PhD Researcher, Gerard Summers, is currently lending a hand to the MI and INFOMAR (Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Marine Resource) and is mapping the southern Irish sea territory using the cutting-edge sonar technology available aboard the RV Celtic Explorer.
INFOMAR is a twenty-year programme to map the physical, chemical and biological features of Ireland’s seabed. INFOMAR is funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE), and delivered by joint management partners Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute. The programme has placed Ireland centre-stage as global leaders in marine stewardship, seabed mapping and development of marine resources. This will have multisectoral benefits with and aims to provide comprehensive and accessible datasets for Irish waters that underpin and add value to marine research. It is an absolute privilege to be part of this project.
As part of this process, Gerard is being trained on the use of MVPs (Moving Velocity Profiler), this is an instrument that allows researchers to measure the water column and determine how it will affect the speed of sound through water without stopping the vessel. This will add valuable time to future seabed mapping projects executed by the UCC Marine Geology group.
Gerard is also getting firsthand training on survey design from Agust Magnusson, a veteran of the INFOMAR mapping project, works for the GSI aboard the RV Kearys, and volunteered to help staff the scientific team for this survey. Agust has 20+ years of experience mapping seabed so Gerard will be sure to come back with some cracking tips for the rest of the group. As it stands, they have mapped 847 km2 of seabed, the equivalent of Singapore combined with Lichtenstein!
Last month Andy, John and Luke travelled to Ghana on a working visit to explore collaboration options between three selected institutions in Ghana: University of Mines and Technology (UMAT) Tarkwa, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and technology (KNUST) Kumasi and University of Cape Coast (hereafter, UCC Ghana). A series of talks were delivered by the team, exploring concepts and ideas of environmental monitoring in extreme environments, in particular those including Cold-water corals (CWCs) along the Irish margin.
UMAT is located at the hotspot of mining activity in West Africa and represents prosperous opportunities for the nation. Here the team met with Prof. Jerry Kuma, vice-chancellor of the University who specialises in mineral extraction. They received a tour of a nearby manganese mine, which has been in use since the 19th Century. The deposits are of 2.1 Ga in age! They also met with Dr Anthony Ewusi, a leading Hydrogeologist, who is working on groundwater contamination related to local seepage in the area.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).