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Ireland's Marine Institute Leads €14.5m 'AQUARIUS' Project for Collaborative Marine and Freshwater Research

6th March 2024
AQUARIUS - this 48-month project aims to provide free access to state-of-the-art research facilities across Europe to enable collaborative marine and freshwater research
AQUARIUS - this 48-month project aims to provide free access to state-of-the-art research facilities across Europe to enable collaborative marine and freshwater research

The Marine Institute has announced that it will lead a major €14.5m Europe-wide project called Aquatic Research Infrastructure Services for the health and protection of our unique oceans, seas, and freshwater ecosystems (AQUARIUS). This 48-month project aims to provide free access to state-of-the-art research facilities across Europe to enable collaborative marine and freshwater research.

AQUARIUS will provide a comprehensive suite of integrated research infrastructures to address significant challenges for the long-term sustainability of oceans, seas, and freshwater ecosystems. This project will bring together a diverse range of 57 research infrastructure services such as research vessels, mobile marine observation platforms, aircraft, drones, satellite, sensors, fixed freshwater and marine observatories and test sites, experimental facilities, and sophisticated data service infrastructures.

For the first time, diverse research infrastructures will be combined in a single project to facilitate the work of researchers and key stakeholders focused on challenges and opportunities for both marine and freshwater systems. All data collected within the project will be fed into central European data infrastructures to inform future policy and decision making at a European and national level.

The project will include training for third-level students, and it will support the development phase of the EU Mission to Restore our Ocean and waters by 2030, the Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership, the European Green Deal, and international climate initiatives. It will also be an essential component in achieving the European Digital Twin of the Ocean and the UN Decade for Ocean Sciences.

The AQUARIUS project, funded under the HORIZON Europe Research & Innovation Action call for access to research infrastructures, will provide funded access to Marine Institute infrastructures free of charge to European and international researchers. It will also provide the opportunity for national researchers to access other European state-of-the-art technologically advanced infrastructure facilities, thus broadening the knowledge and skill set across disciplines.

According to Dr. Rick Officer, CEO of the Marine Institute, leading this pan-European program puts the Marine Institute and Ireland in a leadership role in the research infrastructure sector in Europe. Such collaborative research initiatives are vital to enable researchers to gather data, which can inform policy and decision-making and contribute to international marine management, conservation, and policy.

The AQUARIUS project provides the ideal platform from which the Marine Institute can invest in and optimize its infrastructure, including vessels, laboratories, and other facilities and equipment, to improve the way it does its work and provide the national and international research community with access to state-of-the-art, technologically advanced infrastructure.

Aodhán Fitzgerald, Research Vessel Operations Manager at the Marine Institute and AQUARIUS Project Coordinator, said that the project would enable access to an unprecedented number and combination of research infrastructures. With a fleet of 18 state-of-the-art research vessels, aircraft and drones, as well as mobile and fixed operational platforms, this is an extremely exciting project for European and international marine and freshwater researchers as they now have opportunities to work together to access integrated infrastructures in the Baltic and the North Sea Basins, Black Sea, Atlantic/Arctic, and Mediterranean Sea along with their associated rivers.

The needs of researchers will be met through a robust and transparent system of transnational access funding calls, facilitated by a centralized user-friendly access portal. The Call program will be informed through stakeholder engagement and brokerage events aligning with the EU Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030 Lighthouse Regions. AQUARIUS invites collaboration and engagement from researchers, industrial communities, citizen science groups, and SMEs through a highly focused outreach programme.

Published in Marine Science Team

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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