Research Facilities

Our geography research facilities include purpose-built analytical chemistry, sediment analysis, benthic ecology, plant ecology and marine geophysics laboratories as well as computing suites, and a range of formal and informal meeting spaces.

Research Facilities

Research Facilities

Our geography research facilities include purpose-built analytical chemistry, sediment analysis, benthic ecology, plant ecology and marine geophysics laboratories as well as computing suites, and a range of formal and informal meeting spaces.


We have developed a High Performance Computing (HPC) facility which supports significant model-based analyses of earth surface and oceanographic processes and patterns, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD), image based analysis and species distribution modelling.

Our water chemistry facilities include UV-VIS photometry, fluorescence spectrometry, DOC analysis and ion chromatography. We have provision for microbiological analysis, with climate cabinets and chambers available for temperature controlled experiments. Facilities for sediment analysis include equipment for freeze-drying, sieving, optical grainsize analysis, measurement of settling velocities and basic thermal analysis. Our microscope suite has research grade dissection microscopes with computer aided image analysis and an inverted microscope for phytoplankton analysis. Scanning electron microscopy and fluorescence microscopy facilities are also available on campus.

We operate a suite of high-resolution field equipment for the investigation of urban, terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. Survey platforms include GPS-enabled quad bikes, boats, quadcopter and fixed-wing drones mounted with various environmental sensors. We operate two laser scanners; one for high-definition imaging of terrestrial environments and the other for underwater investigations. A £240,000 NERC-funded coastal survey equipment suite includes 18 load cell sediment traps, 16 audio impact sensors and 24 ultrasonic anemometers. A dedicated £300,000 marine and freshwater acoustic remote sensing suite includes a multi-frequency ground penetrating radar, echosounders, chirp and boomer seismic profilers and sidescan sonar. An instrumentation suite for high-resolution freshwater monitoring includes phosphorous and nitrate analyzers and multi-parameter water quality sondes.

We are a member of the National Oceanography Centre Association, with representation on the NERC Marine Facilities Advisory Board. We are also actively engaged with the National Marine Equipment Pool through the Marine Institute as an initiative to share access to specialist marine facilities and expertise across the island of Ireland.

Facilities Grants Awarded

Recent facilities grants awarded to staff demonstrate our applied research strengths. These include grants awarded by NERC, the EU and the Marine Institute in this REF period:

  • Underwater Laser Scanner - understanding the structure and function of seafloor habitats and communities

    Funding

    Marine Institute Specialist Marine Research Equipment and Small Infrastructure award

    Facility

    Purchase of 2GRobotics ULS-500 Underwater Laser Scanner and Rotary Actuator

    Investigators

    Description

    This project will examine the utility of underwater laser scanning to improve understanding of the structure and function of seafloor habitats and communities. Underwater laser scanning, which has demonstrated capacity to resolve sub-centimetric features in areas with complex and rugged terrain, requires generating precise bathymetry over close physical ranges (2 m to 20 m). Being able to record these data will facilitate fundamentally new kinds of observations, as well as allowing the flexibility to study fine scale ecological and geomorphological processes over shorter term time series. This project has the capacity to make significant advances in the scientific community’s collective understanding of the physical, biological and chemical processes operating in the benthic environment.

  • PANTHER: PANtelleria High-energy ERuptions from marine studies

    Funding

    Type 1: type 1: European Commission FP7 EUROFLEETS2 Regional 3 call

    Type 2: NERC

    Facility

    6 days shiptime on Italian RV Minerva 1 and travelling expenses

    NERC Radiocarbon Facility

    Investigators

    Description

    High-energy volcanic eruptions and ensuing mass transport of volcaniclastic debris pose a range of subaerial and submarine hazards, from the explosive events themselves to their capability of generating large tsunamis in the case of island or coastal volcanoes. This project focuses on the Pantelleria volcanic complex in the central Mediterranean Sea with the aim of improving the understanding of the links between the subaerial and submarine volcanic processes. Geophysical data and sediment cores collected during the Eurofleets2-funded research cruise will be used to: (1) investigate the deep water record of high-energy eruptive events and the evolution of the volcaniclastic flows into the ocean; (2) link these events to the eruptive history of Pantelleria; (3) investigate the distribution of the associated mass flow deposits and relate them to respective eruptive events; (4) assess the mechanical properties of ash layers in relation to their possible behaviour as weak layers in downslope mass transport; and lastly (5) investigate the oceanographic history of the north-west basin and its role as oceanographic gateway between the eastern and western Mediterranean.

