Welcome to CAPSTAN

Welcome to CAPSTAN

Welcome to CAPSTAN    Capstan_Black_Type_RGB_Lrg

"Individually we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." - Ryunosuke Satoro

The Collaborative Australian Postgraduate Sea Training Alliance Network aims to transform marine science education through the development of a national approach to teaching and learning in the marine realm. CAPSTAN provides a platform for institutional, industrial, and generational knowledge transfer through collaboration on board Australia’s state-of-the-art research vessel, the RV Investigator. CAPSTAN is a first of its kind and will transform marine science education for generations to come.

In 2017-2020, the Marine National Facility (MNF) generously provided the CAPSTAN programme with RV Investigator ship time and access to on-board equipment for 3 pilot voyages for up to 30 post-graduate students and trainers. Our first voyage crossed the Great Australian Bight in November 2017 and our second voyage crossed in April/May 2019 (check out the voyage blog! 2019 posts are now up!!!) We are thrilled to announce that due to the success of these pilot voyages, CAPSTAN will continue to be offered- stay tuned for information on voyage 4 (sailing September 2020).

Photo: Marine National Facility

Next up! The 3rd CAPSTAN voyage under the expert lead of Chief Scientist Veronica Tamsitt is scheduled from Fremantle, Western Australia on 10th March 2020 and cross the Great Australian Bight, arriving in Hobart, Tasmania on 19th March 2020. The pre-voyage workshop will commence on 8th March.

Applications for voyage 3 are now closed, stay tuned for voyage 4!  Applications for voyage 4 will likely be released in December 2019.

Please note that if your institution is a subscribed CAPSTAN member, your application will receive priority consideration during selection of the CAPSTAN participants. CAPSTAN is committed to diversity and social inclusion and particularly encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to apply.

You will receive an email notification no later than 30 September 2019 informing you of the application outcomes.  Please note, all berth offers are subject to approval by your home institution. Additionally, if you are offered a spot in order to participate you must complete acceptance forms and required documentation by the specified date, pass a MNF medical, and you must be endorsed and indemnified by their University/Institute or Organisation.  Failure to meet any of these requirements will result in forfeiture of your offer. CAPSTAN covers transportation and accomodation costs within Australia before and after the voyage for participants from subscribing universities as part of a group booking (arriving 7th March, return 20th March).  You can opt out of CAPSTAN arranged transportation at the time of acceptance if you choose to extend your travel.

If you have any queries or are ready to submit your application please use the e-mail address: fse.capstanapps@mq.edu.au

Key dates:

  • Voyage 3 departs Fremantle on 10 March and arrives Hobart on 19 March 2020;
    • pre-departure workshop will begin on 8 March 2019

Welcome Aboard

Photo: Marine National Facility

Participating in a CAPSTAN voyage?

Here’s some of the amazing marine science and shipboard experiences you can expect!
You will hear, see, and do interdisciplinary marine science:


  • Your team of trainers and crew on the board represent a wide span of expertise in the marine sciences- you will hear from them about their area of expertise as well as their cumulative years of experience on ships studying the biologychemistrygeology, and physics of the global oceans

Two female scientists sample plankton from the cod end of the Bongo nets on RV Investigator

Collecting plankton from the Bongo nets
Photo Credit: April Abbott


  • You’ll see and experience how a world-class research vessel operates as you set sail on board RV Investigator
  • You’ll see (and identify) sea life from large sea birds and marine mammals, to squid, to microscopic plankton
  • You’ll see presentations and participate in workshops by experts in the biology, chemistry, geology, and physics of the global oceans

Four CAPSTAN students begin photographing and describing a Kasten Core inside the dirty wet laboratory

Describing the sediment in a kasten core

Photo Credit: April Abbott


  • You’ll develop your science communication skills, including contributing to our CAPSTAN blog!
  • You’ll improve your data collection, analyses, and reporting skills
  • You’ll practice safe conduct in a marine research environment
  • You'll expand your understanding of the interdisciplinary breadth of marine science
  • You’ll use and become familiar with state-of-the-art oceanographic sampling equipment
  • You’ll network with other marine science students and researchers from across Australia
  • You’ll
    • Tow plankton nets
    • Collect sediments using coring and dredge devices
    • Measure water profiles with a CTD
    • Collect and titrate seawater from Niskin bottles
    • Map the seafloor

A sediment grab sampler is deployed into the Great Australian Bight at sunset

Deployment of the sediment grab at sunset

Photo Credit: April Abbott

Voyage Blog

Welcome to the CAPSTAN blog!

