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#MarineNotice - Maynooth University will carry out a geophysical research survey off the North West Coast of Ireland from next weekend. 

Work is expected to commence on Sunday 6 May and last for approximately nine days, subject to weather conditions.

The Marine Institute’s research vessel RV Celtic Voyager (Callsign EIQN) is scheduled to carry out the works for the Mara survey, undertaken by researchers in Maynooth University to collect geophysical acoustic survey data as well as sediment grab and core samples.

The survey will use relatively low amplitude sound sources to image into the seabed including an echosounder and a sparker system, which will allow for the characterisation of seabed type to inform the deglacial dynamics of the climatically driven British Irish Ice Sheet.

The vessel will, on occasion, be towing a hydrophone cable and other equipment, up to a maximum of 50 metres behind the vessel. The vessel will be restricted in its movements when towing a cable astern.

All other vessels are requested to give the operation a wide berth. The vessel will be listening on VHF Channel 16 throughout the project.

Details of the survey area, relevant co-ordinates and contact information are included in Marine Notice  No 19 of 2018, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

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

#MarineScience - A new survey sampling Nephrops larvae from the area west of the Aran Islands is currently being conducted for the first time aboard the RV Celtic Voyager.

“Nephrops are more commonly known as Dublin Bay prawn, Norway lobster or scampi, and are the most valuable demersal fishery in Ireland,” said Ryan McGeady, PhD candidate at NUI Galway and chief scientist on the two-week mission which began on Tuesday 3 April.

“The value of Nephrops of landings by Irish vessels was €60 million, the stocks around Ireland that the Marine Institute assess with the underwater TV surveys is more than €100 million.”

Nephrops are widely distributed in Irish waters, found in the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea and off the West Coast of Ireland. They spend a great deal of time in their burrows found in areas of muddy sediment at the bottom of the ocean only coming out for food or mating purposes.

Unlike fish, Nephrops cannot be aged directly. Coupled with their complex biology and behaviour, stock assessment of Nephrops is notoriously difficult to assess.

Since 2002, the Marine Institute has been using underwater television surveys to independently estimate abundance, distribution and stock sizes on the Aran Grounds, Western Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea. 

However, the primary focus of this survey is to collect data on the distribution of Nephrops larvae from two commercially important grounds, including off the West Coast and the Irish Sea.

Female Nephrops mature at three years of age, when they start to reproduce each year. After mating in early summer, they spawn in September, and carry eggs under their tails until they hatch in April or May. The Nephrops larvae develop in the plankton before settling to the seabed nearly two months later.

“The importance of this survey is that it is multi-disciplinary which allows us to use both oceanographic data and biological sampling to increase our knowledge on what influences larval distribution and retention on mud patches where the species lives,” Dr Colm Lordan of the Marine Institute said.

The data collected will be used to improve the accuracy of computer models that simulate the movement of Nephrop larvae in the ocean. The information gathered during the survey will also be used to validate or ‘ground-truth’ the model to ensure its accuracy.

“It is hoped that an improved model can be used to estimate the proportion of larvae surviving to adulthood each year. This will make it easier to estimate the health of the stock,” said Dr Anne Marie Power of NUI Galway.

Acoustic records of pelagic fish shoals will also be collected to compare with characteristics of the environment. Observations will be carried out to examine the effect of trawling on fish aggregations once gear has passed through. 

Fish shoal sampling will contribute towards an IRC-funded project that will use models of mackerel collective behaviour to improve traditional fisheries assessments and provide a framework for using shoals as an indicator of population health.

Oceanographic data collection will feature hyper-spectral light measurements to assist in the validation efforts of Irish satellites. This will support a Marine Institute Cullen Fellow examining space-based observations of marine phytoplankton in Northeast Atlantic surface water masses and potential environmental monitoring applications.

The team of scientists supporting Cullen Fellow Ryan McGeady board the RV Celtic Voyager includes Darragh Furey (Galway); Sophia Wasserman (Maryland, USA; IRC postgraduate scholar); Catherine Jordan (Mayo; Marine Institute Cullen Fellow/ NUIGalway); and Leigh Barnwall (Dublin). Dr Anne Marie Power Dr Colm Lordan are providing base support for this research.

