An international group of students on a prestigious Masters Degree at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS UHI) in Oban is catching the eye of the aquaculture industry.
The 25 students, who come from all corners of the globe, are the second cohort to join the Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degree (EMJMD) in Aquaculture, Environment and Society (ACES), awarded jointly by the University of the Highlands and Islands and University of Crete.
The group, all based in and around Oban for an initial six months, represent 19 countries, including New Zealand, Jamaica, Peru, Brazil, Pakistan, China, Colombia and the USA. As part of the two-year ACES programme, they will continue their studies in Crete next February and in autumn 2017 will move on to Nantes before spending the final six months of their Masters at one of the three partner organisations.
The academic course will cover industry-relevant aspects of aquaculture, such as environmental issues, governance, technology, life cycles and feed production.
Course leader Dr Elizabeth Cottier-Cook, a senior researcher at SAMS, said: “The ACES programme provides fully-funded scholarships for EU and non-EU students in a bid to attract the very best aquaculture students from around the world.
“It also allows the students to share their experiences of that industry from nation to nation. This helps us build on the academic elements of the course and encourages a curiosity about links between academia and industry.”
The course also invites guest lecturers and scholars from the United Nations, as well as research institutes in Tasmania, Israel and the USA.
Marine Harvest sponsors a scholarship for one EU-based student, who will go on to complete their studies with the company.
The company’s Business Support Manager, Steve Bracken, said: “Courses like EMJMD ACES are an important vector to bridge the gap between education, research and development, and applied industry techniques and knowledge.
“Aquaculture-based academia within the UK is growing and the research undertaken at SAMS, Crete and Nantes is industry-relevant.
“Students educated there learn and understand theories, techniques and skills that can bring a significant and sustainable growth to Europe’s salmon farming industry.”
Judith Vajk of Caledonian Oysters hosted the students at her shellfish farm near Oban. She said: “The ACES programme stands out for me because of its international perspective and its close links with industry. These students could one day be in high-level research and policy positions, so having a strong knowledge of industry so early in their careers can only be a benefit to everyone.
“I enjoyed meeting the students, sharing a passion for shellfish and learning about how the industry operates in their respective countries.”
ACES student Yulia Buhlak, from Ukraine, said: “I am extremely passionate about aquaculture; one of my goals is to provide the population with good quality and sustainable fish protein.
“I was searching for a Masters programme with hands-on experience and teachers who could provide state-of-the-art knowledge. This is what I found on the ACES programme, but I also got even more.
“I am enjoying beautiful Scotland, meeting amazing international friends and learning from enthusiastic and helpful teachers. The intensive programme takes me out of my comfort zone but the direct involvement with industry will increase my chances of future career placement."
Fellow student Fatima Gianella, from Peru, added: “When I found the ACES programme online, it caught my attention immediately. I consider this course to be integrated and unbeatable in comparison with other aquaculture Masters. Its focus is not only on aquaculture organisms; it involves the importance of society, culture and its management and the importance of technology and innovation.”
Applications are currently being taken for the for the third ACES cohort (academic year 2017/18). To apply, or to find out more information visit www.emm-aces.org