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Scientists have been able to use forensics to determine drowning in saltwater on prehistoric human remains for what they say is the first time.

The research team led by the University of Southampton has confirmed saltwater drowning as the cause of death for a Neolithic man whose remains were found in a mass grave on the coast of Northern Chile.

The team developed an enhanced version of a modern forensic test to solve a “5000-year-old cold case and believe it will help archaeologists understand more about past civilisations in coastal regions.

Professor James Goff of the University of Southampton, who led the study. worked with Prof Pedro Andrade of the Universidad de Concepción in Chile.

Prof Andrade had previously studied an archaeological site known as Copaca 1, 30 kilometres south of Tocopilla on the Chilean coastline. The site area contains a grave with three well-preserved skeletons.

Prof James Goff and the fishermanProf James Goff and the fisherman (Credit Genevieve Cain/James Goff)

The individual they studied was a male hunter-gather aged between 35 and 45. The condition of his bones suggested he was a fisherman as there were signs of frequent harpooning, rowing and harvesting of shellfish.

As the research team explains in a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science, modern forensics can confirm drowning as the cause of death in recent victims by testing for diatoms inside the bones of the victims.

Diatoms are a group of algae found in oceans, freshwater and soils. When diatoms are found inside the bones of victims’ bodies, it is likely that they drowned; if they had died before entering the water, they would not have swallowed any saltwater.

In addition to the diatom test, the research team says they carried out a wide-ranging microscopic analysis of bone marrow extracted from the man’s skeleton.

This allowed them to search for a greater range of microscopic particles that could provide more insight into the cause of his death. Apart from marine particles, they found evidence of fossilised algae, parasite eggs and sediment.

“By looking at what we found in his bone marrow, we know that he drowned in shallow saltwater,” Prof Goff continued. “We could see that the poor man swallowed sediment in his final moments and sediment does not tend to float around in sufficient concentrations in deeper waters.”

Based on their initial findings, the team believe that he died in a marine accident rather than in a major catastrophic event. This is partly because the bones of the others he was buried with did not contain marine particles so it is unlikely they all died by saltwater drowning.

Prof Goff noted that “mass burials have often been necessary after natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods or large storms”.

“However we know very little about whether prehistoric mass burial sites near coastlines could be the result of natural disasters or other causes such as war, famine and disease. This gave us our light bulb moment of developing an enhanced version of a modern forensic test to use on ancient bones,” he said.

The team advise they could shed more light on this by testing other human remains in the site and studying geological records for evidence of natural disasters in the area.

Most importantly, the scientist believes this new technique can be used for ancient mass burial sites around the world to get a richer picture of the lives of people in coastal communities throughout history.

Prof Goff said the team had “cracked open a whole new way to do things”.

“This can help us understand much more about how tough it was living by the coast in pre-historic days – and how people there were affected by catastrophic events, just as we are today,” he said.

“There are many coastal mass burial sites around the world where excellent archaeological studies have been carried out but the fundamental question of what caused so many deaths have not been addressed. Now we can take this new technique out around the world and potentially re-write prehistory.”

The study “Evidence for a mid-Holocene drowning from the Atacama Desert coast of Chile” has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science with DOI here

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute is celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February 2022, by highlighting the many brilliant women who play transformative and ambitious roles in understanding, exploring, protecting and sustainably managing the wealth of our oceans.

The United Nations Theme for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022 is “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”. This recognises the role of women and girls in science, not only as beneficiaries but also as agents of change.

"The Marine Institute recognises our people as a critical enabler of success, and we are committed to supporting a diverse workforce and a culture of high performance driven by our people. Just as the ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems, the Marine Institute values our diverse workforce," said Patricia Orme, Director of Corporate Services at the Marine Institute.

"70% of the women working at the Marine Institute work in roles that deliver key services centred around science"

The Marine Institute has a staff of 238 employees, and supports a strong workforce of female employees at 50%. The organisation continues to recognise that its employees' skills, experience, diversity and passion for the marine are central to the work that is undertaken for the government and other partners.

