Sakinat Mojisola Ahmad
In the first quarter of 2018, I received one of the most beautiful emails of my life - my selection email for Erasmus Mundus WACOMA program. Based on my background and the research experiences I had acquired from my undergraduate and during WACOMA, I got a PhD offer at the University of Alabama, to be part of the Organic geochemistry group, trying to understand Estuarine organic matter source and fate.
I earned a bachelor's degree in Water Resources Management and Hydrology from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. In the first quarter of 2018, I received one of the most beautiful emails of my life - my selection email for Erasmus Mundus WACOMA program. I was finally going to have an international education experience for free; it meant and still means a lot to me. Travelling is an experience no one can take and that it what WACOMA offered. The program started well, with so many beautiful people - my classmates and the coordinating committee. Unfortunately, during the thesis phase, the pandemic struck the world and the restrictions made some of my thesis activities difficult. However, this period also showed the pure humanity in those I worked with - my supervisor, co-supervisor and internship supervisors, who helped me go through this phase successfully.
Based on my background and the research experiences I had acquired from my undergraduate and during WACOMA, I got a PhD offer at the University of Alabama, to be part of the Organic geochemistry group, trying to understand Estuarine organic matter source and fate. It is not easy trying to start a new life in a new continent amidst a pandemic, but I have amazing lab mates here, who make my life easy.
I thank the EU, WACOMA coordinators, tutor and director for giving me this life changing opportunity. I also thank my WACOMA classmates (now family) for making that period beautiful and fun. Lastly, I am grateful to my wonderful family and friends who never left me despite the distance. I wish everyone a very happy and fulfilling life ahead.
Update July 2021. Sakinat has been selected as a finalist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship . She will spend one year in Washington, D.C., which begins in February 2022, gaining experience in policy-making in agencies and committees that deal with marine and coastal issues at the federal level. (Read the full article here )
Alabama (USA), February, 2020
Luis Germano Biolchi
When I first got accepted to WACOMA, I was unsettled by a number of questions floating in my mind. Too many uncertainties and very few answers inside the mind of a recently graduated Brazilian Oceanographer. [...] I have been offered a job opportunity at Arpae, where I work at present as a technician involved mostly in three European-funded projects focusing on climate change, flooding, and ecosystem quality and vulnerability.
When I first got accepted to WACOMA, I was unsettled by a number of questions floating in my mind: “What if I decide to go and the program is not what I expect?” “What if I am not good enough for the
standards they are used to?” “What if my colleagues are not nice?” “What if I cannot adapt to the old
continent?” “What if...?” “What if...?” “What if...?”
Too many uncertainties and very few answers inside the mind of a recently graduated Brazilian Oceanographer.
After my arrival to the Ravenna Campus of the University of Bologna, I realized that my background and skill set would play a major role in my adjustment process. The number of “what ifs” haunting me started to decrease as I got to know my unbelievable colleagues whose diversity of backgrounds turned every conversation into a new discovery and a way to look at the world through multiple lenses. As a result, my experience with the Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degree (EMJMD) was truly transformative.
After the first semester in Ravenna, where we explored topics ranging from coastal morphodynamics to pollutants’ anatomo-physiological effects, we turned to applying the knowledge acquired in the first five months when we moved (drastically changing the environment) to the beautiful Southern Portuguese region. The two weeks at the University of Algarve provided us with formative exercises on how to identify, analyze, and apply the correct approach towards solving littoral related issues, whether they be economic, social, political, etc. Next, we moved to the University of Cádiz, where many WACOMA students fell in love with the beautiful beaches, the Mediterranean weather, and another outstanding university with an important role on coastal related sciences at National and European levels. A heavy load of classes taught by highly-qualified professors during the five months of our stay there allowed us to advance our knowledge on how to conduct field-specific technical analysis on topics we had chosen in advance.
After Cádiz, the decision of where to go to complete the thesis during the last two semesters turned out to be extremely complicated. Personally, “la Grassa”, “la Rossa”, or “la Dotta” (choose the nickname you prefer) has made an impression on me since first arriving. Bologna combines the charm and great cuisine of the pre-Apennines region, the vivacity and political engagement of a true student city, and one of the most renowned universities in Europe. All these factors, combined with a great project proposal offered to me by the University of Bologna together with the Hydro-Meteo-Climate Service of the Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy of Emilia-Romagna (Arpae-SIMC) eventually allowed me to settle.
