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A team of scientists led by Dr Jens Carlsson, University College Dublin, onboard the national research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer discovered a field of carbonate chimneys supporting a range of deep-sea life during an expedition to research mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cadiz.

The research cruise, Deep-Links, mapped the sea floor and used the Marine Institute’s Remotely Operated Vehicle ROV Holland I to gather biological, geological and chemical samples at chemosynthetic mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cadiz. The team included researchers from the National University Ireland Galway, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, the Geological Survey of Ireland, National Oceanography Centre (UK), Duke University (USA), the Marine Geology and Resources/Geological Survey of Spain and the Georg-August University of Göttingen (Germany).

Dr Carlsson said, “One the most surprising finds on the cruise was the presence of large fields of fallen carbonate chimneys. At first we thought these chimneys where old wood or bones from a whale. But as we moved up the flank of the volcano we saw more and more toppled chimneys and when we got to the peak of the volcano we had standing chimneys all around us.”

The scientists named the location ‘Chimney Henge’, because of the circular arrangement of the chimneys resembling the famous Stonehenge Neolithic monument in England. “The background of these chimneys is fascinating as they are caused as a side effect of chemosynthetic microorganisms that build up these chimneys over thousands of years of activity,” said Dr Carlsson. The abundance of carbonate chimneys shows that there has been a long history of intense methane gas escape and mud eruptions supporting chemosynthetic life here for many thousands of years.

Mud volcanoes, while submerged, are similar to volcanoes on land, but instead of lava, they emit liquefied mud with methane and, the highly toxic, hydrogen sulphite. These volcanos have been found at depth down to 5000m can reach several hundreds of meters in height.

Despite the extreme environment, these volcanoes host life - life forms that are very different to the ones we are used to. Instead of using the energy from the sun, like plants do, life on a mud volcano is chemosynthetic. Dr Carlsson explains, “This means that rather than using sunlight for energy, chemosynthetic microorganisms feed on methane and the deadly toxic hydrogen sulphite, and if the sun were to go black, life at the mud volcano would go on. These microorganisms are then eaten by other animals like deep-water snails, shrimp and sea cucumbers among others. They in turn are eaten by other organisms including fish and crabs that might end up on our dinner table. However, some animals like mussels, clams and tubeworms even harbour these chemosynthetic microorganisms inside their bodies and get all the energy they need from this symbiotic relationship.”

The Deep-Links project aims to track where chemosynthetic energy goes. How much of this energy is picked up by animals like corals or sponges that live close to the chemosynthetic energy and in animals feeding on the shrimp, crabs or fish that live on the mud volcano? While we know that plenty of energy is produced in the chemosynthetic environment, we know much less about the animals that make this energy available to the larger environment – the Deep-Links.

The team aboard the RV Celtic Explorer deployed the ROV Holland I to survey three mud volcanoes, Hesperides, Anastasia and Gazul, in the Gulf of Cadiz. The ROV spent a considerable time on the sea floor at depths ranging from 1200 to 400m sending live video feeds back to the vessel and sampling the biology, geology and chemistry of the chemosynthetic ecosystems and animals living around them including samples of the mud to samples of the water column. The team returned to Galway with over 300 samples and 100 hours of ROV Video. The samples are now stored in the Marine Institute’s room sized freezer for a range of analyses including, chemistry, genetics and atomic composition of animals, sediments and water.

The Deep-Links expedition is supported by the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Programme 2014-2020 by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science
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#MarineScience - Apple's latest investment will mean more than a jobs boost as the technology giant has also committed to marine energy prototypes at Galway Bay's 'ocean observatory'.

Yesterday (Wednesday 11 November) Apple announced an expansion of its Cork campus to increase its staff by 1,000 by mid 2017, according to RTÉ News.

But hidden in the headlines was news that the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to assist its grant recipients on marine research and development.

As renewable energy site reNews reports, Apple is providing a total of €1 million – €250,000 a year over four years starting in 2016 – to help ocean energy start-ups put their devices through their paces at the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site.

Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson said the company is "excited by the potential of ocean energy to someday serve as a source of clean power for the data centre we are building in Athenry."

reNEWS has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#Jobs - Applications close this coming Friday 13 November for a number of scientific management and research positions with the Marine Institute.

Those interested in various Scientific & Technical Officer roles – in Project Support, Ocean Modelling, Observing Systems (JERICO Next), Habitat Mapping and the 'Value Added' strand of the INFOMAR programme – have until 4pm this Friday to submit their applications.

