Signing a partnership agreement during the annual Transatlantic Science Week are (from left) Kari Melby, NTNU pro-rector for research; Mark Moline, director of UD's School of Marine Science and Policy; Ingwald Strømmen, NTNU dean of engineering science and technology and chairman of the board of AMOS; and Asgeir J. Sørensen, NTNU faculty of engineering science and technology and director of AMOS.

Arctic partnership

UD signs partnership agreement with Norwegian University of Science and Technology


1:08 p.m., Nov. 17, 2015--It was only appropriate that Mark Moline, director of the University of Delaware School of Marine Science and Policy in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and 2011 Fulbright Arctic Chair, met colleagues at this year’s annual Transatlantic Science Week to sign UD’s newest partnership agreement with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The collaboration, informally begun by Moline almost a decade ago, has brought over 100 students and faculty across borders for some of the world’s most innovative research in robotic technology, increasingly used to observe and measure biological and oceanographic processes in the Arctic’s extreme conditions.

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In 2006, Moline was first introduced to NTNU through a former graduate school colleague who invited him to co-teach a course in Svalbard, located in the high Arctic. Here, Moline realized NTNU’s strengths and potential for collaboration.  “NTNU has a nice balance of coursework as well as field efforts,” he remarked. 

Moline and Kim Bothi, associate director for science and engineering, both said they look forward to the opportunities this partnership will create for increased student exchange. 

“This was about formalizing and building upon an existing partnership to facilitate the flow of students and faculty in a way that enhances exciting ongoing research efforts,” said Bothi. 

NTNU’s partner center, the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), not only offers courses generally taught in English and by faculty from all over the world, but also embodies the hands-on approach that Moline noticed during his first visit.

In addition to this hands-on approach, NTNU also houses a new and state-of-the-art Center for Excellence in Autonomy and Robotics.  According to Moline, “They have been a leader in the field of ship positioning systems and navigation, and are now moving underwater with autonomous systems including vehicles, robotics and ROVs (remotely operated vehicles).” 

Moline, along with Jonathan Cohen, assistant professor of marine biosciences, have been able to demonstrate a new application of this technology in understanding the biology of the high Arctic during the winter months.

“Everyone has assumed in the past that the whole ecosystem goes dormant during the winter,” he said. “In fact what we are finding is that it is exactly the opposite, that the whole ecosystem is processing, active, alive and waiting for the lights to come back on.”

With a growing critical mass of Arctic and polar system scientists in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, this memorandum of understanding and supplemental agreement will allow faculty and students to not only contribute to the development of these instruments, but also give the University a doorway into the Arctic. “The MOU we have signed allows a conduit for the groups to collaborate, work and investigate on a larger scale,” said Moline. 

Representatives from UD’s Institute for Global Studies also visited Norway last April for an exploratory trip as part of an International Academic Partnership Program sponsored by the Institute for International Education and Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education. 

Through this trip, which focused on energy and the environment, it became clear that partnership in Norway would be an advantageous opportunity for faculty and students from all disciplines.

“It is a spectacular landscape with abundant research and study abroad opportunities, whether you are interested in the natural sciences, engineering or humanities,” noted Bothi. “Norway has a rich cultural heritage. Although critical to the nation, it’s not just about Arctic studies. Norway offers so much more.”

In April 2016, the Institute for Global Studies will collaborate with units across campus to present Arctic Month, a month-long celebration of Arctic research and engagement across multiple disciplines and countries. For more information or to become an Arctic Month partner, contact Amy Greenwald Foley, associate director for global outreach.

Article by Nikki Laws

Photos by Julia Zhogina Photography

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