Archbishop emeritus Desmond Mpoilo Tutu is the patron and will be hosting the inauguration event in his office on May 20, 2010 in Cape Town, when seven partner institutions in South Africa, Norway and the USA come together to sign a collaborative agreement on the establishment of the “Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research”. The Centre will foster collaborations in research and higher education in Africa with focus on marine environmental sciences.

The Nansen-Tutu Centre is initiated by the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Bergen, Norway and the Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town. It is named after the two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Desmond Tutu and Dr. Fridtjof Nansen.

The Nansen-Tutu Centre will be located at the Marine Research (Ma-Ra) Institute, Department of Oceanography at the University of Cape Town and headed by Prof. Frank Shillington (Ma-Re) and Prof. Johnny A. Johannessen (NERSC) both for a 3 years period.

An overall goal for the Centre is to improve the capacity to observe, understand and predict marine ecosystems functioning and variability on timescales from days to decades in support of scientific and societal needs including support to fisheries, coastal management, maritime security, recreation and tourism. Through a Nansen-Tutu scholarship program education, supervision and exchange of young researchers and students will be supported and organized.

The preamble of the agreement is stating:
“Africa juts into the Indian, South Atlantic and Southern Oceans with cool and warm oceans juxtaposed, giving rise to unique marine and land ecosystems with high biodiversity, rich fisheries and superb natural resources. It is therefore important that we develop the capacity for understanding and predicting the state of the ocean and its ecosystems as the meteorological services do for the weather. The Founding Partners have complementary expertise and knowledge to address these challenges”.

The signatory partners are the Ma-Re Institute, the Department of Oceanography, at the University of Cape Town, the African Centre for Climate and Earth System Science (ACCESS/CSIR), the Geoscience Department at Princeton University, USA, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen and the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC).

The Nansen-Tutu Centre is the fifth centre in the Nansen Group of international research centres initiated by its Founding Director Prof. Ola M. Johannessen. The other Centres are the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (1986) in Bergen, Norway; the Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre (1992) in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Nansen Environmental Research Centre – India (1998) in Cochin, India; and the Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre (2003) in Beijing, China.

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