Dr Shubha Sathyendranath, a research scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, has been honoured with an invitation to deliver the N.K Panikkar Memorial Lecture to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Assembly in Paris this week.
The lecture was instigated by the IOC in 1995 in memory of the distinguished Indian marine scientist, N.K. Panikkar, who has become recognised as the ‘founder of oceanography in India’ and received many prestigious accolades during his life, including the Chairmanship of the IOC. Dr Shubha Sathyendranath is the latest distinguished scientist to be recognised through this invitation, which also carries the award of an IOC/UNESCO medal, for her contributions to capacity building, especially for young scientists and in the developing world. Coincidentally Dr. N.K. Panikkar spent some time in Plymouth, UK, where Dr Sathyendranath conducts research on remote sensing, modelling and optics - using satellites to obtain data that help us understand how the ocean functions and how it may be altering in the face of climate change and other global stressors.
Dr Sathyendranath sees capacity building as an obligation to the next generation of scientists, but an obligation she is delighted to fulfil: “With the world ocean facing so many threats it is essential for us to gain as much knowledge as quickly as we can to ensure it has a sustainable future. Passing our expertise, experience, enthusiasm, and hopes for the future to early career scientists and encouraging developing countries by sharing what have learned should be the first priority of any environmental scientist. Dr. N.K. Panikkar spent his whole life doing just that and I am honoured and humbled to follow in his footsteps.”
In particular Dr Sathyendranath highlights her work through the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO) which brings leading experts from around the world together with the next generation of marine scientists, many from countries where remote sensing using satellites is still in its infancy. Indeed Dr Sathyendranath sees this honour as one to be shared with her colleagues at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, in the POGO Secretariat, and especially in the many institutes that have gladly supported capacity building through giving freely of their expertise and by welcoming young scientists into their laboratories.
Amongst the many successes in which Dr Sathyendranath has played a significant role is the work of POGO with the Nippon Foundation, including the Nippon Foundation-POGO Centre of Excellence and the associated network of former alumni. The network has become central to ensuring that scientists and countries who have benefited from sharing knowledge, challenges and solutions remain in-touch and go on to share their own experiences. As Dr Sathyendranath concludes, “Capacity building is not a one-off event, it is about the future. It gives all of us involved a secure knowledge that the next generation of marine scientists cares as much as we do about the ocean and the challenges it faces. It also gives us hope for a sustainable future for the ocean, with many of our ‘alumni’ now building their own reputations, gaining international respect, working in roles that have real influence and of course continuing the good work by now sharing their own experiences with yet another generation.”