Aquaculture Knowledge exchange between Bangladesh and Greece
The goal of my Greece visit was to make a nexus between two continents, Asia and Europe and two countries, Bangladesh and Greece. This visit contributed to exchanging of knowledge through lecturing Greek Fisheries Students and having the opportunity to participate in the lecturing session of Greek academicians and it also established a platform to understand each other giving insights upon the fisheries and aquaculture research including education system of both countries.
The department of Ichthyology & Aquatic Environment (DIAE), University of Thessaly, Greece (www.apae.uth.gr) which is a newly established university in Greece attracting both native and overseas students as well as donors and industries with a growing interest to work with this institution, particularly with the fisheries sector has the immense potentiality in the area of aquaculture and fisheries research. The university campus is located in middle of Greece and 350 km away from the capital city Athens.
Please allow me write few word about the University
The University of Thessaly
The University of Thessaly (UTH; Greek: Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλίας) is a university in Thessaly, Greece, founded in 1984. The administrative and academic centre of the university is based in Volos, but campuses operate also in Larissa, Trikala, Karditsa and Lamia. As of 2014, there is a student population of approximately 14,000 undergraduate students enrolled at the university, more than 3,500 postgraduate students and 710 faculty members. Department of Ichthyology & Aquatic Environment (DIAE), University of Thessaly, Greece (www.apae.uth.gr) was founded within the framework of an innovative perspective in order to cover the increasing demand on novel academic courses regarding related scientific topics on aquatic living resources. DIAE typically faces the critical issue with regards to benefit students with modern knowledge on scientific issues such as conservation/management of aquatic living resources. Using leading edge approaches, scientists of that department are working through an integration of various approaches, programs are heavily research oriented and students are deeply involved in ongoing advanced projects. Scientist has made remarkable innovations, founded on a zeal for championing the free ideas of students and developing independently minded professionals with a drive to play leading roles in various fields of society.
About the trip
In the very first week I had attended a conference ‘HydroMedit 2018’ 3rd International congress on applied ichthyology and aquatic environment (8–11 November 2018), Volos, Greece.
In the second week of my visit I had the chance to deliver lecture upon Farmer Managed Aquaculture System in Asian Rice Fields and Coastal Floodplain Areas to the final year students in the Department of Ichthyology & Aquatic Environment (DIAE). I also took part in the discoursing of my mentors, visited labs and research loams, and got training on feed formulation. Academic curriculum, evaluation techniques, pedagogy of both countries were recounted as well.
A wholehearted welcome
I tried to book a short transit flight though it was not easy to find and the only option was to start flying in mid of night from Dhaka. I stayed with my lovely friend Mozo’s apartment close to airport. Having finished the dinner both of we slept and I was about to miss my flight. When we woke up it was about 24.00hrs. Though we didn’t keep any pre-booked taxi, fortunately got a CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) auto-rickshaw popularly known as CNG in Bangladesh. Thanks to the driver chacha (uncle) who was readily agreed to take us to the airport (normally you need to bargain for the fair). Thanks my good friend Mozo for his all-out support during the mid-night at Dhaka.
At Doha airport, Qatar
The economy class of Qatar Airways was full of native passengers who work in the middle eastern part of the world and contribute a great share in the national economy. Most of the passengers were found sleeping and I was no exception leaving me avoid on-flight movies that I used to watch.
Doha to Athens
Two hours of transit has passed quickly. Snacks was served quickly and it was quiet okay for me. Having finished the snacks, I entertained myself watching movie on the screen, coincidentally the movie was a Greek one and benefitted me a lot in knowing and exploring a lot about Greek customs and culture. A lot was hearkened and schooled previously about the illustrious Greek scholars and philosophers Socrates Plato, and Aristotle and it was pretty exciting visiting the land of these eggheads. When I arrived in Athens airport it was mid-day. In the airport I met with a nice Bangladeshi guy living in Greece for 10 years while I was in the queue of security pass in the airport. He also helped me to find the transport (bus) to be in my destined place Central Greece, Volos.
Journey by Bus from Athens to Volos
Bus I got immediately after being in the bus stand was missed since it was filled with passengers left me with no choice but getting into the next one in the order. Taking the ticket from the counter I managed to get the seat in the bus queued but alas! It was the last seat. It was return ticket and I thought I have to take same seat while returning. I asked my mentor Dr. Ioannis and he asserted that it will not remain same. I will have to produce this ticket and ticket master will give me new seat number. I didn’t have any mobile SIM to contact with my mentor. I asked the driver for the WIFI password and it was in good signal and help me in contacting with my mentor about my movement. The landscape of both side of the road was very beautiful and rejoicing. I was doing all these things according to the instructions formerly furthered by Dr. Ioannis.
