Instruments, methods and training for coastal oceanographers in under-resourced countries

University of Edinburgh
Trowbridge, England
Earth Science
DOI: 10.18258/58035
Raised of $5,600 Goal
Funded on 1/17/24
Successfully Funded
  • $5,700
  • 101%
  • Funded
    on 1/17/24

About This Project

Our understanding of the changing coastal oceans, and how to mitigate against hazards and support food security, depends on good observations, globally. But progress in many countries is hampered by lack of resources. We seek funds to complete development and field testing of new low-cost instruments. Our test site will be Ghana, where we will train local scientists to use the instruments and to monitor impacts of mercury from illegal gold mining on coastal ecosystems and communities.

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What is the context of this research?

The coastal ocean is home to globally important processes but also to vital fisheries and other resources on which large human populations depend. And it is undergoing major environmental change. There is thus an urgent need for reliable coastal ocean observations, both for the international scientific community and for the welfare of coastal communities, and protection against sealevel rise, storms and other evolving hazards. Yet, there is a major shortage of quality data from many regions, largely because oceanography is a very expensive science and facilities are lacking in many under-resourced countries. We are an international team of oceanographers working to address this problem by developing a package of low-cost instruments for physical, biological and chemical oceanography.

What is the significance of this project?

Marine data gathering is rapidly evolving thanks to automated observing platforms and sensors. However, not all parameters can be monitored and, with the exception of expensive mobile systems, data collection is “static”, at fixed locations and depths. Our project’s significance is its focus on low-cost versions of “old-school” tools for a range of physical, biological and chemical observations. Crucially, we will train people in under-resourced countries to use them for hands-on coastal oceanography. The portable package allows work in remote settings, from onshore wetlands to the continental shelf edge, and sampling and profiling can be done from small boats (kayaks to fishing boats), without need of a formal research vessel. Likewise, analyses can be done without a formal laboratory.

What are the goals of the project?

Our overall goals are to deliver an affordable package of oceanographic tools and to train oceanographers. We have assembled a package of instruments that cost small fractions of commercial equivalents. The package includes essential tools for physical (CTD, current meters) and biological (plankton nets, planktoscope) oceanography, and we seek here to complete development of inexpensive 3D-printed colorimeters and fluorimeters for diverse chemical analyses. We will then field-test the new instruments in Ghana, against commercial counterparts, as part of a study on the impacts of mercury contamination on estuarine ecosystems and fishing communities. We will train Ghanaian personnel and conduct studies in two estuaries; the Ghanaian team will use the package in a follow-up field campaign.


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* New 3D-printed analytical instruments are in final stages of development but additional elements (filters, light sources and sensors) are required for the modules used for different measurements (nutrients, pigments etc).

* The project will rely on hands-on training in physical, biological and biogeochemical methods by personnel from Edinburgh and South Africa .

* Laboratory methods will depend on locally-sourced chemicals and reagents, and fuel and other supplies will also be needed for the fieldwork.

Any additional costs, including travel and subsistence for South African training personnel, will be covered by funds from participants or their institutions.

Endorsed by

This is an amazing project that will help build real coastal research capacity in places where the tools of ocean science are most needed. Greg and the CoLab team have put together an outstanding collection of not just tools, but experts who can guide them through the development of this novel technology/training partnership.
This important project is tackling the challenge of how to better understand impacts on local marine ecosystems that are threatening ocean health and food security in regions where resources and training are limited or nonexistent. Effective protection from contaminated rivers and groundwater depends on having good environmental data, and the team’s development of economical sensors deployed from small vessels will be a breakthrough. The project’s success will then enable expansion to other resource-limited regions around the world.

Project Timeline

Work will commence with completion of chemical analytical tools and assemblage of the full instrument package. Field project plans wlll be finalised at a workshop in Brest, France, in November 2023, to beattended by Ghanaian partners. From that point, preparations will be made towards the training camp and field campaign, to occur May-July 2024. Data processing and analysis will follow, and the 2nd field campaign should be completed by early 2025.

