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Molecular mechanisms that allowed a type of tropical crayfish to become a global invasive species by adapting to colder water have been identified by scientists in Japan.

The research is relevant to growing concerns about animal species colonising new habitats across the globe, with devastating impacts on local biodiversity.

A paper published in the journal iScience explains that recently discovered genes may help the red swamp crayfish to produce protective proteins which allow them to adapt to the cold.

The red swamp crayfish—known to the scientific world as Procambarus clarkii (P. clarkii)— is a freshwater species native to the tropical regions of southern USA and northeastern Mexico.

These particular crayfish have become one of the most widespread and invasive animal species, the researchers note.

They are known for their “adaptability and aggressive behaviour that ensure their survival in a wide range of environments, even in regions much colder than their original habitats”.

A group of researchers from Japan, including Dr Daiki Sato, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Science of Chiba University, and Professor Takashi Makino from Tohoku University focused on crayfish settling Sapporo city in central Hokkaido, where water temperatures are extremely low during the winter.

They sought to study the genetic changes that have allowed the crayfish to adapt to these cold environments.

“A population of red swamp crayfish in Sapporo, Japan may have acquired genetic changes that enhanced its cold tolerance. We have revealed the genes and genomic architecture possibly involved in the cold adaptation mechanism,”Dr Sato said.

“Although the red swamp crayfish has been a well-known and notorious invasive species in Japan for quite some time, nobody has examined its genomic and transcriptomic characteristics that contribute to its invasiveness yet, thus motivating us to pursue this study,” Prof Makino, who led the study, said.

“We feel our study has far-reaching ecological implications,” he said.

“Overall, these findings significantly contribute to our understanding of invasive species, which may help us take measures to prevent their spread and, in turn, protect global biodiversity,” the researchers said.

Their study was made available online on July 3rd, 2023, and will be published in Volume 26, Issue 8 of the journal iScience on August 18, 2023.

Published in Marine Science

The Marine Institute's annual Poster Presentation Day was held on Friday, 28th July 2023, where student bursars showcased their summer internship research. For the first time, the 20 students not only presented posters but also gave flash presentations to supervisors, fellow bursars, and Marine Institute staff. The bursary programme, which has been active since the 1960s, offers students a unique opportunity to professionally contribute to the marine science industry before completing their tertiary education.

This year bursars worked in areas including fish husbandry, fish trap census research, ecological monitoring, data collation and organisation, marine research, INFOMAR data visualisation, DNA extraction and analysis, historical fisheries data reconstruction, climate research and outreach, finance, communications, and linking art and science.

Eight students’ efforts were spotlighted as exceptional. These students and their project areas were:

  • Rosemary Lane – Crayfish Plague Monitoring
  • Craig Ferguson – INFOMAR Seabed Mapping
  • Saoirse Cusack – Finance
  • Michael Officer – Marine Research Infrastructure
  • Colleen Kyan – Social Media and Communications
  • Brice Dourieu – Shellfish Research
  • Laura Foster – Infragravity Wave Modelling and Communications in Climate Services
  • Dan O Connell – Linking Art and Science

“It’s really wonderful to see the talent and innovation that our bursars display each year,” says Patricia Orme, Director of Corporate Services, on the topic of the Summer Bursary Poster Presentation Day. “An event like today gives us the opportunity to acknowledge all the hard work that the students have been doing for the past number of weeks. The posters were of exceptional quality, and their work added significant value to their teams and will result in lasting impacts within the Marine Institute. They should all be very proud of their efforts as the quality of work and output this year was excellent.”

Published in Marine Science

Yesterday, the Marine Institute, along with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission, co-hosted a high-level celebration in Iveagh House, Dublin, marking ten years of the Galway Statement - a decade of marine research cooperation across the Atlantic Ocean.

The milestone event, entitled "10 Years of the Galway Statement. Celebrating a decade of marine research cooperation along and across the Atlantic Ocean - Our Shared Resource" will continue today and Thursday at the Marine Institute and the University of Galway.

The Galway Statement is a landmark agreement signed by representatives of the European Union, the United States and Canada who agreed to join forces on Atlantic Ocean Research. The goal was to better understand the Atlantic Ocean and promote the sustainable management of its resources. The Agreement aimed to connect the ocean observation efforts of the three partners. The work also studied the interplay of the Atlantic Ocean with the Arctic Ocean, particularly in relation to climate change.

