Fabio Sacchetti, Vera Quinlan and Thomas Furey, Marine Institute

INFOMAR was centre-stage in the exhibition area of the first annual Ocean Wealth Conference at Dublin Castle on June 18 which recorded progress since publication of Harnessing our Ocean Wealth, Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan (2013).

INFOMAR outputs were referred to by several speakers in different sectors as ‘critical’ to facilitating their successful development.

10.3MarineRD INFOMAR

Tommy Furey, Fergal McGrath, Fabio Sacchetti and Vera Quinlan, Marine Institute

The conference, attended by An Taoiseach and five government Ministers, addressed fisheries plans; development of a new tax regime for offshore petroleum exploitation; roll-out of the Wild Atlantic Way Failte Ireland initiative and moves towards implementation of a new Marine Spatial Planning system.

Education and Technology

INFOMAR hosted a start-up workshop on June 17 for a pilot school project as part of the outreach and education development activities. The ambitious project is initially targeted over the next four years at four groups of transition year (TY) students, and aspires to engage them in marine projects, incorporating computer coding, geography, maths and science learning outcomes.

Steered and supported by GSI and MI, with technical input from ESRI who are a global geographical information systems software provider, the TY teachers and classes will work with mobile apps to acquire scientific data and images from the beach, upload it to cloud computer based maps, and learn computer coding to modify and improve the apps and data hosting site. Progress updates can be tracked on the new INFOMAR website: www.infomar.ie.

Supporting SMEs

Following a research contract awarded to RealSim on a pilot study in Galway Bay, Titanic Belfast subsequently commissioned them to develop an interactive outreach platform to visualise the extensive seabed terrain data collected and features identified, during the Joint Irish Bathymetric Survey (JIBS).

The interactive display located in the Ocean Exploration Centre presents the underwater landscape in an innovative and dynamic way, inspiring and educating young and old, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-ETgU6D5po).

The seabed survey data acquired by the INFOMAR team forms the foundation layer on which the display is built, and the research support has lead to commercial contract awards to RealSim. The additional benefit is that the information is now readily accessible to the next generation of marine explorers to learn about the importance of our oceans and the conservation and protection of our marine environment.

Shipwrecks, landscape, sea level rise and seabed features can be investigated interactively by the public.

Ocean energy

While a vast amount of energy can be harnessed from Ireland’s marine environment through wind, wave and tidal energy technologies, detailed seabed mapping data is required to fully assess the resource and establish suitable site locations.

Offshore West Clare has been identified by the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan as one of the suitable areas for potential wave energy development.

INFOMAR has undertaken several survey campaigns for Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) in the area, culminating in a regional scale dataset on which detailed oceanographic models can now be developed, and future development decisions can be made.

The West Clare region was identified initially for reasons including wave regime; favourable seabed morphology and proximity of electrical grid and port facilities. The exposed nature of the region to Atlantic swell, combined with cliff dominated coastal morphology, variable weather and onshore prevailing winds, proved challenging survey conditions for the survey teams on-board the RVs Celtic Voyager, Keary and Cosantóir Bradán.

Caris 2014 – Developing the blue economy

Caris, a Canadian-based leading international hydrographic data software provider has signed up as an industry partner to support an INFOMAR-lead research project, part of a much larger SFI research submission, currently in review phase. If successful it will be part of a significant research capacity build underpinning INFOMAR activities.

In support of the partnership, INFOMAR presented and exhibited at the CARIS 2014, Developing the Blue Economy, user group conference The conference was held in Brest, one of Europe’s main centres of marine science and technology, and recognised as a centre of excellence in marine research, education and hydrography.

The main theme of the conference focused around our oceans and seas, in which hydrography plays a critical role, underpinning trade, strategic development, resource management, and marine leisure and tourism.

Plans

The INFOMAR survey season in well underway with the boats taking best advance of favourable surveying conditions, working in Lough Swilly, Sheephaven, and Donegal Bay, with further work planned in Broadhaven, Blacksod, Killary, Clare Coast and Tralee.

In parallel, the team is actively engaged in technology development to increase public awareness and more importantly, access to the data and products. Initially this will be in the form of a more streamlined website, associated social media, and over the course of the summer, through development and launch of a mobile dive app, and educational and outreach products.