"70% of the women working at the Marine Institute work in roles that deliver key services centred around science, technical analysis and research including areas of oceanography & ocean climate, fisheries ecosystems and advisory roles, marine environment and food safety and the development of applications. We also have women working in policy, innovation and research, maritime development and corporate roles. We are extremely proud to note that 80% of our female employees hold bachelor, masters or doctorate level qualifications," Patricia Orme added.

To celebrate our diverse culture and the contribution, innovation and impact of the many Marine Institute Women in Science, we will share photos, animations and profiles of our female scientists, sharing their study and career paths, the work they do at the Marine Institute and the important contribution their work delivers. Follow #WomenInScience on the Marine Institute's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to meet some of our female scientists, learn about their work and their many successes.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science Forum has been one of the flagship events of the United Nations, since its inception in 2016. It is a key event for women and girls in science, science experts, policy-makers and diplomats to share their vision, expertise and best practices to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to data from the UN Scientific Education and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 30% of researchers worldwide are women and approximately 35% of all students in STEM-related fields in higher education are women.

Published in Marine Science

A team of young European “maritime ambassadors” has called for implementation of an EU-wide maritime surveillance and enforcement programme for the Common Fisheries Policy.

Investment in reskilling of people employed in “disappearing sectors” is also one of 11 recommendations made by the group this week to French Minister for the Sea Annick Girardin and her European counterparts.

The “maritime ambassadors” are part of Eurocean's Youth, a network created by the French Ministry of the Sea and Surfrider Foundation Europe.

Surfrider Europe was created in 1990 by a group of surfers who wanted to “preserve their playground”.

It says grass-roots activism to protect oceans and coasts is at the core of the organisation. It has over 2,000 volunteers in 43 local branches in 11 European countries.

The group of 106 “maritime ambassadors” are students in oceanography, environment or political science, aged between 20 and 27 years.

They have worked for three months on recommendations in two subjects - the sustainable future of maritime transport and the evolution of careers in maritime professions.

Their nine other recommendations are:

  • Creating a marine Erasmus+ programme, combining education, job and networking opportunities, to enhance knowledge transfer and raise awareness about maritime affairs;
  • Creation of a European platform to advance ocean literacy;
  • Introduction of an ocean certification for public authorities in the EU;
  • Implementation of a new rating system for zero-emission vessels;
  • Improving the monitoring of water quality in the EU ports;
  • Ensuring strict implementation of dredging rules with the aim of introducing a dredging ban in upcoming years;
  • Providing EU subsidies for training in autonomous vessels technology and promoting this specialisation in maritime schools, EU-wide;
  • Making government, private and EU funding available for the environmental transition of the shipping sector;
  • Accession of shipowners to the “Green Marine” label by providing financial support to its certified members.
Published in Marine Science
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Nua na Mara is the name of a marine innovation development centre established in Conamara by state agency Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Based in the State agency’s G-teic hub in Carna, Co Galway, Nua na Mara will provide “specialist training and business development supports”, it says.

Údarás na Gaeltachta and a number of stakeholders secured €2m in funding in 2018 under the Rural Economic Development Fund (REDF) via Enterprise Ireland to establish it.

Nua na Mara will be a “key element” of the agency’s Páirc na Mara project – which received a planning setback last autumn.

The centre will provide 1,800 square metres of enterprise and incubation space for marine enterprises, the State agency says.

It will function as a “champion for marine product commercialisation”, and will “bridge the gap in linking innovation, application, concepts, and commercialisation”, Údarás na Gaeltachta says.

It says the centre will “integrate and build on the world-class research, testing and enterprise development facilities for the marine sector provided by GMIT and NUI Galway”.

“ It will also coordinate collaborative programming of specialist supports and development interventions to be jointly implemented by BIM, the Marine Institute, the Education and Training Boards, Skillsnet and other regional stakeholders,” it says.

“We are delighted to establish Nua na Mara to bring the marine sector to another level in terms of commercialisation by facilitating research, testing and enterprise development within the sector whilst also ensuring sustainability,” Údarás na Gaeltachta chief executive Micheál Ó hÉanaigh said.