This celebration showcases and reflects on the achievements of the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance (AAORIA), which has grown to become truly all-Atlantic - from East to West, North to South, and from the Arctic to Antarctica. The event also focused on the coming years, through high-level dialogue and intergenerational discussion, on this model for science diplomacy.

Yesterday’s event programme included presentations on discoveries and achievements from the past decade, while looking to the future with discussion on the future of AAORIA.

The Marine Institute coordinated the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action up to 2020, partners in many of the Mission Ocean initiatives and looks forward to playing a pivotal role in the implementation of the All Atlantic Research and Innovation Alliance. The Marine Institute has recently launched its new five-year corporate strategy (2023-2027) which sets out eight strategic priorities centering on transforming the Institute’s knowledge, advice and services to benefit people, policy and planet. Ocean Knowledge that Informs and Inspires sets out a roadmap to enable Ireland to deliver on national and EU policy goals on sustainable seafood production, ocean science and management, environment and biodiversity, maritime transport, offshore renewable energy and climate action. 

Commenting on the event, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said “As an island nation, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland’s culture, heritage and identity are intrinsically linked to the Ocean surrounding it. The Galway Statement has been instrumental in fostering a decade of marine research cooperation. It has led to the development of numerous collaborative projects and initiatives in which Ireland will continue to play a significant role over the next decade.

Michael Gillooly, Interim CEO of the Marine Institute said, “The Galway Statement and AAORIA have delivered an exemplary example of science diplomacy. The Marine Institute is proud to have contributed to this important work and we look forward to continued cooperation with the other members of the alliance”.

Further sessions are planned over the next two days showcasing the profound impact of the past decade's marine research collaboration. A significant program highlight will be the intergenerational discussion session to engage with Early Career Ocean Professionals, contributing to the AAORIA.

Published in Marine Science

The Marine Institute locations in Oranmore, Co. Galway, and Newport, Co. Mayo welcome 22 university students this month to take part in the 2023 Summer Bursary programme. The bursary facilitates research, collaboration, and mutual education for a period of eight to twelve weeks, with bursars learning about and experiencing the day-to-day activities of marine researchers and scientists.

This year’s bursars will work in areas including fish husbandry, fish trap census research, ecological monitoring, data collation and organisation, marine research, INFORMAR data visualisation, DNA extraction and analysis, historical fisheries data reconstruction, climate research and outreach, finance, communications, linking art and science, and looking at the history of EuroGoos. The programme consists of both professional work placement and research projects, which conclude with a demonstration of the education and skills gained by the bursars. This is presented through the production of posters displaying research findings, and a short presentation. The programme offers opportunities across a variety of fields, with many ex-bursars later finding occupations and conducting research as graduate employees of the Marine Institute.

The bursary programme, which has been running since the 1960s, provides students with the rare opportunity to take part in, and contribute professionally to the world of marine science and associated fields before concluding third-level education.

“The Summer Bursary programme in the Marine Institute is part of a long-standing tradition of reciprocal education, where both the students and the institute can gain valuable experience and exchange ideas,” says Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute and ex-bursar himself.

Helen McCormick, Senior Laboratory Analyst and Bursary Co-ordinator, also comments that “the Marine Institute Bursary presents students with the opportunity to experience the world of marine science, allowing our bursars to conduct research in their particular areas of interest and gain insight into careers in the marine sector. We at the Marine Institute are proud to facilitate such education through the Summer Bursary programme and hope to continue to welcome students into our facilities for many years to come.”

The Marine Institute Summer Bursary Programme is available to undergraduate students from Third-Level Educational Institutions who have completed two or more years of study in a relevant discipline, with applications for the 2024 Summer Bursary opening in the spring of 2024.

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme has announced that six Explorers marine-themed Continuing Professional Development (CPD) five-day teacher-training courses (July 3-7) have been approved by the Department of Education and Skills and are now available to book with education centres in Galway, Kerry, West Cork, Waterford, Blackrock Dublin, as well as an online course run through Mayo Education Centre (July 3 – August 18).

Cushla Dromgool-Regan, who manages the Explorers programme, said they were extremely pleased that the Department has accepted these courses and are delighted to be working with the education centres again:

“Being able to offer teachers the opportunity to engage in different courses to learn about the ocean and the seashore helps to foster environmental awareness and ocean literacy in schools. We’re also excited to provide these courses as they enable teachers to use marine themes to develop children’s key competencies highlighted in the new Primary Curriculum Framework 2023”. 