This research survey is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Programme 2014-2020 by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - An Irish research team from IT Sligo and University College Cork recently joined the ‘Europe’s Lost Frontiers’ project to explore the extensive submerged landscapes in the Irish Sea aboard the Marine Institute’s Celtic Voyager research vessel research vessel.

Following the last Ice Age, large areas of habitable land were inundated following climate change and sea level rise across the world. Globally, the sea level rose around 120 metres and an area more than twice that of the modern United States of America was lost to the sea.

Beneath the waves of the Irish Sea is a prehistoric ‘palaeolandscape’ of plains, hills, marshlands and river valleys in which evidence of human activity is expected to be preserved.

This landscape is similar to Doggerland, an area of the southern North Sea and currently the best known example of a palaeolandscape in Europe. Doggerland has been extensively researched by Prof Vince Gaffney, principal investigator of the Europe’s Lost Frontiers project.

“Research by the project team has also provided accurate maps for the submerged lands that lie between Ireland and Britain,” said Prof Gaffney, “and these are suspected to hold crucial information regarding the first settlers of Ireland and adjacent lands along the Atlantic corridor.”

To provide this evidence, sediment from some 60 cores, taken from 20 sites by the RV Celtic Voyager in Liverpool and Cardigan Bays between the 21 and 25 February, will be studied by an international marine research team.

Dr James Bonsall, from the Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability (CERIS) in the Department of Environmental Science at IT Sligo, was chief scientist for this phase of the research, and together with his CERIS colleague, environmental scientist Eithne Davis, directed operations on board the RV Celtic Voyager.

“It is very exciting,” said Dr Bonsall, “as we’re using cutting-edge technology to retrieve the first evidence for life within landscapes that were inundated by rising sea levels thousands of years ago.

“This is the first time that this range of techniques has been employed on submerged landscapes under the Irish Sea. Today we perceive the Irish Sea as a large body of water, a sea that separates us from Britain and mainland Europe, a sea that gives us an identity as a proud island nation. But 18,000 years ago, Ireland, Britain and Europe were part of a single landmass that gradually flooded over thousands of years, forming the islands that we know today.

“We’re going to find out where, when, why and how people lived on a landscape that today is located beneath the waves.”

Key outcomes of the research will be to reconstruct and simulate the palaeo-environments of the Irish Sea, using ancient DNA, analysed in the laboratories at the University of Warwick, and palaeo-environmental data extracted from the sediment cores.

The studies will be of immense value in understanding ‘first’ or ‘early’ contact and settlement around the coasts of Ireland and Britain, but also the lifestyles of those people who lived within the inundated, prehistoric landscapes that lie between our islands and which have never been adequately explored by archaeologists.

The Celtic Voyager and the Marine Institute’s expertise were provided to explore the extensive submerged landscapes, where marine core samples were taken. Technical support setting up the seabed survey and navigation systems was also provided by members of the DCCAE-funded INFOMAR team, who specialise in bathymetric mapping and geophysical survey.

This research survey was carried out with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Programme 2014-2020 by the Irish Government.

Europe’s Lost Frontiers is an ERC-funded Advanced Grant project based at the University of Bradford. Aimed at understanding the transition between hunter gathering to farming in north-west Europe, the project is studying the evidence for inundated palaeolandscapes around the British coast using seismic reflectance data sets to generate topographical maps of these ‘lost lands’ that are as accurate and complete as possible.

Environmental data from these areas is then being used to reconstruct and simulate the palaeo-environments of these landscapes using ancient DNA extracted directly from sediment cores as well as traditional environmental evidence.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - The Government’s new National Development Plan includes provision for a new marine research vessel to replace the RV Celtic Voyager, according to The Irish Times.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan says work is at an “advanced stage” towards confirmation of the project, which would see the 31-metre Celtic Voyager — which has served for two decades — replaced with a vessel of around 50 metres in length.

The new ship would serve alongside the RV Celtic Explorer, which recently underwent a major refit, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - The call for applicants to take part in Training Through Research Surveys (TTRS) is now open to graduate and postgraduate students from across Ireland.