Despite all the uncertainties, fate (even though I would rather call it “consequences of our choices”) guided me towards developing a thesis on addressing forecast uncertainties through ensemble modelling. At this point, I believe emphasizing the importance of the WACOMA journey on the development of one’s personal and technical abilities would be a mere formality, bordering pleonasm. Through finding a balance between tireless work (when it is due) and enjoying the good moments of life, I have been offered a job opportunity at Arpae, where I work at present as a technician involved mostly in three European-funded projects focusing on climate change, flooding, and ecosystem quality and vulnerability. As a good old lover of football, I know that the challenges never go away, losing is part of the game, but finding the necessary strength with family and friends provide the basis to move on during complicated times.
So many great people were involved in this amazing journey that I would be committing a mistake trying to name them all: I would definitely forget at least someone who has been an important part of WACOMA. Ultimately, the two years of the program helped me answer many of my what ifs, but not all of them, which is probably not a bad thing: if all of them ceased to exist what would drive me to keep searching and trying to improve?
Bologna, Italy, January 2021
From dreaming about NASA to a job at the European Space Agency — how WACOMA helped and inspired me along the journey.
Since my childhood, I have always dreamt about working for NASA. I was extremely fascinated by their activities. Whenever there was any news telecast about their mission, my father used to call me to see the news and from that point, I started dreaming about working with them. But I never imagined that I would be able to fulfill my childhood dream and work for the European Space Agency (ESA). Now I am working as a ‘Data Scientist’ at Quasar Science Resources-European Space Agency Business Incubation Center (ESA-BIC) at Madrid Region (Spain) and my work is related to ocean remote sensing. Thanks to the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD) program on Water and Coastal Management (WACOMA) to support me to start my journey from a small city in Bangladesh to Europe and get involved with the different projects of the European Space Agency.
For me, WACOMA was like a ‘torch bearer’ which led me in working towards a valued goal. During these two years' journey, I have learned to think critically to deal with a problem, developed a wide range of software skills, and participated in numerous workshops, training courses and international conferences. I still remember presenting a part of my master thesis work at the ‘European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly’ where there were more than 20,000 audiences. It was a great experience to see people appreciating my work. Thanks to my thesis supervisor Professor Dr. Irene Laiz and co-supervisor Dr. Isabel Caballero Frutos (from University of Cadiz, Spain) for their erudite, scholastic and constructive guidance, precious suggestions, constant inspirations and encouragement throughout the master thesis. During my academic internship (at one of the renowned government research institutions in Spain- ‘ICMAN-CSIC’), I have developed a regional algorithm (under the supervision of Dr. Isabel Caballero Frutos) to monitor turbidity from space. It was worth mentioning contribution to the field of science which was impossible for me without WACOMA. This work helped me to move several steps forward in my career and fulfill my childhood dream. WACOMA gave me the platform to meet with the renowned scientists in the field of remote sensing and share my thoughts and ideas with them. It is the best platform for networking, knowing different cultures and values. In brief, the high-quality teaching style, numerous field trips, lab works and the internship opportunity at different research institutions and companies have made WACOMA an ideal package to train and develop professionalism. It is an incredible journey and life-changing experience which I will never forget.
Spain, November 2020
from Sri Lanka
I chose the University of Bologna for my dissertation during the second year of the program. It is my great privilege to learn at the world’s oldest university, found by the Holy Romanian Emperor in 1088 where I had an opportunity to pursue my thesis on “Impacts of Plastic leachates on Mediterranean mussels using selected biomarkers. […] The excitement remains for the rest of my future endeavor, awarded a PhD scholarship in risk assessment of microplastics in marine environment at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua).
EMJMD WaCoMa Enlighten to Discover the Solutions to “Blue” Issues.