Also closing on the same day are the positions of Hydrographic Data Processor (INFOMAR), Team Leader on infrastructure projects such as EMSODEV and FIXO3, and a vacancy for a post-doctorate researcher on creating knowledge for precision fisheries management.

Prospective applicants have a little longer for the vacancy in Administrative, Research & Project Support in the Stagaire programme (closing Wednesday 18 November) and the last available spots in the two-year full-time Masters of Commerce Scholarship in Strategic Marketing (closing Monday 30 November).

Published in Jobs

#BlueFutures - The Marine Institute's chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan is representing Ireland at a number of international events in Europe, USA and Canada where he has promoted the importance of the oceans in the planetary life support system.

“Ninety-seven per cent of the water on our planet resides in the ocean and everything we eat depends on it,” he told an EU conference at EXPO Milano titled ‘Strengthening global food and nutrition security through research and innovation’.

The EU’s objective at this conference was to provide an opportunity for a global debate on how science and innovation can help the EU play its role in ensuring safe, nutritious, sufficient and sustainable food across the world.

Dr Heffernan emphasised the critical role the ocean plays in the production of food. "The ocean affects every human life as it drives the water cycle supplying us with freshwater (via rain), moderates the weather and continuously influences the climate which in turn affects the production of our food on land,” he said.

“With our reliance on the ocean, it is important to include research efforts in better understanding the oceans vulnerabilities particularly those relating to adapting to climate and environmental changes.”

This message was further highlighted by Dr Heffernan when he also addressed the Ocean Innovation Canada 2015 conference in St John's, Newfoundland this week (26-29 October), where the event focused on the importance of ocean mapping for oil and gas, aquaculture, fisheries and marine industry.

With ongoing collaborations between the Marine Institute and the Memorial University Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) in St John's, Ireland carried out the first transatlantic seabed mapping survey under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance on the RV Celtic Explorer earlier this year.

“This was directly facilitated by the 2015 charter by CFER and we are very excited about opportunities to expand the scale and impact of the transect mapping with AORA partners in 2016,” said Dr Heffernan.

Meanwhile, at Transatlantic Science Week next week (4-6 November) in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr Heffernan will further emphasise the importance of undertaking research that will provide the basis for our understanding of the ocean and how it affects our daily lives.

This year’s theme – Blue Futures – will focus on the changes our oceans and their biological resources are undergoing as well as the effects and consequences of these processes.

A key focus will be on stewardship of the sea, oceans and human health and productive seas and coasts, which supports the directive of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, the research alliance between the EU, Canada and the USA.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Marine scientists from four countries will set off from Galway tomorrow on a three-week expedition to explore the deep ocean off southern Spain.

As Galway Bay FM reports, the 13 experts will voyage on the RV Celtic Explorer to investigate the likes of "mud volcanoes, sponge gardens and cold-water corals" up to a mile below the surface.

It's only a few months after the same vessel took an international team to map undersea mountains on the Atlantic seabed off eastern Canada.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and Northern Ireland’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) welcomed delegates to the second International Sea Trout Symposium, which took place this week from 20-22nd October in Dundalk.

The symposium’s key objective was to promote the wider application of an evidence-based approach to the future management and regulation of the sea trout. It also considered developments since the last symposium, held in 2004, and highlighted priorities for future investigation.

International scientists, managers and policymakers interested in the conservation and protection of the sea trout attended the conference.

Sea trout is a valuable natural resource in Ireland, offering an exceptional angling experience to both tourists and locals. Irish fisheries managers are therefore very focused on the sustainable management, and, where required, the restoration of these valuable stocks. Outputs of the symposium will be used to develop national sea trout policies.

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín commented: “Last year I brought in new legislation to protect both salmon and sea trout in our native rivers. All salmon and sea trout caught must be released back into the water, unless those rivers are meeting ‎their management targets.

“We are delighted to be working with Inland Fisheries Ireland in advancing our knowledge of this species so that we all can enhance our understanding of their complex life history and ensure that we are taking all the necessary steps not only to conserve them but also to enhance stocks in our rivers.”

Meanwhile, Joe McHugh TD, Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, expressed his appreciation for "all the scientists, managers and fisheries stakeholders on their passion and enthusiasm in extending their knowledge and understanding of sea trout management and conservation.

"The presence of this iconic migrant, which leaves freshwater and wanders our coastal waters to feed heavily before returning to its natal streams to spawn, is considered by many as a very positive environmental indicator. I look to Inland Fisheries Ireland to ensure that sustainable management of sea trout is prioritised, and that the loss of sea trout populations, which has occurred in some areas, is halted."

