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NUI Galway Marine Ecologist & Kelp Expert Awarded by Irish Research Council

9th December 2020
Kelp expert Dr KathrynSchoenrock Kelp expert Dr KathrynSchoenrock

A leading specialist in the ecology of Irish kelp forests along the Atlantic coastline has been given an award by the Irish Research Council (IRC).

NUI Galway marine ecologist Dr Kathryn Schoenrock has been given Early Career Researcher of the Year award.

Dr Schoenrock is a post-doctoral researcher who has led an intensive monitoring effort in kelp forests over the past three years, which is the first of its kind.

The IRC says her “ground-breaking work in this field has made her the authoritative voice on Irish kelp forest ecology, and the productivity and biodiversity of these systems in nearshore waters”.

Dr Schoenrock reported the first discovery of golden kelp in Irish waters last year. The small population was discovered in Scots Port cove on the north-west facing Belmullet coastline in Co Mayo.

Scots Port is located 1,040km from the nearest golden kelp population in Britain, and 1,630km away from the nearest population in France.

The dominant kelp species found in Irish waters is Cuvie (Laminaria Hyperborea), and five main types of kelp provide important habitats for marine life.

Kelp forest habitats are recognised as an important primary resource for terrestrial and marine organisms.

“ Recently they have been highlighted as an important blue carbon repository that may buffer climate change impacts to marine habitats by sequestering the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere,”the IRC notes.

There has been recent industry interest in, and environmental concern about, harvesting the native subtidal kelp, Laminaria Hyperborea.

Dr Schoenrock says she hopes her work will “inform academic studies, conservation planning, and industry ventures in the future”.

She says her work has led to international collaborations, laying the foundation for current research funding with the EPA, and she contributes data from Irish coastlines to national, European and international kelp forest monitoring networks.

She specialises in studying species response to climate change, ecophysiology of primary producers (seaweeds), chemical and marine ecology, and population and environmental genetics of marine seaweeds.

Her use of scientific diving in my research has supported development of a scientific diving dive-control board at NUIG, where she is dive officer, and taught the first Irish scientific (not technical) diving course there in spring-summer 2020.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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