First 3D maps of West Scotland’s sea lochs

For the next two months a team from our Edinburgh office will be aboard the White Ribbon (research vessel) surveying the sea Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh. They're using cutting-edge techniques to create 3D images of the lochs which will allow scientists to learn more about some of Scotland’s most important marine wildlife. The area under study is one of the proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) put forward to the Scottish Parliament in December 2012.

Funded by Marine Scotland, the survey is one of a series being carried out around the Scottish coast this year. It is part of an extensive programme of marine research led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Marine Scotland to help Government and others plan for the sustainable management of the seas.

Rhys Cooper, our project manager for the survey, explained: “This is a great opportunity to contribute our marine survey expertise to the Scottish MPA Project. We are looking forward to working in such a beautiful area”

A survey of the area in 2012 discovered what is thought to be the largest flame shell bed in the world, with an estimated 100 million of the brightly coloured shellfish covering an area of 75 hectares. The information gathered during the current survey will be used to map these habitats, along with others of conservation interest.

The White Ribbon Survey Vessel

The full bathymetric survey of the Lochs will be performed using our White Ribbon, a small power catamaran, equipped with all the latest multibeam survey technology. This uses a fan of narrow acoustic beams to completely cover the sea floor. GPS and a variety of sensors on board correct for vessel motion and heading changes. The fan of high frequency beams can then be accurately positioned and a depth resolved to create a very detailed and complete image of the 3D sea floor. The survey will be completed by the end of April but hopefully, signals and weather permitting, we'll be getting updates and photos from the survey over the next 8 weeks.

by Lauren


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