15.00 18TH APRIL 2018
iMARL marine research infrastructure launch, Wednesday 18th April 2018
Speech - Minister of State Seán Kyne TD
I welcome the opportunity to speak at this morning's launch of the new iMARL marine monitoring infrastructure, here at the Commissioners of Irish Lights, and I would like to extend my thanks to the staff of CIL, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and Geological Survey Ireland for hosting this event this afternoon.
In Ireland we have had a long and enduring relationship with our coastline and marine environment and in more recent years, through the work of programmes such as the INFOMAR marine mapping programme coordinated by my Department, we have improved our understanding of this complex environment. The new investment of €2.9m for the iMARL marine lab will take this work even further.
As you may know, Ireland's marine territory is ten times the size of our landmass. Geological, oceanographic and biological processes interact on a daily basis in this vast space which, to date, we have limited knowledge of. In 2016 the Ocean Wealth Economic Study, showed the total direct and indirect value of the marine economy was 1.7% of GDP, over €3.37bn in Gross Value added and directly employed over 30,000 people. A study commissioned by GSI last year showed a further 15,000 people are employed directly in the geoscience sector, many in the area of energy and marine based activities. Therefore the scale of this sector is highly significant and this is why the government are providing strong support, implementing the Ocean Wealth plan, which is overseen by the interdepartmental Marine Coordination Group.
In 1940 when the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was established, Eamonn de Valera recognised the value of physics and applied mathematics, although at the time he could not have forseen the scientific advances or range of applications for this research. Today, as DIAS launches this new in situ marine monitoring system, we witness the culmination of technological development, national investment and true multi-disciplinary research collaborations.
The Nobel Prizewinner Erwin Schroedinger was the first Director appointed at the Institute. Today it is home to 120 researchers and is a globally embedded institution which attracts scholars and academics from all over the world. The organisation also manages the Dunsink Observatory and coordinates a range of national initiatives on behalf of government, including the Irish National Seismic Network which is now run with support from the Geological Survey .
DIAS's leading research work is reflected in its participation in a number of international research endeavours, including fundamental work on how the North Atlantic Ocean was formed; this led directly to a radical reclassification of the Rockall and Porcupine basins and showed that the Irish continental shelf to be much larger than previously thought. Importantly an area where the geoscience has had direct legal consequences, as this information has fed into discussions at the UN on our national territory under the Law of the Sea.
Current work from the Geophysics Section of DIAS includes imaging and understanding of the Earth's structure and dynamics, the formation of oceans, continents and mountain ranges, natural resource location (including minerals, oil and gas) and hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.
The partnership between DIAS and GSI (from within my own Ministerial area of Natural Resources) has strengthened over the last number of years and we are happy to support the improvement of both onshore and offshore geoscience monitoring systems. More and more we are looking to the marine environment for our resources, including energy, transport, food and communications etc,yet we know little about the interaction of the solid Earth and ocean systems. To fully understand our potential resources, and how best to manage them, we need to improve our knowledge of our offshore territories.
As Minister for Rural Affairs, and a resident of an Atlantic county Galway, I am also eager to know how changes to our marine environment will affect more isolated or coastal communities. Is it likely that they are at increasing of exposure to hazards due to climate change? What are the risks to further development of offshore energy given the oceanographic and geological landscape offshore? Are our communication cables across the Atlantic at risk from increasing frequency of storm events? This new infrastructure being launched today, will hopefully provide the information to allow us to answer these questions and more.
The iMARL lab will include vibration sensors on the seafloor, water temperature sensors, and underwater sounds recorders. This equipment can detect offshore earthquakes, allow us to image beneath the surface of the sea floor, identify seabed disturbances associated with large Atlantic storms and be able to passively track the presence of wales and dolphins. Importantly, we will also be able to use part of the monitoring network for real time information about potential tsunami waves from seafloor collapse, something that may be more likely with increasing storm activity on unstable slopes. This is something of particular interest to the Geological Survey and will ultimately feed into our national emergency planning.
The data collected from this infrastructure, and associated research outputs, will provide information about the Northeast Atlantic seafloor and ocean systems, which can be used by the international research community along with PAD for issues such as subsea resources and carbon storage, with GSI in relation to seafloor resources and mapping, tsunamis and earthquakes, with SEAI on offshore energy and with EPA and environmental groups. iMARL will also support a number of important government initiatives and strategies recently published, including the GSI Research Roadmap, the National Marine Research Strategy, Innovation2020, the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan, DCCAE Statement of Strategy, EPA Research Strategy, Met Éireann Strategy, Commissioners for Irish Lights strategy and SFI research centres such as iCRAG and MaREI.
The infrastructure could not have been possible without support from Science Foundation Ireland, and I am happy to see continued support from SFI in the wider area of Natural Resources. Indeed GSI has been working closely with SFI and other national agencies to increase the visibility of research in this area and today's launch highlights one of the many recent successful collaborations.
iMARL will also showcase the not only the talent we have in Ireland but will act as a test-bed for multi-disciplinary, international research. Researchers in DIAS have existing close collaborations with their counterparts in Europe and the US and I know they will continue to develop relationship with these world renowned institutes – particularly now with access to facilities such as iMARL. This also increases our contribution to pan-European initiatives such as EPOS, the European Plate Observing System where both GSI and DIAS are active participants.
In closing, I wish DIAS and the team the best of luck with the new venture and I hope that the equipment you see here today will soon be sending us back information about everything from passing whales to the influence of storms on the seabed.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir