Project Title: Improving understanding of the marine environment
Researchers: Dr. Mark Jessop and Jeremey Gault, MaREI
Funding Body: SFI
The Northeast Atlantic supports over 20 species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins). The launch of the 2015 Atlantic Margin Oil and Gas Exploration Licensing Round has resulted in interest in gathering baseline data on the occurrence of marine mammals in Irish waters. Currently observational datasets are held by numerous and disparate institutions which include government departments and agencies, offshore industries, universities, research centres and non-governmental organisations. A research programme funded through the SFI MaREI Centre with KOSMOS energy will identify data (and meta-data) holders and engage with stakeholders to establish the spatial and temporal coverage of marine mammal sightings data. This will be used to generate maps to highlight gaps in coverage and a plan will be devised to target data gaps by deploying marine mammal observers on national naval, research and other vessels of opportunity. Dr Ailbhe Kavanagh was appointed to lead the marine mammal data acquisition programme, with two Marine Mammal Observers, Nick Richardson and William Hunt, undertaking at-sea surveys.
The project will also enhance international developments in earth systems science through the Future Earth Coasts initiative. Future Earth Coasts is an international initiative that aims to support sustainability and adaptation to global change in the coastal zone by linking natural and social sciences with knowledge of coastal communities. Dr Martin Le Tissier has been appointed as Project Manager to run the international science programme connecting over 10,000 researchers working on the sustainable development of marine resources worldwide.