TTRS is a collaboration between the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research & Training (SMART) and the Marine Institute, which aims to increase national capacity in offshore marine research by providing placements on a range of dedicated research surveys.

TTRS surveys give students the opportunity to develop their careers in ocean science and gain hands-on research experience on board the Marine Institute’s research vessels, RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager.

Students can develop the skills required to work at sea including using advanced and up-to-date equipment and instrumentation as well as collecting and handling data.

Taking part in a TTRS survey enables students to establish new professional contacts with experienced scientists and researchers, as well as make a real contribution to the survey goals.

This year’s TTRS surveys are as follows:

To take part in a TTRS survey, visit the Smart Sea School website and complete an online application form. To read previous participants' experience of TTRS, visit the SMART blog.

Applicants for Training Through Research Surveys:

  • must hold a degree in marine-related science or technology or be in the final year of their undergraduate programme.
  • must hold a valid ENG11 medical certificate and a Personal Survival Techniques (PST) certificate (STCW95).
  • should have some prior seagoing experience.

Please note that ENG11 medical certificates must be renewed every two years and PST certification renewed every five years.

Information on obtaining medical and sea-survival certificates, and check lists for scientists embarking on national research vessels is available from the Vessel User Information page on the Marine Institute website.

TTRS participants are responsible for costs incurred in travelling to and from survey ports. For queries please contact [email protected].

TTRS surveys are supported by the Marine Institute. Grant-aided ship time is carried out under the Strategic Marine Research & Innovation Agenda of the Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland (Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth) under the Marine Research sub-programme of the Irish Government.

Participation in surveys is by kind agreement with the survey chief scientist. Applications are invited from graduate and postgraduate students of Ireland of Ireland higher education institutions.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Celebrating 20 years of service in July was the Marine Institute's RV Celtic Voyager, the second decade reached marked a significant milestone for Ireland's first purpose built research vessel.

The RV Celtic Voyager was built in the Netherlands and arrived in Ireland in July 1997 to replace the RV Lough Beltra (1978 – 1997) as part of the national strategy to build Ireland's capabilities in marine research. "Moving from the 21m Lough Beltra that had originally been a trawler, to a 31.4m research vessel was the beginning of a new era in marine science in Ireland, where the Institute was able to provide a purpose built platform that could operate further out in our ocean territory. This enabled high quality research and monitoring informing decisions about Ireland's marine resource into the future," explained Mick Gillooly, Director of Ocean Science and Information services, Marine Institute.

The multi-purpose facilities on the vessel has allowed scientists to gather information covering a wide range of ocean sciences, including sea bed mapping and learning more about the marine species and environmental conditions.

Specially fitted with scientific equipment in wet, dry and chemical laboratories, having the ability to carry more scientists and being able to spend more time at sea which increased the output of science in Ireland. The Celtic Voyager, in its first full year of operation reached 260 operational days and the scientific output also increased by 150 percent over the output of the Lough Beltra. The vessel also exceeded original expectations about its range by carrying surveys further south in the Bay of Biscay and as far west as the Rockall Trough.

In the last 20 years, the vessel has successfully completed over 4,800 science days and has sailed over 380,000 nautical miles in the course of 595 science surveys in that period; and has had a positive impact on many Irish marine scientists and crew member's careers at sea.

Ireland's marine territory is over 880,000 square kilometres in the Atlantic, Irish and Celtic Seas, and with the INFOMAR Programme, in partnership with the Geological Survey of Ireland, the Marine Institute is completing one of the largest civilian seabed mapping projects in the world. As part of the INFOMAR programme, the RV Celtic Voyager has been responsible for mapping 30,000 square km Ireland's coastal and inshore area since 2007. Using multi-beam technology on the vessel, scientists have collected data producing high resolution maps showing the shape and type of the seabed below at depths between 20 - ~100m.

"Significant discoveries have been made on the Voyager ranging from mapping over 200 shipwrecks around the coast of Ireland including the RMS Lusitania, RMS Leinster and the Kowloon Bridge to revealing new information about the seafloor. In 2007 the survey of Galway Bay revealed for the first time a detailed seafloor and geology of the bay, confirming the location of the Galway Bay Fault, demarking the limits of Galway's granite landscape running northwest to southeast, between Lettermullan/Gorumna Islands in west Connemara and the Aran Islands," explained Thomas Fury, manager of the advanced mapping team at the Marine Institute.

