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On the weekend of UN World Ocean Day, Irish marine scientist and journalist Dr Olive Heffernan will discuss the findings of her widely praised new book on the subject.

The ocean covers 70 per cent of the planet’s surface and two-thirds of it lies beyond national borders.

Owned by all nations and no nation simultaneously, these waters are home to some of the richest and most biodiverse environments on the planet.

However, they are also home to exploitation on a scale that few of us can imagine, as Dr Heffernan explores in her new book, The High Seas.

It has been described as “a forceful and deeply researched manifesto, calling for the protection and preservation of this final frontier”.

The Sunday Times has praised her book's “powerful reportage...awash with wonderful obscurities”, while Gaia Vince says it is “a vital, fascinating, deeply researched exploration of Earth's last wilderness”.

Funded by the Pulitzer Center, the book's findings will be discussed at this weekend’s Festival of Writing and Ideas at Borris House, Co Carlow.

Dr Heffernan will be interviewed by marine journalist Lorna Siggins at the Borris festival - acknowledged as the coolest literary festival on the island - on Sunday, June 9th at 2.50 pm.

More details on the sell-out 12th annual Festival of Writing and Ideas can be found here

Published in Marine Science

Marine experts have joined with musicians for a collaborative project as part of Galway’s Cellissimo 2024 festival this weekend.

“Galway Bay Is Calling” is the title of a project by cellist and composer Naomi Berrill which she has worked on with Garry Kendellen, Dr Maria Vittoria Marra and Dr Joao Frias of Galway Atlantaquaria and Atlantic Technological University (ATU).

Over a series of workshops combining music and science, the participants learned about “what they can do to mitigate stresses” on the bay and on the world’s oceans.

Berrill, who comes from Headford, Co Galway and is resident in Florence, Italy, gathered impressions and sounds inspired by the workshops for the project.

Marine scientists, students and musicians working on the "Galway Bay is Calling" projectMarine scientists, students and musicians working on the "Galway Bay is Calling" project

Financial support was provided through the Government’s Creative Climate Action Fund, Spark Stream, the Department of Tourism and Culture and the Department of the Environment and Climate.

Berrill, who is one of a number of international cellists appearing at Cellissimo 2024, will perform “Galway Bay is Calling” with Galway Jam Circle, Voice of Galway, Galway Camerata and conductor Matthew Berrill at Leisureland, Salthill, Galway on Saturday, May 18th at 1pm.

Cellissimo 2024 is hosted by Music for Galway and runs from May 18th to 26th. More details are here

Published in Maritime Festivals
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Fish and chips and biodiversity, how seaweed can be a medicine, and Ireland’s underwater forests are among marine topics which will be discussed at the “Pint of Science” global science festival opening next week.

The three-day event opens in 11 Irish towns and cities from Monday, May 13th until Wednesday, May 15th.

Over 130 speakers will talk at 45 events in venues extending from Dublin to Dundalk to Athlone to Mulranny, Co Mayo, and free tickets are already available through its website.

Ailbhe McGurrin, PhD researcher at University College, DublinAilbhe McGurrin, PhD researcher at University College, Dublin

Among the marine experts are Ailbhe McGurrin, PhD researcher at University College, Dublin, who will talk in Slattery’s, Dublin about seaweed’s benefits as a medicine for the future.

Simon Benson, PhD researcher at Trinity College, Dublin, will speak about Ireland’s underwater forests, and Peter Lahiff, masters’ student at Atlantic Technological University, Galway, will address the ecosystem services provided by seaweed aquaculture.

Simon Benson, PhD researcher at Trinity College, DublinSimon Benson, PhD researcher at Trinity College Dublin

Marine Institute participants include Bríd Ó’Connor, who will speak about what to do if your shark lays an egg – as in a scientist’s guide to citizen science.

Bríd O'ConnorBríd O'Connor

Also from the Marine Institute is Julia Calderwood who will discuss fish and chips and biodiversity.

Julia Calderwood Julia Calderwood

The aim of the event is to allow scientists to share their research findings with an audience in a casual setting. Topics addressed by over 100 researchers will cover “everything from anthropology to zoology”, the organisers state.

This year’s Pint of Science will run its first Irish language event and will also provide sign language support.

Pint of Science outreach manager Ciara Varley says that as a registered charity, it is “100% volunteer run and supported by both public and private organisations across Ireland”.

