The institution will be responsible for promoting an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation on education in ocean sciences, ocean literacy and sustainable economy of marine resources, which benefits the collaboration between researchers and teachers of Portuguese universities and academies in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
Dedicated to ocean research and literacy, the UNESCO Chair, attributed to the University of Porto (U.Porto), intends to develop a cooperation network with countries of the Southern Hemisphere, acting as a connection point between governments, companies and non-governmental organizations in the area of ocean sciences.
Under the name “Ocean Expert – Science Education of Children for Ocean Stewardship: in Support of the Sustainable Ocean Economy”, the initiative’s main objective is to close the critical gaps in ocean science and governance and to address the challenges in implementing the goals of the Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development through innovative research projects and new research areas.
With a special focus on disadvantaged groups at a national and regional level, the intention is also to involve civil society by promoting their education and training in this field.
Included in UNESCO’s University Twinning and Networking Programme (UNITWIN), the Chair – the 15th awarded in Portugal, but the first dedicated to Ocean Science – is the result of an application led by researchers from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research of the U.Porto (CIIMAR-UP), and will be headed by Laura Guimarães, coordinator of CIIMAR’s research group on Marine and Coastal Environmental Toxicology and professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the U.Porto FCUP).
CIIMAR will be the executive institution of the project, as a result of “a work that has been developed for several years at the University” in the fields of ocean science, ocean education and sustainability. Among the implemented initiatives are “research activities on the education of ocean issues, the development of resources and advanced training for primary and secondary school teachers and other educators and several dissemination actions, carried out with the purpose of making people understand the importance of the ocean for the sustainability of life on earth, for our lives, and our influence over the ocean”.
For Laura Guimarães, the attribution of the new chair to U.Porto is therefore “special”, but also an opportunity to make a difference in a pressing area. “We have to be able to benefit from these resources by preserving them for future generations, but we also have to understand our impact on this same ocean,” she says.
Launched in 1992, the UNESCO uniTwin Chairs Programme promotes cooperation and interconnection between universities internationally, with the aim of strengthening institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. The uniTwin Network (University Twinning and Networking Programme) currently brings together more than 700 institutions from 114 countries.
In Portugal, there are 15 active UNESCO Chairs. Besides the “Ocean Expert” Chair, U.Porto also hosts the Chair “Heritage, Cities and Landscapes. Sustainable Management, Conservation, Planning and Design”, coordinated by the Faculty of Architecture (FAUP) and the Chair “Life on Earth”, coordinated by the Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources of the U.Porto (CIBIO-InBIO).