“We’re very pleased to be again running our seashore safari teachers training courses supported by Galway Education Centre; Tramore Education Centre, Kerry; West Cork Education Centre and Waterford Teachers Centre: Exploring the Seashore using creative cross curricular learning and skills development.

“These courses focus on learning about tides, exploration of the seashore, discovering the abundance of marine biodiversity on the shore, as well as exploring new ideas and activities for outdoor learning. Classes will also focus on how to bring the seashore into the classroom, completing STEM, arts and communication activities.

The seashore safari courses can be booked with the relevant education centres in each county and will be run by the Explorers outreach teams in the following locations:

  • Galway - Marine Institute, Rinville, Oranmore and the local seashore in Galway city
  • Tralee, Kerry - Spa National School & the local seashore
  • Clonakilty, West Cork – Scoil na mBuachaillí, Clonakilty, West Cork & the local seashore
  • Tramore, Waterford - Holy Cross, Tramore and the local seashore.

“This year we’re delighted to be introducing a new course: ‘SDGs and a healthy ocean: marine life, plastic pollution, & climate change’. We will examine the SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals) and how they are connected to the ocean, as well as exploring how the SDGs and marine themes can be used to develop class and school projects, such as focussing on climate change and its impact on the ocean and us, marine biodiversity, and solutions to combat plastic pollution.

To be held at the Blackrock Education Centre, the Explorers SDG course will include fun, cross-curricular activities including creative writing, walking debates, creating visual arts through different textiles, as well co-operative games,” Ms Dromgool-Regan explained.

Online Teachers Training Course

Now in its second year, Mayo Education Centre will offer the online course: Explore the Seashore. This course is delivered by pre-recording, and online support is also provided throughout the course. Teachers will get to watch a series of Explorers Wild about Wildlife on the Seashore films, where they can explore the seashore and complete a series of cross-curricular activities, learning about some of our favourite species.

Other marine themes are also introduced where tasks can be completed at home and discussions are generated through online engagement. The online course also provides independent learning where teachers can reflect on how the ocean influences our lives and how we impact the ocean.

All courses are approved for EPV certification by the Department of Education and Skills. For more information and links to the education centres booking sites see www.explorers.ie - Explorers Teachers Training courses

Published in Marine Science
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Ocean circulation, tipping points and the climate breakdown debate are themes of a public lecture by an international expert hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this Wednesday.

The lecture in Dublin’s Mansion House is due to be delivered by Prof Stefan Rahmstorf of the University of Potsdam.

Prof Rahmstorf is internationally renowned for his work linking climate change to a significant slowdown in the Gulf Stream system.

He recently co-authored an important paper highlighting evidence of how fossil fuel companies had denied and questioned climate science in public, while privately acknowledging the seriousness of the issue.

The EPA says he will discuss how continued melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the Gulf Stream.

This will have important consequences for the ocean ecosystem, the weather in the North Atlantic region, regional sea levels and the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

He will explore how close we already are to the Gulf Stream tipping point; and he will comment on his recent examination of fossil fuel companies’ awareness of the seriousness of climate change over 40 years ago, and the difference between their public statements and internal knowledge.

The lecture, hosted by the EPA with Dublin City Council, will also be streamed online and forms part of the National Dialogue on Climate Action.

“Understanding the evolution of climate change and the ocean is essential if we are to understand our future,”EPA director-general Laura Burke said.

“ This knowledge can help inform policy to manage our responses and adapt to the future climate conditions.”

The free event in the Mansion House Round Room at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 19th, requires registration through the following link.

The event will also be recorded and uploaded to the EPA YouTube channel.

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme, which engages with primary schools, teachers, children and the education sector, recorded the largest number of participating children in 2022, reaching more than 15,000 throughout Ireland.

Congratulating the team, Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, said: “This outcome is reflective of the quality of the Explorers outreach programme, which promotes marine education and how well the programme is delivered by Explorers outreach teams in schools around the coast.”

“Marine projects, seashore safaris, STEM workshops, aquariums in-the-class and the healthy ocean school projects, are excellent examples of how teachers can use marine content to develop children’s key competencies to enable them to become active citizens.

The most recent Explorers Engagement & Impact Report also shows that the programme increased ocean literacy among pre-service teachers, children and school teachers where 463 modules were delivered, focused on aquariums-in-the-classroom, seashore safaris, marine project and STEM workshops, as well new healthy ocean school projects”.

