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Citizen Sea’s Latest Recruit is Marine Biologist Monica McCard

12th August 2022
Marine Biologist Monica McCard
Marine Biologist Monica McCard Credit: Nathan McCard

Citizen Sea’s latest recruit left school at 16 with one GCSE (General Certificate of Education) and now she is a Marine Biologist who has just handed in her PhD on Invasion Ecology. Monica McCard is the new Project Co-ordinator for the Citizen Sea charity.

Citizen Sea is Northern Ireland’s first boat based environmental charity. Its aim is to inspire people through experiences at sea, to love, protect and appreciate the marine environment. To this end Citizen Sea engages with people through citizen science, practical action, and education. The project is based on a vessel moored in Bangor Marina and currently in Belfast Harbour.

Monica who hails from Lisburn near Belfast always had a passion for anything that lived on our coast and under the sea. Then as a mother of three boys, Nathan, Matthew and Callum (Nathan has just graduated in Marine Ecology from Bournemouth University), Monica realised she wanted more for herself and her children. So, in her thirties she got the opportunity to study at the South Eastern Regional College (SERC) Restart and Access course in her home town, and went on to graduate from Queen’s University in Belfast.

Monica spent some time abroad on Hoga Island Marine Station in Indonesia working with Operation Wallacea, a biodiversity and climate research organisation. She said that her first introduction to Lionfish was diving on coral reefs there, and that ignited the idea for her PhD.

Citizen SeaCitizen Sea

The Belfast Telegraph says that Monica credits the SERC Access course with transforming her life: "My access course set everything in motion. If I hadn't done it, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now, and I am doing what I love."

Her enthusiasm for her chosen career includes co-authoring three academic studies as well as one of her own on invasive species, and she has set up a programme called Marine Explorers Outreach which starts this month. It encourages children aged 11 to18 to be more inquisitive about the marine life on our shores. It will run once a month for six months based at the Queen’s University Marine Laboratory at Portaferry on Strangford Lough in collaboration with Citizen Sea.

Monica is enthusiastic about her path in life; “I was always obsessed with being around the water as a kid; there is nothing more calming than listening to the sounds of the waves. I got very interested in watching documentaries on life in the sea and wondered why people often felt like they had to go to foreign countries to see amazing creatures when we have it all on our doorstep. Our waters are teaming with the most incredibly diverse species, and I want to do all I can to share that with as many people as possible and protect what we have here. We have barely scratched the surface of our knowledge on what lives in the oceans, that is what excites me!”

More information about the Explorers here

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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