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Internship programme a win-win situation

By Dr Juliet Hermes, Manager, SAEON Egagasini Node
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Former DST-NRF intern Kyle Cooper in Paris where he learnt the PAGO toolbox from its creator, Dr Julie Deshayes

DST-NRF intern Kyle Cooper began his journey at SAEON’s Egagasini Node in May 2015. He quickly found his feet under the guidance of Dr Juliet Hermes who assisted and advised him on the projects that would challenge him and grow his abilities.

Given Kyle’s previous experience with the oil and gas industry, part of his work was related to the South African Marine Research and Exploration Forum (SAMREF). SAMREF has been established through a partnership between the Department of Science and Technology and the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa, pursuant to an agreement reached as part of the Operation Phakisa for the Oceans Economy initiative of August 2014.

Kyle’s insight into the industry and ongoing collaborations was a strength in moving forward with this initiative as he was able to get insightful comments and advice on how to approach industry.

Kyle’s other projects included working on publishing his MSc thesis, Evaluating global ocean reanalysis systems for the greater Agulhas Current System. This paper is now in its final draft format and focuses on validating global assimilated reanalysis products over the greater Agulhas Current region using independent or unassimilated observations. This uses a number of methods, in particular the Physical Analysis Gridded Ocean Data (PAGO).

Building capacity in SA

PAGO is an inter-comparison tool for analysing ocean models with different grid sizes and types. Kyle learnt the PAGO toolbox from its creator, Dr Julie Deshayes from the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. With her guidance he has since built capacity at using this within South Africa, working with Honours students through to postdocs.


Figure 1. Mean SSH is represented by white contours and the mean surface SSH standard deviation represented by the colour shading is shown for AVISO, 1993-2010. The 3000 m ETOPO 2v2 isobath is shown in black.

Groundbreaking work with gliders

Kyle also spent time working with Drs Marjolaine Krug and Sebastiaan Swart from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on an exciting new project researching the Good Hope Jet in the Benguela System with glider and satellite sea surface temperature. Preliminary analysis was completed highlighting the groundbreaking and exciting use of gliders in Southern Africa.

Throughout his internship Kyle encountered a number of challenges such as time management, project management and scientific problems. These new challenges grew him as a professional, allowing him to develop and apply new skills.

Kyle was also developing his data analysis and validation skills and had the opportunity to attend a workshop in the UK for this purpose. It is through developing skills such as these that interns can really increase their employability factor.

The senior node scientists, Dr Wayne Goschen and Dr Lara Atkinson, as well as the ASCA coordinator Tammy Morris and PDP coastal modelling postdoc Charine Collins freely offered their advice, readily assisted in solving problems in projects, identifying potential problems in projects, and offering their understanding on complex scientific issues. Their high level of professionalism coupled with their relaxed and approachable nature made for an environment for Kyle to learn and develop professionally.

Kyle remarked that he found the frequent interactions with the SAEON team helpful, professional and entertaining. “The jovial but always professional attitude of the team made for a working atmosphere that was professionally efficient but also enjoyable,” he said.

“The time spent at the SAEON Egagasini Node has played a key role in my professional development and has springboarded my career forward. I am extremely grateful to Dr Juliet Hermes and her team for all the efforts they invested into my development.”

Kyle was a valued member of the team and we wish him all the best. We hope to continue collaborations with him in his new position as MetOcean consultant at Total.

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