Keeping you posted with the latest from on board RV Investigator!

You can expect new blog posts (and photos!) from our student participants during each of the CAPSTAN voyages and even some updates from our alumni!  Hear about the science and the learning taking place on board straight from the next generation of marine scientists!

You can also check out the CAPSTAN group blogs in AGU's The Field (2019 posts now up!):

2017 The Field blogs:

Project updates

Congratulations to Dr. Veronica Tamsitt on being selected as voyage 3 Chief Scientist!

Stay tuned for details on voyage 4 and look for applications to open late this year!

Stay up to date

You can join our mailing list by clicking here!

Follow us on twitter @CAPSTAN_Voyages / @April__Abbott @peta_vine

Not on our mailing list? You can check out some of our past newsletters here if you missed them:

Our voyage blog now has the 2019 participant posts! Also check out posts from our Director about the voyage.

2019 voyage a success!

18 students and 9 trainers from across Australia headed on RV Investigator from Hobart to start the second voyage across the Great Australian Bight to Fremantle!  They spent 10 days gaining hands-on experience with a variety of modern sampling equipment and collected some fantastic sediment samples. Check out the blog (link above) to relive the experience and maybe even catch some updates from our alumni!

Sediment sample from kasten core #4 collected on the 2019 CAPSTAN voyage

Conferences & Presentations

Past presentations

Abbott, A.N., Lyn-Stephens, S., and Vine, P. CAPSTAN: Lessons learned through hands-on-training for the next generation of marine scientists. Australian Marine Science Association Marine Science For A Blue Economy Conference, Fremantle 2019.

Abbott, A.N. CAPSTAN: interdisciplinary training for the next generation of marine scientists. Australian Marine Science Association Canyons to Coast 2018 Conference, Adelaide.

Abbott, A.N. and Lyn-Stephens, S. CAPSTAN: Towards a tertiary marine science education. Lightning lecture and poster. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) and International Conference on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography (ICSHMO), UNSW Sydney.

Armand, L.K. and Moore, C.L. Weigh anchor! The CAPSTAN national post-graduate sea training sets sail in 2017. Lightening lecture and poster. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) and Meteorological Society of New Zealand (MSNZ) conference.  ANU Canberra. Presented by Leah Moore on behalf of L. Armand. 9th February, 2017.

Armand, L.K. The Collaborative Australian Postgraduate Sea Training Alliance Network (CAPSTAN). AUGEN. Canberra. 28th January 2016.

Armand, L.K. Beyond the Next Wave: A national postgraduate at sea training initiative on the RV Investigator. AMOS/ARCCSS National Conference, Melbourne. 10th February, 2016.

Armand, L.K. All things Mud! Geosciences and the RV Investigator. Sydney Institute of Marine Science SAC general meeting. 26 August, 2015.

Armand, L.K. (2015).Training work-ready graduates: the SMART2 (CAPSTAN) initiative. Bioscience Education Australia Network – Creating the Future. Shine Dome Canberra. 9th December 2015.


Abbott, A. (2019), Crossing the Great Australian Bight, Maritime Times of Tasmania, #68, Spring.

Abbott, A. (2018), CAPSTAN -- Voyage 2, Maritime Times of Tasmania, #65, Summer.

Abbott, A. (2018), Welcome Aboard CAPSTAN, Maritime Times of Tasmania, #64, Spring.

Abbott, A. (2018), CAPSTAN: Training the Next Generation of Marine Scientists. The Australian Geologist, June.

