Welcome to the SMART Summer School 2020 homepage!

University of Malta

6 - 10 July 2020

"Understanding marine hydrogeology through the lens of geochemistry"


In light of the ongoing challenges the global community faces as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone the SMART Summer School until next summer, 2021. We will keep you updated on our plans in organizing the SMART Summer School 2021 and thank you for your continued interest. Stay safe and healthy!

 Photos: Bradley Weymer/GEOMAR 

General information

Recently, several studies have described the significance of freshened subsea aquifers as groundwater reservoirs in shelf and continental slope areas. In line with last year’s SMART Summer School focused on geophysical methods the focus of this year’s Summer School is on biogeochemical exercises in characterizing freshened reservoir fluid origin, migration, and related element cycles.
Freshened subsea groundwater (salinity < seawater salinity) can be attributed, for example, to meteoric water input, clay mineral dehydration or gas hydrate dissociation. How to differentiate between these waters will be one topic at the School. Another focus is on the freshened water discharging at the seafloor. The identification of such outflows using radio-tracing techniques will be presented. The biogeochemical cycles of nutrients and other tracers discharging mainly in coastal waters will be discussed. The lectures are supported by modeling exercises, laboratory work and a field excursion to Malta and Gozo coastal outcrops.

Target group: The Summer School welcomes applications from both undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing degrees in the fields (or related fields) of geochemistry, hydrogeology, marine geophysics, near-surface applied geophysics, and coastal geology/geomorphology. We especially encourage female students and students from underprivileged countries to apply. The total number of participants is limited to 10 students. If more than 10 students apply, the selection will be based on the evaluation of the applicants CV and motivation letter.

Location: The SMART Summer School will be held at the University of Malta Msida Campus. Classroom lectures will be held in the computer labs on campus.

Registration: You can register securely by clicking the Registration tab and completing the form. Please include your name, email address and your intent to register for the course. You will then receive instructions by email on how to send your short CV and motivation letter (as a single pdf file) for review by the SMART team members. Please limit your CV to no more than 1 page and your motivation letter to no more than 300 words. Participants will be informed about their admission no later than 11 May 2020.

Fee: The course fee is 500.00 € (including taxes). This covers the costs of: accommodation, breakfasts, lunches, social events, lab and software fees, course materials, and transportation for a one-day field excursion.

Please note: Travel assistance will be available to students from low income countries. 

Important dates:

- 9 March 2020: Registration opens

- 19 April 2020: Registration closes

- 11 May 2020: Notification of acceptance announced

- 31 May 2020: Registration fees due. Course instructions and materials sent to each participant

- 6 - 10 July 2020: Summer School

Program overview

***To be updated***

About us

The SMART Summer School is jointly organized by professors and researchers from GEOMAR, the University of MALTA, and is funded (in part) by the Helmholtz European Partnering Initiative through the SMART project. For this year’s theme our team members collectively have experience in the fields of geochemistry and hydrogeology with a focus on biogeochemical exercises in characterizing freshened reservoir fluid origin, migration, and related element cycles.

Aaron Micallef (University of Malta)

Topic: The hydrogeology of Malta

Prof. Micallef is the leader of the Marine Geology & Seafloor Surveying (MGSS) group at the University of Malta. He is a marine geologist with expertise in seafloor geomorphology, marine hydrogeology and seafloor surveying. Aaron leads an ERC-funded project (MARCAN) that is currently investigating the role of groundwater in shaping seafloor morphology. He graduated from the University of Oxford with a Master’s degree in geomorphology, and completed his PhD in marine geology at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. For the summer school, Prof. Micallef is the instructor for the local hydrogeology of Malta both onshore and offshore.

Mark Schmidt (GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)

Topic: Subsurface gas formation/transport/degradation in freshwater aquifers (diagnostic plots/isotope mixing models)

Mark Schmidt is a physical chemist and member of the Marine Biogeochemistry Division of the German research institute GEOMAR. Over the last decades his research interests concentrated on investigating fluid geochemistry in the water column and sediment to reconstruct subsurface biogeochemical processes. Actually, a more applied and industry-related research is in focus, i.e. gas sensor development, under-water mass spectrometry, autonomous sensor platforms.  Recent project activities in the Baltic Sea, Arabian Sea, and Mediterranean Sea are focusing on subsea groundwater investigation. 

Christian Hensen (GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)

Topic: Introduction to pore water geochemistry in marine sediments (incl. transport/reaction modelling)

Christian Hensen is senior researcher in the Research Unit Marine Geosystems at GEOMAR. He is a marine geochemist with specific focus on fluid geochemistry, early diagenetic processes and modelling of transport-reaction processes in marine sediments. His central interest is to deepen the understanding of how deep-sourced geochemical processes are related to fluid generation and fluid flow.

Thomas Müller (GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)

Topic: Ocean Aquifer Geochemistry (incl. PhreeqC modeling)

Thomas Müller is a postdoctoral researcher in the marine biogeochemistry group at GEOMAR. He is a hydrogeologist by training and employs a wide range of tools to study the dynamics of groundwater flow. An integral part of his work is numerical groundwater modeling and the application of environmental tracers. Using these, questions on the source of the water or the groundwater residence times can be answered. A longstanding interest is the paleo climate, i.e. the availability of (ground) water in the distant past.

Dionisis Patiris (Hellenic Centre for Marine Research)

Topic: Radio-tracing techniques investigating submarine groundwater discharge (includes laboratory exercises)

Dionisis Patiris is associate researcher in the Institute of Oceanography of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and invited scientist in the SMART project. He is a nuclear physicist with expertise in the field of environmental radioactivity; radon/thoron measurements, in situ gamma-ray spectrometry, underwater radioactivity mapping, use of radioisotopes as tracers in marine applications.

Virgilio Arenas (Universidad Veracruzana)

Topic: Estuaries, Coastal lagoons, Coral reefs: evolution and condition under seafloor seepage and SGD

Virgilio Arenas is a marine biologist working at the Universidad Veracruzana at the Gulf of México where he founded an Institute devoted to study the ecology of fisheries. He has been working with marine productivity and fisheries in estuaries, coastal lagoons, upwelling ecosystems and coral reefs.  Understanding the connectivity of coastal aquifers and ecology and productivity of oysters, mussels, shrimps, sardines, etc., is his actual collaborative research subject with Texas A&M University and University of Malta.


How to get there

The Summer School will take place at the University of Malta - Msida campus. Accomodation will be located at the University Residence in Lija, which by bus is approximaely 30 minutes away. Malta has an international airport with many connections to different European cities (many of which are offered through low-cost carriers). Buses can be taken directly from the airport to the University Residence.

Where to stay

Accomodation: Accomodation will be provided at the University Residence. Students will stay in twin-sharing rooms.

The rooms include cleaning once a week, change of linen, sheets and towels, gas, water, electricity, free shuttle service to University (Msida) and Hospital from Mon-Fri 7am to 5pm, the use of the large swimming pool, sports grounds, TV/ lounge area and 24/7 reception service. We even offer optional Laundry service and WIFI connection (free of charge to all University and Medical students). Inside the premises we have a Restaurant and mini - market.

All apartments are on self-catering basis but many students make use of the daily buffet offers. Apart from that there is Smart Supermarket which makes free delivery to all our students every hour.

We are situated in Lija exactly in the center of the island which makes it very easy travelling around Malta.


For more information on the SMART Summer School, please contact Bradley Weymer or Aaron Micallef. See you in Malta in July 2020!