Warm reception and dinner with Ioannis
I arrived in the bus station in due course and Dr. Ioannis received me warmly. He took me to the hotel directly. The hotel room was cozy and comfortable.
Dr. Ioannis took me to the central area of the city where most of the restaurants are located. We reached in a nice restaurant and ordered our dinner. I went for fish and Ioannis ordered chicken.
Famous Greek salad about which I heard a lot and tested it previously in the other part of the world was served in a nice way and I started my dinner before Ioannis. This was the first time when I enjoyed this delicious item in its origin.
In the morning of the next day Ioannis came to my hotel and he took me to the university. Participants, students and delegates around the world were present in the occasion. Ioannis was also the key member of the organizing committee and we decided to take part in the conference for the next few days. It was very good decision indeed.
I have attended in the HydroMedit 2018 (www.hydromedit,gr) the 3rd International Congress on Applied Ichthyology & Aquatic Environment held in the university campus from 8–11 November 2018 organized by the university of Thessaly. I have attended few dozens of oral presentations. I also meet with many academicians, industry and policy makers in this event. This was a huge opportunity for me to understand the Mediterranean aquaculture and fisheries system.
The conference is unique in its nature where around 500 participants attended from various parts of the world. In this year the representations were from 55 countries and I was the single representative from my country. During the conference session Dr. Ioannis introduced me with many of his colleagues, researchers, and high officials of fisheries and aquaculture division of Greece and other parts of Europe. I had to explain about EuraStip exchange program and its research and development activities in Bangladesh.
I joined in the gala dinner also costing me only 15.00 Euro. This coupon money was for the alcohol and all the seafood items were free. One of the faculties came to know that I am non-alcoholic and she brought soft drink and juice pack from outside for me. This was traditional Greek restaurant where you can taste most of the seafood items but need to pay only for the alcohol.
The conference committee organized a tour for the participants and it was in a traditional Greek fishing village. Being a fisheries guy I was excited to join the party. I have completed my registration by paying 50 Euro. Due to bad weather organizers changed the venue to the holy monasteries the most excited tourist place in Greece. This site is declared as the UNESCO world heritage site.
The tour guide was fluent in English and explained all most everything very nicely. I was wondering to see how the people used to climb and live in such remote height (Living in the suspension of air) without support of any sophisticated equipment. Most of the monasteries has church and the artworks are carrying the myth, history and legacy of Christianity.
With the students
Dr. Ioannis has organized interactive sessions with his MSc and BSc students. Most of the students were from Greece and some of them were from neighboring country Cyprus.
I gave an overview of the aquaculture and fisheries sector of Bangladesh. A detailed presentation on the food fish production system and its consequences on the local livelihood, food & nutritional security.
I have described the seafood production system in the coastal landscapes of Bangladesh which one is mostly dedicated for export oriented shrimp and prawn production.
Students were found interested to know about the debate on local food security, trade liberalization, environmental issues and so on. Students asked some interesting questions from their perspectives. Students were highly enthusiastic to know about the farming system that is run by small holders and how they balance their own consumption and export volume.
In a post-presentation interactions students took my business card and some of them were interested to come in Bangladesh and like to execute their research in a collaborative approach. Me and Dr. Ioannis discussed on this issue and hope to involve students in future endeavors. At last they took selfies happy moments!
Take part in class
It was one of the main objective to understand the pedagogy of developed world.
I took part few classes of Dr. Ioannis with his students. I observed the presentation style and the interaction process with the students in his class. It was interesting to see that the students were participating inside the classroom.
Snail farming and research
Among many research works snail breeding, farming and marketing get top priority in Greece. Snail are used in Bangladesh mainly as food for prawn farming. Presently policy makers in Bangladesh are giving priority on value chain and breeding works. Two PhD student took me to the breeding trial area and explained very nicely how they worked on it.
Then they took me to the lab and explained the total breeding and farming protocol. It was nice time spent with the two potential PhD fellows. They promised to help in Bangladesh’s context if needed.