  • The Newfoundland Ice Sheet Glaciated Shelf

    Funding

    Marine Institute Specialist Marine Research Equipment and Small Infrastructure award

    Facility

    Purchase of 2GRobotics ULS-500 Underwater Laser Scanner and Rotary Actuator

    Investigators

    Description

    This project will examine the utility of underwater laser scanning to improve understanding of the structure and function of seafloor habitats and communities. Underwater laser scanning, which has demonstrated capacity to resolve sub-centimetric features in areas with complex and rugged terrain, requires generating precise bathymetry over close physical ranges (2 m to 20 m). Being able to record these data will facilitate fundamentally new kinds of observations, as well as allowing the flexibility to study fine scale ecological and geomorphological processes over shorter term time series. This project has the capacity to make significant advances in the scientific community’s collective understanding of the physical, biological and chemical processes operating in the benthic environment.

  • Investigating environmental and anthropogenic impacts on coastal dune field evolution in Sefton, northwest England

    Funding

    NERC

    Facility

    Airborne Research Facility

    Description

    This project will examine the utility of underwater laser scanning to improve understanding of the structure and function of seafloor habitats and communities. Underwater laser scanning, which has demonstrated capacity to resolve sub-centimetric features in areas with complex and rugged terrain, requires generating precise bathymetry over close physical ranges (2 m to 20 m). Being able to record these data will facilitate fundamentally new kinds of observations, as well as allowing the flexibility to study fine scale ecological and geomorphological processes over shorter term time series. This project has the capacity to make significant advances in the scientific community’s collective understanding of the physical, biological and chemical processes operating in the benthic environment.

  • WW1 shipwrecks in the Irish Sea

    Funding

    Marine Institute: National Research Vessels Shiptime Programme

    Facility

    14 days shiptime on RV Celtic Voyager

    Investigators

    Description

    The project looks at the current state of and the prevailing physical, chemical and biological processes occurring at WWI wrecks sites in the Irish Sea. Fieldwork included high-resolution multibeam surveying and ground-truth sampling over 12 metal wreck sites. The outcome of the project will (i) help heritage managers to construct effective site preservation and management strategies, (ii) develop best-practise surveying guidance for shipwreck imaging and (iii) allow the wider public to engage with a heritage that is otherwise intangible and inaccessible through the development of high-definition digital models.

  • Unlocking the storm secrets of Atlcntic sand dunes - GPR imaging of inland storm scarps

    Funding

    NERC

    Facility

    Geophysical Equipment Facility

    Investigators

    Description

    Understanding long-term dynamics of high magnitude coastal storms is important in defining the impact and frequency of these events on soft sedimentary coasts. Isolating the timing and extent of such events is difficult, however, prograded beach and dune environments can often preserve a distinct record of these events in their morphology via paleo-scarps and/or erosional unconformities. Instrumented records of storm events are only relatively recent and therefore for decadal to centennial timescales we must adopt alternative methods of unravelling (large) coastal storm events. Recent reconstructions of rapid coastal geomorphic changes and oceanographic events in the North Atlantic, have suggested a strong link between storminess and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). This project uses Ground Penetrating Radar to present a new storm chronology, based on subsurface erosional features, locked within large coastal dune systems of western Ireland over the late Holocene period.

  • Timing, forcing and onshore-offshore correlation of the western margin of the British-Irish Ice Sheet

    Funding

    NERC

    Facility

    NERC Cosmogenic Isotope Analysis Facility

    Investigators

    Description

    This project is investigating the dynamic behaviour of the former British-Irish Ice Sheet in western Ireland with a focus on correlating the offshore glacial history with the adjacent terrestrial landscape in Co. Mayo. The glacial and glaciomarine record is being investigated using a multiproxy approach that involves interpretation of geophysical data of the shelf adjacent to Co. Mayo, sedimentological analysis of sediment cores retrieved from moraines on the shelf and fourteenth century dating of marine microfauna of specific lithofacies to date the glacial retreat offshore. Conversely, cosmogenic exposure analysis from moraines and erratics onshore will constrain the onshore deglaciation.  This combined approach will build a more detailed picture of the timing and forcing of glacial dynamics in this region and will provide important information on the stability of marine based ice sheets and their deglacial behaviour during deglaciation.