INFOMAR Graduate Training in Marine Remote Sensing

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For the second consecutive year INFOMAR (Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Marine Resource), in partnership with Maynooth University (MU) and SMART (Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training) programme has successfully delivered a Masters level module specialising in remote sensing and seabed mapping. INFOMAR is Ireland’s national marine mapping programme funded by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) and jointly managed by Geological Survey Ireland and Marine Institute.


The Level 9 post-graduate module ‘Marine Remote Sensing’ was delivered as part of MU’s Master of Science in GIS and Remote Sensing, coordinated by the Department of Geography. 


Due to Covid-19 restrictions, all aspects of the module such as lectures, tutorials, and the ship-based training elements,  were migrated to an online delivery platform. 


The thematic areas covered in the module encompass a variety of ocean related disciplines, imparted from a unique perspective. The INFOMAR MSc team draws upon vast experience, as well as a high-level of specialisation in the subjects and field disciplines.  This has resulted in a unique approach to teaching this module, which combines scientific knowledge, field specialisation and real world ocean applications.


This 10 European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) credit module covered a broad range of topics including fundamentals of oceanography, seabed features, survey technology and planning, coastal remote sensing and the future of ocean science. The delivery also included a number of focused topics such as multibeam and geophysical methods, geodesy and positioning. The use of innovative online teaching applications, including Mentimeter, Kahoot and Moodle quizzes’, helped to enhance student engagement and facilitated monitoring of the learning outcomes.
 

 

QPS Qimera tutorial focused on multibeam echosounder data analysis of a shipwreck.

Top: Live lectures  Bottom: QPS Qimera tutorial on multibeam echosounder data analysis of a shipwreck.

 

The ship-based training component aims to gives students direct experience of surveying  aboard a research vessel at sea, where knowledge gained in the lectures is applied during a two day offshore programme. Students begin to develop their own seabed mapping skills during the training on the R.V. Celtic Voyager. The Celtic Voyager is a purpose built national research vessel which carries out a broad range of multidisciplinary surveys.  Facilities include dry and wet laboratories and it is equipped with a comprehensive suite of geophysical, oceanographic and ground-truthing instrumentation.


In response to Covid-19 public health advice and in order to safeguard the health of everyone involved, the ship-based training component was delivered remotely in Galway Bay in collaboration  with the SMART programme. SMART builds capacity for marine research, monitoring and resource management through the delivery of accredited offshore training programmes to students, researchers and practitioners of marine sciences and technologies.  Partners include Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, NUI Galway, University College Cork, Maynooth University, INFOMAR, GSI, and the Marine Institute.


Advance ship-to-shore tests of video conferencing software by RV technical crew and scientists ensured learner engagement with all aspects of the training survey and with the INFOMAR and SMART trainers.  Training was structured around the key subjects of marine mammal observation and mitigation, MBES and sub-bottom data acquisition, physical sampling with grabs and cores for seabed classification and benthic fauna, and water column profiling.  The training marked the first live-streaming of student training from the R.V. Celtic Voyager and was achieved in collaboration with the Research Vessel Operations team at the Marine Institute and P&O Maritime.


Overall, the combined experience of online lectures and offshore training provided MU students with an excellent overview of marine remote sensing techniques, helping them to understand key products, to recognize data limitations, and to identify key systems and practices used in the field of seafloor surveying. Students also developed a technical understanding of mapping at different resolutions, the importance of instrument 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, Web Viewers, and via web based portals operated by the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) and the Copernicus Marine Environment Service. 

 

Oisin McManus of INFOMAR and John Boyd of SMART

Oisin McManus of INFOMAR and John Boyd of SMART Coordinator


“The INFOMAR module co-developed with Maynooth University as part of the MSc GIS & Remote Sensing is a unique opportunity to learn from industry specialists in the field of marine remote sensing. During the ship-based training, students are required to apply their learning and prepare solutions to real-world applications e.g. carrying out a survey to determine the optimum location for an underwater observatory. This type of student learning experience is unrivalled”


-MSc Co-Director, Dr Conor Cahalane, Maynooth University


“The INFOMAR graduate training program is an exciting opportunity to share the knowledge acquired by the experienced project team members over the years to a base of students in Ireland. The science around seabed mapping and many other aspects surrounding a project of this scale, from impact to international networking, are key to address future societal challenges related to Ocean science, now that we are in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.”
 
- Xavier Monteys, Senior Geologist, Geological Survey Ireland

 

“The training also gives the students an opportunity for dialogue with INFOMAR scientists about their own training and career development in a focused career development Q&A session, where the team share their experiences in making the transition from education to industry. In order to manage the ocean more sustainably, we need to explore it to better understand it and address ways to ensure that ocean resources are around for future generations. 2021 marks the start of the UN Decade of the Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (https://www.oceandecade.org/), the vision of communicating the value of our marine resource is realised through educating the next generation in the importance of our oceans to society. “
 

- John Boyd, SMART Coordinator