of the Environment and Designated Establishments, provide an important governmental perspective to ground the workshop in the reality of the targets associated with international agreements and conventions, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, that all ocean acidification research worldwide must feed into, was without doubt another. We were also treated to amazing local music by Leergui Acoustic and got to experience just a taste of the incredible Senegalese culture.
While the majority of benefits associated with OA-Senegal will be felt across the African continent, this was a truly international effort that connected industry with academia and government. Funding was supplied by Future Earth Coasts, KOSMOS Energy, The IAEA Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC) and SOLAS and the logistics would have been impossible without support from the Ecole Superieure Polytechnique and the Institut of Research for Development (Thank you Eric Machu!!). Trainers and facilitators for the two pathways encompassed 14 academic institutes, research centres, NGOs and government agencies and covered local, regional and international spheres of influence from Sweden, the USA, France, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, and Namibia including the University of Gothenburg, MaREI, USGS, SOCCO, and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.
Therefore, to call this just a workshop doesn’t do it justice! While OA-Senegal as an event is now finished, the job of realising its the legacy has only just begun.
Stay up to date on developments on the Future Earth Coasts website.