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Marine Institute Welcomes Unique European Science Expedition to Galway

2nd September 2023
File image of the ocean schooner Tara
File image of the ocean schooner Tara, which is in Galway until mid September as part of the TREC expedition Credit: Yohann Cordelle/Wikimedia

Over the next two weeks, the Marine Institute will host a first-of-its-kind European science expedition when it makes a stop in Galway.

The European Molecular Biological Laboratory (EMBL) is carrying out a pan-European census of coastal ecosystems and their response to the environment in the TREC (Traversing European Coastlines) expedition.

Working along with the ocean schooner Tara, the expedition will explore the interactions between the two major ecosystems — land and sea — on our planet in order to better understand how these ecosystems interact, and how the organisms within them respond to changes both natural and those from human disturbance.

The EMBL mobile lab will be based at the Marine Institute in Rinville for daily coastal sampling, and the tall ship Tara will undertake offshore sampling at the same time.

The Marine Institute says it will benefit from hosting the TREC expedition as it focuses on how Ireland, as a coastal nation and part of the larger European coastal ecosystems, is subject to the impact of environmental changes.

Baseline information on coastal ecology gathered will serve as a reference point for future assessments, evaluations and comparisons to measure the impact of coastal climate change.

Moreover, TREC explores carbon capture pathways, helps understand global warming effects and examines communities of species and study antibiotics in the environment to protect Ireland's coastal biodiversity. The findings will offer valuable insights to the Marine Institute for managing and preserving Ireland’s coastal regions and marine life.

The EMBL’s sample processing van — pictured in St Abbs, Scotland on 19 August — will be in Galway to assist TREC scientists with their work | Credit: EMBLThe EMBL’s sample processing van — pictured in St Abbs, Scotland on 19 August — will be in Galway to assist TREC scientists with their work | Credit: EMBL

Commenting on the visit, Joe Silke, director of marine environment and food safety services at the Marine Institute said: “We are proud to be the local partner for TREC’s stop in Galway. The research being conducted addresses crucial issues such as pollution, biodiversity loss and invasive species, expanding on and directly relevant to the Marine Institute’s work in Ireland's coastal habitats.”

The TREC expedition brings together more than 150 research teams from over 70 institutions in 29 European countries. The Galway stopover is one of 46 regions all along the coast from Mediterranean to Scandinavian countries that they will sample over the next two years, and will be in Galway from Saturday 2 to Thursday 14 September.

At the Galway stop, the scientific activities include soil, sediment, water, aerosol, selected species and environmental data sampling involving EMBL’s mobile laboratories and the Tara ocean schooner.

The equipment and technologies in the mobile labs mean scientists can perform molecular research in direct proximity to the sampling site. This preserves the samples immediately after taking them from the field and reduces any changes or degradation that might happen during transit.

Alongside the scientific expedition, TREC is also organising several free public engagement events in Galway, encouraging the local community to find out more about marine science and molecular biology, many of which are family friendly.

These include tours of the Tara at Galway Docks on Sunday 10 September; interactive science talks with TREC scientists at Taylor’s Bar on Friday evening 8 September; ‘TREC in the City’ travelling exhibition and public workshops at various locations from 9-13 September, and Nexus Island, an augmented-reality game-based workshop at multiple locations (also 9-13 September).

Local schools are also invited to register for group visits of the Tara. Limited sessions are available 11-14 September.

For more information on these events and to register for the vessel tours, see the EMBL website HERE. Team

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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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