“This year, our team of 65 volunteers comprises students, scientists and science enthusiasts from across Ireland,” she says.

Further details of venues, dates and topics are on the Pint of Science website at

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute's Dr Fiona Grant, a prominent figure in the global maritime science community, has been appointed as the Chair of the European Marine Board (EMB), a leading organisation that aims to advance marine science and foster collaboration across Europe and beyond. 

Dr Grant brings a wealth of experience and expertise in marine research and policy to her new role, having served in the field of marine science for over two decades. Her leadership roles within the Marine Institute, including her most recent position as Head of International Programmes, have seen her spearhead numerous initiatives aimed at enhancing our understanding of the ocean and promoting sustainable practices for their conservation.

In her new role as Chair of the EMB, Dr Grant will play a pivotal role in guiding the strategic direction of the organisation, championing its commitment to excellence in marine research, policy advice, and outreach. Her leadership will be instrumental in driving collaborative efforts to address pressing challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and marine pollution, and ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our marine ecosystems.

Commenting on her appointment, Dr Fiona Grant expressed her gratitude and enthusiasm for the opportunity to lead the European Marine Board. "I am deeply honoured to take on the role of Chair and to work alongside the esteemed members of the EMB in advancing our shared goals for the benefit of our ocean and future generations," she stated. "Together, we will strive to harness the collective expertise and resources of the European marine community to address the challenges facing our ocean and unlock their full potential for the benefit of society." 

Dr Grant's appointment has been widely celebrated in the maritime community, with Niall McDonough, Director of Policy, Innovation, and Research Support Services at the Marine Institute, congratulating her on her new role. "Her dedication to advancing marine science and fostering international collaboration aligns perfectly with the EMB's objectives," he said. "With her vision, passion, and proven track record of achievement, she is poised to lead the EMB to new heights of excellence and impact in the years to come." 

Dr Sheila Heymans, the Executive Director of the European Marine Board, also praised Dr Grant's appointment, saying that she is "a wonderful example of why women should be encouraged to put themselves forward for these positions." Heymans expressed her excitement to work closely with Dr Grant over the next three to five years. 

Under Dr Grant's guidance, the European Marine Board will continue to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, foresight exercises, support policy development, promote gender equality, and promote the translation of scientific knowledge into actionable solutions. We wish Dr Grant all the best in her new role and look forward to seeing the progress she and the European Marine Board will make in advancing marine science and conservation.

Published in Marine Science
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The Our Shared Ocean funding programme, designed to build strategic research partnerships between Ireland and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) has enabled two scholars from the Caribbean island of Grenada to enroll in Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Galway to undertake an MSc in Applied Marine Conservation. These scholarships are part of a suite of competitive calls to support capacity building in eligible SIDS partner countries in Oceans and Climate Action, Inclusive and Sustainable Blue Economy and Marine Policy and Ocean Governance. The multi-annual collaboration, funded by Irish Aid and administered by the Marine Institute, will provide €3.8 million over the next five years to facilitate partnerships on ocean-related issues.

Grenada's current research capacity is constrained by relatively low numbers of researchers and the educational programs it can offer graduates. Our Shared Ocean funding strengthens the academic capacity of these young marine scientists to address socio-environmental challenges, identify sustainable development priorities, and increase resilience and adaptability. The scholars spent five months in ATU, within the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, on taught modules including Data Analysis, GIS, Marine Population Assessments and Ecology and also completed a research trip on the RV Tom Crean before returning home.

Dr. Patricia Rosa, Director of Marine, Wildlife and Conservation Biology program, St. Georges University (SGU) commented, “St. George's University is immensely proud of our students, Adara Jaggernauth and Shanelle Naveena Gilkes, who exemplify the spirit of global partnership and academic excellence. Their Masters Scholarships symbolize the collaborative spirit between Ireland and Grenada and enable vital marine research which is expected to produce positive benefits for our marine ecosystems. Our Shared Ocean's emphasis on capacity building aligns perfectly with SGU's vision of fostering global leaders and we look forward to growing these important relationships with both ATU and the Marine Institute in the years to come.”

David O’Sullivan, Our Shared Ocean Programme Manager, remarked, “On behalf of Our Shared Ocean, Irish Aid and the Marine Institute, we were delighted to welcome Adara and Shanelle to Galway and help facilitate this fantastic partnership. Having met the students, and their mentors, it is clear there is a commitment to career progression with a focus on local and regional marine environmental issues within the Caribbean.”