Nov 13, 2023

Workshop in Brest, France (finalising instrument packages and training plans, and preparing Ghana field campaign

Dec 01, 2023

Project Launched

Jun 01, 2024

Travel to Ghana for 2-week training camp and field campaign

Jan 01, 2025

2nd field campaign (Ghanaian personnel)

Jun 01, 2025

Completion of data compilation and project wrap

Meet the Team

Greg Cowie
Greg Cowie


School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh
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Jethan d'Hotman
Jethan d'Hotman
Oceanographic Instrument Support Scientist


South African Environmental Observation Network
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Benjamin Osei Botwe
Benjamin Osei Botwe
Senior Lecturer


Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana
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Team Bio

The broader COLaB team is made up of physical, biological and chemical oceanographers, from all over the world and with many years of experience, as well as engineers, designers and modellers. We share common interests in democratizing oceanography and in addressing the world's need for standardised coastal ocean observations. The current project team includes those who will organise or be involved in the training and fieldwork in Ghana, as well as representatives from the Ghanaian host team.

Greg Cowie

I am an oceanographer and biogeochemist at the University of Edinburgh. Over the years, my teaching and research have led me to develop portable packages of instruments that I have used in diverse locations, from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean. The principle has been to train undergraduate students in field and analytical methods, in order to collect good data for numerous types of oceanographic studies, often in remote settings, without the need for expensive equipment or a formal research vessel or laboratory. It is this experience that I hope to bring to the present project.

Jethan d'Hotman

As an oceanographer, with a keen interest in instrumentation, I have a passion for developing new methods and tools while making my work accessible to the broader public. I am the co-chair of the Ocean Best Practices Task Team for developing best practices for Coastal Observations in under-resourced countries.

Benjamin Osei Botwe

I am a chemical oceanographer at the Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences, University of Ghana with over 10 years of university teaching and research experience. My scientific research has focused on the assessment of anthropogenic impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems. I am currently involved in projects that seek to understand and build resilience of coastal communities to climate change and diarrhoea, coastal flooding and erosion in Ghana. I also have interest in the use of low-cost tools to monitor chemical, biological and physical phenomena in estuaries and other parts of the Ghana coast, which are being impacted by artisanal gold mining in Ghana.


I lead a team focusing on observations, modelling and research of the marine environment around southern Africa as part of the South African Environmental Observation Network. I am also a Professor at the University of Cape Town and the Nelson Mandela University. My passion is in fostering regional and international collaborations as well as capacity development and I focus my attention on development through ensuring knowledge generation and sharing, as well as growing a diverse cohort of marine scientists.

COLaB began as an idea between CLIVAR IORP and SIBER and through Greg's experience. I contribute to COLaB through fostering collaborations, raising funding and general passion to see it happen.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

Illegal artisanal gold mining, or Galamsey as it is known in Ghana, has created a huge environmental issue that has received international attention (e.g. BBC news article; It has led to dramatic contamination of the Pra and Ankbora river-estuary systems (the focus of our proposed studies) with both sediment (as illustrated for the Pra) and mercury. This is having major consequences not only for freshwater and coastal ecosystems, but for the health and welfare of large fishing communities that depend on them.

Contamination of the Pra river and estuary resulting from upstream illegal gold mining (

This project is part of a broader initiative called Coastal Observation Lab in a Box, (COLaB), which is central to an Ocean Best Practices task team (TT 22-01: Coastal Observations in Under-Resourced Countries). The concept is also due to be taken up as part of a new UN Decade of the Ocean endorsed project (PredictOnTime, We believe that our work in Ghana will serve as a vital proof of concept, demonstrating the affordability and value of the instruments and training to be offered. It will be a key step towards securing larger-scale funding, which we will seek both for instrument packages and for regional training camps. We have thus far tentatively identified host institutions for COLaB training camps in Mozambique and Ghana (for S&E Africa and N&W Africa), Indonesia and Seychelles (E & W Indian Ocean island nations), Barbados (Caribbean & Central America) and Australia (W Pacific island nations).

Project Backers

  • 7Backers
  • 101%Funded
  • $5,700Total Donations
  • $814.29Average Donation
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