News 2014

SMART seas

16 Sep 2014

International students to investigate Cold Water Carbonate Ecosystems in Irish waters on the RV Celtic Explorer

It’s not often that students get the opportunity to study living cold water coral systems in the classroom. The Atlantic Summer School aims to change that through its unique ‘Floating University’ which will provide 14 International students from 6 countries, with the opportunity to gain offshore research skills and experience onboard the RV Celtic Explorer, from 11th to 17th of September.

The Atlantic Summer School is a collaboration between the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART), Ireland and the Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Germany This five days joint mission will focus on a multidisciplinary investigation of cold water coral ecosystems, off the Belgica Mound Province which is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) approximately 150km south west of Ireland.

“It’s not everyday that students get a chance to explore the ocean’s seabed gaining vital skills for exciting careers”, said Prof.  Andy Wheeler, Chief Scientist and Professor of Geology at University College Cork. “Whenever we get a chance to get out there, we always find something new which changes or perspective on how this planet functions.”

“These unique environments are biological “hot-spots” with diverse animal life associated with the reef-building corals. Formed over millennia, the giant carbonate mounds reach up to 300m high, at depths of between 550 and 1060m in the ocean”, explained Dr Pauhla McGrane, National Coordinator of Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART), Ireland.

“Postgraduates will gain experience acquiring, processing and archiving samples taken from the mounds, which provide high-resolution records of long term climate change. Using a variety of novel equipment and instrumentation, the survey will focus on the biological, geological and oceanographic dynamics that control the development and decay of carbonate mounds.”

In addition, the Atlantic Summer School includes a one-day sea survival training course held at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Cork, distance learning and pre- and post-survey workshops in University College Cork and NUI Galway.

 “This pooled infrastructure and expertise from Ireland and Germany’s Higher Education Institutes provides an incredible chance for postgraduates to get the necessary practical experience and develop networking opportunities they need early in their careers,” said Professor Karen Wiltshire, Vice-President of AWI.

“We are all delighted to be part of this strategic collaboration, which will ultimately develop careers pathways and mobility for students between the island of Ireland and Germany and increase multidisciplinary research capacity in Atlantic nations,” she said. Dr Peter Heffernan congratulated all involved in this important initiative on board the Celtic Explorer saying “the Marine Institute is delighted to be supporting this excellent training opportunity for Irish Postgraduates”.

The 2015 Atlantic Summer School will take place on-board the RV Polarstern on an Atlantic meridional transect from Bremerhaven, Germany to Cape Town, South Africa and will provide 8 marine science students with the opportunity to participate.

For further information please visit the SMART website or contact

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

An Scoil Eolaíochtaí Bitheolaíocha, Domhaneolaíocha agus Comhshaoil

Distillery Fields, North Mall, University College Cork, Ireland , T23 N73K.