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Displaying items by tag: marine science

#marinescience – A survey by a Marine Robotics Team from University of Limerick (UL) using the UL built Smart ROV Latis has shed new light on two shipwrecks off the coast of Donegal, the S.S. Empire Heritage and the S. S. Empress of Britain.

The survey onboard the RV Celtic Explorer led by Dr. Daniel Toal, University of Limerick (UL) captured photo images as well as multi-beam sonar images at two archaeological sites. The survey planning drew on the knowledge of technical diver Dr Ger Dooley, a member of the survey team who has dived on many wrecks on the northern approaches off the Donegal Coast.

High resolution sonar imaging was used to create new images of the S.S. Empire Heritage, a cargo ship which had been carrying dozens of Sherman Tanks when it was torpedoed and sank in 1944 with the loss of 113 lives. New images of the S. S. Empress of Britain, a passenger liner, thought to have been carrying gold when it sank in 1940 were also created.

The S. S. Empire Heritage now lies at a depth of 70 metres, 15 miles north-west of Malin Head and the survey captured images of the cargo of tanks, originally destined to fight in WWII, now scattered across the seafloor.

High resolution image of the S.S Empress of Britain

The S. S. Empress of Britain, a 42,000 ton, 230 m passenger liner lies at 160 metres, 40 miles north-west of bloody foreland and is believed to be the largest ship sunk by a U-boat. A salvage operation carried out on the wreck in 1995 on suspicion that the ship had been carrying a large cargo of Gold from Africa destined for America reported finding the Empress upside-down in 500 feet of water. The salvagers reported breaking into the strong room only to find a single skeleton and no gold. It was suspected the gold was unloaded while the Empress was on fire and its passengers were being evacuated. However, the high resolution sonar image which was taken during the recent ROV dive shows the wreck listing on its side, not upside-down as reported by the earlier salvage operation.

High Resolution image of the S.S. Empress of Britain

The aim of the survey was to trial ROV technology developed by UL for a variety of marine applications including high resolution sonar imaging of ship wrecks for archaeological records, demonstration of ROV Latis' precision underwater navigation and dynamic positioning capabilities to the Irish Coast Guard for Search and Rescue, as well as trialling a 'daughter ROV' or 'fly-out out mini ROV' for hull penetration and internal inspection where the larger ROV Latis cannot venture.

Dr Toal explained "In order to acquire high resolution sonar images the sonar instruments must be flown close to the ship wreck. Building a composite sonar image of a wreck with large numbers of sonar pings requires precise knowledge of the position and orientation of the ROV platform during the imaging transect. The ROV Latis is equipped with state of the art under water positioning, navigation and auto pilot control systems which makes it an ideal platform for this high resolution survey work."

When poor weather conditions during the six day survey prevented operation of the ROV, the team moved to the sheltered waters of Lough Swilly where they tested a new low cost terrain referenced navigation system for unmanned vehicles developed by the Marine Robotics Research Centre at UL.

The survey was supported by the Marine Institute through the 2012 Ship Time Programme as part of the Sea Change Programme funded under the National Development Plan 2007 -2013. The shipwrecks surveyed were previously mapped from the sea surface by the Geological Survey of Ireland and Marine Institute during the INSS and INFOMAR national seabed mapping programmes.

Further details and information on the shipwrecks are available in the new book published this week by government publications, entitled "Warships, U-Boats & Liners".

Published in Marine Science
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#FISHING - Marine scientists working in the Celtic Sea have discovered a natural refuge for the critically endangered flapper skate.  

Many elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates) are highly vulnerable to over-fishing, but a new paper in the open access journal PLOS ONE shows that small areas of the seabed that experience below-average fishing intensity can sustain greater populations of these species.  

The study reveals that one remarkable area in the northeastern Celtic Sea - where uneven seabed makes trawling difficult - supports at least ten species of elasmobranch, including the rare blue skate (Dipturus flossada) and related flapper skate (Dipturus intermedia).

Dipturus was previously considered to represent a single species (D. batis), but made the news in 2009 when a case of misidentification was revealed.

Both species are now listed as critically endangered but populations of the flapper skate, which can grow up to 2.5 metres in length, are considered to be under greatest threat from extinction.

European Union regulations mandate that fishermen throw back any flapper skate but its slow growth and reproduction mean that even very low levels of fishing mortality are now unsustainable for this species.  

Scientists from Queen’s University Belfast, Bangor University and the Marine Institute carried out the study. Lead researcher Dr Samuel Shephard suggests that “the discovery of a Celtic Sea stronghold for flapper skate provides a remarkable opportunity to help save a species on the verge of extinction”.

Professor Michel Kaiser, chair in marine conservation at Bangor University, added: “Some have previously argued that areas of little interest to the fishing industry are not worthy of conservation, however this study clearly overturns that perception and highlights just how important some of these areas are."
Importantly, the fishing industry has reacted positively to the ‘win-win’ situation that an area of little commercial interest has potential as an important marine reserve.

Professor Dave Reid of the Marine Institute presented the information to industry leaders, and this has led to the inclusion of the area in proposed management plans for elasmobranchs in the Irish and Celtic Seas.

Eibhlín O’Sullivan, CEO of the Irish South & West Fishermen’s Organisation, responded that the Irish fishing industry "has been working with the Marine Institute for the past 18 months on developing a management plan for skates and rays. This new research adds valuable information for the identification of potential seasonally closed areas."

Prof Reid noted that “this is a great model for collaboration on conservation between the fishing industry and scientists”.  

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013).  

Published in Fishing

#marinescience – Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute, has been appointed to the European Research and Innovation Area Board (ERIAB) by European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. The 11 member board advises the Commissioner on issues relating to the development of the European Research Area, including the €80 billion Horizon 2020 Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020). Members of the ERIAB are appointed for a four year term and the mandate of current ERIAB extends to February 2016.

"I look forward to working with Dr. Peter Heffernan as a member of the European Research and Innovation Area Board, ERIAB," said Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. "In the coming years, ERIAB will play a vital role in the development and optimisation of the European Research Area. Members of ERIAB are highly respected scientific and policy advisors who will draw on their extensive experience at national and international level, and I am delighted to have an Irish member of Peter's calibre on board".

The Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny, TD said the appointment represented an important recognition not only of Dr Heffernan's own contribution but also of the work of the Marine Institute over the years.  "Ireland and Europe share many objectives in supporting sustainable ocean economic activities as an important engine of growth in our recovery. I have no doubt that Peter's contribution to ERIAB will be very beneficial in this regard".

Welcoming the announcement, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr Richard Bruton, TD, congratulated Dr Heffernan on his appointment which he said not only reflected Dr Heffernan's standing in the European research community, but also that of Irish science, technology and innovation.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Simon Coveney, TD, joined in congratulating Dr Heffernan, and noted that this appointment also acknowledged the importance of marine science, technology and innovation for the European Research Area, a topic Dr Heffernan has championed both in Ireland and in Europe.

The ERIAB plays a key role in developing, promoting and evaluating EU research, development and innovation policy initiatives and actions, including the further development of the European Research Area (ERA), the implementation of the proposed €80 billion Horizon 2020 Programme (2014-2020) and the Europe 2020 and Innovation Union Strategies. Europe 2020 is a 10-year strategy aimed at reviving the economy of the European Union through "smart, sustainable, inclusive growth, with high levels of employment and living standards".

In July 2012, the Irish Government, through the interdepartmental Marine Co-ordination Group, launched Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, setting out a roadmap to harness the potential of Ireland's marine resource. This plan, part of the marine sectors contribution to the Europe 2020 Strategy, will contribute to the development of the Action Plan of the European Union Strategy for the Atlantic (EUSA) which will have a major bearing and influence on the topics to be supported by EU Structural, Regional, Research and Environment Funds between 2014 and 2020.

Published in Marine Science

#marinescience – The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has elected Dr Paul Connolly as its new President for a three-year term (Nov 2012 – Oct 2015). Dr. Connolly is the Director of Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services at the Marine Institute.

Commenting on his election Dr Connolly said "This is a great honour and comes at a time of great opportunities for ICES.  The ocean affects every human life and a growing public awareness of the use of the ocean is driving a demand for impartial marine science and advice".

Marine Institute CEO, Dr. Peter Heffernan welcomed the appointment. "It's a testament to Dr Connolly's dedication to excellence in marine science, his long standing commitment to ICES, and the key the role of Irish and international scientists in understanding marine ecosystems."