Armand, L., Coleman, R., Coffin, M., Bose, N., Suthers, I., Bruce, E., Baker, E., Gladstone, W., Ellwood, M. and Holmes, S. (2015) Strategic Marine Alliance Research, Teaching and Training(SMART2): A national Master-level at sea training initiative. Pp. 42. Dept. of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University: North Ryde. http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/346971. You can read the Executive summary here or download the full report from Macquarie University ResearchOnline.

RV Investigator

Marine National Facility – RV Investigator


Marine National Facility – Home Page


CSIRO – Investigator Blog


Get Involved!

Stay up to date and join our mailing list - click here!

Here you find information on how to support the CAPSTAN programme (information for universities, government, and industries) as well as how to participate in a voyage (trainer or student!).  Have questions, our contact information is at the bottom!

Photo Credit: Ben Arthur

Come sail with us !

…as a student:

Our training voyages all take place on board the state-of-the-art research vessel RV Investigator. They consist of practical hands-on research, sea training, theoretical lectures, and an assessment of your ability to communicate scientific findings and ideas. It won’t be all hard work though, as there will be a number of fun activities along the way. This is a great opportunity to test your research, inquiry, problem-solving and communication in a unique work environment. Find out more about what to expect in Welcome Aboard!

You must be a student enrolled at an Australian University at the time of the voyage to be eligible. Priority will be given to applicants from institutions subscribed to the CAPSTAN programme (see below for more reasons why to subscribe!).

… as a trainer:

CAPSTAN needs academics passionate about teaching marine science!

We are scheduled to sail from Fremantle to Hobart across the Great Australian Bight in March 2020. This training voyage will consist of practical hands-on research, sea training, theoretical lectures and an assessment of student’s ability to communicate scientific findings and ideas.  Applicants from subscribed CAPSTAN institutions will receive priority consideration.

Photo: Marine National Facility

Support our Mission!

CAPSTAN needs stakeholder support!

Our approach will be heavily informed by your opinions, expectations, and experiences of graduate training initiatives and education received by marine scientists. The CAPSTAN aims to increase Australian student qualifications, improve scientific outputs and reputations, enhance employability skills, and increase the use of national infrastructure. On behalf of the CAPSTAN Foundational Alliance, we are excited to introduce our Business Investor Prospectus. We invite you to consider becoming part of this first of its kind and truly national sea-training programme on-board RV Investigator. These outcomes have potential benefit for you and your industry for years to come.

CAPSTAN is led by Macquarie University and made possible by support from the Marine National Facility through granted sea time on RV Investigator.

Photo: Marine National Facility

We are currently looking for industry sponsorship and collaboration, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interesting in climbing aboard this exciting initiative.

If you are a representative of the marine science industries, government or tourism, please download our capstan-business-prospectus.

If you are from an Australian university, please download our capstan-university-prospectus.

Where can I learn more?

Here are a few resources and webpages which will provide more detail on the background and context for the project.

National Maritime Science Plan 2015-2025

SMART2: A National Sea Training Initiative



Dr. April Abbott, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Macquarie University

About the network

Photo: Marine National Facility

The Irish SMART Programme

CAPSTAN would like to thank the Irish SMART programme, and in particular, Pauhla McGrane of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology for their continued support and encouragement of the CAPSTAN initiate.

Research vessel-based training in Ireland has been in place since 1986, however, in 2008 the Irish Marine Institute with the Higher Education Authority developed a pilot programme to coordinate the use of national infrastructure for training with a specific desire to increase national capacity, skills and expertise. The trial was successful and led to the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART). SMART commenced in 2011 by integrating five Higher Education Institutions with the Marine Institute and the Higher Education Authority to pool existing facilities, expertise and infrastructure to develop and deliver efficient, accredited, customised education programmes. SMART has since trained 300 marine-related students annually on the RV Celtic Voyager and in 2014, ran 12 national and international training programmes, one of which is IMarEST (Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology) accredited.

The Irish SMART programme is an outstanding example of a collaborative and integrated national marine training programme upon which Australian higher educational institutions and existing national facilities and institutes can model a new national educational framework and collaborative programme.