The Explorers education programme has seen an increase in ocean literacy in Schools according to the latest reportThe Explorers education programme has seen an increase in ocean literacy in Schools according to the latest report

Delighted with the progress during 2022, Cushla Dromgool-Regan, Manager of the Explorers Education Programme, said: “Outreach officers adopt an integrated approach to delivering the wide range of activities available, supported by the Explorers education resources. This enables teachers to complete cross-curricular marine-themed projects in the classroom and helps children to take a greater lead in their learning and to becoming ocean literate.

“Applying an integrated approach also reflects the principles set out in the new Primary Curriculum Framework launched earlier this month by Norma Foley, T.D., Minister for Education, Norma Foley,” explained Ms Dromgool-Regan.

The Framework introduces key competencies for children’s learning, and sets out the main features and components for a full redevelopment of the primary school curriculum. The new Healthy Ocean School Project module is an excellent example of how learning can be expanded through STEM, languages and the arts.

With the objective of creating marine leaders and ocean champions, the ‘Healthy Ocean Projects & Ocean Champion Awards’ - attracted twenty-six schools in fourteen counties who submitted 28 projects covering science, artwork and beach cleans.

More information about the Explorers Education Programme here

Published in Marine Science

Budding young journalists interested in climate issues affecting the marine environment are urged to participate in a contest run by An Taisce.

Solutions to climate issues on sea and land is the theme of the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) competition 2023.

Entrants can submit an article, captioned photo or a short video clip on the theme.

The theme of climate action takes into account “everything from how we get around to what we consume and how we can tackle issues like biodiversity loss”, An Taisce says.

Participants must be between 12 and 25 years old and attending second-level “Green schools” and third-level “Green campuses”

There are four steps to entering:

i) Students, either individually or in groups research an area where climate action is needed.

ii) They identify a solution to the problem.

iii) This is communicated in a journalistic piece – either an article, captioned photo or a short video clip.

iv) The work is then shared on social media and within the community.

Shortlisted students will be invited to take part in an online national awards ceremony in June where the winners will be announced, sharing in a prize fund of over €1,500.

“This is a great opportunity for any budding environmental journalist to gain a platform and recognition,” YRE manager Eoin Heaney says.

He says the overall winner will represent Ireland in the international YRE competition in June.

Past winners have featured on RTÉ News and in The Irish Times, he says.

Entries and any queries should be emailed to [email protected] any time before the deadline of Friday May 5th.

The shortlisted entries from last year can be viewed here: https://yreireland.exposure.co/

Full details on how to enter, tips for writing articles, taking photos and making videos as well as terms and conditions are all available at www.yreireland.org.

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Citizen marine scientists and nature enthusiasts can apply for a grant of up to 5,000 euros to capture and record Ireland’s natural history.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service manages applications for the scheme, which are being sought by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Malcolm Noonan.

The scheme “aims to help established naturalists recording in Ireland to maintain and enhance their expertise in species identification and to develop the next generation of natural history recorders”, his department says.

“Ireland has a long tradition of natural history recording, and natural history recorders are recognised as vital in maintaining the quality of information on Ireland’s native species and natural and semi-natural habitats,”it says.

However, the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage says it recognises that the recording community - individuals and groups - needs support to carry out their important work.

Grants are available for volunteer, unpaid recorders, or groups, societies and associations of recorders who have limited or no access to financial support for their work. This is the fifth year of the grant scheme, and it has supported over 70 projects to date.

Skate and ray surveys in Tralee Bay were one of the projects grant-aided last year.

Applications should be submitted by 5 pm on 31st March 2023. The form and further details can be found here

Application forms will ONLY be accepted by email submission to [email protected].

Published in Marine Science
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A student team has won the Irish leg of an international contest for a design that draws on hydropower and wind power to generate electricity stored in a battery.

The “affordable clean energy generator system” uses both hydropower and wind to provide enough electricity for 250 light bulbs in one hour.

The prototype, named “Own It” was submitted to the “Invent for the Planet” contest, a 48-hour intensive design experience involving 29 universities in 22 locations around the world.

Competitors are given a single weekend to solve high-impact, global problems in the contest, organised by Texas A&M University.

The winning Irish team, named “Power Up”, involved Xing Ying Chuang, third-year biomedical student at ATU Galway; Tom Hakizinka Senga, a second-year mechanical engineering student at Dundalk IT; Tenis Ranjan, postgraduate student at the University of Galway; Edbin Ostilio Buezo Zuniga, a first-year engineering student at ATU Sligo; and Ontiretse Ishmael, PhD computing, ATU. 

