Mr Babtunde Adeleke at work in the laboratory.
Right: The Polarstern vessel that he is on.

Masters candidate in the Marine Biology, Aquaculture, Conservation Education and Ecophysiology (MACE) laboratory in Marine Biology at UKZN, Mr Babatunde Adeleke, is one of 50 international postgraduate scholars spending a month at sea aboard a research vessel.

The vessel is the Akademik Tryoshnikov which is taking part in the North to South Atlantic Ocean Transect leg zero of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) – a month-long voyage involving training in skills necessary for the investigation of ocean, atmosphere and climate interactions.

Adeleke and his 50 fellow scholars, who were selected from more than 1 000 applicants, left Bremerhaven in Germany aboard the vessel on 19 November, making their way south along the West African coast expecting to complete the transect in Cape Town on 15th December. The trip coincides with the COP22 Marrakech Climate Change Conference.

It is a philanthropic project funded by Dr Fredrick Paulsen and coordinated by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the Swiss Polar Institute and the Russian Geographical Society. This is the first time the trip is being undertaken under the auspices of Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) Maritime University.

Research activities will include learning ship-board methods for sampling and analysis of waters from the shallow shelf waters of the North Sea through the deep waters of the Canary Islands and the highly productive waters of the upwelling areas off the coast of Namibia. The data they collect while exploring oceanographic and atmospheric interactions and their impacts on climate will acquire further data contributing to the understanding of climate processes.

Adeleke, originally from Nigeria, studied Fisheries Management in his home country and gained experience in management consulting and agribusiness advisory services before extending his academic qualification through the MACE lab in Durban.

His masters research is centred on the effects of ocean acidification and concentrations of heavy metals on Sand Bubbler Crabs in the Durban Habour, Richards Bay Harbour and Mlalazi Estuary. According to Adeleke, ocean acidification is an important factor to consider as the ocean’s chemical composition is impacted by climate change and atmospheric carbon dioxide.

‘Ocean acidification is predicted to affect the release, behaviour, fate and exposure of heavy metals to marine organisms,’ said Adeleke, who seeks to better understand these impacts on a specific species in our waters.

It is the first sea voyage Adeleke has been on and on departure he said he was looking forward to the introduction of marine science as an applied and transdisciplinary field and to the hands-on ship-based activities supporting the research of specialist scientists on board, using state-of-the-art equipment. He also eagerly anticipated the interactions with seasoned researchers and scholars in his field.

He thanked his MSc supervisors, Dr Gan Moodley and Dr Deborah Robertson-Andersson, for encouraging and supporting him to apply for the programme.

Adeleke hopes that his participation will strengthen global academic collaborations and the reach of work being done by the MACE lab.

Christine Cuénod