Minister Simon Coveney T.D also congratulated Dr Connolly on this prestigious appointment. The Minister said "this is a great honour for Paul and is well deserved.  The appointment recognises his huge contribution to the world of marine science and underlines the high esteem that both he and his colleagues in the Marine Institute are held in the international scientific community."

ICES coordinates and promotes marine research on oceanography, the marine environment, the marine ecosystem, and on living marine resources in the North Atlantic. It is the prime source of scientific advice on the marine ecosystem to governments and international regulatory bodies that manage the North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.  ICES maintains some of the world's largest databases on marine fisheries, oceanography, and the marine environment, and its Data Centre is part of a global network of data centres.

"Against a changing policy landscape and a challenging economic climate, a key job in the coming year will be the renewal of the ICES Strategic Plan for the period 2014 to 2018.  Getting our strategy right will be critical," said Dr Connolly.

ICES is a network of more than 1600 scientists from 200 institutes linked by an intergovernmental agreement (the ICES Convention) to add value to national research efforts.

Ireland has a long association with ICES.  Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1902 it is one of the oldest intergovernmental organisations. Ireland joined ICES in 1924 and two of its 29 presidents have been Irish - Arthur Went (1966 to 1969) and David Griffith (1991 to 1994).   "A key focus of the job will be to ensure that the ICES scientific community remains relevant, responsive, sound, and credible, concerning marine ecosystems and their relation to humanity," said Dr Connolly.

Published in Marine Science
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#UCC – Irish research which led to the discovery of smoking vents on the mid Atlantic Ridge will feature in a National Geographic programme to be broadcast next Sunday, 28 October.

National Geographic has produced a five part series, The Alien Deep, which takes viewers into underwater worlds where no human has gone before.

The programme will be broadcast this Sunday 28th October at 6pm on National Geographic channel on Sky (channel 526) and also UPC (channel 215). The programme presenter is Dr Robert Ballard, famed explorer who found the Titanic at its final resting place.

The series takes viewers into an underwater world 3,000m deep, where, on the slopes of the Mid-Ocean ridges that divide the earth's tectonic plates, chimney- like formations spew black plumes of superheated water packed with chemicals, minerals and dissolved gases allowing life to thrive against the odds. The leader of the scientific team was Dr Andy Wheeler, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at University College Cork who worked with scientists from the National University of Ireland Galway, Geological Survey of Ireland, the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre in the UK. "It's great to see Ireland's expertise recognised on TV", says Dr Wheeler. "Discovering a new volcanic landscape three km below was a thrill."

The scientists were on board the Irish National Research Vessel, Celtic Explorer and used the Remotely Operated Vehicle Holland 1 for their explorations of the deep and was supported by the Marine Institute under the 2011 Ship-Time Programme of the National Development Plan.

The team named the previously uncharted field of hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the first to be explored north of the Azores, the Moytirra Vent Field. Moytirra is the name of a battlefield in Irish mythology, and appropriately means 'Plain of the Pillars'. Patrick Collins from the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway led Ireland's marine biological team on the surve

Published in Marine Science

#COASTAL NOTES - The remains of a leatherback turtle were among the finds reported by 'citizen scientists' taking part in the Coastwatch survey of Ireland's coastline, according to The Irish Times.

As previously reported on, the 'eco audit' marked the 25th anniversary of the first nationwide Coastwatch survey, taking in use of land and shore, quality of inflow water, waste and pollution, and selected coastal and marine wildlife and plantlife.

The survey period concluded at the weekend with an event at the new Tralee Bay Wetlands centre attended by Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, close to one of the rare discoveries by survey volunteers in the shape of honeycomb worm reefs.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#Minister for Natural Resources Fergus O'Dowd will re-launch the Inland Fisheries Ireland vessel, the Cosantóir Bradán, in her new role as a marine survey vessel tonight at 9pm at the Custom House in the Port of Cork.

The vessel, a state asset, is being reassigned in line with changing requirements in areas where the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources has responsibility.

The Cosantóir Bradán will now be employed as part of INFOMAR, the national marine mapping programme, being conducted by the Geological Survey and Marine Institute and funded by the Department.

The INFOMAR Annual Conference "Enabling our Ocean Management" takes place at University College Cork (UCC)

on Thursday and Friday October 11-12th.

