Sharing 'Science for Society' at AAORIA Forum 2023

08 Dec 2023 | By Leila Nefdt
08 Dec 2023 | By Leila Nefdt

The All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance (AAORIA) Annual Forum took place at the CTICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre) Convention Square in Cape Town, South Africa from the 21 – 22 November 2023. The forum brought together representatives of government, research community, society, private sector, NGOs, and global Atlantic Ocean sectors, to craft a common path that is aligned with the aspirations of the AAORIA Declaration. The forum had an African flavour to also bring along African countries in the Atlantic Ocean with active research and innovation activities. The forum also intended to elevate the impact of ocean literacy and the societal impact and value of Atlantic Ocean research. There was also an intention to cultivate partnerships between government, civil society, private sector, and the research community in the implementation of the AAORIA Declaration. Over the next few years, the societal impact of AAORIA initiatives will become key. The role of civil society, the youth and the early career professionals will also be prominent to ensure future proofing the AAORIA Declaration.

The Cape Town AAORIA Forum took stock of the success and challenges of programmes and initiatives towards implementing the Galway and Belem Statements, with an emphasis on bringing in new Partners and Supporters and identifying priorities and an implementation plan for AAORIA moving forward.

We had several UCT-MARiS Early Career Researchers and Academics attend and participate in the sessions held and assisted in manning the UCT-MARiS which displayed some posters and banners, including some videos and imagery showcasing the highlights of our research with the All-Atlantic Research Flagship projects: TriATLAS, Mission Atlantic and AtlantECO project. Our general theme for our stand was: ‘Science for Society'.

Poster 1: TRIATLAS - Tropical and South Atlantic climate-based marine ecosystem predictions for sustainable management. Contributors: Astrid Jarre, Serge Tomety, Founi M. Awo, Lynne Shannon, Samantha Grusd

Poster 2: Developing social vulnerability indicators for the southern Benguela: a collaboration between social and natural sciences for TRIATLAS. Contributors: Louise C. Gammage, Astrid Jarre & Zannè C.F. Zeeman - du Toit

Poster 3: Mission Atlantic. Contributors: Lynne Shannon, Kelly Ortega, Eugin Borman, Kerry Sink, Megan van der Bank, Astrid Jarre

Poster 4: AtlantECO Case Studies in South Africa – (i) Environmental regulation of coastal areas in the context of ocean shelf mining and (ii) Ocean Literacy in South Africa. Contributors: Natasha Karenyi and Leila Nefdt.

Dr Emma Rocke shared a flash presentation on the key outcomes from Galway and Belem JPAs/WG with emphasis on her involvement in the EC Funded All-Atlantic Ocean Research Projects “AtlantECO project” and provided suggestions on ways AAORIA could move forward with their work. Dr Magabo Ragoasha also shared her perspective and involvement in the Ocean Sciences New Generation Academic Programme (nGAP) at the University of Cape Town. During the Intergenerational dialogue session, Prof Isabelle Ansorge shared how UCT and the SEAMester Programme empower future All-Atlantic Ocean Stewards and Leaders.

Representing the AtlantECO Project, Dr Natasha Karenyi and UCT MARIS PhD student, Ndamononghenda Mateus joined another Round Table Discussion looking at creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive space for AAORIA members and collaborators.

Some of the Early Career Researchers had a few words to share about their experience attending and volunteering at the AAORIA Forum:

Chemical Engineering Master’s student, Hayley Swait also shares that she gained a wealth of knowledge while attending the Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance (AAORIA) annual forum. The opportunity to sign up for the forum provided her with the chance to engage with individuals from diverse disciplines and sectors including government, research institutes and industry. This rich tapestry of perspectives brought a multifaceted perspective to the table allowing for collaborative efforts and joint initiatives to be shared. As an early career researcher (ECR) this was an invaluable opportunity for her to absorb insight from some of the key stakeholders as well as share about her collaboration in Marine and Antarctic Research for Innovation and Sustainability (MARiS) involving inter- and multidisciplinary innovative research.

UCT Applied Ocean Sciences MSc student, Aimee Cloete shares that it was an amazing and fruitful experience attending the AAORIA Forum in Cape Town! The forum brought together multiple stakeholders of the Atlantic Ocean and provided a platform to discuss challenges, opportunities and different perspectives of Atlantic research. Placing this forum in Africa also provided a unique opportunity for African perspectives to be at the forefront. She also took the opportunity to join the panel in a Round Table Discussion focusing on “Perspectives on the future of AAORIA from the ECOPS and Youth”.

Biological Sciences Master’s Student, Lerusha Naidoo, shares that the AAORIA forum was an incredible opportunity to interact with researchers and policy makers involved in Atlantic Ocean research. I was involved in manning the MARiS Stand on both days of the forum. This allowed me to interact with a range of the forums attendees and share research being conducted by MARiS as well as learning about work being conducted elsewhere. A key take-away from the forum came from the second day during the early career researcher (ECR) discussions, in which the panel discussed the challenges they faced as an ECR in marine sciences. It was interesting to see the commonality of thoughts that many ECRs share with regard to working environments and progressing in the scientific community. 

The Marine and Antarctic Research Centre for Innovation and Sustainability (MARiS), University of Cape Town, the Nansen Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research, The Norwegian Ministry of Trade Industry and Fisheries, The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria, the Norwegian Institute for Marine Research and the Norwegian Polar Institute hosted delegations and participants for the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance - 2023 South Africa Annual Forum to a Side Event on Polar Research, on Monday, 20 November 2023 at the UCT Graduate School of Business Conference Centre, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. The purpose of the event was to inform future AAORIA-activities in polar research. AAORIA-members were invited to present their priorities in polar research. The event covered both poles, reflecting on what has been taking place in the Southern Sea and close to Antarctica, and address important topics affecting the Atlantic as an Interpolar System.

We want to acknowledge the UCT-MARiS team efforts in making all the events related to the AAORIA Forum a success and for representing the centre so well at the Forum. We want to say a big thank you to Marcello Vichi, Astrid Jarre, Leila Nefdt, Tokoloho Rampai, Louise Gammage, Natasha Karenyi, Emma Rocke, Kelly Ortega-Cisnerso, Aimee Cloete, Ndamononghenda Mateus, Riesna R. Audh, Hayley Swait, James van Niekerk, Lerusha Naidoo and Babajide Bankole for being present at the Forum, sharing your perspectives on the various Atlantic Research projects and assisting in manning the stand at the Forum. We look forward to seeing what else comes out from the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance (AAORIA) and seeing more African countries being represented and involved.

Read the 2023 Forum Joint Outcome Statement from the High-Level Board of the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance on the AAORIA website.