Post-Graduate Training in Marine Remote Sensing
Two post-graduate training modules, developed to inspire the next generation of marine scientists, have been successfully delivered through a new joint-partnership between Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institutes’ INFOMAR programme (Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Irelands’ Marine Resource), UCD Department of Geography and the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) programme.
Created by Irelands’ national seabed mapping programme, INFOMAR, two Level 9 post-graduate modules, Seabed Mapping Training and Marine and Survey Data, were hosted by University College Dublin’s Department of Geography and delivered across MSc programmes in Risk, Resilience & Sustainability, Geospatial Data Analysis and MA Geography. Each explored the science of seabed mapping by providing class based theory and practical knowledge, along with relevant offshore survey experience.
Drawing on extensive survey and mapping experience acquired by the INFOMAR team, the Seabed Mapping Training module outlines the importance of mapping along with its impact on the economy, society and sustainability. Over the course of fifteen lectures with supplementary tutorials, practicals and on board ship experience, the students gained knowledge in marine survey equipment, learning how scientists image and describe the seafloor using state of the art acoustic sonar, positioning, and optical instrumentation.
Novel content included a Marine Data and Products tutorial where students discover, access and view data online; A Coastal Change module from the CHERISH project team which introduced students to coastal processes and how data is applied to evaluate future coastal change; Emerging Earth Observation and coastal mapping techniques using cloud computing; an introduction to marine seismic methods and their multiple applications with case studies from Ireland and abroad focussing on how geophysical surveys are key to engineering investigations. Additionally, the ‘Careers and the Blue Economy’ lecture focused on employment and training opportunities in the marine sector while a panel discussion with members of the INFOMAR team provided practical insights into developing a career in the marine sector. Practical tutorial sessions included the opportunity to use industry standard software (Qinsy, Qimera and Fledermaus) for acquiring, processing and visualising seabed mapping data sponsored by QPS (www.qps.nl).
A two-day, multi-disciplinary ship-based training module was provided on board the national research vessel, RV Celtic Voyager and delivered by INFOMAR staff and the SMART Programme. On board, students worked in the vessel’s laboratories, operated an array of scientific equipment including the multi-beam sonar echosounder and gained hands-on survey planning and data acquisition experience. Further training included; research vessel orientation, marine mammal observation, deck watch, geophysical data acquisition, vessel system navigation and seabed sampling for benthic ecology and sedimentology classification. The training encourages active participation through interactive demonstrations with students invited to lead the operations and survey plan on day two.
“The INFOMAR modules co-developed with the UCD School of Geography as part of its MSc programmes in Risk, Resilience and Sustainability and Geospatial Data Analysis, gave students in Geography and allied disciplines a stimulating learning experience, provided by professionals working in the world-class INFOMAR programme. Classroom sessions by these experienced researchers included lectures in the foundations of marine science and in marine and coastal environmental issues, while lab classes in the UCD School of Geography Remote Sensing and GIS Laboratory introduced students to marine data and geospatial analytical techniques in marine research. With a combination of teaching by highly expert scientists and learning aboard a research vessel equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and crewed by seasoned professionals, the INFOMAR modules gave students access to the fruits of a nationally and internationally significant research programme over two decades in the making”.
Colman Gallagher, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography UCD
Together the modules provide fundamental knowledge and skills in both the theoretical aspects of seabed mapping and the offshore hands-on training in conducting marine surveys. The training of graduates in the latest techniques in seabed mapping is a key action under the Governments Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, enabling ‘capacity, education, training and awareness’. The recently published Climate Action Plan 2021 calls for ‘increasing public awareness of the value of Ireland’s seas’ and for an ‘understanding of the effects of climate change on the sea’. The INFOMAR graduate training is raising awareness of not only the value of our national mapping programme and the importance of the data it generates for the economy, but also communicating to graduates the range of opportunities available within the marine sector.
INFOMAR is Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme and is funded by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC). It is jointly managed by Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute and is tasked with fully mapping Ireland’s territorial waters for the sustainable development of Ireland’s marine resource.