Published in Marine Science
Tagged under

#marinescience – At a leading marine research conference in Cork today, Minister for Natural Resources, Fergus O'Dowd, will re-launch the Inland Fisheries Ireland vessel, the Cosantóir Bradán, in her new role as a marine survey vessel. The Cosantóir Bradán will now be employed as part of INFOMAR, the national marine mapping programme, being conducted by the Geological Survey and Marine Institute and funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The INFOMAR Annual Conference "Enabling our Ocean Management" takes place at University College Cork (UCC) on Thursday and Friday October 11-12th. In addition to the vessel commissioning, the two day seminar includes a range of talks across areas such as ocean energy, hydrography and survey operations, aquaculture and fisheries, applied research, environment and heritage. A full programme of talks is available at

According to the Minister, "I am particularly pleased to be able to attend the INFOMAR 2012 seminar to carry out the re-launch of the Cosantóir Bradán, which showcases the re-use and resultant cost saving made through the re-assignment of a state asset, in line with the changing requirements in areas where the department has responsibility. The Cosantóir Bradán, will now become part of providing the baseline mapping infrastructure in Irish nearshore waters, upon which future fisheries and government marine policy decisions will rely."

Ciaran Byrne, CEO of IFI pointed out, "The Cosantóir Bradán is now available for redeployment due to the changing requirements for the protections of our inshore salmon fisheries. As a result of the cessation of drift net fishing at sea operations have switched to the use of faster inshore vessels which are more focused towards policing the fishery. We are delighted to be able to facilitate the INFOMAR mapping programme, particularly as recipients and users of the updated maps being produced"

The INFOMAR Conference marks the end of a busy survey season for the INFOMAR programme with survey data acquired from all four of Ireland's coastlines including; Dundalk Bay, Co. Louth (with the InterReg IVA INIS HYDRO Project), Bunmahon, Co. Waterford, Inish Bofin and Inish Turk, Co. Galway (with BIM) and Burtonport, Co. Donegal, (with Underwater Archaeology Unit at DoEHLG) and offshore, mapping with the Marine Institute's Celtic Voyager in the Celtic Sea as well as completing the Priority Irish Sea area.

Published in Marine Science
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#NutraMara – Dr. Ulrike Grienke, a postdoctoral researcher based at NUI Galway and a participant in the Teagasc led NutraMara functional foods research programme recently received the prestigious Egon Stahl-Award at a ceremony held in New York. This biennial prize is awarded by the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research to an outstanding young scientist.

Dr. Grienke was presented with the award by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Blaschek, the president of the General Assembly of the Society, during the International Congress on Natural Products Research (July 28th – August 1st, 2012), the largest natural product research meeting ever held in the United States, attended by 1,200 participants. After the award ceremony, Dr. Grienke gave a lecture on the scientific work accomplished during her PhD studies under the supervison of Prof. Judith M. Rollinger at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, which she completed in 2011.

Donated by Professor Egon Stahl (1924-1986) the award is given to young scholars to acknowledge the outstanding quality of their PhD thesis in the field of natural products, and to promote their early career. Prof. Stahl is one of the founders of modern phytochemistry and his work on thin layer chromatography (TLC) remains of fundamental importance.

Dr Grienke joined Professor Deniz Tasdemir's research group at NUI Galway in December, 2011 and works on the isolation of bioactioves from shellfish as part of the NutraMara programme.

NutraMara is funded by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine, and the Marine Institute and is led by the Teagasc National Food Research Centre. The programme aims to mine marine resources including seaweeds, aquaculture, microalgae and marine processing by-products for functional food ingredients.

Published in Marine Science
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#MARINE SCIENCE - An Irish marine science company will lead a new research project using satellites to monitor coastal outlets in Europe, as Silicon Republic reports.

TechWorks Marine, based in Dun Laoghaire, has won the contract to head up the European Space Agency's earth observation project in what is a first for any Irish company.

The business specialises in real-time marine data platforms, and in this project will be using its expertise to assist operators and developers of water treatment plants to help reduce their impact on the environment.

A main focus of the observation research will be the coastal effect of wastewater treatment in Donegal Bay.

TechWorks Marine MD Charlotte O'Kelly told Silicon Republic that improvements in sensor technology have prompted the development of satellite imagery of a high enough resolution to allow for close monitoring of coastal activity even from earth orbit.

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock said the contract "clearly indicates that Irish SMEs have the capability and expertise to lead projects in this highly competitive sector".

Silicon Republic has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science
Page 22 of 25

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)

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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