Minister McHugh added: “I will work with Inland Fisheries Ireland to ensure that serious efforts are made to restore and conserve this valuable component of biodiversity in Ireland. I also applaud the North-South approach being taken in supporting science and management issues; this is required to ensure the future effective management of sea trout stocks."

Published in Marine Science

#Budget2016 - Ocean energy research will receive a further €4.5 million boost in next year's Budget, as announced by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The funding follows from last year's €10 million allocation to ocean energy research, after the publication of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan in early 2014.

A total of €68 million has been allocated for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 2016 as revealed in Tuesday's Budget.

And a further €9 million is being provided for geoscience initiatives including the INFOMAR and TELLUS programmes, which will support expanded geoscience research in Ireland’s offshore and onshore.

INFOMAR researchers recently helped reveal the remains of World War I shipwrecks, some of which have not been seen since the boats went down a century ago.

Published in Power From the Sea

#MarineScience - NUI Galway will host a public seminar examining ocean acidification next Wednesday 16 September.

Ocean acidification arises as a result of the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

One of the world-leading authorities on ocean acidification, Dr Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle will discuss the present and future implications of increased carbon dioxide levels on the health of our ocean ecosystems and related ocean-based economies.

The lecture will take place at 7.30pm in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway and is free to the public. Advance registration is advised as the number of places is limited. To register click HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - The second International Sea Trout Symposium will take place in Dundalk, Co Louth from 20-22 October, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Building on the success of the previous symposium on the biology, conservation and management of the important fishing species, held in Cardiff in 2004, next month's convention will bring together fishery scientists, managers, policy makers and other interested parties to discuss developments over the last 11 years, identify strategic gaps in knowledge and review priorities for future investigation.

Inland Fisheries Ireland's (IFI) head of research Dr Cathal Gallagher says: “This is a great opportunity for all those interested in the ecology, management and conservation of sea trout to interact with the leading international scientists, managers and policy makers working in this area.

"It is hoped that the outputs from this important symposium will help to drive Ireland’s policy for the future management of our sea trout populations.”

Dr Ciaran Byrne, IFI chief executive, added that the symposium "gives us an important opportunity to review the progress in improving our understanding of biology, ecology, genetics and behaviour of sea trout [since Cardiff] and to identify knowledge gaps required to support the future management of this important species.”

For more information visit www.fisheriesireland.ie

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Applications are now open for primary schools that wish to take part in marine-related activities and workshops for the 2015-16 school year as part of the Explorers Education Programme.

The programme's new module system, introduced in 2014, "allows for more students and teachers to get involved in marine projects, seashore safaris, having aquariums in the class, or taking part in a number of exciting marine workshops at their local education centre or at Galway Atlantaquaria," says Cushla Dromgool-Regan of the Marine Institute.

These modules include:

  • Explorers Aquarium in the Classroom: This involves students running a saltwater aquarium of native species for up to four weeks in their classroom.
  • Explorers Marine Project: Students will carry out a marine based project in school. Project topics can include Marine Biodiversity, Marine Litter, or science on the Research Vessel Celtic Explorer.
  • Explorers Seashore Safari: Accompanied by the Explorers Education Officer, the students will visit their local shoreline to examine the plant and animal life present and their adaptations to life.
  • Explorer Workshops at Galway, Mayo, Clare and Sligo education centres: These workshops will last around two hours and will cover the Real Map of Ireland, marine biodiversity around Ireland, characteristics of living things and a squid dissection. Teachers will be asked to complete one Explorer's lesson plan post visit and a half day visit by an Explorers Education Officer will review this work and recap on the materials covered.

Science workshops will also be available to all Explorers schools at Galway Atlantaquaria between October 2015 and March 2016 at a discounted price of €5 per students for a two-hour workshop. For more information call 091-585100.

Teachers can send their applications to their local education centres in Galway, Clare, Mayo and Sligo highlighting how the Explorers Education Programme will be beneficial to their class, school and community. Applications must be submitted before 4pm on Friday 18 September.

Application forms and additional information about the modules, as well as free teaching materials, are available to download at www.explorers.ie. For any queries relating to the Explorers Education Programme contact [email protected]

The Explorers programme continues to run in Dublin and Cork in association with the Blackrock Education Centre, the National Sea Life Centre Bray and the Lifetime Lab in Cork. More information about their workshops will be issued later in the year.

The Explorers Education Programme is supported by the Marine Institute, and is funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science
Page 9 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.

 

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