“ Despite the delay with the Páirc na Mara initiative, innovative concepts and developments can progress, particularly in light of the recent announcement of the development of a deepwater berth at Ros an Mhíl harbour - ensuring that Gaeltacht areas on the west coast are not lagging behind in terms of marine commerce” he said.

A business development manager, Cliodhna Ní Ghríofa, has been appointed recently to work on development of Nua na Mara, dedicated to “supporting businesses, start-ups, innovators and researchers looking to innovate in the marine sector in the Gaeltacht”, the agency says.

Further information regarding Nua na Mara can be received by contacting Clíodhna Ní Ghríofa at [email protected]

Published in Marine Science

Queen’s University Belfast has released new research which has revealed that basking sharks overwintering in tropical waters off Africa experience cooler temperatures than those remaining in Ireland. The research, published in Environmental Biology of Fishes 2022, provides evidence to challenge previous assumptions that their disappearance from Irish coastal waters was linked to their search for warmer waters.

The research team equipped four basking sharks with pop-off archival satellite tags off Malin Head, County Donegal to record water temperature, depth and location over a six-month period.

Basking sharks are a regular visitor to Ireland’s shores in summer months. It has been widely believed that basking sharks prefer the warmer waters and that their seasonal disappearance is linked to falling water temperatures. Through the tracking devices, the research team discovered that two of the sharks travelled vast distances to the subtropical and tropical waters off Africa whilst the others remained in Irish coastal waters throughout the winter. The sharks off the coast of Africa experienced colder temperatures daily than the sharks that resided in Ireland, suggesting that they didn’t move south simply in search of warmer conditions. The cooler temperatures experienced off Africa resulted from the sharks diving each day to depths of up to 600m, most likely in search of prey.

Dr Emmett Johnston, Lead Author from the School of Biological Sciences at QUB said: “Our findings challenge the idea of temperature as the main reason for winter dispersal from Ireland. Likewise, further evidence of individual basking sharks occupying Irish coastal waters year-round has significant implications for national and European conservation efforts. Now we know that basking sharks are foraging at these depths, it shows that these habitats should be considered alongside coastal hotspots in future conservation efforts.”

And Dr Jonathan Houghton, Co-author from Queen’s, added: “This study tempts us to think about basking sharks as an oceanic species that aggregates in coastal hotspots for several months of the year (most likely for reproduction), rather than a coastal species that reluctantly heads out into the ocean when decreasing water temperatures force them to.”

Co-author, Dr Paul Mensink from Western University, Ontario, added: “Our findings highlight the need to understand the role of deep, offshore foraging habitats for a species so commonly sighted just a few metres from our shores.”

The international team will continue to monitor basking sharks as part of the EUSeaMonitor project to help inform and develop a collective conservation strategy for wide ranging species that have inhabited our waters for millennia.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A Dublin student whose love of sailing inspired him to research wave energy has won second prize in his category at this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Fionnán Ó Baoighill built a wave energy tank out of containers in his back garden to test out his theory that fin design could influence optimum use of energy generated by the sea.

d“I took up sailing in Dun Laoghaire a few summers ago, and that is when I started to think about it,” Ó Baoighill told Afloat.

“The fins under the hull catch the energy to propel the boat and contribute to fuel savings when on engine,” he said.

“When I was researching it, I discovered it had been thought about 100 years ago for personal use, and several companies also experimented with the concept,” he said.

“ However, they didn’t take it to a widespread commercial level,” he said.

“Science is my passion, and I love sailing,” Ó Baoighill who is homeschooled, said.

Ó Baoill was highly commended at last year’s BT Young Scientist exhibition for his project on optimisation of yeast production.

His mother, Orna Collins, said the family was delighted to hear Fionnan’s name being announced during the closing ceremony.

Dublin students Aditya Joshi and Aditya Kumar of Synge Street CBS were declared this year’s BT Young Scientists.

Their winning project focused on a new method of solving the Bernoulli Quadrisection problem.

Climate change awareness and the importance of sustainability in their lives were dominant themes at this year’s exhibition, according to the organisers.