One to one tips from Ioannis
I spent many hours observing Ioannis’s teaching and researching methods. He gave hands in training on feed formulation equation. He developed an easy to use tools for feed formulation and practiced several time. Most importantly I used all the existing facilities that they have. Finally, he gave me the tools to adopt in our system. I’ve also been informed about the the technique to send larger file via Wetransfer (https://wetransfer.com/) software! I also visited his lab and observed ongoing research activities. Small feed unit and feeding trail on aquarium gave me better insights.
About the curriculum development, credit hour, and other academic issues were discussed in details. I took many lectures, curriculum and some model questions to compare and contrast their and our way of education.
I mentioned in my work plan that I tried to learn the feed formulation technique from my mentor Dr. Ioannis and I spent 2–3 days to be well understood of this technique. Dr. Ioannis and his team developed a tools to formulate fish feed in an effective way. This tools were developed on the basis of feed ingredients nutritional profiles, price and so on. This tool is really helpful to deal with small scale and large scale feed formulation. Dr. Ioannis gave me this tool to use in future. We also shared the status of tertiary education system in both countries. The curriculum of Thessaly University is under developing stage. However, he shared some courses related to fish feed technology and nutrition. The outcome based curriculum gave a new insights and this knowledge will help me to adopt similar issue in our academic system.
Aquaculture graduate students have an obligation to do internship in the aquaculture industry, farm house, feed industry and government fisheries office. This internship is for four months and government provide 400 Euro for every students on a monthly basis. This helps students to be acquainted with the boarder job markets and immensely benefited them to get confidence. In Bangladesh such internship exists for the veterinary students and can be adopted for the aquaculture students. I also took a list of books, articles for future study. Dr. Ioannis also shared some of his interesting presentations with me.
Helenic Technology Platform for Aquaculture (HETEPA) is a similar type of organization working on Aquaculture in Greece. This platform is similar to BATIP (Bangladesh Aquaculture Technology Innovation Platform) and I learnt some aspects of HETEPA which I can share with other BATIP stakeholders in Bangladesh.
I left Volos, a lovely city and last two weeks were full of academic stuffs, exchanges, entertainment and a lot of happy and amazing memories. Ioannis took me to top of the hill of Volos and gifted Greek tea for my wife. Thanks a lot Ioannis. You did a lot. I will remember you for everything. In the morning he took me to the bus station and I got a seat in the middle of the bus with the same ticket.
Half-day in Athens
About half day at Athens and visited Acropolis and museum. It was most expected site to visit during my trip in Greece.
Paris transit for Eifel Tower visiting:
I return home through Paris, France and booked an Airbnb there to stay overnight. I was in Paris only to see the Eifel Tower. However, it was snowing there in Paris and temperature was 2 degree Celsius. I just visited Eifel Tower and back home asap. The next day I took the flight to back home again by Qatar airways this time Paris-Doha-Dhaka.
3. Goals of the exchange program:
The main objective of this exchange program was to underpin my knowledge of the European aquaculture and fisheries research, acquire know-hows in the management of European projects, develop and acquire new knowledge in the area of international research and funding, learn about the support to PhD candidates and post-graduate students develop my network, improve teaching skills and be acquaintance with the outcome based curriculum and pedagogy.
4. Post-exchange conclusion:
It was a successful exchange program and I was deeply involved with my mentor to acquire new knowledge and exchange ideas. I would say it immensely helped me to gain new competences and knowledge and also helped to enlarge my research network. This also helped to ‘think out of the box’ ideas to transfer to my younger colleagues and students.
5. Promotion of Eurastip:
I already shared many of the ideas, experiences in the social medias, particularly in Facebook. I gave lecture to my younger faculty. Already some of my colleagues from different universities of Bangladesh are intended to apply for the next round Eruastip Program. I am helping them by providing my ideas, sharing acquired knowledge and focusing the aims and objectives of Eurastip Program. Learning many new things which can be incorporated in my academic and research works.
It was great support from my mentor Dr. Ioannis. He was very much helpful and provided all support during my stay in Greece. The fund was sufficient enough for the exchange program. I would say the program fulfilled my expectations that I fixed during my plan of this visit.
This visit had a great impact on my carrier and I had started to think to incorporate many ideas into my research and course works.
Returned home with plenty of memories and I felt happy for strong collaboration promises between two parties. When we are submitting this report we submit a joint proposal along with other 13 universities across the globe in ErasmusMundus Plus Program. The wheel has started to move. Let’s see what happened in near future. Hope for the best.
Abdullah-Al Mamun, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Fisheries and Marine Science, Noakhali Science and Technology University, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Acknowledgement: Thanks to dear student Sazzad Shihab for proof-reading.