From Science to Showbusiness

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but changed from one form to another. It’s the same with knowledge. The story of renewable gas in Ireland, currently residing in academic journal articles and reports, was brought to life by ERI researchers and friends on a sunny Saturday morning in August. PhD candidate Aoife Long, of the Biofuels and Bioenergy Research Group, produced, directed and starred in a video to Dance her PhD.

 

The video is an entry for the International Science Magazine Dance your PhD competition. This competition encourages researchers to explain their research through dance, with the aim to delight and inform the public. The winner will be decided by a judging panel who will consider scientific merit, artistic merit, and the creative combination of both.

 

The Biofuels and Bioenergy Research Group, led by Professor Jerry Murphy, has pioneered the research on the potential sources of renewable gas in Ireland. The group is now looking at how this potential can be realised, along with future technologies such as Power to Gas.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen for better Ocean Science – Part 1

In July, MaREI researcher Abigail Cronin set sail from Dublin port on the RV Celtic Explorer as part of a scientific crew of nine. The team consisted of three Marine Institute (MI) personnel, two Training Through Research Survey scheme (TTRS scheme) participants, one BEAMS participant, three scientists from the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and the full Celtic Explorer crew. The sixteen day cruise aimed to map a portion of the seabed within Irish waters, approximately 80 nautical miles south of Cork, as part of the INFOMAR project.

 

 

While on the cruise, Abi wrote some Marine Institute blogs describing why she was on the cruise and what it consisted of.

Learning on The Job

So, think about it, there you are standing on Dublin port looking up at Ireland’s largest research vessel, the Celtic Explorer. You shuffle up the gangway with your bag slung over your shoulder after a friendly Donegal accent points you in the direction of the dry lab. As you walk into the room, colourful animations and flashing buttons jump out of the dozen or so monitors lining the walls. You hear the buzz of excited marine scientists from around the globe double checking their devices are in working order, as the smell of Tony and Gavin’s freshly made apple pie wafts up the stairs. You are one of two people given the opportunity to learn the skills of seabed mapping from the national experts. But how?

Figure 1 – Left: Oisin McManus from the INFOMAR team in the dry lab. Right: Tony and Gavin – the chefs onboard the Celtic Explorer.

 

Two applicants, John Skehan and Abi Cronin, were chosen to take part on the INFOMAR survey from July 21st to August 6th 2017 as part of the Training Through Research Surveys (TTRS) scheme. This initiative, collaboratively organised by the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) and the Marine Institute (MI), acts as a national capacity building exercise to raise the level of marine science in Ireland, while giving early career researchers the opportunity to network with and learn from experienced marine scientists. Participants gain valuable marine data collection and observation experience on dedicated research surveys with leading Irish and European marine scientists. This programme is designed to provide mentored training for emerging marine scientists on surveys taking place off the western seaboard of Ireland and ranging as far as Newfoundland.

 

Figure 2 – Abi & John in the dry lab onboard the RV Celtic Explorer

 

John and Abi come from very different backgrounds with John’s initial degree being in IT. He recently completed an MSc in Geographical Information Systems & Remote Sensing at Maynooth University, and is currently working in the Surveying and Remote Sensing unit at Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI). Abi has an MSc in Coastal and Marine Management from University College Cork, and works in the Earth Observation Group of the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI). Both participants have a strong interest in mapping the seabed, however before this cruise they had very little experience actually collecting the data. This voyage allows them to throw themselves in the deep end and learn on the job.

 

Figure 3 – Abi & John keeping in contact with the bridge and deck crew

 

Onboard, Abi and John have undertaken quite an array of tasks, the most obvious being coordination of the three multibeam echosoudners: EM1002, EM302, and EM2040. While in charge of these devices, the scientists must know how to create new transect lines; look out for any anomalies in the data; activate lines for the ship’s autopilot; contact the bridge to inform the skipper of any line turns or change of plan; input Moving Vessel Profiler cast (MVP) data; as well as ensure the multibeam, backscatter and water column data is being stored appropriately.

 

Figure 4 – John & Abi in the dry lab onboard the Celtic Explorer

 

The scientists also took charge of communications and logistics for CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth sensor) casts and sediment grab stations, ensuring all data was collected safely and efficiently. To keep the data organised, we log each MVP, multibeam line, grab and CTD both in digital and paper format. This includes keeping a logbook up to date, and working with different navigation and metadata software: QINSY and Multilogger. For more information on INFOMAR’s toolbox you can read the most recent blog here.

