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A new Master’s course specialising in remote sensing and the principles of seabed mapping has been successfully delivered by a joint partnership between the Department of Geography at the Maynooth University and Ireland’s marine mapping programme INFOMAR.

The level 9 post-graduate module teaches students about the science of seabed mapping by providing a combination of class-based learning and practical offshore survey experience.

The course outlines the importance and impact of seabed mapping, and features a range of topics including how seabed data are collected and processed to produce high resolution maps of seafloor depth, type and habitat.

Lectures illustrate how scientists measure and describe the seafloor in incredible detail, using state of the art acoustic sonar, positioning, and optical instrumentation.

The use of satellite imagery analysis is explained in studying coastal seabed depth and shape, with practical examples utilising images of Dublin Bay acquired on the Sentinel-2 satellite’s sensor almost 800km above the Earth’s surface.

The module includes a two-day offshore practical where students are given an opportunity to apply the theoretical learning aboard the RV Celtic Voyager.

This is one of six survey platforms deployed by INFOMAR during seabed mapping operations, tasked with operating along the continental shelf and coastal waters.

Students get exposure to the dry and wet/chemical laboratories, as well as to operating an array of scientific equipment including the multibeam sonars and associated oceanographic instrumentation.

Participants boarded the RV Celtic Voyager in the Port of Cork and departed to the outer reaches of Cork Harbour where the offshore element of the module was conducted successfully on 15 and 16 February.

Training activities undertaken onboard included a marine mammal observation deck watch, survey computers and software use, benthic ecology, sedimentology classification, sound velocity probe deployment, multibeam echosounder, and sub-bottom profiler data gathering.

‘This module … demonstrates the welcome influence of Irish seabed mapping expertise on new sectors of society’

After exposure to the scientific equipment, workflows and data processing onboard, the students were tasked with the design, planning and implementation of a real-life survey scenario. This enabled them to apply their newly acquired seabed mapping knowledge as a team of scientists would in real-world conditions.

Overall the INFOMAR MSc module gave Maynooth students an overview of remote sensing techniques, helping them to understand bathymetric data products, to recognise data limitations, and to identify key systems and practices used in the field of seafloor surveying.

Students also developed a technical grounding in mapping at different resolutions, and the importance of instrumentation calibration, quality control and processing of bathymetry datasets, before product delivery to end users.

In addition, students learned how to source marine data online from INFOMAR’s Interactive Web Data Delivery System and online Webviewers, and via web-based portals operated by the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) and the Copernicus Marine Environment Service.

Importantly, says the Marine Institute, the module was taught within the context of end users, stakeholders and the policy framework underpinning ocean science and ocean literacy, highlighting both the relevance and importance of mapping the Earth’s seafloor.

Participants benefited from the fact that the course was delivered directly by the INFOMAR team, who have extensive experience of offshore surveying, and were able to share their own experiences and varied employment backgrounds with the students.

Sean Cullen, of the Geological Survey Ireland and INFOMAR joint programme manager, said: “I’m pleased to see the very positive feedback on the course overall both from the students and the tutors.

“This module, newly developed by the INFOMAR team, with steering from the Department of Geography at Maynooth, demonstrates the welcome influence of Irish seabed mapping expertise on new sectors of society and is timely addition to the INFOMAR education initiative as we face into the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

“The collaboration is an encouraging sign that seabed science belongs in the space of third level education, and sets to further promote Ireland as leaders in marine science and of ocean literacy on an international stage.”

Thomas Furey, INFOMAR joint programme manager from the Marine Institute, added: “It is critical that we create a legacy to build on Ireland’s world leading role in seabed mapping, and through launching our third level delivery of INFOMAR specific training, we are contributing to capacity build, marine economy growth, and Ireland’s marine plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth.”

Published in Marine Science

Hydrographic and geophysical survey operations will be undertaken by INFOMAR in the Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean between April and October this year, according to a recent Marine Notice from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Covering some 125,000 sq km of underwater territory, INFOMAR will produce integrated mapping products covering the physical, chemical and biological features of the seabed.

Both Marine Institute vessels, the RV Celtic Voyager (callsign EIQN) and RV Celtic Explorer (callsign EIGB), will be employed for these survey operations, towing a magnetometer sensor with a single cable of up to 200m in length and a Moving Vessel Profiler cable of variable length up to a maximum of 200m.