The warning bell of the microplastics born issues from the marine environment is very desperate as people are so ignorant about the consequence– the skyrocketing rate of plastic pollution in the oceanic earth. I, Gunaalan Kuddithamby, sensitive to blue issues because of my indigenous affection is from the pearl of the Indian Ocean island, Sri Lanka. Ironically, the plastic pollution in the aquatic body is not investigated in depth and not well managed. As a lecturer in the Department of Fisheries Science, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, have the perception and passion to learn about the real insights of marine plastics and want to tackle their impacts and go back to my Country with the acquired knowledge needed to find solutions. The EMJMD WaCoMa gave a solid professional development which provides a platform to build network and bridge between different experts from various part the globe in the field of water and coastal management. Course works of the WaCoMa program was followed in three reputed universities in the Europe, University of Bologna, Italy, University of Algarve, Portugal and University of Cadiz, Spain. I chose the University of Bologna for my dissertation during the second year of the program. It is my great privilege to learn at the world’s oldest university, found by the Holy Romanian Emperor in 1088 where I had an opportunity to pursue my thesis on “Impacts of Plastic leachates on Mediterranean mussels using selected biomarkers” at the University of Bologna for the second year of the degree. In addition, I am honored to be a student of Professor Elena Fabbri, who is my thesis supervisor, President of the Campus of Ravenna and internationally acknowledged as an excellent scientist, and to have worked with Dr Marco Capolupo, co-supervisor who guided me in the research studies. Besides, I received the internship at ARPAE, Emilia-Romagna, Italy (Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy) under the guidance of Dr. Fabrizio Bandini where I performed a series of lab works related to aquatic toxicity. It was an excellent scientific and hands on experience that I will never forget. I felt more encouraged when I did my thesis with the support and guidance provided by Prof. Elena Fabbri and Dr Marco Capolupo. The excitement remains for the rest of my future endeavor, awarded a PhD scholarship in risk assessment of microplastics in marine environment at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua). Yes, the knowledge and experience I gained from WaCoMa and ARPAE ignite my enthusiasm which is the key alliance make me to secure the PhD opportunity at DTU. My learning experience at the WaCoMa environment was aided tremendously by deepening the knowledge and skills in the marine and coastal studies, and was subsequently one of the best rewards I brought back from my two year stay at the University of Bologna.
Júlia Terra Miranda Machado
Besides giving me lifetime friends and an incredible network filled with nothing but great professionals, it gave me the opportunity to live in 4 countries as I developed my internship in Ireland and that, with no doubts, changed my life. [...] I was granted a Marie Curie grant to develop my research filling the 14th early-stage researcher position on SOLAR2CHEM while developing my PhD in Political Sciences at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIGalway).
- Bachelor degree graduation: field/year
Environmental Manager (Federal Institute of Rio de Janeiro), class of 2018.
- Wacoma cohort year:
Wacoma from Cohort 2018-2020.
- Wacoma graduation: thesis topic
Maritime users and impacts, "Implications of Offshore Wind Energy Developments in Coastal and Maritime Tourism and Recreation".
- After wacoma:
After becoming a Wacoma graduate I was looking for positions that would allow me to keep working with Renewable Energy. I ended up leaving the offshore wind energy, for now, and moving towards the next step, clean Hydrogen and Solar Chemicals - energy carriers instead of production of renewable energy/electricity. I was granted a Marie Curie grant to develop my research filling the 14th early-stage researcher position on SOLAR2CHEM while developing my PhD in Political Sciences at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIGalway). It is a great opportunity for my researcher career and I'm really happy to be involved with such an innovative EU project.
- Future prospects and expectation:
I hope I can keep working as a researcher, fighting climate change building my career around projects that do bring us closer to achieving SDG7 targets, reaching the SDG goals and becoming a more sustainable world through completing this energy transition.
- Final comment: how did the Erasmus Mundus programme Wacoma contribute to your career?
Besides giving me lifetime friends and an incredible network filled with nothing but great professionals, it gave me the opportunity to live in 4 countries as I developed my internship in Ireland and that, with no doubts, changed my life.
It was my dream to bring my career closer to ocean related environmental management practices. That dream came true.
The Wacoma programme gave me uncountable knowledge on a long list of maritime and coastal processes while giving us the key methods to address this infinite range of processes and relationships - positive and negative ones. The 2 years feel like 20 in many ways and I must add that delivering our thesis during the Covid19 outbreak was not easy but I feel that I'm a much better professional after these 2 years.
EMJMD WACOMA Students’ representative Cohort 2018-2020
I am currently the Executive Director of BRRPI an NGO based in Ghana. My aim is to positively influence and change attitudes, policies, and legislation in all aspects of the blue economy through research, training, and outreach.
