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Young Jamaican woman chosen for at-sea training

Published:Tuesday | June 23, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Renée McDonald

TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD RENÈE McDonald was the first Jamaican, selected by the International Seabed Authority for the 2015 At-Sea Training Programme.

She described it as a life-changing opportunity.

The programme was organised by China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association (COMRA) in collaboration with the International Seabed Authority. The objectives of the Chinese-led cruise were to perform a search for polymetallic sulfides, as well as an investigation into the environmental baseline along the South West Indian Ridge (SWIR) hydrothermal system.

McDonald, a geologist, said though the experience presented challenges, she learnt many lessons that would aid her development and enhance her skill set.

"I embarked the RV Da Yang Yi Hao on March 20, in Port Louis, Mauritius. The vessel departed the harbour for the working area on March 25. En route to the South West Indian Ridge, several safety drills and sessions (fire, ship abandonment, etc,) were conducted," she recalled.

"It was challenging because we were at sea for six weeks, non-stop, and so adapting was a bit difficult. The strict schedule that we had to endure in deploying instruments, monitoring them, were some of the hurdles that I had to overcome.

"However, it was a remarkable experience and something I will always treasure," McDonald told The Gleaner.

She added: "I initially applied for the programme in Germany but I was shortlisted as an alternate. I was later contacted by the Seabed Authority who enquired if I would be interested in the Chinese-led expedition and I was accepted. This reminds me that we should not be daunted by disappointments.”

Following her experience she believes a lot more needs to be done to sensitise citizens about the importance of mineral resources, in addition to protecting delicate environmental features.

“While this particular work was not applicable to the Caribbean, there were a lot of transferable skills in terms of equipment and packaging of certain data that could be applicable in our sphere. I think that, considering that we are on an island, more research needs to be done on our seabed and marine resources,” she said.

"We do need to know more of what’s happening when it comes to our oceanographic features and what we can get out of it. As such it would be helpful for persons especially, who wish to pursue careers in areas related to earth sciences, are exposed to various equipment and adequate research,” McDonald charged.