Virtual ship

Dive into marine education without limits! While fieldwork is vital for many educational programs, traditional marine science expeditions often pose significant challenges, including high costs, time constraints, logistical hurdles, and environmental impacts. Recognising these barriers, community member Emma Daniels has developed a digital learning experience that mirrors the intricacies of real-life at-sea research missions.

“There is hardly any fieldwork in oceanography, (…) There's just no space. The research ships have to be booked two years in advance and they're really expensive. The Dutch one, for example, only has place for 12 scientists.”

Addressing the scarcity of fieldwork opportunities, she created Virtual Ship Parcels, a tool designed to provide students with a simulated, yet authentic, experience in oceanographic research. The Virtual Ship samples data from a digital replica of the Earth, replicating real-world measurements. Through interactive engagement on a laptop, students collect and analyze data while honing their skills in proposal writing and expedition planning. The tool not only simulates onboard measurements but also allows students to deploy additional devices like surface drifters and Argo floats, providing a comprehensive understanding of oceanographic (research) processes. “That is why this project came into life; to teach students more about what is involved in fieldwork. 

screenshot from Virtual Ship
A screenshot from the Virtual Ship digital learning experience

Beyond its technical functionalities, the Virtual Ship offers several advantages for students, including hands-on learning experiences, practical data analysis skills development, and preparation for real-world scenarios. From proposal preparation to safety drills onboard research vessels, the tool provides a holistic learning experience, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application in the field of oceanography. “Students were realizing how big the ocean is. - It's going to take three weeks and cost around €1,000,000 to do this research! - they were claiming. It gave them some understanding of how difficult it is to get these measurements from the ocean. 

Additionally, the tool is accompanied by lesson material as  the “Virtual Ship classroom”. Students gain insight into life aboard a research vessel, receiving a letter similar to those distributed to participants on real research ships. They become acquainted with aspects such as permits and accommodation, along with instructional videos detailing life onboard and information about measurement devices and protocols. Furthermore, classroom instruction covers safety drills conducted before and during the cruise.

Looking ahead, Emma Daniels envisions expanding the capabilities of the Virtual Ship to encompass a broader range of measurements, making it accessible to researchers and students across various disciplines within marine science. By incorporating data on oxygen levels, nutrients, plankton, marine species, sediments, and more, the tool aims to cater to the diverse needs of scientists, including marine biologists. With future iterations focused on enhanced interactivity and expanded measurement capabilities, the Virtual Ship is poised to transform into an immersive command-line simulation, further enriching the educational experience for aspiring marine scientists.

The Virtual Ship represents a significant advancement in marine science education, offering students access to hands-on learning experiences that were previously inaccessible. With its transformative impact on oceanographic education, the Virtual Ship paves the way for a new era of exploration and discovery in the field of marine science.

You can find The Virtual Ship and some of the lesson materials online at