Geological Survey Ireland will also operate four vessels, the RV Keary (callsign EI-GO-9), RV Geo (callsign EI-DK-6), RV Mallet (callsign EI-SN-9) and RV Lir (call sign EI-HI-2).

All vessels will display appropriate lights and markers and will be listening on VHF Channel 16 throughout the course of the survey.

Further details, including co-ordinates of the survey areas, are included in Marine Notice No 11 of 2020, a PDF of which is available to download below.

Published in News Update

The EurofleetsPlus project is calling for applications from early-stage researchers of marine-related sciences to take part in a ‘Floating University’ on the RV Celtic Voyager next spring.

Applications are open until next Friday 22 November for the scheme co-ordinated in Ireland by the Marine Institute.

Mapping the Ocean Floor: An Introduction to Practical Aspects of Hydrographic Surveying will take place on board the RV Celtic Voyager in Cork Harbour from 19-25 February next year.

Teaching will focus on the operation of multi-beam echosounders and sub-bottom profiling and their applications for mapping and characterising the seabed. Offshore training will be supported by lectures, workshops and online resources.

On completion, participants of the Floating University will be able to demonstrate competence in designing and executing an offshore hydrographic survey, articulate understanding of the principles and methods applied to seabed surveying, as well as practice data acquisition and data processing for multi-beam echosounders and sub-bottom profiler systems.

Instruction will be from expert practitioners from the INFOMAR project with guest lecturers from the Marine Geology Research Group, University College Cork, and the National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics (OGS) in Italy.

A total of eight places are available for European postgraduate students (students of all nationalities enrolled at European universities) and online applications must be received by next Friday. Details of the Floating University and how to apply can be found HERE.

Published in Cork Harbour

The annual INFOMAR Seminar is a celebration of the year’s work by Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme. INFOMAR is funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is jointly managed and operated by Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute.

Attendees at the seminar, which will be held in Dingle, Co Kerry, on 16 and 17 October, will be among the first to see details of more than 8,500 of seafloor mapped, over 20 shipwrecks surveyed, and new 3D visuals of the coastal landscapes developed during the 2019 survey season.

The event will focus on Irish seabed mapping activities related to marine science, biodiversity, heritage and tourism in coastal communities. The event will feature an exciting line-up of experts presenting on; shipwreck mapping and archaeology, ocean literacy, marine ecology, ocean energy and infrastructure, as well as submerged and coastal landscapes and the connection between marine tourism and Fáilte Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland stated; “The INFOMAR seabed mapping programme continues to create significant positive impact at national, European and international levels, however this year’s annual conference in Dingle, Co Kerry, reflects INFOMAR’s prioritisation of engagement with local maritime communities who remain key stakeholders in Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme.”

“Ireland is an exemplar internationally in demonstrating best practice in ocean governance, through mapping, observing, predicting and managing our marine territory and resources. Connecting society with the value and importance of our ocean wealth is critical if we are to address today’s challenges, including climate change and population growth” said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute.

Minister Canney stated; “INFOMAR, Ireland’s internationally renowned seabed mapping programme is an impressive example of inter-agency cooperation within the Government of Ireland. By holding its annual seminar event in Dingle Co. Kerry, I’m delighted to see the programme engage with its stakeholders at a local level, conveying its role in supporting the development of industry, research, heritage and tourism within coastal maritime communities”.

The INFOMAR Seminar will take place in the Dingle Skellig Hotel on Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 October 2019. The event will include a special commemoration of the achievements of the Irish Baselines Project, and a live cast to MAREANO, the Norwegian marine mapping programme. Norway has just announced a new coastal mapping programme similar to INFOMAR which will complement the offshore activities of MAREANO. The event will conclude with a behind the scenes visit to Dingle OceanWorld Aquarium and to one of Ireland’s State research vessels, the RV Keary.

The event is open to all members of the public and interested people should register through the INFOMAR website www.infomar.com

Published in Coastal Notes
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An Irish-led, international team of marine scientists on board the RV Celtic Explorer recently completed the third and final leg of an extensive offshore reef study using the Marine Institute’s remote operated vehicle (ROV) Holland 1.

