The INSITE research programme (INfluence of man-made Structures In The Ecosystem) has become a focal point for marine research around structures in the North Sea, attracting recognition and support from government through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and DEFRA, and the scientific community through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
Aimed at understanding the influence of such structures – including oil and gas and renewable energy infrastructure and wrecks – INSITE takes an ecosystem-based approach to determine the cumulative effects, and to compare them with that of other stressors of the North Sea region, e.g. river and atmospheric pollution, and climate change. The outcomes are being made available to support decision-making around the installation and removal of man-made structures from the marine environment.
More than five years on from its inception, and with funding confirmed from both industry and science communities, the project continues to gather momentum and is now moving into its second phase.
Commenting on progress, programme director Richard Heard noted: “At the conclusion of a successful INSITE Phase 1, the basis for a further development of the Programme was clear and the need for high-quality data to describe the ecosystem in the North Sea and enhance the scientific outcomes from the research. We have therefore put a Data Initiative aimed at the sharing of industry data with scientists, as a key element of our second phase.”
This Data Initiative has already delivered a new tool – INSITE Interactive – a data portal available to researchers submitting proposals for funding to NERC following their recent INSITE call for proposals announced in mid-June.
“This ground-breaking tool has been developed to provide a robust process for scientists to identify data collected by industry during the course of their operations, which could be used to further research into the role of anthropogenic structures in the ecosystem. The portal provides a GIS-based reference for sourcing industry held ecological data relating to offshore structures and pipelines. We are delighted to see that this industry-led initiative has been enthusiastically embraced by the research community developing proposals under the NERC call,” Heard added.
In addition to this Initiative, INSITE Phase 2 also includes a £5.6 million NERC and CEFAS-funded science programme building on the Phase 1 research, as well as a technology programme aimed at applying new and emerging technologies to marine data acquisition to support future scientific initiatives.