The next generation of high technology environmental sensors, designed to send back real-time information on pollution, pathogens and toxic algal blooms from marine and freshwater environments were unveiled today (Friday 12th February) at the first annual Beaufort workshop held by the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR) at Dublin City University (DCU), along with the Marine Institute.
(L-R) Yvonne Sheilds, Director, Strategic Planning and Development Services, Marine Institute, Aengus Parsons, Programme Manager, Marine Institute, Prof Dermot Diamond, Director, NCSR, Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski, DCU President, Dr Fiona Regan, Associate Professor for Marine Technology and Prof Brian MacCraith, Principal Investigator.
The sensors were developed as projects under the Beaufort Marine Research Awards which were launched in 2007 as part of ‘Sea Change’ – A Marine Knowledge, Research & Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007-2013.
Under the leadership of Prof. Dermot Diamond, the NCSR was awarded €2.48 million from the National Development Plan to focus on the development of bio-sensing platforms for targets like microbes, parasites, pathogens and toxins since, despite significant capabilities in related areas, there is no specialist national leader or team in this important area of research. DCU’s commitment to advanced marine technology is timely as the Irish government has clearly stated it intends to develop a cluster of marine, environmental and technology projects in light of recent climatic events.
Speaking at the workshop Prof. Dermot Diamond said, "These awards are capacity building through the funding of a cluster of research projects. The next generation of technologies of the marine environment will provide information and knowledge to realise the economic potential." The lack of low-cost, self sustaining platforms for monitoring water means that at present, measurements are carried out primarily through the physical taking of samples at a limited number of places and times, followed by analysis at a centralised facility. The resulting gaps in our knowledge of water quality means that, when a major pollution event occurs, there can be dispute about where the pollution originates and who is responsible.
“Our knowledge of what is happening in the oceans is directly related to our ability to collect accurate data,” said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute. “Work undertaken by the NCSR will not only allow the Marine Institute to improve its existing SmartBay ocean sensing system in Galway Bay but also to take an important step closer to the realisation of a SmartCoast network, delivering environmental information in real-time from locations all around the coast.”
The NCSR’s aim is to roll out platforms capable of remote sampling and analysis over extended periods of time and to ultimately produce the building blocks of an ‘environmental nervous system’ comprised of many distributed sensing devices that share their data in real time on the web. This will allow any sources of pollution events to be quickly located and remedial action initiated rapidly to minimise the danger to human health and the contamination of water distribution systems.
The Beaufort Marine Research Awards amount to €20million overall and are funding a variety of new marine research projects over seven years throughout Ireland.