The RV Celtic Voyager has also played an essential role in fisheries scientific research in Ireland, in particular ground fish stocks such as haddock and whiting since its launch in 1997, as well as developing unique underwater television survey methods to gather information the Dublin Bay prawn (Nephrops norvegicus) since 2002. "The capabilities of the vessel has enabled marine scientists to work in conditions allowing them to better recognise significant changes in the abundance and distribution of a wide range of marine species and changes in the environment; and in turn provide sound scientific advice about information on stock size, exploitation status and catch of commercial species," explained Dr Paul Connolly, Fisheries Ecosystems and Advisory services, Marine Institute.

The RV Celtic Voyager has provided scientists the ability to a learn about the oceans dynamic ecological systems as well as ensuring that Ireland complies with national and EU regulations relating to the assessment of water quality and marine food safety. "Initially the vessel was used for looking at the levels of nutrients and pollutants in coastal waters that were either naturally caused by environmental conditions or introduced by humans such as agriculture run off, shipping and industrial activities," explained Jeff Fisher, Marine Environment and Food Safety Services, Marine Institute.

Surveys over the last decade have however increased the level of research to include the collection and assessment of phytoplankton as an indicator of the health of the ocean; as well as recovering samples of sediments and sea bed organisms for biological, chemical and geological analysis so as to assess at the quality and long term changes to sediment dwelling marine species. In more recent years scientists have also used the Voyager for the collection of water and sediment samples to monitor the impacts of climate change, ocean acidification and the introduction of micro plastics to the marine environment.

Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute congratulated the research vessel operations team, crew, scientists and researchers that have worked on the RV Celtic Voyager over the last 20 years, stating that "coastal research and offshore surveys involving fisheries research, environmental monitoring, seabed mapping, oceanographic work, buoy maintenance and student training all highlight the importance of having the best resources available, producing the best marine science in Ireland".

"In the Voyager's 20th year it is therefore important to recognise the contribution the vessel has made in providing marine scientists, researchers and its crew members, with many years of valued experience at sea, expanding and strengthening marine science in Ireland to help inform decisions affecting our ocean. This increase in activity also contributed to the expansion of Ireland's international role and profile in sustainable marine research, development, innovation and management."

Published in Marine Science

#MarineWildlife - A team of scientists on board the RV Celtic Voyager got more than they bargained for during a recent survey to understand the habitat use of elusive beaked whales.

That’s when they encountered four separate groups of breaching whales within a couple of hours near the Rockall Trough.

Very little is known about beaked whales as they are rarely encountered at sea and are shy around vessels. New species of the elusive marine mammals are being described as recently as last year.

In Ireland there are at least four species of beaked whales: Sowerby’s, True’s, Cuvier’s beaked whale and the northern bottlenose whale.

“We think that the groups encountered were either Sowerby’s or True’s beaked whale, possibly both, they are incredibly difficult to positively identify at sea,” said Dr Patricia Breen of NUI Galway, chief scientist on the survey.

“We know that they undertake huge dives to great depths of up to 2500m for an hour at a time. They feed mostly on squid but also deep sea fish.”

The recent survey was a collaborative study between NUI Galway, UCC, the Marine Institute, Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, Marine Conservation Research and Washington State University.

The aim was to characterise beaked whale habitat using acoustic technology in a small study area, as the whales are more likely to be heard rather than seen.

As well as using a hydrophone to detect whale clicks the team also characterised the habitat by recording oceanographic information such as salinity, temperature and depth, as well as the fish and squid species in the area, their most likely food source.

Dr Ailbhe Kavanagh of UCC said: “We had seen a group of breaching beaked whales the previous day and upon finishing up our acoustic transects decided to return to the area we had sighted them in previously.

“While steaming through this area we encountered four groups of beaked whales, all breaching, and all groups of between two to four individuals.” Dr Breen added: “The amazing thing about this encounter was the high number of sightings in such a small and specific area. Less than 30km separated the first and last sightings.