Runners up “Eat Smart”, L to R, Caoimhe McCormack, first year Environmental Science student at ATU Sligo; Zain Ali, IT Master student at ATU Donegal; Vijay Kumar, IT Master student at ATU Donegal; Jessica Henry, third year Software engineering year at ATU Sligo. Photo: Mike ShaughnessyRunners up “Eat Smart”, L to R, Caoimhe McCormack, first year Environmental Science student at ATU Sligo; Zain Ali, IT Master student at ATU Donegal; Vijay Kumar, IT Master student at ATU Donegal; Jessica Henry, third year Software engineering year at ATU Sligo. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

Another Irish team designed a solution to remove existing carbon from the environment. The “Blue Carbon” team used the space beneath wind turbines for aquaculture, such as mollusc and seaweed farming, to remove carbon and stimulate fish stocks through the creation of artificial reefs.

Eight different teams worked intensively on a selection of challenges and, with guidance from mentors, had to present a prototype, involving a 10-minute pitching presentation and 90-second video, to a panel of judges.

The Irish leg of the “Invent for the Planet 2023” was kindly sponsored by Thermo King; Boston Scientific; Marine Institute, BIM; the Department of Agricultural, Food and Marine; and MathWorks.

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Page 3 of 35

Marine Institute Research Vessel Tom Crean

Ireland’s new marine research vessel will be named the RV Tom Crean after the renowned County Kerry seaman and explorer who undertook three major groundbreaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th Century which sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore unreached areas of the world, at that time.

Ireland's new multi-purpose marine research vessel RV Tom Crean, was delivered in July 2022 and will be used by the Marine Institute and other State agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, oceanographic and environmental research, seabed mapping surveys; as well as maintaining and deploying weather buoys, observational infrastructure and Remotely Operated Vehicles.

The RV Tom Crean will also enable the Marine Institute to continue to lead and support high-quality scientific surveys that contribute to Ireland's position as a leader in marine science. The research vessel is a modern, multipurpose, silent vessel (designed to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research), capable of operating in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Tom Crean is able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time and is designed to operate in harsh sea conditions.

RV Tom Crean Specification Overview

  • Length Overall: 52.8 m
  • Beam 14m
  • Draft 5.2M 

Power

  • Main Propulsion Motor 2000 kw
  • Bow Thruster 780 kw
  • Tunnel thruster 400 kw

Other

  • Endurance  21 Days
  • Range of 8,000 nautical miles
  • DP1 Dynamic Positioning
  • Capacity for 3 x 20ft Containers

Irish Marine Research activities

The new state-of-the-art multi-purpose marine research vessel will carry out a wide range of marine research activities, including vital fisheries, climate change-related research, seabed mapping and oceanography.

The new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, which will replace the 31-metre RV Celtic Voyager, has been commissioned with funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine approved by the Government of Ireland.

According to Aodhán FitzGerald, Research Vessel Manager of the MI, the RV Tom Crean will feature an articulated boom crane aft (6t@ 10m, 3T@ 15m), located on the aft-gantry. This will be largely used for loading science equipment and net and equipment handling offshore.

Mounted at the stern is a 10T A-frame aft which can articulate through 170 degrees which are for deploying and recovering large science equipment such as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV’s), towed sleds and for fishing operations.

In addition the fitting of an 8 Ton starboard side T Frame for deploying grabs and corers to 4000m which is the same depth applicable to when the vessel is heaving but is compensated by a CTD system consisting of a winch and frame during such operations.

The vessel will have the regulation MOB boat on a dedicated davit and the facility to carry a 6.5m Rigid Inflatable tender on the port side.

Also at the aft deck is where the 'Holland 1' Work class ROV and the University of Limericks 'Etain' sub-Atlantic ROV will be positioned. In addition up to 3 x 20’ (TEU) containers can be carried.

The newbuild has been engineered to endure increasing harsher conditions and the punishing weather systems encountered in the North-East Atlantic where deployments of RV Tom Crean on surveys spent up to 21 days duration.

In addition, RV Tom Crean will be able to operate in an ultra silent-mode, which is crucial to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research purposes.

The classification of the newbuild as been appointed to Lloyds and below is a list of the main capabilities and duties to be tasked by RV Tom Crean:

  • Oceanographic surveys, incl. CTD water sampling
  • Fishery research operations
  • Acoustic research operations
  • Environmental research and sampling operation incl. coring
  • ROV and AUV/ASV Surveys
  • Buoy/Mooring operations