The 21-day expedition investigating sensitive deep-sea habitats at the outer extent of the continental shelf off the southwest of Ireland was part of the SeaRover (Sensitive Ecosystem Assessment and ROV Exploration of Reef) project.

During their time at sea, the survey team mapped 154 separate locations within Ireland's marine territory, in what the Marine Institute describes as one of the most significant deep water benthic habitat assessments undertaken in this country.

The data and findings will contribute to good fisheries practice and the sustainable management of Ireland's marine biodiversity, the institute adds.

The survey used the ROV Holland 1 to capture high-definition footage of reef habitats up to 3000 metres deep, and to recover biological and sediment samples from 52 locations along the continental margin.

“Sensitive reef habitats form fragile ecosystems and attract a variety of marine species, such as sea pens, sponges, fish and crustaceans,” said survey chief scientist Yvonne Leahy, of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

“Surveying these habitats enables us to better understand Ireland’s deep sea territory so that we can protect and monitor our marine biodiversity and sustainably manage Ireland's marine resources effectively.”

Scientists from NUI Galway and University of Plymouth also joined the expedition to gather a range of biological samples to enable further research into population genetics studies, ecological modelling, and the harvesting of sponges for potential novel compounds for use in bio-medical applications.

Sediment samples will also be utilised for microplastics studies by NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

An octopus 1,000 metres below the surface | Photo: Marine InstituteAn octopus 1,000 metres below the surface | Photo: Marine Institute

The three SeaRover surveys between since 2017 have involved a combined 63 days at sea, recorded 332 hours of high-definition video from the seafloor — almost 14 days of footage — and have undertaken detailed studies of 350km of seabed along a shelf extent of nearly 2,500km.

The surveys have explored 154 different locations along Ireland’s continental margin, including the Rockall and Porcupine Banks, the Goban Spur and the Whittard Canyon.

The HD camera picks up fine detail of deep-water coral species. The first SeaRover survey in 2017 included the discovery of the deepest known occurrence of the cold-water coral Solenosmilia variabilis, forming reefs in Irish waters at depths of 1,600m.

In 2018 the team discovered a rare shark nursery, 200 miles west of Ireland. A large number of egg cases were filmed on the seafloor at depths reaching 750m, and a large school of blackmouth catshark (Galeus melastomus) were present at the site. There were also numerous recordings of different coral species observed in Irish waters for the first time.

“After three years, the survey team has created an extensive data set which represents one of the most comprehensive assessments of Ireland's marine biodiversity,” said Leonie O'Dowd, Marine Institute section manager and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) programme co-ordinator.

“The success of these surveys is thanks to the coordination and collaboration across many organisations and government departments, and will benefit national policy development as well as researchers and scientists exploring our marine territory in the future.”

Thomas Furey, the Marine Institute’s joint INFOMAR programme manager, added: “It is fantastic to see the underlying INFOMAR seabed mapping data being used to strategically identify and target such vulnerable marine ecosystems for detailed studies in support of future marine management plans.

“In funding INFOMAR, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment are supporting key evidence based investigations of our ever changing marine environment.”

The three-year SeaRover project was commissioned and jointly funded by the Irish Government and the EU’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

The cross-government initiative was supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment as part of the Marine Institute’s implementation of the EMFF Marine Biodiversity scheme.

Survey operations were led by the Marine Institute, INFOMAR and NPWS, accompanied by scientists from NUI Galway and the Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre at the University of Plymouth, and supported by scientists in Geological Survey Ireland and the Norwegian Marine Institute.

Published in Marine Science

The first in a series of hydrographic and geophysical surveys to be undertaken in the Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean under the INFOMAR programme between April and October 2019 is now under way.

The RV Celtic Voyager (callsign EIQN) set off on Friday 12 April for an 18-day survey, the first of four over the next five months 18 May-6 June, 12-28 July, 29 August-14 September).

The RV Celtic Explorer (callsign EIGB) will follow up with an 18-day survey from 21 September to 8 October. Both vessels will be towing a magnetometer sensor with a single cable of up to 200 metres in length.

Other survey vessel involved include the Geological Survey Ireland vessels RV Keary (callsign EI-GO-9), RV Geo (callsign EI-DK-6), RV Mallet (callsign EI-SN-9) and RV Lir (callsign EI-HI-2).

All will display appropriate lights and markers and will be listening on VHF Channel 16 throughout the course of the surveys.

