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SDG 14 - Life below Water

June 2019, a number of buildings and fountains at University of Limerick have ‘gone blue’ to mark World Oceans Day. Famous landmarks, buildings, businesses, schools, and homes across Ireland are lighting up for the ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ campaign to celebrate our connection to the Atlantic Ocean, as part of World Oceans Day. “Sustainability and the protection of the environment are key considerations for University of Limerick, which continuously strives to adapt to a rapidly changing Ireland and face global challenges head on, particularly climate change,” said UL President Emeritus Des Fitzgerald. “The University, while obviously not situated on the Atlantic, is very connected to the ocean given that the River Shannon winds its way through the heart of our beautiful campus and flows to the sea. Our researchers are tackling global climate and energy issues and our students use the Atlantic for both research and for play. It is also part of our drive to convince students to reduce the use of plastics on campus. Therefore, we were delighted to sign up to the Go Atlantic Blue campaign,” added Dr Fitzgerald. The following UL buildings / fountains had their colours altered for the campaign:

  1. - Plassey House
  2. - Foundation fountain
  3. - Schuman fountain
  4. - Plassey Close fountain

Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, said: “Our ocean is our greatest natural resource, and we see that most directly in Ireland with the vital importance that the Atlantic Ocean plays in our daily lives – from influencing the weather to facilitating our trade industry and from seafood to surfing off the coast. The Marine Institute is proud to support the ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ initiative particularly at SeaFest and Our Ocean Wealth Summit, and we encourage and welcome everyone to come onboard.” Director of Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-ordination and Support Action, Dr Margaret Rae, said that the initiative gives people all around the country a chance to show their appreciation for the Atlantic Ocean. “Going Atlantic Blue is a way to draw attention to how each and every one of us experiences the Atlantic, what we love about our Ocean and how we can be that generation that makes a difference,” she said.

UL is home to Professor Daniel J. Toal, Ireland’s foremost expert in marine and mobile robotics, a field that is of importance to several sectors including marine energy, airborne wind energy, industrial robotics, and autonomous vehicles. These are rapidly growing sectors, with potential for significant impact for Ireland. Over the last 10 years Professor Toal has built a significant research track record in robotics, sensor platforms, instrumentation, controls, marine vehicles, and offshore operation areas. Professor Paul Weaver is studying the development of lightweight composite materials for use in wind turbine blades. Professor Noel O’Dowd from the School of Engineering also undertakes research on the mechanical strength of wind turbine structures and oil rigs. Dr Anthony Comer is leading an EU Horizon2020 project called FIBRESHIP which looks at building more lightweight materials for use in the ship-building industry.  Professor Dick Fitzgerald in the Biological Sciences Dept is developing foodstuffs and supplements from seaweed proteins, mostly for use in the animal feed industry.

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Engineers from Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (CRIS) at University of Limerick (UL) and MaREI (Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland) have investigated a series of unknown shipwrecks off the west coast of Ireland. A team of researchers led by chief scientist Dr Gerard Dooly, (UL), aboard the Research Vessel Celtic Explorer used a new automated underwater vehicle, ROV Étáin to carry out the surveys in highly challenging environments. The recently unveiled Irish National Monuments Service Wreck Viewer lists the locations of more than 4,000 shipwrecks from a total of 18,000 records of potential wrecks in Irish waters giving some indication of the available infrastructure on the seafloor. The discovery and high detailed survey of these shipwreck sites was possible for the first time through the technological innovations that the CRIS team have been trialling. The underwater vehicle control system, developed at UL, and funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) uses artificial intelligence (AI) and high-powered computers for autonomous controls, enabling perception and the ability for the robot to evaluate situations independent of human help. Every wreck has its own story, so it is always interesting to locate long forgotten shipwrecks and then try to determine the identity of the wreck and understand something of the circumstances of the tragedy. "Profiting from benign weather conditions at this time of year, the survey successfully located and dove on two large – greater than 100 metres in length – wrecks thought to be that of a Liner and a large cargo vessel and one smaller wreck which was found to be an operational WWI era U-boat. A high definition camera survey of one of the wrecks revealed that intact parts of the ship were colonised by various colourful epifauna: anemones, solitary corals, oysters, and brachiopods. Subsequent multibeam mapping of one wreck, thought to be that of the Ocean Liner S.S. Canadian, applying a newly published protocol on high-definition imaging of shipwrecks developed by the Centre for Maritime Archaeology (UUC) showed a large debris field that was not visible on the original map of the wreck, suggesting a violent impact with the seabed.

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On the 30th March 2019, approximately 100 people on foot and 22 people in Kayaks showed up to complete UL’s annual clean up along the riverbank. This event takes place every year to raise awareness of the challenges our rivers and waterways are facing. Each year bags of rubbish of all kinds are removed and people come together collective to make an active contribution.

For more information on UL Environmental Committee click here