 

Figure 5 – Left: A CTD device coming out of the water. Right: Abi keeping in contact with the bridge and deck crew

 

The TTRS scheme increases the national marine science research capacity through coordinated use of national infrastructure and facilities. This opportunity has allowed John and Abi to develop their skills, add to their existing seagoing experience, and network with established professionals in seabed mapping and oceanography.

 

A message from the author:

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to SMART Sea School for making this all possible through the TTRS scheme. This was a fantastic chance to work with the INFOMAR team Oisin, Kevin & Slava, as well as the scientists from the University of New Hampshire and College of Charleston. It’s been a pleasure learning from people who are enthusiastic about their research. Last, but most certainly not least, a massive thank you to the crew for making this such an enjoyable experience. Always open to questions and happy to share your stories, you took us in and made us feel welcome. All in all, an enjoyable learning experience. I hope to work with you all again in the future. In the meantime, I’ll be putting the knowledge we’ve gained to good use in MaREI.

 

Figure 6 – Blue skies on the RV Celtic Explorer in July 2017

 

Anything else you want to know? You can catch me on twitter at: @Abi_Cronin

What Happens if the Wind Doesn’t Blow: A Short Story on Gas and Electricity Interactions in Europe

 

By Paul Deane

 

After the sweltering heat in Europe this summer, the cold snap of January 2017 seems a long time ago. However a 2 week period in January serves as an important reminder of why it is important to consider multiple elements of the energy system when planning for the future. Here I look at the interactions between the electricity and gas systems and what happens if things don’t quite go to plan….

It was a cold one. Atmospheric conditions in Europe in early January were dominated by blocking conditions bringing warm air towards north-western Europe and cold air into southern Europe. This contributed to low wind and solar generation in most of mainland Europe. Wind power generation was down by 15-20% across central Europe compared to the previous year and solar generation was insignificant. Europe was still recovering from a dry end to 2016 which continued into the first quarter of 2017. This pushed hydro reserve levels to several year lows and coupled with freezing conditions limited hydro’s generation potential. The European power system was coming under pressure…however this was only the start of the challenge.

France was struggling with ongoing safety tests at nuclear facilities while limited nuclear capacity was also an issue in Germany. The 2GW IFA electricity interconnector between France and the UK was damaged during the winter Storm Angus and was now working only at limited capacity. For large parts of Eastern Europe the second week in January was the most extreme of the winter. Russia experienced the coldest Orthodox Christmas in 120 years, and temperatures dropped to almost -30°C in Romania. People needed heat, significantly increasing the demand for electricity and gas.

Low availability of nuclear and low availability of renewables meant that conventional gas and coal fired generation filled the gap. Natural gas consumption in power generation in the EU reached the highest level in the last seven years in January 2017 (65TWh of electricity from gas). Coupled with increased gas demand for residential heating, gas storage facilities in central Europe saw big withdrawals of gas even as pipeline imports from Russia and Algeria increased. Equally coal imports from Russia and Columbia were up on previous years to meet extra demand from power generation.

Thankfully, the cold snap resided towards the end of the month and the power system got through the crisis. Major electricity supply disruptions did not occur during the cold spell although several countries imposed export bans. Bulgaria imposed a 27 day long electricity export ban. Retail electricity prices for household customers in central Europe went up by 1.8%. Some regions like Ireland, UK and Nordic Europe were relatively spared from the cold weather and wholesale prices remained at moderate levels in January. In short, it was a close call.

Our Research in UCC is looking at these issues. We are trying to understand these challenges across Europe as we transition to power systems with more weather dependant generation and fossil fuel imports from abroad. We use the PLEXOS Integrated Energy Model to understand how future gas and electricity interactions in Europe might impact market prices, security of supply and emissions. Our Existing analysis shows how supply interruptions of gas, gas storage and LNG availability can impact electricity prices. Our EU integrated gas and electricity models are freely available from Energy Exemplar who also provide PLEXOS for academic and commercial users. In the future we hope to add water interactions to these models.

If you’re interested in this area of research or would like collaborate or use our models, please feel free to get in touch.