“This highlights an area that, whilst small, is potentially of huge importance to beaked whales in Irish waters. We hope to investigate this area further in the future.” During the survey, the team caught many species of fish which live in the mesopelagic zone between 200m and 1000m deep.

“Recent studies have shown that some beaked whale species prey on both squid and mesopelagic fish,” said UCC’s Prof Emer Rogan. “It is likely that the fish species we were catching in our nets is the reason the whales are here, to feed.

“The information collected on this survey will we helpful in our efforts to learn more about the species and to ensure adequate protection of the habitat of beaked whales in Irish waters.”

The survey, which took place from Sunday 29 October to Monday 6 November, was funded through the national research vessels’ ship time programme. This research survey was carried out with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Programme 2014-2020 by the Irish Government.

The Marine Institute’s ship time programme provides annual grant-aid to researchers to access ship-time to facilitate research projects/programmes and further develop the national potential to carry out world-class multidisciplinary marine research. For further information contact Dr Patricia Breen at [email protected]

The survey team included:

  • Dr Patricia Breen, chief scientist, School of Geography, NUI Galway
  • Professor Emer Rogan, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC
  • Dr Enrico Pirotta, School of Mathematics, Washington State University
  • Dr Oliver Boisseau, Marine Conservation Research
  • Dr Ailbhe Kavanagh, Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy/ERI, UCC
  • Ashley Bennison, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy/ERI, UCC
  • Morag Taite, School of Natural Sciences, NUI Galway
Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineNotice - Mariners of the South Coast are advised that PSE Kinsale Energy will undertake a seabed mapping survey in the Kinsale Head and Seven Heads Gas Fields next week.

The survey is expected to begin on Monday 12 June and last for five or six days, subject to weather conditions.

The multi-beam mapping survey is to confirm the seabed status adjacent to subsea gas production infrastructure such as wellheads, manifolds and jacket/platform structures, collecting data for ongoing field maintenance operations and future planning.

The RV Celtic Voyager (Callsign EIQN) is scheduled to carry out the survey operations at specific locations to assess the status of the subsea infrastructure in relation to the adjacent seabed. A total of 15 multi-beam mapping locations are anticipated.

There will be a regular safety message broadcasting on VHF Channel 16 throughout the project. All vessels, particularly those engaged in fishing, are requested to give the RV Celtic
Voyager a wide berth and keep a sharp lookout in the relevant areas.

Full details of the survey area are included in Marine Notice No 24 of 2017, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Published in News Update

#MarineScience - The Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Voyager returned to Cork Harbour last week after the first of six INFOMAR seabed mapping surveys planned for 2017.

The two-week seabed survey carried out its operations in the Celtic Sea south of the Waterford and Wexford coastlines.

The research team — involving geophysicists, geologists, marine biologists and data processors Kevin Sheehan, David O'Sullivan, Oisin McManus, Nicola O'Brien and Michael Arrigan — were tasked to accurately map the physical, chemical and biological features of the seabed area.

INFOMAR survey operations are conducted by a fleet of research vessels — including the RV Celtic Voyager, which is used for mapping seabed terrain in water depths between 20m and 100m.

The vessels are equipped with advanced mapping technologies including state-of-the-art acoustic sonars, geophysical instrumentation and ground-truthing capabilities, as well as geophysical equipment and precise satellite positioning.

“This helps to ensure data collection is of the highest possible quality across a wide range of water depths, conditions and environments, providing us with full coverage mapping of the shape and type of the seabed below,” says David O'Sullivan.

The INFOMAR survey around Ireland is one of the largest civilian seabed mapping projects in the world and aims to gather high resolution seabed data that contributes to the sustainable development of Ireland's marine resource.

As an island nation, Ireland is responsible for the sustainable management of its marine resources and it is important that accurate seabed maps are created to enable effective governance.

“Gathering up-to-date information about our ocean is cognisant of ensuring we have the best available science and knowledge to inform decisions affecting our ocean, particularly in relation to fisheries management and the development of ocean energy,” added O’Sullivan.

The INtegrated Mapping FOr the Sustainable Development of Ireland's MArine Resource (INFOMAR) programme is a joint venture between the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Marine Institute, funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Published in Marine Science
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