University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 631-637
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1119
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The Joint European MSc MER programme was conceived by the University of Southampton, Université de Bordeaux, Université de Liège and the Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU), with the collaboration of research associates like AZTI-Tecnalia and the Oceanographic Foundation of Gipuzkoa that have provided their extensive marine science expertise and experience. These six institutions constitute the MER Consortium created to develop these international postgraduate studies. The MER MSc programme has been recognised as a Erasmus Mundus Master Course 2012. During their learning path students spend periods at the different partner institutions. The University of the Basque Country is one of the four partners and classes are given at the research facilities located at the Plentzia Itsas Estazioa, where, among others, students can select an optional subject called Satellite Oceanography and Meteorology with 3 ECTS.

This subject is devoted to different aspects of the analysis of Satellite Data applied to oceanic studies. Apart from several introductory and theoretical aspects, hands-on computer exercises are included in the syllabus. This involves image and data retrieving, intensive programming using a high-level software and also the spatial representation of results. The target variables range from NASA’s MODIS data such as for example, chlorophyll concentrations to significant wave height and period of ocean waves as measured by means of satellite altimetry in several satellite missions (TOPEX, JASON, ENVISAT).

The objective is that students who in their future research activities are most likely to become final users of satellite data, can learn how to retrieve relevant scientific information from satellites. For this reason, either level 2 or level 3 images are used which typically, are in NetCDF3 or NetCDF4 format. Additionally, MODIS images can also be retrieved in GeoTIFF format.

To that purpose, R ( is a freely available software that provides an optimum answer to these combined needs and challenges due to its modular structure. R has a core module and nearly 8000 packages specifically developed for different purposes are also available. Packages like “RNetCDF” or “ncdf4” are used to read NetCDF archives, while, “rgdal”, “maps”, “maptools” and “mapdata” libraries can extract information from GeoTIFF images. Using them, raw data can be manipulated and relevant information can be extracted plotted onto a map.

To that purpose R is the optimal tool due to its ability to combine all the specific aspects needed to deal with satellite imagery. Besides, R has the functionality of any fully scientific software while exhibiting the flexibility that Master studies require thus becoming a perfect tool for advanced training of students. R allows plotting the data but incorporates further advanced data processing abilities that make it more relevant for scientific use than other GIS programs that could also plot some of the satellite data. Incorporating R into the teaching activities of the optional subject Satellite Oceanography and Meteorology has represented an important step forward in the education of future oceanic scientists while providing them with access to state-of-art real-life tools that they will be able to apply during their future scientific career.
Satellite images.