April 18th 2018: The most ambitious deep-ocean research project ever undertaken in Europe was launched in Dublin today.

The iMARL project – led by scientists from Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) – is centred around 18 state-of-the-art ocean bottom seismometers, which will be located deep in the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of kilometres off the west coast of Ireland. 

Seismometers are instruments that measure motion of the ground.  The iMARL equipment will include ocean-floor vibration sensors, water temperature sensors and underwater sound recorders.

These will be used to detect offshore earthquakes, allow imaging of offshore sub-surface geology, and help in the detection of both deep offshore currents (underwater rivers) and offshore sea-bed disturbances associated with large Atlantic storms. The instruments can track the presence of whales and dolphins; and a pilot tsunami detection capability will also be installed as part of the iMARL project.

Speaking at today’s launch, Professor Chris Bean, Senior Professor of Geophysics and Director of the DIAS School of Cosmic Physics, said: “As originally discovered by DIAS and collaborators in the late 1980’s, and subsequently confirmed by the Marine Institute, Ireland has an ocean territory 10 times larger than its terrestrial landmass. Geological, oceanographic, and biological processes interact on a daily basis in this vast territory but, until now, have been poorly understood due to a lack of observational equipment, and a need for more interaction between marine scientists and geo-scientists.

“Using the new iMARL equipment, for the first time, we will be able to make long-term direct observations of the interactions between our oceans and solid Earth.

“The data collected will lead to a better understanding of how the ocean floor and the deep ocean interact with one another. It will also detect the locations of possible unstable slopes, which would have implications for trans-Atlantic cable-laying.”

Minister Seán Kyne

The Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources, Seán Kyne TD, officially launched the iMARL project today at an event at the Commissioners of Irish Lights premises in Dún Laoghaire. 

Speaking at the launch, he said: “The observations recorded by iMARL will support the geoscience and marine science research community, and will also underpin national programmes, such as the marine mapping programme, INFOMAR, coordinated by my Department. 

“The data collected will contribute to national marine, environmental and natural resources policies, and EU Directives, such as the Marine Spatial Planning Directive.  It will also help highlight the value of our Atlantic seaboard to our coastal communities and our economy.”

Funding from Science Foundation Ireland and Geological Survey Ireland

The team led by Professor Chris Bean at the DIAS School of Cosmic Physics acquired the equipment for the iMARL project through €2.9 million in funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and additional support from Geological Survey Ireland (GSI).

At today’s launch, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to have funded this new ocean-floor sensing system, iMARL, in collaboration with Geological Survey Ireland.

“This research exemplifies excellent collaboration across government agencies, departments, and academic institutions to generate important new data of significance for applications as diverse as predicting and warning about future weather events to where best to lay transatlantic cables which transmit daily the billions of pieces of information from the internet and mobile phones.”

Mr. Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland, commented: “Geological Survey Ireland is delighted to support this infrastructure project.  It is only through high-quality observations and measurements that we can more fully understand how our planet works and the potential effect these natural systems have on society.

“The data collected will support a number of our programmes and we look forward to collaborating with Professor Bean and his team.”

The Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences, (iCrag) – the research centre that sponsored the research proposal – also commented on the launch today. Professor Murray Hitzman, Director of iCRAG said: "The installation of the iMARL infrastructure represents a significant advance for marine research in Ireland.

“iMARL will enable the continuous monitoring of the vast arrange of geological, oceanographic and biological processes taking place offshore. Furthermore, the iMARL laboratory will enhance iCRAG's research in facilitating enhanced natural resource identification and natural hazard estimation."

Further information about the iMARL project is available at: www.iMarl.ie