Oceans of knowledge

Education | Katie Hung 28 May 2019

With serious global issues like climate change and over-harvesting as well as coastal infrastructure development, knowledge about oceans has become increasingly critical.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is rolling out the city's first bachelor of science degree program in ocean science and technology in September, with the four-year program expected to offer 30 to 40 places each year.

Its cross-disciplinary and integrated curriculum focuses on three main pillars - science like oceanography and marine ecotoxicology, technology such as pollution tracking and ocean modelling, and innovation for research projects.

Department of Ocean Science associate professor Stanley Lau said there are plenty of ocean science programs in Europe and America, but they are comparatively fewer in Asia.

He said the environment in Hong Kong is very unique with strong marine resources and a rich diversity for the city's habitat. And even students are situated in a relatively tiny place, they can still learn a lot.

"Our place is very small, but we have a long, 1,000-kilometer-long coastal line," he explained, adding that 60 percent of areas in the SAR comprises marine environment.

"We have more than 5,000 marine species, which make up one quarter of China's diversity, and the number of types of hard coral we have is more than the Caribbean Sea," said Lau, who is also the undergraduate coordinator.

"Now, basically within one day, travelling from the east to the west (in Hong Kong), students can almost see everything they need to know."

Amid the increasing amount of coastal infrastructure projects and burgeoning ecotourism business, the demand for ocean science talent is higher than ever.

Graduates will be qualified to work with both the public sector and private companies like environmental consultancies, or they can pursue higher studies in areas such as conservation and protection of marine resource, and research and development in marine technology.

Since oceanography is not a regional-based science subject, and what students are going to learn about is indeed the global marine system, the knowledge can be basically applied everywhere in the world.

The department will also provide credit-bearing internship opportunities in summer with non-governmental organizations, testing laboratories and environmental consultancies.

The program goes beyond the classroom's four walls with field trips being held every semester, sometimes even the outbound ones.

For example, the department, conducts a one-week exchange program with a Japanese university, taking students to Suruga Bay of 2,000 meters depth for research, and to Mount Fuji for a geological study.

"The geographical setting of Hong Kong has certain restrictions," Lau explained. "Our deepest bay, talking about in Hong Kong, is 50 meters in depth. So we have to take them out of Hong Kong."

There is also a credit-bearing capstone project in mainland China that students are required to participate in during a winter break in January for comparative field surveys, laboratory and site visits. It can include works like taking and comparing samples taken from both Hong Kong and Shenzhen's mangrove forest for analysis.

Diving courses will also be offered by the department every summer at HKUST, so that students can take part in the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's coral surveys later on.

Apart from a pure interest in ocean science and technology, applicants are also expected to realize the importance of ocean to humans. Considering many site visit opportunities, Lau joked it would be better if students aren't prone to getting seasick.

JUPAS applicants are required to get into the School of Science (JUPAS code: JS5100) first for the year-one study on foundation courses before declaring the major for the rest of studies.

Students from the first cohort will step into their major studies in September 2020.

To qualify to declare the major, freshmen have to finish some designated major pre-requisite courses, including environmental science. They will also be invited for an interview.

Applicants will have a chance to modify their program choices within their allocated time-slot after the release of HKDSE results.

The minimum entrance requirements for the School of Science with HKDSE results are two level threes in Chinese and English, and two level twos in mathematics and liberal studies in core subjects.

Also required are two elective subjects, both in level threes, and one of them have to be a science subject (among biology, chemistry, physics, combined science or integrated science), or mathematics extended module one or two.

Website: science.ust.hk/4year-requirements.html

katie.hung@singtaonewscorp.com

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