INFOMAR hosted a successful and long awaited in-person event in The Printworks, Dublin Castle last month with the return of the annual programme seminar. Providing an afternoon of updates on progress and plans towards the completion of the Real Map of Ireland in 2026, the seminar preceded the INFOMAR supported three-day international Remote Hydrography conference, also in Dublin Castle, hosted by the The Hydrographic Society UK & Ireland (THS:UKI).
Opening the seminar and welcoming delegates Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland, praised the efforts of the entire INFOMAR team who had continued the national seabed mapping campaign despite the difficulties of remote working. His thanks were echoed by Mick Gillooly, Director of Oceans, Climate and Information Services at the Marine Institute in his opening remarks, who acknowledged the success of seabed mapping in Ireland to date from its beginnings in the 1990s, through to the current impressive figure of ~ 80% of its marine territory mapped in high resolution. He noted the expected arrival of Ireland's newest national research vessel, the R.V. Tom Crean, which will further augment INFOMAR's ability to deliver the program on time and on budget by the end of 2026. Joint programme managers Sean Cullen and Tommy Furey, highlighted the integral role seabed mapping plays in underpinning the Government of Ireland's commitment to cross-sectoral marine economic growth, and data and science based marine policy development, including the National Marine Planning Framework. Updates were provided on inshore and offshore mapping progress over the previous two years and mapping ambitions and plans for the year ahead were introduced.
Whilst the collection of high-resolution bathymetric data is one of the primary functions of INFOMAR, data-sharing and dissemination and its Value-Added program are hugely important components of the programme. INFOMAR's role in supporting the European Data Framework was presented, with the key aspects of EMODNet outlined demonstrating how INFOMAR data are contributing to international data portals, and team members are supporting key thematic data networks, including Bathymetry, Geology and Seabed Habitats. The highly successful post-graduate training module, now delivered annually to participating universities in conjunction with the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training programme SMART, was also presented. Initially developed as a pilot programme with Maynooth University, and now in its third year, the INFOMAR developed and delivered module provides students with an overview of all aspects of seafloor mapping through a series of lectures and tutorials, along with an offshore survey training experience unique to INFOMAR. Riccardo Arioso also presented an overview of the INFOMAR & UCC co-supervised Post-Doctoral research he is undertaking on INFOMAR bathymetry focussed shelf geomorphology mapping through computer based Machine Learning.
Tommy Furey, the Marine Institute Joint INFOMAR programme manager noted that "the true impact of Ireland's phenomenal efforts and achievements in mapping our marine territory will be everlasting and infinite, unlocking our offshore energy, and allowing us to achieve the balance between protection and sustainable development or our marine resource."
The final series of talks showcased the numerous projects which INFOMAR supports both directly and indirectly at home and abroad. These included an MI overview of the Horizon 2020 Mission Atlantic Project and four European Maritime and Fisheries Funded (EMFF) studies, as well as GSI updates on Monitoring Coastal Erosion from space with the European Space Agency, and contributions to GEBCO's Regional Undersea Mapping efforts.
Sean Cullen, Geological Survey Ireland Joint INFOMAR programme manager said the seminar was "a very successful return to form after a 2 year hiatus of in-person events, with presentations once again showcasing the scale and quality of Ireland's seabed mapping programme and the breadth of research and innovation that it supports. In association with the INFOMAR seminar, the newly branded THS:UKI followed on with the Remote Hydrography Conference, delivering a range of talks on high profile cutting-edge survey technology and cementing Irish involvement in international hydrography."