In operation since 1990, the Training-through-Research (TTR) programme puts together the advantages of the formal training of undergraduate and postgraduate students and young scientists with the experiences gained in advanced research. Its main operational field is marine geology and geophysics combined in interdisciplinary way with studies in benthic biology and physical oceanography. The new TTR focus is on studying processes of geosphere-biosphere coupling in high-seas.

An initiative of Moscow State University (MSU), the programme's seeds had been planted during discussions at a UNESCO workshop on 'Marine Science Education and Training for the year 2000' (Paris, 1987) and subsequently at the UNESCO workshop on 'University Field Courses in Marine Sciences' (Moscow and Poyakonda, 1989). Up until the end of 1995, UNESCO supported TTR through the Organization's Marine Training (TREDMAR) programme. Between 1992-1994, TTR was also co-sponsored by the European Science Foundation through its Network on Advanced Study Workshops on Mediterranean Marine Geosciences. Since 1996, the programme has been co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO through its Training, Education and Mutual Assistance component and more recently through the Ocean Science Programme.

The annual TTR cycle of activities includes:

  • preparation of a cruise by the Executive and Scientific Committees;
  • the TTR cruise, with (when possible) a mid-cruise workshop and/or field excursion(s) for the participants and invited scientists;
  • preliminary data processing, preparation and publication of scientific reports;
  • a post-cruise conference to present and discuss the results of on-going analysis and interpretation of data, and to co-ordinate with other regional studies;
  • preparation of scientific publications.

In the period 1991-2012, eighteen  major TTR cruises were conducted in the Mediterranean and Black Seas and in the northeastern Atlantic. Nine post-cruise conferences were held in: Moscow (1993, 1996 and 2001), Amsterdam (1994 and 1997), Cardiff (1995), Gent (1998), Southampton (1999), Granada (2000). A number of other field exercises (including smaller cruises), group and individual training activities, and presentation and publication of the research results were carried out.

Over the past 20 summers, a total of more than 1000 undergraduate and post-graduate students and researcher from 30 countries from all over the globe have taken part in oceanographic cruises to the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean and Black Seas and Arctic Ocean. For one to two months annually ocean-going research vessels “Professor Logachev”, “Gelendzhik” or “Akademik Nikolaj Strakhov” (Russia) become a ‘floating university’. Under the guidance of senior scientists from international academic, governmental and industrial backgrounds, students conduct cutting-edge marine research in the deep ocean.

A new concept of research

The ‘Floating University’ programme was launched in 1991. It is part of the Capacity Development Program of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). The UNESCO Chair in Marine Geology and Geophysics at Moscow State University (established in 1994) serves as the program’s training ‘arm’ and is the principal organizer of the cruises. The Chair has developed a new concept of ‘training-through-research’ (TTR) that makes the program different from other on-the-job training exercises. Throughout the year students go through the entire cycle: from being provided with knowledge on the subject of their research to on-the-cruise data collection, laboratory analyses and, ultimately, presentation of the research results at international conferences and their publication in peer reviewed scientific journals. The globally recognized success of the programme is based on international cooperation between some 100 universities and research institutions that has been established and promoted by the Chair.

Focus of the research

The research focus of the program is on ocean margins: the new frontiers where many exciting discoveries have been made over the past decade or so. Recent research has demonstrated that fluids seeping from the Earth’s crust into the oceans – or from the geosphere to the hydrosphere - contribute substantively to the entire Life System on Earth (biosphere). The concept of interaction between the geosphere and the biosphere has set the stage for new disciplines such as biogeology, biogeochemistry and geomicrobiology, which open up truly novel research avenues.


Ocean margins harbor most of the world’s marine biodiversity, making them crucial for fisheries. They are home to myriads of microbes and bacteria. Recent research has shown that these micro-organisms are ‘housekeepers’ of the Earth’s climate. Little over a decade ago, it was discovered that (in addition to oil) ocean margins contain huge, largely untold reserves of energy sources like methane gas. There are not enough experts in marine resource exploration today, despite the fact that academia, governments, universities and the private sector all need to be able to call on such experts. The ‘floating university’ program focus on global issues and brings students to the reality of exploration and exploitation of marine resources.

TTR is open for co-operation to all those interested in making break-through research and gaining new experience through training in multi-disciplinary science.