My name is Richard Takyi, I was a BSc. and an M. Phil. in Fisheries and Aquatic Science and Fisheries Sciences graduate of the University of Cape Coast and University of Ghana, respectively before joining the WACOMA cohort of 2018-2020. My thesis topic was on ‘Governance and legislation in management of coastal and marine resources exploitation: A case study of fisheries and beach resource use’. I am currently the Executive Director of Blue Resources Research and Policy Institute a non-governmental civil society organization based in Ghana. My aim with the establishment of this organization is to positively influence and change attitudes, policies, and legislation in all aspects of the blue economy (inland water resources, coastal and marine resources, etc.) through research, training, and outreach. This organization was set up with help of like-minded colleagues based on my experience with the Erasmus Mundus (WACOMA) Programme. Although we are a very young organization it is my hope that it will be known worldwide for its impact on sustainable management and utilization of all aspects of blue resources in Africa and beyond.
Tema, Greater Accra, Ghana, January 2021
Nancy Awuor Oduor
Being abroad is something that is only possible in a deep sleep of a herd’s girl living in remote rural areas in Africa. Coming from a small village in Kenya, where educating a girl child was a taboo, everything about my education seemed so deem and never once did I imagine of flying abroad. With WACOMA program, I was able not only to fly, but to live in Italy, Spain and Portugal and this is the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. [...] Nowadays (2021) I am PhD Candidate based at Leibniz Centre of Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), studying Marine Biogeochemistry at Kiel University Germany. I am also a conservationist and environmental educator, and I have conducted several marine conservation programs in Kenya.
Being abroad is something that is only possible in a deep sleep of a herd’s girl living in remote rural areas in Africa. Coming from a small village in Kenya, where educating a girl child was a taboo, everything about my education seemed so deem and never once did I imagine of flying abroad. With WACOMA program, I was able not only to fly, but to live in Italy, Spain and Portugal and this is the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life.
I came across the program call online and was so lucky to be selected in my first application. It was a mixture of happiness for getting the opportunity to further my studies abroad and sadness because I was going to be far from my family. On arrival in Ravenna, to my surprise, there was so much joy, meeting a bunch of other confused candidates from different parts of the world and the confusion made us blend so well becoming a wonderful family. The coordination team was so wonderful with well-planned reception and orientation under the care of Prof. Fabbri and our loving tutor Filomena Volpe.
Getting the opportunity did not only provide me with an opportunity to advance my studies, but also opened the gates to the local and international networks for me. Being an interdisciplinary program, WACOMA is enriched with experienced professors from diverse fields of study providing opportunity for growth to everyone interested in any aspect of aquatic research and management. Personally, I maintained contacts with several professors and students, who have been my great advisors and career support system to date. Moreover, WACOMA offers well organised lectures, practical studies and state of the art laboratories in its different collaborating institutions which are very critical for conducting different aspects of aquatic research. I gained several professional, analytical, technical and organisational skills that motivated my current PhD study and conservation work.
Due to its multicultural exposure, the program promoted me to a global survivor position. Coming from the tropical region, the cold winter was both my best and worst experience, the best part was that I was experiencing snow fall for the first time in my life, and the worst part was the freezing weather outside that hindered me from outdoor activities. Moreover, WACOMA program made me realize my love for travelling, and I managed to travel to more than ten cities in Schengen countries in Europe driven by my desires to explore more of the ‘unknown’ world.
I can confidently say that I am currently who I am, professionally, socially and culturally, because of WACOMA. It opened my eyes, widened my mind, opened the doors and ushered me in to the global environment, culture and networks.
Nowadays (2021) I am PhD Candidate based at Leibniz Centre of Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), studying Marine Biogeochemistry at Kiel University Germany.
I am co-founder and director of ERACOMA, an environmental conservation organization, working with communities in Kenya on sustainable coastal/Marine resource management, based in Kenya, founded by WACOMA and MACOMA alumnus from Kenya.
I am also a conservationist and environmental educator, and I have conducted several marine conservation programs in Kenya. See links below:
- Community Based Marine Litter Management for Restoration of Endangered Turtle Habitats along Kenyan Coast
- First documentary exploring the environment issues facing the Akara-Yala-Lake Kanyaboli ecosystem in Siaya County of Kenya
- International Coastal cleanup 2018 Kenyan Coast roundup
Mombasa - Kenya, January 2021