Colleen Ward

Update on Network of Buoys

Servicing of the buoys

Due to the coastal locations of the COMPASS Network of Buoys they have to be able to withstand adverse conditions such as being battered by stormy weather and biofouling from algae and other sea life.  The equipment on each buoy needs to be robust, but to ensure accuracy and operation it still requires regular maintenance, calibration and repair.   The Mace Head buoy, located off Galway bay and operated by the Marine Institute, has endured 3 winters so far dealing with hurricane force winds from numerous Atlantic storms.  Similar to the other buoys instruments at Mace Head collect and transmit data on oceanographic and environmental conditions which are of interest to policy leads in managing Marine Protected Areas and understanding broader processes such as Ocean Acidification. 

The project is also deploying new moorings in other regions; the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, based in Northern Ireland, are upgrading the scientific equipment and telemetry systems at their 38a and Strangford buoys.  The new telemetry system installed at Strangford at the end of 2020 now means the project has near real-time transmission of data on conditions at the mouth of Strangford Lough, whilst the 38a mooring located in the Irish Sea is currently being completed with a package to be deployed during 2021.

Loch Ewe Buoy deployment

The Scottish Association for Marine Science is also in the process of replacing, maintaining and calibrating equipment on two of their moorings at Tiree and Firth of Lorne.  As with the other buoys, instruments are attached to a frame on each of the moorings and these require considerable logistics for the deployment and regular maintenance. 

Not only do the oceanographic teams have to replace and maintain instruments on the buoys, or repair mooring hardware, but in some cases the complete buoy has to be replaced which is the case with the buoy owned by Marine Scotland Science (MSS) at Loch Ewe.  The team at MSS have commissioned a second buoy to be deployed in the summer which will further support the Network and ensure a lasting legacy for the COMPASS project.

Data from Mace Head is live on Ditigal Ocean and available via the following link through the COMPASS project website Digital Ocean – COMPASS (  The project plans to add more buoy locations to Digital Ocean this year.

Sometimes data are too complex. Stories give them form.

During the discussions around Data Management at the November 2020 virtual MPA projects meeting, among the important points made was that as scientists we often get incredibly focussed on details in a very specific field and bringing those details back together with a narrative, with a story, is vital in communicating our results. One highly visual way of doing this is through “Story Maps” that combine interactive spatial data with text and other multimedia to inform and to inspire. Over the 2020-21 winter, the COMPASS project Data Management team have worked with researchers at Afbi and Inland Fisheries Ireland to produce a Story Map highlighting some of the results from the project’s salmonids work package. Find the Story map at: Story Maps | COMPASS Data Portal (

The story map helps to show the progression over 2018, 2019 and 2020 of the locations at which acoustic receivers were deployed in the marine environment to detect fish tagged by the project. The story map also shows the location of year’s tagging activity and details of the fish species and life stage of the fish tagged by catchment during these years. The story map also brings in descriptive text provided by the work package team to describe the fish tagging and data collection process and also includes video of acoustic receiver deployments and fish tagging.

Story maps for Salmonids

We look forward to producing more story maps to show the progress made on other work packages in the COMPASS project.

  • With apologies to the film director Jean-Luc Goddard for misquoting him in the title…

SEUPB visit to COMPASS fish tagging site

SEUPB Director, Leanne Massey visit to COMPASS salmon tagging station on River Shimna

The COMPASS project was delighted to welcome Leanne Massey, @SEUPB director, on a recent visit to the Shimna River  in Newcastle, Co Down to learn more about the salmon and sea trout tagging work for this EU INTERREG-funded project. This  study  is being undertaken by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and Inland Fisheries Ireland in a number of rivers  on the North – East coast of Ireland to track salmon and sea trout a on their previously unrecorded migrations at sea .

To tag the fish, first you need to catch them. COMPASS scientists have been supported throughout the project by able volunteers from the Shimna River Angling Club, who recognise the importance of this scientific research for the conservation of stocks in these rivers for future generations. Dr Richard Kennedy said “The data we have been able to gather from this work has already demonstrated some interesting and hitherto unknown behaviour in the migratory patterns of these fish. We hope that the work being done today will unlock yet more new information. By  combining the results of our research with COMPASS Oceanographic work  we aim to find out more about why the fish use particular migration routes and feeding areas, and link the fish with environmental information in models designed to support management in  a cross-border network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA).

To Rockall and back

Deployment of Acoustic Receivers during the UN Decade of the Ocean cruise (Photo credit: Paul Stapleton)

This summer the COMPASS project joined a United Nations Decade of the Ocean cruise visiting the North Atlantic Shelf region, including Fangorn and Rockall Bank. The work was undertaken using the Marine Institute’s vessel the Celtic Explorer. It departed in July with scientific operations led by National University Ireland (Galway). The collaborative cruise plan for the trip was developed by COMPASS researchers (Adam Mellor & Denise Risch) and Prof Louise Allcock (Principle Investigator, NUIG) with COMPASS activity forming part of this multi-disciplinary cruise. Rhiannon Lamb, who is using COMPASS data for her MPhil on minke whale vocalisations from West Scotland, was on board the cruise for COMPASS to collect and deploy moorings. Rhiannon also deployed the towed hydrophone array which will provide data to identify presence of marine mammals that vocalise in the frequency range 0-24kHz, while simultaneously collecting ocean ambient noise data. Several marine mammal visual surveys were conducted too. The data from the research trip will provide valuable offshore data to assist with future management of the marine environment and its protected species.

Rhiannon Lamb undertaking visual surveys (Photo credit: Paul Stapleton)

Mission possible – Ardberg glider deployed for COMPASS

The third COMPASS glider mission is underway with the Seaglider (Ardberg) deployed by Scottish Association for Marine Science on 3rd March 2021. The glider deployed in the Hebrides, off the West coast of Scotland, will contribute to the oceanographic and acoustic observational programme for the INTERREG Va funded COMPASS Project. As with two previous glider missions, which took place in 2018 and 2019, this mission will provide high-resolution datasets of water properties from the Malin shelf, spanning coastal Irish waters, coastal Scottish waters and Atlantic influenced waters near the shelf edge.

Deployment of the Ardberg Glider 2021

This mission will last 6 to 8 weeks and type of data collected will includes temperature, salinity, oxygen, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, fluorescence and optical backscatter. As with previous missions the gliders are fitted with passive acoustic sensors to detect and monitor marine mammals which will enhance the work undertaken by the COMPASS Cetacean Team.

COMPASS mission route for Seaglider (Ardberg), 2021.

If you interested in following progress of the glider and view real-time data go to