‘Cork Discovers – 2019’

We recently showcased ‘Ireland’s Cold-Water Coral Reef Experience’ at ‘Cork Discovers – 2019’. The event took place in the Students Centre on the main campus of University College Cork. Our research assistant Kim put together the experience along with several members of the MMMonKey_Pro project and everyone helped out on the night!

Our stand at ‘Cork Discovers – 2019’

Our stand consisted of several videos of our research on Cold-Water Corals including the ROV Holland 1, the HD video that is collected by the ROV, the vibro-coring process and PhD researcher Luke’s CT scanning and classification video.

PhD researcher Luke showing the forams

Luke is currently picking foraminifera from several cores that have been taken in the Porcupine Bank Canyon. We had them on display using microscopes, and this was by far the main attraction for the children!

We can’t wait to showcase our research at future events!!

We are hosting INCISE 2020!

We are delighted to announce that University College Cork has been chosen as the host organisation for the ‘International Network for Submarine Canyon Investigation and Scientific Exchange’ that will take place from June 15th – 17th 2020. 

The theme for the conference is “Canyons: human connections to the deep sea”. Abstracts to contribute to the conference volume are open until 5pm on Friday, January 31st 2020. You can submit via the website: https://www.incise2020.com/. Continue reading “We are hosting INCISE 2020!”

“Monitoring CHange in Submarine CAnyon Coral Habitats” (MoChaSCan Leg 1)

We have just arrived back from our 10 day research cruise on board the RV Celtic Explorer. The cruise was a crucial part of our SFI funded Project MMMonKey_Pro, which you can read more about here.

Our team of scientists beside the RV Celtic Explorer

The primary aim of the research cruise was to deploy eight landers which took the form of a monitoring system that consisted of a Sediment Trap and an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler. The purpose of these monitoring systems are to look at sedimentation rates and current speeds at several sites along the Porcupine Bank Canyon. 

Continue reading ““Monitoring CHange in Submarine CAnyon Coral Habitats” (MoChaSCan Leg 1)”

MarPAMM AUV Workshop

Last month Prof. Andy Wheeler and PhD researcher Gerard attended an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) workshop at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban, along with other members of the MarPAMM benthic habitat mapping work package. The aim of this workshop was to display the capabilities of the Gavia AUV named “Freya” (after the Norse goddess of beauty, love, and destiny) stationed at the SAMS. Dr. John Howe, Dr. Emily Venables, and Colin Abernethy hosted the workshop, illustrating the different instruments available on this platform, including a Geoswath + 500 kHz interferometric sidescan sonar, and a high definition camera system, and the potential applications that they have in a seabed habitat mapping survey. Fig. 1 shows Freya in all her glory.

Fig.1: Freya strapped into her cradle, approx length is 2.5m

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3D Modelling with Dr Aaron Lim!

My name is Aaron Lim, a researcher from the MMMonKey_Pro project. Over the past few months, I’ve been creating high-resolution 3D models of various cold-water coral habitats from the Porcupine Bank Canyon. This uses a combination of high-resolution data (ROV navigation, ROV video footage and high-performance computers) to reconstruct deep water habitats. Essentially, it allows us to recreate this hard-to-reach parts of our planet back in our lab so we can better understand them, their structure and make-up. In the past, this type of habitat mapping was carried out in 2D on the Irish margin but took considerably more time and effort. Today, I’m going to give you a flavour of how we complete these 3D models.

Fig 1: ROV Holland I being put in to the water

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An update from MSc researcher Stephanie

Over the past few months, I have been collecting all the existing information that I can find about the seabed off the south coast of Ireland. This data has included published literature, industry reports, multibeam bathymetry and backscatter, seabed substrate maps and collected sediment sample descriptions. From these I have produced a GIS database and I am in the process of producing my own seabed maps which document the variation in sediment type on the seabed surface. Most of this sediment is found in ‘Palaeovalleys’ which have cut into the bedrock. These are ancient river channels that are the offshore extension of the Rivers Bandon, Lee, Blackwater, Colligan, and Suir. They were formed when sea level was approximately 150m lower than present during the last glacial period and were subsequently infilled with sediment. This infilling sediment has the potential to meet physical properties that are required for use as construction aggregate.

