#MarineScience - The Marine Institute welcomed more than 300 Transition Year students during Science Week as part of the Galway Science & Technology Festival and the Sea for Society FP7 project.
The pupils met marine scientists and staff to learn about the wide variety of work they do, and how the science of the sea impacts on our daily lives, for example the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.
Dr Paul Connolly, director of fisheries ecosystems and advisory services, gave an overview of the broad work programmes of the Marine Institute and the many benefits we derive from the ocean.
Students also saw a short video on the recently commissioned Galway Bay Ocean Observatory, which streams live data and video from the seabed off the coast of Spiddal.
Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan said: "We're delighted see so many students here and hope they'll be inspired by the people they meet and by work that we're doing here to understand our unique ocean resource.
"I'm sure we'll see some of them again as ocean explorers, marine biologists, oceanographers, or geographers mapping the seabed, or as engineers, developing novel marine renewable energy devices. I believe they will have many opportunities, particularly with a national and EU focus on the potential of the 'blue economy' with the Government plan Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth and the European Commission's Atlantic Strategy."
Vera Quinlan, of INFOMAR, the national seabed mapping programme by the Marine Institute and Geological Survey of Ireland, demonstrated her work mapping the seabed using the latest technology – and discovering mountains in the Atlantic ocean higher than Carrauntoohil.
Quinlan has developed Ireland's first augmented reality (AR) sandbox based on a concept first developed as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project led by the visualisation collaboration KeckCAVES at the University of California.
The visiting Transition Years were the first students to try out the AR sandbox, a scientific educational tool to help users to explore the importance of topography, contouring, geology and seabed mapping.
"We constructed the AR sandbox as part of the education and outreach program for INFOMAR and we believe that it will help share the story, the science, and the adventure that is INFOMAR," said Quinlan.
Fisheries scientists explained how they assess fish stocks so that we know the sustainable limits for fishing. Students learned about ocean acidification and had an opportunity to carry out experiments on pH levels.
They also learned about the science behind seafood safety, and met the scientists that make sure the Irish shellfish we eat are free from naturally occurring toxins.
AquaTT, lead Irish partner in the Sea for Society FP7 project, helped to promote the project and the Blue Society concept, highlighting that the ocean is home to millions of undiscovered species; provides us with food and transport as well as essential biological, mineral and energy resources; regulates our climate; and is at the heart of the water cycle, producing half of the oxygen we breathe.
In addition, students got to test-drive a mini submarine (ROV) with the help of the Research Vessel Operations team, and were introduced to a wide variety of marine career opportunities as well as maritime training opportunities by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).
The Marine Institute will be at the Galway Science & Technology Festival Exhibition this Sunday 22 November alongside Galway Atlantaquaria with the Explorers Education programme for primary schools.