Thanks to Conor Hickey for edits

Climate KIC “Pioneers Into Practice”

“Pioneers into practice” is a mobility program that encourages moving out of your comfort zone and learn about new approaches and opportunities emanating from climate change challenges. MaREI researcher Alessia Elia is taking part during the summer 2017.

Sophie Power Climate KIC Summer School Blog

MaREI Researcher Sophie Power is attending Climate KIC’s Summer School 2017. Here is her latest blog on her experiences and what she is learning.

Techcentral.ie Interviews John Ringwood

Techcentral.ie recently interviewed MaREI Principle Investigator Professor John Ringwood. Read about what he has to say in this article.

Achievements of the Celtic Seas Partnership

 

By Sarah Twomey

 

The Celtic Seas Partnership was an international project funded by LIFE+, the EU’s funding instrument for the environment. It brought together, governments, sea-users and scientists to find new ways of managing the marine environment to secure a sustainable future for our valuable marine economy and to protect our precious seas.

Over the past four years, the WWF-led Celtic Seas Partnership has been bridging the links between marine stakeholders and policy, building key relationships and developing a toolbox of resources to support the management of the Celtic Seas. University College Cork’s MaREI Centre coordinated the stakeholder engagement activities in Ireland through a series of two national and three international workshops from 2013- 2016. The final event took place in Croke Park, Dublin in October 2016, attracting over 100 delegates representing a wide range of sectors across the Celtic Seas.

Key achievements include:

  • influencing the Governments’ Programmes of Measures for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in Ireland, the UK and France
  • scenarios developed with stakeholders for the Future Trends study are being used by the Marine Management Organisation as the basis for their own future
  • scenario work for Marine Spatial Planning around England
  • evaluation of the project identified that what people valued most about the project was the unique opportunity to meet and work with others from different sectors and different countries. The project also helped to improve people’s understanding of marine policy and to empower them to get involved in shaping policy. This has created a better environment for implementing the policy which should in turn bring environmental improvements

Through the active involvement of stakeholders representing government, industry and civil society from Ireland, the UK and France, the project recently launched a host of resources to support the implementation of integrated approaches to our seas. Examples of these outputs range from guidance documents such as Guidelines for Planning Authorities and Engaging stakeholders in regional marine policy, an interactive website exploring Future Trends, a Celtic Seas Information Portal and a series of videos showcasing a range of locations across the Celtic Sea, as well as Irish stakeholders including Cork-based Richard
Cronin (Dept. of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government) and Dublin-based Catherine Barrett (BIM).

Celtic Sea Partnership: http://www.celticseaspartnership.eu/

 

This article appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Inshore Ireland

Event Report | International Ocean Colour Science Meeting

This year, the Third International Ocean Colour Science (IOCS2017) Meeting took place 15-18th May in sunny and warm Lisbon, Portugal. Read the event report here.

Ash Bennison and Cian Luck Podcast On The Life Of Marine Ecologists

This episode of the That’s What She Said Podcast features Ashley Bennison and Cian Luck, two marine ecologists from the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, Cork, Ireland.

Ash gained his MSc in Evolutionary Ecology at the University of Exeter and after working with Siberian Jays in Swedish Lapland, moved to UCC where he has been a researcher for the past 3 years and is currently studying for his PhD in seabird ecology.

Cian graduated from UCC in 2012 with a BSc in Zoology, and again in 2013 with an MSc by research. He has spent 18 months as a zoological field assistant with the British Antarctic Survey on Bird Island, South Georgia. We speak of the enchanting life of researchers on expeditions, the difference between grey seals + harbour seals, the sedate creatures who reside in the Galapagos, the stress of cooking for strangers and much much more. All in all, our self proclaimed ‘bird nerds’ take us on a flight so compelling that we wanted more.

The hour features music from Bjork, Fleetwood Mac and Stornaway.

International Marine Governance: Sarah Twomey

Sarah is an Ocean Governance PhD student focusing on stakeholder participation in governance processes in complex transboundary marine contexts.

MaREI Researchers at the Ecological Vehicles and Renewable Energies Conference

 

At the recent EVER (Ecological Vehicles and Renewable Energies) conference in Monaco http://conference.evermonaco.com/, from 11 to 13 of April, there were three papers presented from MaREI researchers.