Projects looking towards developing more sustainable practices, promoting biodiversity within the community and the use of environmentally friendly alternatives to household products were among the entries.

“Row-tricity" was the title of an entry by Ardscoil Rís in Limerick, designing and developing a device to capture the potential energy of an ergometer (rowing machine).The students also presented a case study to examine if it could power a rowing club.

“Is hydrogen power usage within transport part of the solution for the current global climate crisis?” was the title of a project submitted by St Kieran's College, Kilkenny

It explored the feasibility for broad scale use of hydrogen as a means to supplement wind and solar power, providing renewable global energy needs.

Mohill Community College in Leitrim researched how wind turbine blades could be made more eco friendly and cost-efficient, without using fibreglass or any other toxic material.

A team from Loreto College, Dublin explored how to tackle the “jellyfish crisis”, exploring reasons for increased jellyfish numbers in Irish waters.

Loreto Convent in Donegal submitted an entry on microplastics in water and fish guts, while Mary Immaculate secondary school in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, investigated the level of microplastics on a number of beaches in the west of Ireland.

Research into whether pond algae and seaweed could be used as a substitute for non-biodegradable materials or plastic was carried out by a team from Mercy Secondary School, Co Kerry.

The full list of results of the contest are here

Published in Marine Science
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New research from Queen’s University Belfast has led to 184 deep-sea species being added to the global “Red List” of threatened species.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world’s foremost conservation authority, and its “red list” categorises universally recognised extinction risk categories.

More than 140,000 species have been “red listed”, but less than 15% are from marine environments and barely any have been from the deep sea, the QUB scientists point out.

The scientists examined mollusc species in hydrothermal vents, a unique deep sea ecosystem which is the equivalent in density of life as tropical rainforests or coral reefs.

A deep-sea Hydrothermal Vent taken by a Remotely Operate Vehicle (ROV). Photo credit to Marum Universitat BremenA deep-sea Hydrothermal vent taken by a Remotely Operate Vehicle (ROV). Photo: Marum Universitat Bremen

There are about 600 hydrothermal vents known, most being about a third of a football field in size.

The scientists assessed 184 “vent-endemic” mollusc species and found 114 or 62 per cent were threatened by deep-sea mining.

They found a further 45 species (24.4%) are listed as “near threatened”, while only 13.6% of species are listed as of “least concern”, under the protection of marine protected areas (MPAs).

“The deep sea is the largest environment on earth with thousands of unique species living in extreme habitats,” the scientists said.

“ The remoteness of these seafloor habitats means they are often understudied, making it difficult to understand and communicate their conservation requirements,” they said.

“There is growing industrial interest in the deep sea, including deep-sea mining for commercially important metals, meaning it is now vital to protect these unique, insular ecosystems and their specialist endemic species,” they said.

The research was supported by the Marine Institute and involved an international team from the USA, Canada, Japan and Britain.

QUB PhD student, Elin Thomas, who is lead researcher, said the teams focus was on “assessing species found at hydrothermal vents, as these areas are increasingly targeted for their natural resources, and we wanted to better understand the threat this poses to the rich marine life found there”.

“As one of the dominant species groups at vent habitats.... we focused our study on molluscs,” Thomas said.

“Almost two-thirds of the molluscs are listed as threatened, which illustrates the urgent need to protect these species from extinction,” she said.

“Indian Ocean vent molluscs are under the greatest extinction risk, with 100% of species listed in threatened categories and 60% as critically endangered,” Thomas pointed out,

She noted that this “coincides with the distribution of mining contracts granted by the International Seabed Authority”

“We found that seabed management and mining regulation consistently had the greatest impact on a species’ extinction risk so we need regulations in place as a matter of urgency. This research should be used to develop new policies to protect these species before it is too late,” Thomas said.

“It’s vital that we continue to deepen our understanding of the marine environment before it’s too late for too many species,” she said.

The research has been published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

Published in Marine Science

As Cop26 continues to debate methane – with the US And EU having pledged to reduce agricultural methane outputs from ruminant livestock by upwards of 30% by 2030 – scientists at the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s University Belfast are to feed seaweed to farm animals in a bid to slash methane by at least 30%.

