MSc Module in Seabed mapping with UCD
Two post-graduate training modules, developed to inspire the next generation of marine scientists, have been successfully delivered through a joint-partnership between Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute as part of the INFOMAR (Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Irelands’ Marine Resource) programme’s collaboration with UCD Department of Geography and the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) programme. The modules ‘INFOMAR Marine Geodata Science’ and ‘INFOMAR Marine and Survey Data’ centered on two days offshore training on Ireland’s new state-of-the-art research vessel the R.V. Tom Crean, and supported by onshore lectures, tutorials and workshops. The modules are fully integrated into the the UCD MSc’s in Risk, Resilience & Sustainability and Geospatial Data Analysis. In the classroom learners explore theories of seabed mapping which are put into practice in intensive two-day offshore surveys.
Drawing on the extensive survey and mapping experience of the INFOMAR team, the Marine Geodata Science module outlines the importance of mapping to a sustainable blue economy for all the people of Ireland. Lectures, tutorials, learning labs and training surveys were delivered in the autumn trimester between September and December. Students were provided with complete and accessible content on how to access, download and view a range of marine datasets; emerging Earth observation and coastal mapping resources and methods using cloud computing and an introduction to marine seismic surveying and its multiple applications. Case studies from Ireland and abroad were used to show how geophysical surveys are key to engineering investigations.
In the Marine and Survey Data module, learners developed knowledge of the applications of marine survey equipment and instrumentation, learning how scientists image and describe the seafloor using acoustic and optical technologies. The multi-disciplinary ship-based training on the R.V. Tom Crean and was delivered by experienced scientists from INFOMAR and SMART. With additional berths on the new vessel, learners can now stay aboard overnight for a fully immersive experience that mirrors actual survey conditions. Students were able to practice with industry standard software including Qinsy, Qimera and Fledarmaus for acquiring, processing and visualising seabed mapping data, the use of which was generously sponsored by QPS (www.qps.nl).
Additionally, a ‘Careers and the Blue Economy’ lecture focused on employment and training opportunities in the marine economy was followed by a panel discussion with members of the INFOMAR team providing practical insights into developing a career in the marine sector.
Further training included research vessel orientation, marine mammal observation deck watch, geophysical data acquisition, vessel system navigation, drop-camera ground-truthing, and physical sampling with grabs. The training follows a model of interactive demonstrations between learners and instructors on day one with learners taking the lead in data acquisition, survey planning and sampling on day 2.
This year offshore training for the modules coincided with the end of the INFOMAR inshore mapping season. The inshore fleet were transiting back from their survey area of Galway Bay and Connemara, to their demobilisation port in Dublin. The vessels passed the mouth of Cork Harbour and the R.V. Lir and her crew stopped for a short rendezvous with the R.V. Tom Crean and a wave to the UCD Geography students.
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. Graduate training is a key action in the Government’s Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland to build ‘capacity, education, training and awareness’. INFOMAR collaboration with Higher Education Institutes also addresses the Climate Action Plan 2021 call for an ‘increasing public awareness of the value of Ireland’s seas’ and for an ‘understanding of the effects of climate change on the sea’. The successful collaboration raises awareness of the value of our national mapping programme to the economy, and also communicates the range of opportunities available within the marine sector to aspiring graduates.
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.
“My experience aboard the Tom Crean has completely reshaped my outlook for my future career plans! In a university setting it is rare to get such fantastic exposure to hands on, practical experience. The entire INFOMAR and Tom Crean staff have been so open and encouraging to ensure that MSc students got as much fulfilment out of the modules as possible. In addition, they have been incredibly patient to help students navigate their next steps in building a career at sea. I now have a hard time imagining myself working in any other industry after being made aware of so many amazing opportunities. A warm thank you to all in the INFOMAR team!”
"The in-class INFOMAR module combined with the experience on the Tom Crean, introduced me to the fascinating world below the sea surface. It has been a life changing experience which brought me to reconsider my future plans. All the lecturers and the staff on board made me realize that a career in marine research is an exciting and stimulating one, where no two days are the same. I would like to thank everyone, from the university professors to the chef on board, who in one way or another shared their knowledge and passion for this unique lifestyle."