A new initiative to assist marine scientists and students from higher education institutions, North and South, in using Ireland’s national research vessel fleet was launched today (Wed. 5th March) in Dublin.
The Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin, TD and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan, TD, announced details of the joint Marine Institute – Higher Education Authority (HEA) programme to enhance Ireland’s reputation as a global centre for marine research at Government Buildings.
The initiative will support eight training courses and four integrated research surveys aboard the national research vessels Celtic Explorer and Celtic Voyager, giving Irish researchers significantly more time on the water. The total grant aid to the third level sector will be over €1.4million, and a total of 185 scientists and science students from institutions, North and South, will benefit. The initiative is supported under the Infrastructure Support Measure of Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007-2013.
“Access to ship time is essential if marine scientists – be they experienced experts or interested students – are to come directly to grips with the opportunities and challenges of exploring the potential of our vast marine resource, and the part it plays in global climate change,” said Minister Coughlan. “I am delighted that these grants will go towards training the next generation of fisheries and marine scientists and facilitating their access to the fine state-of-the-art vessels Ireland now has in service.”
Speaking of the educational value of the programme, Minister Hanafin said “this initiative will enable students and researchers to avail of specialised research on board these vessels and will give them an unparalleled view of marine science. This will be valuable experience of working at sea that cannot be duplicated in any other situation. Combining the practical experience on vessels with the high level of academic learning now on offer from marine-orientated courses in Higher Education Institutions, North and South, is a recipe for success in reaching the Government’s objective - to make Ireland an International Centre of Marine Research Excellence.”
The Marine Institute is the national agency responsible for marine research, technology, development and innovation. The Higher Education Authority is the independent statutory body charged with advising Government on higher education policy and for funding our universities and third level colleges.
Notes to Editor
The four integrated research surveys that will be assisted under the programme are as follows:
1) Seabed Mapping and Sampling in the North Atlantic Ridge “VSR-2W”
V-Shaped Ridges in the ocean floor are the world’s best window into processes involving the earth’s crust. This expedition, led by the Geology Department of Trinity College, Dublin with partners from the University of Southampton to “VSR-2W” in the oceanic crust south of Iceland will acquire important information that will benefit further studies on the mid-Atlantic Ridge.
2) Novel Imaging and Control Technology on an Underwater Vehicle
This collaborative survey between the University of Limerick, NUI Galway, and the Institute of General Electrical Engineering in Rostock, Germany, will use a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to study the Biologically Sensitive Area off South West Ireland. The research team will mobilise and operate the ROV to gain unique information about the study area under study and valuable hands on research training in the use of underwater camera systems, winch operations, topside controls and underwater navigation.
3) Integrated National Strategic Deepwater Seabed Drilling Campaign
This mission, headed by University College, Cork and including geologists from Germany and the Netherlands, will operate a portable seabed drilling system to retrieve cores from as deep as 80 meters below the seabed. This will allow for detailed studies of carbonate mounds and other geological features that were previously unreachable and give us a greater understanding of seabed geology.
4) Oceanographic Missions to Irish Offshore Waters and Continental Shelf.
This programme, led by NUI Galway and the Marine Institute’s Ocean Science Services Team, involves two scientific missions to provide vital information on oceanographic conditions in deep water to the west of Ireland. The data gathered will contribute to ongoing assessment of ocean climate and, specifically, to the ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) Report on Ocean Climate (IROC).
Training and Survey Work
In addition to these missions, a major component of the programme is training and survey work at third level institutions North and South including:
- Advanced training in oceanography for NUI Galway and Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology students at final year and early postgraduate level, as well as basic undergraduate training in oceanography and fisheries sampling at sea.
- Basic familiarisation with ships at sea for students of the National Maritime College of Ireland at Cork.
- Student training in Dublin Bay for students of Trinity College, Dublin.
- Training in the sampling of bottom dwelling (benthic) animals for students of Queen’s University of Belfast.
- Integrated Marine training for the next generation of marine scientists from the University of Ulster.
Marine Science Education in Ireland
There are currently 10 undergraduate courses in marine science taking place across six higher education institutions on the island of Ireland. Five of these are specifically marine, while the others have a substantial marine component.
In addition, nine taught postgraduate courses being run across five higher education institutions – five which are specifically marine and four with a substantial marine component.
Over 150 PhD students registered across 12 higher education institutions in 2007. This number is expected to rise substantially in coming years.