Students in Grenada from  Left to right: Dr. Cristofre Martin (Chair, Department of Biology, Ecology and Conservation). Ms. Shanelle Gilkes (M.Sc. student), Dr. Paula Spiniello (Assistant Professor), Ms. Adara Jaggernauth (M.Sc student), Dr.  Patricia Rosa (Associate Professor) and Dr. Steven Nimrod (Assistant Professor)Students in Grenada from  Left to right: Dr. Cristofre Martin (Chair, Department of Biology, Ecology and Conservation). Ms. Shanelle Gilkes (M.Sc. student), Dr. Paula Spiniello (Assistant Professor), Ms. Adara Jaggernauth (M.Sc student), Dr.  Patricia Rosa (Associate Professor) and Dr. Steven Nimrod (Assistant Professor)

Now in their second semester, the students, based in Grenada, will complete a thesis on specific marine topics relevant to the island of Grenada and the Marine, Wildlife and Conservation Biology programme in St. Georges University. The projects will look at Sea Moss cultivation and fish biomass on coral reefs.

Ms Gilkes added, “ATU's MSc. Applied Marine Conservation is a practical, down-to-earth experience that broadened my understanding of, and deepened my passion, for marine conservation. This rewarding journey, with the help of Our Shared Ocean has brought significant opportunities and I look forward to applying these learnings to my own research in Grenada.”

It is hoped that this research partnership between the Atlantic Technological University and St. Georges will grow over the coming years and act as a template for how this initiative can benefit the global SIDS and encourage collaboration and knowledge transfer that addresses ocean health and sustainable marine governance issues.

Our Shared Ocean team has also announce the launch of a new low-carbon website,, that features existing projects and provides application details and information on new calls, including for our upcoming Masters Scholarships in March 2024.

Published in Marine Science
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Open water swimmers at Galway's Blackrock tower tend to swim east, but scientists would love it if they sometimes swam west – weather permitting.

That’s an area rich in seagrass in Galway Bay, and one of a number of habitats that are of particular interest.

The snake-like grass which moves hypnotically with the waves and grows in meadows in certain coastal areas is an "indicator organism”.

Dr Noirin Burke of Galway AtlantaquariaDr Noirin Burke of Galway Atlantaquaria

That means it is a type of “underwater canary in the coal mine”, which can signify the health of a marine ecosystem.

Seagrass (Zostera noltil)Seagrass (Zostera noltil)

Coastal walkers are being asked to report any signs of seagrass they may find to help complete Ireland’s map of its locations.

Dr Jonathan Lefcheck of University of MarylandDr Jonathan Lefcheck of University of Maryland

Galway Atlantaquaria’s Dr Noirín Burke took Wavelengths for a paddle to explain more, and Dr Jonathan Lefcheck of the University of Maryland, who visited Ireland last year, also gave some background on its significance and why citizen science can help.

Published in Wavelength Podcast

Tributes have been paid to the late Professor Ray Bates, a leading Irish and international meteorologist who was from a well-known Co Wexford family involved in fishing and marine science.

Met Éireann has said he was a pioneer in several fields, and a “respected and influential voice in the scientific community”.

As The Sunday Independent reports, he had spearheaded new models for computer forecasting systems which won him an award from US space agency NASA.

A former assistant director at Met Éireann, who subsequently worked at NASA, Denmark’s Niels Bohr Institute and University College, Dublin (UCD), he latterly encountered opposition from scientists and climate activists over his challenge to the consensus view on the level of threat posed by climate change.

The eldest of eight, he was born in Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford, 1940, to fishing skipper Willie Bates and Margaret Alice Walsh. His siblings became immersed in fishing, marine science and the offshore sectors, while he studied physics, after winning a gold medal from St Peter’s College in Wexford.

He graduated from UCD in 1962 with a first class honours, having worked with his father on lobster fishing and taking visitors to the Great Saltee island bird sanctuary during his summer breaks from college.

After a short period with the Irish Sugar Company, he worked as a forecaster at Shannon Airport with the Irish Meteorological Service --- now Met Éireann. He took a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which he was awarded in 1969.