For more information on the SMART programme, follow the link to their website http://www.smartseaschool.com/

School of the Sea

School of the Sea programs have previously existed in Australia, with the last being the internationally-­open University of the Sea program between 2005-­2010 (Armand et al. 2015). The aim of the University of the Sea was to enable senior researchers from the region and overseas to work with young local scholars on marine issues of direct interest to the Asia-Pacific region. Unlike the University of the Sea, SMART2, now CAPSTAN, aims to be foremost, an annual, permanent national student program delivering a nationally agreed curriculum. Education at sea is a theme where northern hemisphere universities, institutions and governments have many years of experience alignment post-graduate attributes gained by learning undertaken at sea and addressing stakeholder needs a part of education frameworks in Ocean Sciences and Technology (Henriet et al. 2010). The basis of many of these programs is experiential learning (Evans 1994) or immersive education (Dennison & Oliver 2013).

Meet our team

Director: April N Abbott, PhD

April Abbott is a lecturer in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Macquarie University. Dr. Abbott is a sedimentary geochemist with seagoing experience on multiple research vessels including the R/V Investigator.  Her PhD is in Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Science with an accompanying certificate in College & University Teaching.

Secretariat: Peta Vine

Peta Vine joined the CAPSTAN team in April 2018 as our Secretariat.  You may recognise Peta as one of our inaugural voyage student participants!  Peta brings with her experience in marine research, project management, and marketing.  Her current research focuses on estimating the growth-temperature of Antarctic diatoms.

CAPSTAN Partners

CAPSTAN Membership

Current Subscribing Universities:

Macquarie University -- University of Adelaide -- University of Canberra -- Charles Darwin University -- Deakin University -- Flinders University -- University of Tasmania -- University of Technology, Sydney -- The University of Sydney -- University of Western Australia -- The University of Melbourne -- University of New South Wales -- James Cook University -- University of Newcastle

Pilot Programme Sponsors of Student Mobility

ANU Marine Geoscience Office (MARGO) -- NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Pilot Programme Supporters

Marine National Facility (MNF) - CSIRO -- Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

Australian Government Department of the Environment (Australian Antarctic Division).

Original CAPSTAN Foundational Alliance

Macquarie University -- Marine National Facility (MNF) -- Australian Government Geoscience Australia -- Australian Government Department of the Environment (Australian Antarctic Division) -- Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) -- University of New South Wales -- Australian National University -- The University of Western Australia -- Western Sydney University -- The University of Sydney -- The University of Tasmania -- Australian Maritime College -- University of Technology Sydney -- University of Canberra Flinders University -- Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) -- The Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART).

CAPSTAN Foundational Alliance members (2015-2016)

Academic Advisory & Implementation Group

Dr A. AbbottMacquarie UniversityProject leader & group liaison, web content, oceanography.
Dr M. OstrowskiMacquarie UniversityMolecular community liaison.
Prof. I SuthersUNSW, AustraliaZooplankton ecologist, state government dept. liaison.
A/P. M RoughanUNSW, AustraliaPhysical oceanographer.
Dr K. Petrou*Uni. of Tech., SydneyCurriculum development.
Dr S. HolmesUni. Western SydneyBenthic ecologist.
Dr E. BruceUniversity of SydneyCoastal/marine geomorphologist.
Prof. R. ColemanUniversity of TasmaniaGovt contacts, physical oceanographer, quantitative skills.
Prof. RanmuthugalaAust. Maritime CollegeExtensive educational training at sea, engineer.
A/P. M. EllwoodAust. Nat. UniversityMarine chemist.
Dr J. BourgetUni. Western AustraliaMarine geologist, international program experience.
Dr Chris Cvitanovic*MNF Policy OfficerMNF liaison & web assistance, marine policy.
Dr Ana Lara-Lopez*IMOS OfficerIMOS liaison & web assistance, Government contacts.
Postgraduate ProgramSIMSSIMS liaison and web assistance.
Dr Leah MooreUni. Canberra Volcanology, hydrogeological Landscape (HGL), science education.

For all general enquiries please email us at fse.CAPSTANenquiries@mq.edu.au

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