The Marine Institute is highlighting the postgraduate students completing projects as part of the Cullen Scholarship Programme. The programme builds national marine research capacity and capability and equips graduates with the skills and expertise in raising awareness about our ocean, as well as Ireland's rich marine biodiversity and ecosystems.
Title of Research: Coupled Wave-Ocean model for Galway Bay
Higher Education Institution: University College Dublin (UCD)
Supervisors: Frederic Dias (UCD) and Tomasz Dabrowski (Marine Institute)
What is your area of research?
My research focuses on establishing a coupled wave-ocean model for Galway Bay that is able to better forecast the ocean currents and the wave parameters in this area. The Marine Institute is already running an operational ocean model in the region of Galway Bay, but an additional wave model may improve the quality of the results.
In order to validate this coupled application on wave and ocean models, I'm comparing the results of my simulations with field data taken from tidal gauges and wave buoys. These instruments measure the surface elevation, the speed and direction of the current, and the wave periods.
I'm also challenging the theory on the wave-current interaction with the results of my simulations. Some specific behaviours of the wave propagation are expected when taking into account the varying current underneath the waves. I'm looking at those patterns in my simulations, trying to explain what exactly is causing some patterns emerging and to assess if the interaction is correctly captured.
Why is your research important to Ireland's marine sector?
The Marine Institute runs operational ocean and wave models on a daily basis, both hindcasts and forecasts. The purpose is to build a database of current and wave models that can be used for marine research or applications. For instance, these models could be used to track the spread of a disease amongst aquaculture farms..
This research will hopefully provide the Marine Institute with a coupled wave and ocean model for Galway Bay that could be ready for use, or at least provide more insight on how to best set-up a coupled model. It will also improve the general knowledge of ocean circulation and wave propagation in this area.
What has been the benefit of being part of the Marine Institute's Cullen Scholarship Programme?
The Cullen Scholarship Programme involves two supervisors, one in academia and one from the Marine Institute. The contribution of each supervisor is different and complementary. My academic supervisor is excellent at targeting the right conferences and gives very good advice when it comes to writing reviews, papers or reports. My supervisor from the Marine Institute is giving me more practical advice for my research, and helping me with the numerical models.
What have been some of the memorable or challenging experiences during your Cullen Scholarship?
Acquiring the necessary background to fully understand all aspects of my thesis, both from a numerical point of view and hydrodynamics point of view, has been a real challenge, but it is really rewarding when all the pieces start coming together.
I have sometimes struggled correctly setting up the numerical model I'm using, either because my input data were not correctly processed or in the right format, or either because the physics was badly defined in the model. Finding where the issue is, and finding how to fix it, is not always easy.
During the analysis of the data the hardest part was to come up with a logical explanation fitting all the patterns. It takes a lot of trial and error, but it provides a great relief and sense of accomplishment when the correct explanation is found and positively tested.
The Cullen Scholarship Programme has provided grant aid to the value of €3 million supporting 31 PhD and three MSc students from 2014 to 2020. The research addresses a number of the 15 research themes identified in the National Marine Research & Innovation Strategy 2017-2021. This scheme is funded by the Marine Institute under the Marine Research Programme with the support of the Irish Government.