Seaweed has long been hailed a ‘superfood’ for humans but adding it to animal feed to reduce methane gas released into the atmosphere by ruminants' burping and flatulence is a relatively new idea. Early laboratory research at IGFS has shown promising results using native Irish and UK seaweeds.

Previous research in Australia and the USA generated headline results – up to 80% reductions in methane emissions from cattle given supplements from a red seaweed variety. These red seaweeds grow abundantly in warmer climates; however, they also contain high levels of bromoform – known to be damaging to the ozone layer. Seaweed indigenous to the UK and Ireland tends to be brown or green and does not contain bromoform.

UK and Irish seaweeds are also rich in active compounds called phlorotannins, found in red wine and berries, which are anti-bacterial and improve immunity so could have additional health benefits for animals.

Harvesting seaweed research samples at Queen’s University Marine Lab in Portaferry, Co. DownHarvesting seaweed research samples at Queen’s University Marine Lab in Portaferry, Co. Down

Now the IGFS science is moving into the field, with trials on UK farms about to begin, using seaweed sourced from the Irish and North Seas as a feed supplement for cattle.

One 3-year project is in partnership with the UK supermarket Morrisons and its network of British beef farmers who will facilitate farm trials. The project also includes the Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), in Northern Ireland, as a partner.

A second project sees IGFS and AFBI join a €2million, international project - led by Irish agency An Teagasc - to monitor the effects of seaweed in the diet of pasture-based livestock. Seaweed will be added to grass-based silage on farm trials involving dairy cows in NI from early 2022.

As well as assessing methane emissions of the beef and dairy cattle, these projects will assess the nutritional value of a variety of homegrown seaweeds, their effects on animal productivity and meat quality.

IGFS lead Sharon Huws, Professor of Animal Science and Microbiology within the School of Biological Sciences, said she expected the combined research to evidence a reduction in GHG emissions of at least 30%.

She said: “The science is there. It’s simply a matter of providing the necessary data and then implementing it. Using seaweed is a natural, sustainable way of reducing emissions and has great potential to be scaled up. There is no reason why we can’t be farming seaweed – this would also protect the biodiversity of our shorelines.

“If UK farmers are to meet a zero-carbon model, we really need to start putting this kind of research into practice. I hope IGFS and AFBI research can soon provide the necessary data and reassurance for governments to take forward.”

Agriculture accounts for around 10% of all UK GHG emissions. Within this, beef farming is the most carbon-intensive, with methane, which cows produce as they digest, a major component. At a NI level, methane accounts for almost a quarter of GHG emissions, with 80% of that from agriculture.

The above projects form part of the Queen's-AFBI Alliance – a strategic partnership between Queen’s University and AFBI to maximise science and innovation capacity in NI to meet global challenges, such as carbon-neutral farming.

Morrisons supermarket plans to be completely supplied by net-zero-carbon British farms by 2030. Sophie Throup, Head of Agriculture at Morrisons said: “As British farming's biggest customer, we’re very mindful of our role in supporting and inspiring the farmers we work with to help them achieve goals in sustainable farming.

“By supporting this research at Queen’s and AFBI, we are trialling this natural approach to reducing environmental emissions and improving the quality of beef products.”

Published in Marine Science
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New research at Queen’s University highlights the impact that microplastics are having on hermit crabs, which play an important role in balancing the marine ecosystem.

The research found that microplastics are affecting the behaviour of hermit crabs, namely their ability during shell fight contests, which are vital to their survival.

There is a strong association between hermit crabs and their shelters or shells, which are taken from marine snails to protect their soft abdomens. As the hermit crab grows over the years, it will need to find a succession of larger and larger shells to replace the ones that have become too small. They can achieve this through a contest, termed a shell fight, involving the ‘attacker’ rapping their shell against the ‘defender’ in an attempt to evict the opponent from its shell. In these contests, the hermit crabs will fight a competitor to secure the shell that they favour. These shells are vital in protecting and enabling hermit crabs to grow, reproduce and survive.

