Europe collaborates to coordinate Open Ocean Observatories

The first Assembly of Members meeting of the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water-column Observatory (EMSO)European scientists are joining forces to better understand oceanic change, by coordinating ocean data acquisition, analysis and response across provincial, national, regional, and global scales. Marking a major milestone, the first Assembly of Members meeting of the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water-column Observatory (EMSO) was held September 28-29th in Rome, Italy.

EMSO is a technologically advanced pan-European Research Infrastructure of fixed seafloor and water-column observatories (currently 11 deep and 4 shallow nodes around Europe). It provides power, communications, sensors, and data infrastructure for continuous, high resolution, real-time, interactive ocean observations and supports a truly multi-and inter-disciplinary range of research areas including biology, geology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science, from polar to tropical environments, down to the abyss.

Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, representing Ireland, formally participated in the inaugural Assembly of Members meeting. In welcoming Ireland's participation in this flagship European ocean observing infrastructure partnership, Dr. Heffernan said:

"A fit-for purpose, real-time observation system is crucial for developing our capacity to understand and predict the major changes and impacts in our oceans due to climate change. A key contribution of Ireland to the EMSO effort is data from our near-shore, shallow-water Galway Bay Cabled Observatory. Coordinated by the Marine Institute, this site enables us to monitor physical, chemical and biological parameters but it also affords us the opportunity to test new observation technologies being developed here in Ireland by innovative Irish SMEs and in a number of EU projects. Further, the development of high quality observations at this site makes it a key asset for understanding and managing change in our ocean."

The eight founding countries of the consortium (Ireland, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain, UK; head office in Rome) now lead the world in this level of ocean observing coordination. The latest advancement is that EMSO is beginning a new level of organisation as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), a form of governance structure for such activities. This not only brings together countries and disciplines, but also allows the pooling of resources and coordination to assemble harmonised data into a comprehensive regional ocean picture. This data can then be made openly available to researchers and stakeholders worldwide. According to the Marine Institute's Dr. Heffernan: "The establishment of the EMSO ERIC will further advance European and international collaboration, including the work of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, in these critical areas of research.'

With observatory initiatives from Canada, USA, Japan, China, Taiwan and Australia, EMSO rides a global wave of understanding that ocean processes drive our planet. EMSO also has a vital role in contributing to the long-term vision of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). It will contribute direct oceanic observations for the EU Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Initiative, COPERNICUS, and is aligned with the challenges and key priorities of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The data collected by EMSO will also support policy and legislation of organisations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Group on Earth Observation (GEO), just to mention a few. Importantly, EMSO also joins with other ERIC efforts such as the Integrated Carbon Observing System (ICOS) and Euro Argo.'