COBRA Master Class: Providing deep-sea expedition leadership training to accelerate early career advancement

Leading deep-sea research expeditions requires a breadth of training and experience, and the opportunities for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to obtain focused mentorship on expedition leadership are scarce. To address the need for leadership training in deep-sea expeditionary science, the Crustal Ocean Biosphere Research Accelerator (COBRA) launched a 14-week virtual Master Class with both synchronous and asynchronous components to empower students with the skills and tools to successfully design, propose, and execute deep-sea oceanographic field research. The Master Class offered customized and distributed training approaches and created an open-access syllabus with resources, including reading material, lectures, and on-line resources freely-available on the Master Class website ( All students were Early Career Researchers (ECRs, defined here as advanced graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, early career faculty, or individuals with substantial industry, government, or NGO experience) and designated throughout as COBRA Fellows. Fellows engaged in topics related to choosing the appropriate deep-sea research asset for their Capstone “dream cruise” project, learning about funding sources and how to tailor proposals to meet those source requirements, and working through an essential checklist of pre-expedition planning and operations. The Master Class covered leading an expedition at sea, at-sea operations, and ship-board etiquette, and the strengths and challenges of telepresence. It also included post-expedition training on data management strategies and report preparation and outputs. Throughout the Master Class, Fellows also discussed education and outreach, international ocean law and policy, and the importance and challenges of team science. Fellows further learned about how to develop concepts respectfully with regard to geographic and cultural considerations of their intended study sites. An assessment of initial outcomes from the first iteration of the COBRA Master Class reinforces the need for such training and shows great promise with one-quarter of the Fellows having submitted a research proposal to national funding agencies within six months of the end of the class. As deep-sea research continues to accelerate in scope and speed, providing equitable access to expedition training is a top priority to enable the next generation of deep-sea science leadership.


deep-sea, capacity building, education, ECR, exploration

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Rotjan Randi D., Bell Katherine L.C., Huber Julie A., Wheat Charles Goeffrey, Fisher Andrew T., Sylvan Rosalynn Lee, McManus James, Bigham Katharine T., Cambronero-Solano Sergio, Cordier Tristan, Goode Savannah, Leonard Juliana, Murdock Sheryl, Paula Fabiana S., Ponsoni Leandro, Roa-Varon Adela, Seabrook Sarah, Shomberg Russell, Van Audenhaege Loic, Orcutt Beth N. (2023). COBRA Master Class: Providing deep-sea expedition leadership training to accelerate early career advancement. Frontiers In Marine Science. 10. 1223197. (11p.).,

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