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Students develop sea legs while acquiring hands-on experience

(L-R) CFER students Laura Wheeland, Riley Pollom, Livia Goodbrand, Craig Knickle and CFER fisheries biologist Susan Fudge aboard the Celtic Explorer in 2011.

By Julie Fitzpatrick
Special to the Gazette

This year, once again, a few lucky master and PhD students studying at the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) at the Marine Institute (MI) will get the ultimate educational opportunity. Embarking on an Atlantic at-sea survey, the group will receive a career-boosting experience.

MI's CFER unit was launched in July 2010. Its aim is to better understand fish stocks and the productivity and sustainability of Newfoundland and Labrador's marine ecosystem through fisheries research. CFER is committed to offering research and training opportunities to graduate students both locally and internationally.

In February 2011, CFER successfully embarked on its first at-sea survey to study cod overwintering in the northwest Atlantic Ocean via the RV Celtic Explorer. The vessel, owned by the Irish Marine Institute in Galway, Ireland, is a 65-metre, state-of-the-art fisheries and oceanographic research vessel, capable of conducting offshore fisheries surveys and other oceanographic work in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the most sophisticated purpose-built vessel ever used for fisheries science research in the province.
Seven students joined the 2011 survey.

"I really enjoyed my time on the Celtic Explorer," said student Kyle Krumsick, a master of science student. "It was a great opportunity to witness first-hand a lot of the things we have been studying and to learn more about the cod stocks and Newfoundland and Labrador marine ecosystem."

This year CFER will be chartering the RV Celtic Explorer once again for research purposes. Six graduate students currently studying with CFER as well as a post-doctoral fellow will go to sea to assist in this year's study. While some of these students participated in the survey last year, it will be the first experience at sea for others.

"I'm pretty excited," said Victoria Neville, a graduate student. "Given the importance of the Celtic Explorer trip to my master's research, I can't wait to get out there and get started. I have to say, I am really looking forward it."

"Because of CFER, I'll have the opportunity to gain more at-sea experience," said post-doctoral fellow Jennifer Doucette. "Participating in a large-scale research project will be invaluable for my research career, and will appeal to potential employers."

Updates and progress of the survey will be available on the Marine Institute's website at beginning May 1.

The Provincial Government of Newfoundland and Labrador helped launch CFER in July 2010 by providing the Marine Institute with $11.75 million to establish the centre. This included $10.25 million from the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and $1.5 million from the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC).