2023 INFOMAR Module with University College Dublin


Students at University College Dublin undertaking a Masters Degree programme have this week completed two INFOMAR training modules, designed to encourage a new generation of marine scientists. The modules were 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 University College Dublin School of Geography and the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) programme.

The module, 'GEOG40990-INFOMAR Marine Geodata Science' involved classroom-based learning complemented by lectures, tutorials, and workshops while the second module 'GEOG41000-INFOMAR Marine and Survey Data' provided two days of offshore training aboard Ireland's newest research vessel, the R.V. Tom Crean. Both modules are fully integrated into the UCD MSc degrees in Risk, Resilience & Sustainability and in Geospatial Data Analysis. Within the classroom setting, learners delve into the theory of seabed mapping, which is then applied during an intensive two-day offshore survey.

Leveraging INFOMAR’s extensive survey and mapping expertise, the Marine Geodata Science module underscores the importance of mapping in developing a sustainable blue economy for Ireland. This module features lectures, tutorials, learning labs, and training surveys delivered in the autumn trimester. Students enjoyed comprehensive and guided access to downloading, and using various marine datasets, along with insights into emerging Earth observation and coastal mapping resources. Additionally, the use of cloud computing and an introduction to marine seismic surveying and its diverse applications were covered. The module incorporates case studies from Ireland and internationally, illustrating the pivotal role of marine geophysical surveys in engineering investigations.


Figure 2: UCD students planning their hydrographic survey with the INFOMAR team
Figure 2: UCD students planning their hydrographic survey with the INFOMAR team


In the Marine and Survey Data module, students cultivated knowledge about the applications of marine survey equipment and instrumentation, understanding how scientists utilise acoustic and optical technologies to image, sample and describe the seafloor. This multi-disciplinary ship-based training on the R.V. Tom Crean was facilitated by experienced scientists from INFOMAR and SMART. The availability of berths on the new research vessel enabled students to stay offshore overnight, providing a fully immersive experience mirroring actual survey conditions for seafaring scientists. Throughout the program, students actively participated in practical exercises utilizing industry-standard software such as Qinsy, Qimera, and Fledermaus. This practical training, made possible through the generous sponsorship provided by QPS (www.qps.nl), equipped students with valuable skills in acquiring, processing, and visualizing seabed mapping data.


Figure 3: UCD students using QPS software to process seabed data on board R.V. Tom Crean


Supplementary training extended to encompass a range of activities, including orientation on the research vessel, participation in marine mammal observation deck watch, hands-on experience in geophysical data acquisition, navigation of vessel systems, ground-truthing with drop-camera, and physical sampling using grabs. The training model incorporated interactive demonstrations on the first day, fostering engagement between learners and instructors. On the second day, learners took on leadership roles in tasks such as survey planning, data acquisition, , and sampling, enhancing their practical skills and understanding.


Figure 4: UCD Students learning about Day Grab sampling methodology
Figure 5: UCD Students in the wet lab with Smart Sea School for benthic species analysis


In concluding this year’s classroom module, a 'Careers and further training’ session was held on campus with a focus on graduate employment and training opportunities. Following this, an interactive discussion unfolded with the INFOMAR team and a representative from XOcean, an innovative ocean data company specializing in Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs). These first-hand accounts and personal experiences shared within the seabed mapping industry provided students with valuable and practical insights, offering guidance on navigating a career path in the dynamic marine sector.


Figure 6: UCD students and staff with the INFOMAR team



Student - Síofra Handibode

“In addition to the engaging lectures as part of the INFOMAR Masters module at UCD, having the opportunity to train on board the RV Tom Crean with INFOMAR scientists was an incredible and fascinating experience. Immersed in learning with cutting-edge equipment such as multibeam echosounder systems, sub-bottom profilers, seabed sampling, and other vital oceanographic measurements, the time on board has ignited a passion in me and inspired me to pursue a career in the dynamic and captivating field of the marine sector”

Module coordinator in UCD - Tine Ningal

“The INFOMAR modules in UCD as part of the Geospatial Analysis and Risk, Resilience and Sustainability Masters Degrees are providing a unique opportunity for Masters level students. This is our third year collaborating with INFOMAR and the feedback has been highly positive, these modules are attracting students making these degree programmes competitive. Students provided overwhelmingly positive feedback about their experience on the Tom Crean and commented that they had learned many new things that will improve their understanding of seabed mapping going forward”

The collaboration between INFOMAR and Higher Education Institutes is aligned with the objectives outlined in the Climate Action Plan 2023, which emphasizes the need for increased public awareness regarding the significance of Ireland's seas and a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of climate change on the marine environment. This successful partnership not only enhances awareness of the economic value associated with the national mapping program but also communicates the diverse array of opportunities available within the marine sector to aspiring graduates.

INFOMAR, Ireland's national seabed mapping programme, is funded by the Department of Environment, Climate, and Communications (DECC). It is jointly managed by Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute with the goal of fully mapping Ireland's territorial waters for the sustainable development of the country's marine resources.