The new study builds on previous research by Queen’s University that showed hermit crabs were less likely to touch or enter high-quality shells when exposed to microplastics.

Hermit crabs were less likely to touch or enter high-quality shells when exposed to microplasticsHermit crabs were less likely to touch or enter high-quality shells when exposed to microplastics

The new study, published in Royal Society Open Science, provides a more in-depth insight into how the hermit crabs behaviour is affected when exposed to microplastics. The microplastics impair both the attacking and defending behaviour of hermit crabs during contests, impeding their ability to secure the larger shell that is required for both their growth and survival.

The research involved keeping hermit crabs in two tanks: one which contained polyethylene spheres (a common microplastic pollutant) and one without plastic (control) for five days. The team simulated the environment to encourage a hermit crab contest through placing pairs of hermit crabs in an arena, giving the larger crab a shell that was too small and the smaller crab a shell that was too big. Plastic-exposed hermit crabs displayed weaker attacking behaviour (known as rapping) during fights than crabs that were not exposed to plastic. Microplastics also reduced the ability of defending crabs to properly assess their attackers during contests and impaired their decision to give up their shell earlier.

Hermit crabs are known as scavengers as they recycle energy back into the ecosystem through eating up decomposed sea-life and bacteria. As such they play a vital role in rebalancing the ecosystem and are an important part of marine life.

Manus Cunningham from Queen’s University and one of the lead researchers on the paper, said: “These findings are hugely significant as they illustrate how both the information-gathering and shell evaluations were impaired when exposed to microplastics.

“Although 10% of global plastic production ends up in the ocean, there is very limited research on how this can disrupt animal behaviour and cognition. This study shows how the microplastic pollution crisis is threatening biodiversity more than is currently recognised.”

Dr Gareth Arnott, the principal investigator of the project said: “This study provides an insight into the potential for microplastics to alter important aspects of animal behaviour that are critical for survival and reproduction. We need to further investigate how microplastics affect their behaviour and the consequences, armed with this knowledge to advocate for change to protect our ecosystem.”

Published in Marine Science

The 1.5 metre unmanned mini sailboat called 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor', that was deployed in June, was recently found stranded on the Bunes Beach above the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten Islands, in Norway.

After travelling over 3,000km from Irish waters in the Atlantic to Norway, the 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor' was found by the Bjørnsen family and friends while on holidays on the Lofoten Island over the summer, the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme has reported.

Mr Lars Bjørnsen said his daughters were thrilled to discover the mini boat washed up on the remote Bunes Beach, “our neighbour had found the boat and my three girls were so excited to join him to open the hatch of the boat to see the Irish messages and ‘treasures’ inside. We were able to read most of the letters that had been written by the students at Kilglass National School in Galway, although some were a little wet. The girls were also delighted with the Irish candy and crisps – which survived the voyage.”

“Bunes Beach is quite isolated on the western side of Reinefjorden on the Moskenesøya island, Norway. You can only get there by ferry and then have to walk 3km to the beach. It is a beautiful beach in a bay surrounded by mountains and steep ridges. However, not many people get to go there on a regular basis. Therefore, the fact that we found the Galway Sailor mini boat, that had made its way into the bay and then washed up on the shore with little structural damage is amazing for such a small boat,” Mr Bjørnsen further explained.

Bjørnsen family and friends discover the treasures inside the mini-boat 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’, after discovering it washed up on Bunes Beach above the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten Islands, in Norway. Photograph: Mr Lars BjørnsenBjørnsen family and friends discover the treasures inside the mini-boat 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’, after discovering it washed up on Bunes Beach above the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten Islands, in Norway. Photograph: Mr Lars Bjørnsen

The 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor' is a 1.5 metre unmanned mini sailboat that was provided to Kilglass National School in County Galway, as part of a collaborative school project, coordinated by the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme and supported by the international Educational Passages programme in the USA. The project was also funded by EU Interreg iFADO (Innovation in the Framework of the Atlantic Deep Ocean) project, in which the Marine Institute are partners.