Full details of the survey areas are included in Marine Notice No 8 of 2019, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - The extensive work carried out jointly by the Marine Institute and Geological Survey Ireland through the INFOMAR programme received substantial exposure and recognition at the 16th Forum for the Exchange of Mutual Multibeam Experiences (FEMME) in Bordeaux last week.

Hosted by the Kongsberg Maritime User Forum and focussing on seabed mapping, FEMME provides an international platform for hydrographic professionals to meet, exchange experiences and ideas, provide inspiration and contribute to improved system performance and the future of underwater mapping technologies.

High-profile attendees include the secretary general of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), chief hydrographers from the Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine (SHOM), and Seabed 2030 leaders.

An overview of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment-funded INFOMAR programme was provided by Dr Fabio Sacchetti, who updated the audience on future plans as well as recent achievements of the Irish national seabed mapping initiative.

Dr Sacchetti highlighted 10 case studies featuring multiple applications of multibeam technologies in support of sectors including coastal engineering, marine conservation and marine heritage and tourism.

In addition, a recent high-profile collaboration between INFOMAR and various US and Canadian research institutes was presented by international research partners in attendance.

INFOMAR featured prominently in a talk by Prof John Hughes Clarke (CCOM/University of New Hampshire) when describing research into the impact of internal wave activity on multibeam bathymetry in an Irish/Celtic Sea context, based on work conducted onboard the RV Celtic Explorer.

Prof Clarke has been collaborating with INFOMAR since 2015, and he is particularly focused on using hydrographic and fisheries sonar systems, combined with oceanographic data, to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics and complexities of the Celtic Sea.

Jose Cordero, of Instituto Hidrografico dela Marina (Spain), demonstrated how improved sound speed control through remotely detecting thermocline undulations can be achieved.

The study was the result of a collaboration carried out in 2017 onboard the RV Celtic Explorer during a routine INFOMAR survey.

Finally, Anand D Hiroji (HSRC/University of Southern Mississippi) showed how unambiguous radiation pattern extraction methods can improve data derived from multisector multibeam Sonars. Once again, this study was carried out using data acquired by INFOMAR onboard the RV Celtic Explorer.

As Ireland continues toward completion of its seabed mapping programme in 2026, the Marine Institute says it is “widely acknowledged internationally” that our best practice approach towards open and integrated data acquisition, integration and exploitation “is a valued model, and one which gives Irish researchers and technology developers a global audience, and market.”

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - A multinational team of ocean exploration experts returned to Galway on World Ocean Day (Friday 8 June) after spending the last few weeks exploring and mapping the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Using the robotic mini-sub ROV Holland I, the TOSCA (Tectonic Spreading and the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone) research team led by Dr Aggie Georgiopoulou of UCD collected “spectacular” film footage of sponge gardens.

In another first for deep-sea exploration, the marine science team on board the RV Celtic Explorer also found more than 70 skate eggs in a nursery some 2,000 metres below the surface.

“Up to 150 rock and sediment samples amounting to roughly 200kg along with 86 hours of video footage and over 10,000 square kilometres of the zone were also mapped, which is almost the size of Co Galway and Co Mayo together,” Dr Georgiopoulou said.

The Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone was mapped for the first time in 2015 on the RV Celtic Explorer as one of the key projects launched by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, following the signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation between Canada, the EU and the US in May 2013.

“The high resolution data produced by Ireland’s INFOMAR programme in 2015, that revealed spectacular landscape with 4,000m-high mounds rising from the seabed to 600m below the sea surface — taller than Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain — has been instrumental in our continued research over the last month,” Dr Georgiopoulou said.

The tectonic spreading at the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone consists of two huge parallel cracks in the crust of the Atlantic Ocean running between Ireland and Newfoundland, and is the longest-lived fracture zone in the Atlantic. It is the most prominent feature interrupting and offsetting the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

“What we have found at the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone surpassed all of our expectations,” Dr Georgiopoulou added. “Exploring three mountain areas, 500-1,000m-high scarps were discovered that have been produced by catastrophic rock avalanches, with giant boulder fields spilling into the fractures.

“Although these fracture zones are similar to the San Andreas fault in the western US and the North Anatolian fault in Turkey and Greece, with large earthquakes taking place there regularly, this is the first time there has been a dedicated geological study in the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone area.”

