The United Methodist University of Liberia is poised to become the first university in the country to offer degrees in Marine Sciences as Liberia races against time to produce homegrown marine scientists to help conserve its marine environments, which are under threat from ocean dumping and global warming.
The groundbreaking initiative, undertaken in partnership with the Blue Action Network (BAN), is geared toward offering interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary marine sciences courses, with a focus on researching critically such contemporary issues as environmental change, human impacts on the ocean, and biodiversity.
The School of Marine Sciences, according to the UMU administrators, is the university’s way of tackling the threat that Liberia’s ecosystem is facing, while strengthening the country’s human resource capacity to conserve the ocean and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities.
“We want to make sure that before the oceans take over any of our coastal communities, we will have people in the fields to defend those communities,” said Rev. Dr. Yar Donlah Gonway-Gono, president, of UMU. “The college will teach and train students with the basic skills of managing the marine environment in and out of Liberia. We will engage the global academic community by bringing those fields of studies that seem far and remote to our people into Liberia.”
Marine science is a rich discipline that combines studies from a variety of subjects in order to understand the marine environment, marine life, and their interactions. And that marine scientists play a pivotal role in the human quest to understand the world and manage its resources.
The School of Marine Sciences, which is expected to be part of several departments within the University, is named in honor of Professor Patrizia Ziveri, who is a Research Professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain.
Prof. Ziveri began working on a global marine change in the 1990s, focusing first on the impacts of El Niño climate oscillations on phytoplankton in the Eastern Pacific. After a postdoc at the University of Southerna California (USC), USA, she moved to the Vrije University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and joined the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) in 2014 at ICTA-UAB.
She was the Scientific Director of the ICTA-UAB Center of Excellence ‘María de Maeztu’ from 2015 to 2020. In addition, she coordinates the Marine and Environmental Biogeosciences Research Group that catalyzes research on the natural and human-driven marine processes addressing significant marine global change and sustainability challenges.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Blue Action Network, Ms. Miatta Sonie Sherif, noted that students going through the UMU School of Marine Sciences would be able to communicate effectively through their writing and oral presentations and demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the marine environment, including the relationship between biology, geology, chemistry, and physics.
“The Marine Science program will also provide solid preparation for immediate employment in marine-related industries, governmental agencies, education, and the non-profit sectors,” Ms. Sherif added.
The UMU and the Blue Action Network (BAN), will launch the Patrizia Ziveri School of Marine Sciences today at the Monrovia City Hall in Sinkor, Monrovia.