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An update from PhD researcher Gerard!

This is Gerard here. My first few months of research have been gaining an understanding of the pre-existing literature and processing a complete set of multibeam data that we collected in Cork Harbour. My PhD is focused on determining the processes that control seabed habitats using new approaches designed to increase the precision of habitat mapping studies. Such techniques are important to monitoring areas that have been designated for conservational purposes. Our other objective is to ensure that these techniques can be used to help identify similar areas of conservational interest and help in their preservation. As an avid geologist and a conservationist, I am very pleased to do my part in helping Ireland achieve its goals for the EU Marine Habitats Directive and work on the cutting edge of geological research. Cork Harbour provides an ideal training ground for the development of techniques that will assist us in unravelling this mystery. I think it’s important to give a brief background to the multibeam data the techniques included in its processing, and how it provides a comprehensive dataset of the seafloor.

Multibeam sonar technology involves sending sonar beams out and recording the return signal, much like that of a bat, whale, or dolphin. Multibeam sonar produces this sound as a series of cones that are narrow front to back and is wide at the sides. A three-dimensional image of the floor is created when the ship that the multibeam device is attached to moves. We can harvest 3 types of data from this approach, the most widely studied is bathymetry, this focuses on the depth of the seafloor and is a measure of the speed of sound through water and the return time of the emitted sonar pulse. This data has been refined to a resolution that matches the definition of most satellite and aerial photography. Bathymetry can be used as dataset from which we can extract information, like what direction the seafloor features are facing, what depth do certain fauna occur at, providing data on the size of structures on the seafloor, and it can act as a baseline dataset for other information collected during a marine survey.

Figure 1: An example of real time bathymetric data from Cork Harbour being processed


Continue reading “An update from PhD researcher Gerard!”

An update from PhD researcher Luke!

For the past few months, I have been processing samples from cores retrieved from our past cruises to the Porcupine Bank Canyon. In doing so, I will be able to characterise how the sediment changes downcore, using parameters such carbonate and organic percentages in tandem with sediment particle sizes. All these details can help me understand how the corals and, thus, the environment in the canyon has changed over time.

Firstly, it’s important to clarify how I sample a core. First, the cores are frozen and then halved. One half will be retained as an archive half, to ensure there will always be material to work on/refer to in the future. The other half (a.k.a. the “working half”) is then visually logged throughout, and then sampled every 5cms, or at places in the core where I can see something cool is happening. I also use CT-derived 3D imagery to help me find these boundaries. When I say sampling, I mean extracting sediment from the core, which can sometimes be troublesome, especially when sampling between intricate coral branching (See Fig 1).

Fig 1: Sediment extraction from the core

Continue reading “An update from PhD researcher Luke!”

An update from PhD researcher John

Hi, I’m John Appah, a Marine Ecology PhD student in the Marine Geology Research group, UCC.

I have been working on the first paper of my PhD, “Environmental Controls of Benthic Megafauna Distributions in the Cold Water Coral-rich habitat of the upper Porcupine Bank Canyon, NE Atlantic” on the MMMonKey_Pro project for the past few months.

The paper looks in to the key control processes on cold water coral habitats in the Porcupine Bank Canyon, NE Atlantic. Cold water corals are abundant in the NE Atlantic. There are solitary and colonial forms and both are able to form reefs and can be found in deep seas from depths of 500-3000m.

Fig: Map showing the location of the PBC, NE Atlantic.

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MarPAMM launch, December 2018

Last week, Professor Andy Wheeler and PhD researcher Gerard Summers attended a very successful launch to the MarPAMM project at the Whistledown hotel in Warrenpoint.

MarPAMM Launch, 2018.

This project will oversee the collaboration of researchers from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland as they develop new and effective means of observing and protecting essential marine species, helping to preserve marine protected areas and establishing important international connections and cooperation. Continue reading “MarPAMM launch, December 2018”