These were:

  • Offshore Renewable Energy Systems: Solutions for Reduction in Operational Costs Romano Capocci, Gerard Dooly, Daniel Toal
  • Applying Hardware-in-the-Loop capabilities to an ocean renewable energy device emulator James F. Kelly, Ross Christie
  • Energy Storage Solutions for Offshore Wave and Tidal Energy Prototypes Dónal B. Murray, Paul Gallagher, Ben Duffy, Vincent McCormack

Also MaREI’s Dr Sara Armstrong received an outstanding contribution award for organising the special session entitled “Offshore and Marine Renewable Energy: Conversion and Transmission” at the conference.

April MaREI Newsletter Now Available

 

 

Catch up with the latest news, blogs, industry features and event reports from MaREI. Some highlights of the April Newsletter include:

  • MaREI to coordinate MARINERG-i project
  • MARINET2 Open for Applications
  • Wavepower establish an office in The Entrepreneur Ship
  • MaREI Green Gas Position Paper Launched
  • And lots more…!

Click here for the full newsletter.

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to keep in touch!

MaRINET2 1st Access Call Opening 10th April

The EU MaRINET2 initiative first access call is opening on the 10th April, the website www.marinet2.eu will also become live on that date. MaRINET2 is a network of 39 partners, involving research centres and organisations cooperating to progress offshore renewable energy technologies such as wave, tidal and offshore-wind.  It achieves this through marine energy development companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups and researchers with fully-funded access to marine energy experts and advanced test facilities.

 

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Jelly Fish - Damien Haberlin

Jellyfish – Indicators of change?

For many years jellyfish were a forgotten component of marine ecosystems, described in a rather derisory way as a “trophic dead end” and therefore not really worthy of consideration. This was quite the fall from grace, considering jellyfish had at one time, occupied the minds of some of history’s most influential naturalists. Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley and Ernst Haeckel to name just a few were fascinated by these delicate creatures that might help them explain the mysteries of evolution and the radiation of different body forms.

 

 

Top left, Leuckartiara octona; top right, the crystal jelly Aequorea forskalea; bottom right, the compass jelly Chrysaora hysoscella; bottom left, the barrel jelly Rhizostoma octopus.

 

 

In the last 30 years or so, there has been a renaissance of sorts in jellyfish ecology and we now know that they contribute significantly to marine ecosystems. Jellyfish can be voracious predators, consuming a variety of zooplankton including crustaceans, fish eggs and larvae and indeed other jellyfish. In this way, they compete directly with many fish species which rely on the same prey species as jellyfish. When conditions are favourable some species can bloom to enormous densities and come to dominate an ecosystem, significantly reducing the food available for other species. What exactly constitutes favourable conditions is not fully understood and undoubtedly varies from species to species, but jellyfish are well placed to thrive when ecosystems are pushed beyond tipping points. This is perfectly illustrated by events in the Black Sea during the 80s and 90s.

 

Jellyfish 2

Ctenphore species Beroe sp. taken by a diver off the Cork coast.

 

In the early 80s the Black Sea was a heavily populated and overfished body of water. It received catchment waters from a region of unregulated industry and intense agriculture within the former USSR territories, leading to eutrophication. All the bordering countries had competed over the highly prised sardine fishery with little attempt at cross border management of the resource, leading to vast reductions in fish numbers. At some point the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi was accidentally introduced into the Black Sea and was able to thrive; feeding on crustaceans, fish eggs and larvae, the Mnemiopsis population exploded with catastrophic impacts on the fish and zooplankton abundance. Without a natural predator, Mnemiopsis dominated the region and spread into connected water bodies. Ironically, the introduction of another ctenophore Beroe ovata, which preys on other ctenophores, began to control Mnemiopsis abundance to some degree, allowing the ecosystem to partially return to the earlier regime.

 

The events in the Black Sea are complex and teasing them apart in hindsight is difficult, however, they highlight the ability of jellyfish to respond quickly to changes in an ecosystem. They also demonstrate that although the ecosystem changed rapidly, its resilience was probably eroded over a period of decades before being tipped over into a vastly different jellyfish dominated ecosystem.