His MIT supervisor was the renowned meteorologist, Jule G Charney, one of the first to use computer forecasting. Through is contact with Serbian-American and Canadian meteorologists Fedor Mesinger and André Robert, Bates helped to develop new forecasting models, including a technique called Lagrangian integration.

Met Éireann was the first weather service to make use of this method, now central to forecasting in many national weather services.

During the 1970s, Ray worked with the Egyptian Meteorological Institute, and the World Meteorological Organisation, and in 1987 he was appointed senior scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US.

In 1994, NASA conferred him with an award for his “leadership and pioneering work” with the semi-Lagrangian models of forecasting.

He and his wife Zaira moved to Denmark in 1995 where he became professor of meteorology at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen until his retirement in 2004. After Zaira died of cancer he returned to UCD as an adjunct professor of meteorology, and continued research there and with the Royal Irish Academy (RIA).

He chaired the RIA’s Climate Change Sciences Committee from 2009-2013, and was a member of the RIA’s Climate Change and Environmental Sciences Committee from 2014-18. He was awarded the Vilhelm Bjerknes Medal of the European Geosciences Union in 2009.

He set up the Irish Meteorological Society, and served as its president from 2004 to 2008. He and his second wife, Natasha, spent more time in Wexford where he bought a sailing craft with his brother, Dick, he was a founder member of the Kilmore Quay Boat Club.

His colleague, Dr Peter Lynch of UCD’s school of mathematics and statistics, said at his funeral that Bates had published several important papers on the theory and modelling of the global climate and “everything he said or wrote was based on meticulous, unbiased analysis”.

His work on climate sensitivity and climate feedback proved controversial as he questioned the scientific rigour of one of the special reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relating to global warming in 2018.

Writing in The Farmers’ Journal, Bates said the IPCC report ignored “important scientific evidence” gathered since 2013 “which reduces the sense of a looming emergency”, and said the Citizens’ Assembly had not received impartial scientific advice when it looked at how Ireland should respond to climate change.

He did not deny that the climate was changing, stating that “reasonable precautionary measures to reduce emissions should be taken on the basis of risk, but it does not require that we seriously damage our economy or bring our traditional way of life to an end in the process”.

Having helped to form the Irish Climate Science Forum, he subsequently withdrew from it .

Prof Lynch described Bates as a man of great integrity, and noted that while criticism of his views, “ not all of which was civil or scientifically justified”, caused him some distress, “it is beyond doubt that his work was of the highest scientific standard, and continues to merit serious consideration”.

Met Éireann said he was “a distinguished meteorologist and climate scientist and a pioneer in the fields of atmospheric dynamics and numerical weather prediction (NWP).

It said he “made significant contributions to the understanding of the dynamics and thermodynamics of the atmosphere and played a crucial role in developing NWP for operational weather forecasting”.

“He was a respected and influential voice in the scientific community, as well as a mentor and friend to many colleagues and students,” Met Éireann said, and it noted that “his rigour, commitment and passion were instrumental to advance weather and climate science and will always be remembered”.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Marine Science
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Heat extremes in Ireland will become more frequent and severe, and technological advancements will only deliver short-term benefits if steps towards “transformative change” are not taken, a new report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns.

Ireland’s Climate Change Assessment (ICCA) report is the culmination of over two years of work that examines, over four volumes, how Ireland’s climate is changing.

Described as a “state of the art assessment”, it also examines how the island can be decarbonised, how climate change can be prepared for, and examines the benefits in transitioning to a low carbon society.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) Schools of Natural Sciences and Engineering worked on two volumes of the report and a summary document for policymakers.

The study notes that in line with global trends, 16 of the 20 warmest years in Ireland have occurred since 1990.

It says that having peaked in 2001, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions have reduced in all sectors except agriculture.

However, Ireland currently emits more greenhouse gases per person than the EU average.

It says that more action is needed to meet Ireland's legally binding emissions targets, including large-scale and immediate emissions reductions across the energy system, which is currently heavily dependent (86%) on fossil fuels.

It says that “immediate and sustained transformative mitigation and adaptation actions” are “likely to yield substantial benefits for health, wellbeing and biodiversity in Ireland while reducing vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change”.

The full report is available here

Published in Weather

Tributes have been paid to Prof Máire Mulcahy, the first chair of the Marine Institute and a leading zoologist and ecologist, who has died aged 86.

As the Sunday Independent reports, she was the first female vice-president in higher education in Ireland.

