INFOMAR Partners with Maynooth University to Deliver Training in Marine Remote Sensing
How do marine scientists collect their data? What is on the seafloor several thousand metres below the sea surface? These are some of the questions students of Maynooth University will have answered following their participation in the INFOMAR marine remote sensing module.
With the aim of educating Ireland’s next generation of marine professionals and growing our offshore economy, the INFOMAR post-graduate training module was successfully delivered earlier this year through collaboration between the Department of Geography Maynooth University, the INFOMAR Programme and the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART).
Developed initially as a pilot programme in collaboration with Maynooth University, the level 9 post-graduate module is now in its third year. The module features as part of the University’s Masters in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing, and aims to teach and train post-graduate students in all aspects of seafloor mapping through a series of lectures and tutorials, along with an offshore survey experience unique to INFOMAR. A vast knowledge of seafloor mapping has been developed in Ireland over more than twenty years through the national seabed mapping programme. This module outlines the importance and processes of seafloor mapping for safe navigation, charting and for sectors of the economy that rely on accurate data to inform their marine activities such as fisheries, aquaculture and offshore renewable energy.
The module explores a range of marine remote sensing topics beginning with a general overview before moving into focused themes discussing e.g. ocean geography, seafloor sediments and processes, multi-beam technology, habitat mapping, marine geophysics and survey planning etc. The tutorials provide students with the opportunity to work with real data for multibeam sonar calibration, data processing, shipwreck reporting and 3D seabed visualisation, supported through the provision of industry software licences sponsored by QPS. Cloud computing with Satellite Derived Bathymetry data acquired from Sentinel-2 satellite deployed sensors also allows students to study coastal seabed depth and shape using satellite imagery.
“Through the INFOMAR post-graduate training module, the future generation of scientists and decision-makers will acquire the knowledge and skills which will equip them for job opportunities in Ireland and abroad” highlighted Mr. Sean Cullen, Geological Survey Ireland Joint INFOMAR Programme Manager.
Novel INFOMAR developed content delivered this year for the first time at Maynooth University included a Marine Data and Products tutorial where students discover, access and view seafloor mapping data online. A new Coastal Change tutorial introduced students to coastal processes and gave them an opportunity to work with real-world data to evaluate and demonstrate environmental impact on our changing coastline. Additionally, Careers and the Blue Economy lectures delivered for the first time highlighted employment and training opportunities in the marine sector along with a panel discussion where members of the INFOMAR team shared their insights and experience of developing a career in support of our growing marine economy.
“Ireland’s innovative and exemplar role in seabed mapping globally provides a unique opportunity for sustainable marine growth and development, based on scientific data, and trained technical experts empowered to use this information to make the right decisions”, advises Thomas Furey, Marine Institute Joint INFOMAR Programme Manager.
The module includes a two-day field component facilitated through the SMART Programme on board the R.V. Celtic Voyager, one of Ireland’s national research vessels. The multi-disciplinary experience included marine mammal observation, deck watch, the use of survey data acquisition IT, benthic ecology sampling, sedimentology, sound velocity probe deployment and a range of geophysical data acquisition equipment. Once aboard, students were introduced to the vessel’s dry and wet/chemical laboratories, as well as an array of scientific instrumentation including multibeam and single beam echo sounders and associated oceanographic instrumentation. The vessel departed from Cork harbour each morning and visited a number of stations in the outer reaches of the harbour where data acquisition and sample collection took place. At the end of their first day on board, students were invited to prepare a role play that required them to deliver a solution to a particular challenge involving the design, planning and implementation of a real-world survey scenario. This gave the students the opportunity to apply their newly acquired seabed mapping knowledge as a team of scientists taking on roles such as chief scientist, benthic ecologist or hydrographer.
“By combining the onshore learning with an offshore practical training component, the science of seafloor mapping can be taught in an innovative and productive way. The concepts introduced during the classroom learning are shown in the field, achieving the intended learning outcomes and contributing to a unique learning experience for the students”, stated Dr. Conor Cahalane, MSc Co-Director, Maynooth University.
The training of graduates in marine and seabed mapping technology by the INFOMAR Programme is identified as a key objective in Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan to support national marine programmes, industry and societal challenges. Additionally, the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2021 highlights the importance of delivering “the necessary increase in upskilling and reskilling to further Ireland’s climate agenda”. In support of Ireland’s energy transition, a skilled workforce of trained graduates is considered critical to meeting the growth opportunities anticipated in key areas including theexpanding offshore wind energy sector. INFOMAR would like to thank the students for their participation, and all the team involved in supporting, developing and delivering the MSc module, including the SMART & Research Vessel Operations teams, QPS, and the crew of the R.V. Celtic Voyager.