The TOSCA expedition involved 13 scientists from nine institutions and five different countries including Ireland, the UK, Germany, Canada and Greece.

Experts in seabed mapping, marine geology, oceanography and marine biology, each team will return to their respective Institutes to analyse all the data and work out how the mountains were formed, when and how the rock avalanches take place and how the geology affects the local habitat for marine wildlife.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan congratulated the team on their recent discoveries, stating that deep ocean expeditions cannot be taken for granted as we need to better understand the features that make up the ocean seabed.

“With the ocean affecting climate change, global population and seafood demand, we need to map our seabed to define favourable habitats for fishing, key sites for conservation, and safe navigation for shipping.

“The expedition supported by AORA also reflects the value and essential role of international partnerships, particularly with achieving the shared goals of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation 2013, which include our ongoing cooperation on ocean science and observation in the Atlantic Ocean,” Dr Heffernan said.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Marine Institute's RV Celtic Explorer departed Galway yesterday for the first deepwater INFOMAR survey of 2018 to map the seabed in the region of the Labadie and Cockburn Banks, south of the Celtic Sea.

These areas are of ecological and economic value to the Irish fishing fleet and the data collected will allow better fisheries management decisions.

INFOMAR, the national seabed mapping programme, is a joint programme between the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and Marine Institute. INFOMAR creates bathymetric charts and products for Ireland's coastal and deeper offshore waters using acoustic sonars called multi-beams. The survey team will be led by Vera Quinlan, and include four INFOMAR surveyors / scientists and four marine science students.

Three multi-beam echo sounders on the marine research vessel will transmit beams of sound towards the sea floor. These 'beams of sound' are reflected off the sea floor and both the time it takes to receive the returned signal and the intensity are captured by the on-board systems. This process provides a very clear picture of the shape and texture of the seafloor, such as the bathymetry, and the geological characteristics of the area.

Further studies include the analysis of the radiation patterns of the sonars resulting in increased precision and improved data. This is part of a long-running collaboration between INFOMAR and Professor John Hughes Clarke at the Centre for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of NewINFOMAR survey to map the Celtic Sea seabed Hampshire.

The survey team includes two students from the United States of America, Alexandra Dawson and Treyson Gillespie, from the BEAMS (BEnthic Acoustic Mapping and Survey) Program. BEAMS is an undergraduate-focused training and research program from the College of Charleston's Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, and aims to develop a strong and qualified workforce of ocean surveyors in support of the academic, research and operational marine communities.

INFOMAR also welcomes Becky Cronin and Rachel O' Mahoney from the Training Through Research Surveys (TTRS), a collaboration with the Marine Institute. The programme aims to increase national capacity in offshore marine research by offering seagoing placements for students of marine related sciences and technologies on the national research vessels, RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager.

Follow INFOMAR on Facebook and Twitter for updates from the INFOMAR survey team. Also follow [email protected] blog for some blogs during the survey.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineNotice - Hydrographic and geophysical surveys will be undertaken in the Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean under the INFOMAR (Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Marine Resources) programme until October 2018.

Geological Survey Ireland vessels the RV Keary (Callsign EI-GO-9), RV Geo (Callsign EI-DK-6), RV Tonn (Callsign EI-PT-7), RV Mallet (Callsign EI-SN-9) and RV Lir (Callsign EI-HI-2) are already involved in scheduled surveys since March.

Marine Institute vessels the RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign EIGB) and RV Celtic Voyager (Callsign EIQN) will begin surveys this weekend, starting with the former vessel on a three-week survey from Sunday 22 April.

The Celtic Voyager and the Celtic Explorer will be towing a magnetometer sensor with a single cable of up to 200 metres in length. The vessels will display appropriate lights and markers, and will be listening on VHF Channel 16 throughout the course of the surveys.

Details of co-ordinates for these surveys are included in Marine Notice  No 18 of 2018, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Note that the Atlantic Ocean Area may not be surveyed in 2018, but if for operational reasons the survey does take place, it will be during the dates set out above for the Celtic Voyager surveys listed therein. In that event, the Marine Notice will be updated with specific dates.

Published in Marine Science
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About boot Düsseldorf: With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

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The first boats and yachts will once again be arriving in December via the Rhine.

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