'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’ was delivered to the RV Celtic Explorer by the Kilglass National School, for its first part of its voyage, out to the Atlantic Ocean to be deployed in June.'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’ was delivered to the RV Celtic Explorer by the Kilglass National School, for its first part of its voyage, out to the Atlantic Ocean to be deployed in June.Photo: Andrew Downes

Welcoming the news of the boat being found, Mick Gillooly, Interim CEO said, "The Explorers mini-boat project is a great example of marine science literacy and engaging with the community at a local school level in Ireland as well as across the ocean in other countries. For school children, this project provides an exciting way of seeing real life examples of how the ocean has an influence on all our lives, how it connects us, as well as learning how the ocean influences our weather and climate, and the types of technology used at sea. The Marine Institute are delighted to have been involved with this project and look forward to supporting this collaboration involving the Explorers Education Programme team, Kilglass National school, the Research Infrastructures team at the Marine Institute, as well as Educational Passages in the USA with the ongoing mini boat adventures'.

The mini boat was equipped with a sail and a satellite tracker, which allowed the students at Kilglass NS to track it as it sailed across the ocean, using the international Educational Passages tracking system. Mr Peter Kane, who was the school teacher leading the project at Kilglass National School in Ahascragh, Co Galway was thrilled with the news from Norway and thanked the Bjørnsen family for their lovely message sent to the school children in Galway. “It is truly a mini-summer miracle! Everyone at Kilglass National School are so delighted with the news that our mini-boat 'Seoltóir na Gaillimhe' has been found in Norway. When the mini boats are found after their travels, this highlights how the ocean connects us all”.

The Explorers Education Programme’s marine project involved over 100 children taking part in science, geography and art activities learning about the ocean; as well as preparing the mini boat for its journey. The students painted and decorated the boat, created artwork and good luck messages, and named the boat 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor', which recognises the tradition of fishing in Galway. The mini boat was launched by the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer near the M6 Data Buoy, in the Atlantic Ocean during a scientific survey in June.

Peter Kane also commented on the collaboration with the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme, highlighting the importance of marine themes used on the curriculum in Ireland. “The Educational Passages mini boat programme brings children, schools and countries together in so many different ways, from building the boats, tracking them at sea, to finding them in new countries when they reach land.”

“When the 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor' last reported its GPS location near the Faroe Islands in June, we didn’t know whether the boat had been damaged or was still drifting with the currents and winds. We were therefore thrilled to get a call from Cassie at Educational Passages to let us know that 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor' made it back to land in Norway,” Mr Kane said

The Marine Institute’s ocean modellers have since provided a map showing the likely journey of the 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor' after it lost its GPS tracking signal. Knowing the last coordinates, as well as where the boat was found, the team were able to produce a map showing the boats likely movement based on the currents and wind direction at the time. It was estimated that the boat travelled over 3000km from when it was deployed in the Atlantic.

Marine Institute Tracking Map showing the likely journey that the 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’ travelled, after the GPS signal was lost, using the OpenDrift, a particle-tracking model, that predicts the path followed by the boat based on the combined effect of marine currents and atmospheric winds.

Mr Kane further said, “we were also excited to find out that our boat had also set a new record for the most northern journey ever made by one of the unmanned mini-boats with Educational Passages. We now look forward to the next stage of working with the Explorers Education Programme and linking our students with the local Norwegian Primary School, who have taken over the boat’s next new adventure.” 

Educational Passages Map showing the tracking of 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’ from when it was deployed in the Atlantic from the RV Celtic Explorer.Educational Passages Map showing the tracking of 'Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’ from when it was deployed in the Atlantic from the RV Celtic Explorer.

Engaging in the Educational Passages mini-boat Program, the iFADO consortium of researchers are launching a total of five mini-boats this year around the Atlantic from Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, and the UK. Engaging in the Educational Passages mini-boat Program, the iFADO consortium of researchers are launching a total of five mini-boats this year around the Atlantic from Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, and the UK.  

The Explorers Education Programme is funded by the Marine Institute, Ireland's state agency for marine research and development. 

Published in Marine Science
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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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