 

The events in the Black Sea represent something of a worst case scenario and there is little evidence that it has been replicated elsewhere, least of all in the Celtic Sea. However, it does demonstrate that large scale ecosystems can be forced to change, whether that forcing comes from anthropogenic or natural sources. We can use our improving knowledge of jellyfish ecology to look at long-term datasets of jellyfish abundance in the Celtic Sea and try to spot changes in the ecosystem. Some species common in the Celtic Sea have multiple generations in a season and therefore they respond quickly to environmental changes, making them something of a sentinel species. In addition, we will use recent research cruises in the Celtic Sea to investigate the summer jellyfish abundance in the region. While this sampling only gives us a single snapshot in time, that snapshot extends over a large and complex water body with distinct water masses. Analysing the zooplankton community and abundance within these changing water masses can reveal important insights into changing zooplankton ecology.

 

Surface temperature during July 2015, with total jellyfish per cubic metre sampled at each station, showing the heterogeneous distribution of jelly fish across the area sampled.

 

Damien Haberlin is a PhD Researcher with the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI) based in University College Cork.

MaREI Researchers visiting University of Zagreb

MaREI Researchers from UL, Daniel Toal and Edin Omerdic, gave a talk at the University of Zagreb, under the EXCELLABUST project

MaREI researcher on North South Atlantic Training Transect 2016

MaREI’s Abi Cronin was amongst twenty-five researchers chosen from a pool of five-hundred to take part in the North South Atlantic Training Transect (NoSoAT) 2016. Here she gives us a brief account of her experience…

nosoat

On the 10th of December applicants from eighteen different countries travelled to Bremerhaven to participate in the opportunity to train in marine research on board a German research vessel. The overall goal of the program is to allow early career professionals to learn more about practical marine science and it’s link to climate change. The educational program focused on different topics including oceanography, remote sensing, ocean law, the ocean’s role in climate change, and scientific art. We were rocked to sleep every night for one month on board the RV Polarstern travelling from Bremerhaven to Capetown, with a brief stop off in Las Palmas.

The multidisciplinary approach allowed for a rich array of weather, climate, atmosphere and ocean research and measurements. This encouraged us to build a network of contacts from several different backgrounds. Various social nights were held to encourage this networking, including a BBQ as a reward for making it through the equator baptism, where we were put through our paces in the name of King Neptune.

nosoat-3 nosoat-2

Participants measured ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll and pH using an XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph), CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth), UCTD (Underway CTD) and various lab analyses including flow cytometry. This enabled us to gain skills in offshore data collection with instruments a lot of us previously had no experience using.

water-masses

By mapping our measurements along the north-south transect of the Eastern Atlantic we could identify water masses by their characteristic temperatures and salinity. Below we can see three water masses identified along the transect, these include the Mediterranean Outflow Waters (MOW), the Antarctic Intermediate Waters (AAIW), and the North Atlantic Deep Waters (NADW).

This research is key to observing the ocean and atmosphere’s role in climate variations, it allows us to explain weather patterns and build more accurate predictive models. Ultimately, this research helps us to understand climate change.

I would like to thank all the sponsors of the NoSoAT Program for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and it has fuelled my ambition to investigate the oceans through offshore measurements.

picture1

About the Author:

Abi is a Research Assistant in the Earth Observation Group of MaREI. She graduated from UCC with a MSc in Coastal and Marine Management in February 2016, and joined the MaREI team the same month. At the moment, Abi is working on the ESA funded CINMarS and EODAT projects, as well as the H2020 funded Co-ReSyF project. She is extremely interested in offshore measurements and data.

For more information on Abi, please see her UCC research profile

Different Perspectives on the Energy Transition

The Environmental Research Institute hosted a joint seminar with the University of FH Burgenland, Austria on Friday, November 4th on Different Perspectives on the Energy Transition.

Carbon tax and Budget 2017

Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir examines how the Government could demonstrate a commitment to climate action and have more money to spend on budget day.

TG4 interviews MaREI Researcher at Cork Science Festival

MaREI researchers took part in the Celebrate Science Open Day at UCC on Sunday Nov 13th as part of the Cork Science Festival…

MaREI at family events during Cork Science Festival

Its that time again, Cork Science Festival returns. This year is bigger and better than ever, with MaREI involved in two day events, suitable for all the family…

Oceantec WEC heads to bimep

Oceantec wave energy converter is en route to the Biscay Marine Energy Platform (bimep) for the upcoming testing campaign.

5 Questions on Climate Change

Professor John Sodeau discusses climate change and what Ireland can do to play its part in the fight against the phenomenon termed global warming…