From Cork city, she was professor of zoology and head of zoology and animal ecology at University College, Cork (UCC), and she paved the way for so many women in science and academia.

She studied science at UCC and then took a doctorate in biochemistry in Manchester, moving there with her husband, Noel Mulcahy. She was six months pregnant when Mulcahy, a lecturer in chemistry and former Irish Chess Champion aged just 38, died in the 1968 Tuskar air crash.

She returned to work after her daughter Marianne was born and took a post as lecturer in zoology at UCC. After she was appointed chair of zoology, new courses were developed under her leadership, including a degree in ecology, and two new MSc degrees in aquaculture and fisheries respectively.

She was a renowned expert in fish and shellfish health and disease. Her daughter remembers that her mother would often get calls from anglers at the weekend who had caught pike with tumours. Her research was into lymphoma and she was glad of the information.

Former colleague Prof Tony Lewis said that she “always encouraged younger members of staff when I arrived nearly 50 years ago”, and her commitment to research centres led to establishment of the SFI MaREI Centre and the Beaufort building in Ringaskiddy.

She was also first chair of the Marine Institute which she helped to establish in 1991, and her commitment to secure supporting funding for research into what was regarded as a neglected area led to construction of a new headquarters at Rinville in Galway, and a fleet of research vessels.

Dr Susan Steele, director of the European Fisheries Control Agency, said that she was an excellent supervisor, and other postgraduates were inspired by her, including Dr Pam Byrne, first female chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Dr Julie Maguire, research director of the Bantry Marine Research Station.

Mulcahy was an active board member of the Heritage Council when it was first established, and also served on boards of the National Cancer Registry, Cork Savings Bank (now PTSB) and the Salmon Research Agency. She was president of the Irish Science Teachers’ Association from 1973 to 1974.

O’Halloran says that she “wore all those achievements and distinctions lightly”. She maintained a strong interest in ecology, equality, environment and climate justice, and was retired when she took a masters in theology and ecology.

She was a keen tennis player, a talented painter, loved the sea, sea swimming and walking, and recently attended a UCC event where she presented the Mulcahy medal to the best final year zoology student.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Marine Science

Underwater noise levels and movement of marine mammals are being tracked in European waters by a scientific team led by Dr Joanne O’Brien and a team from the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Galway.

The devices were deployed in Turkey and Spain in recent days by ATU’s Dr María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván.

The research project, which is part of the EU “Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas” (STRAITS) initiative, will study the movement of sea animals at four strategic locations.

The aim is to “better understand their biology and ecology, and aid in conservation and management”, the team says.

Acoustic listening deviceThe acoustic listening device ready for deployment

The four locations are:

  • the Danish Straits, between the Kattegat Sea and the Baltic Sea;
  • the North Channel in the Celtic Sea;
  • the Straits of Gibraltar, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea;
  • the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

The EU “Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in European Seas” (STRAITS) initiative, will study the movement of sea animals at four strategic locations.Areas the equipment is being deployed around the European Straits/major swim ways Image by Dr Kim Birnie-Gauvin

Led by the Loughs Agency in Northern Ireland, the four-year €3.5m project is funded by the Horizon Europe Framework Programme, and the team is drawn from ten world-leading organisations.

ATU’s focus will be specifically on the movement of marine mammals. Dr María Pérez Tadeo, postdoctoral researcher at ATU’s marine and freshwater research centre, travelled to the Straits of Dardanelles last week.

The Straits of DardanellesDardanelles Strait, Turkey

Pérez Tadeo was accompanied by ATU Erasum intern Yaiza Pozo Galván and they set up the equipment and co-ordinated the deployment of the first passive acoustic monitoring devices for the STRAITS project.

The research visit to Turkey was funded by the Marine Institute.

“We brought the equipment to Turkey to set it up and it was then deployed in the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles by Dr Aytaç Özgül, Dr Atlan Lok and Dr Evrim Kurtay, researchers from Ege University, who dived to attach it to their moorings,”they said.

“ There was a heavy storm over here not long after the dive so we were extremely lucky getting the equipment in the water beforehand, since the weather window was very brief. Equipment was also shipped to Spain and was deployed last Wednesday in the Strait of Gibraltar by Dr Ricardo F Sánchez Leal and his team, researchers from the Spanish Oceanographic Institute,” they said.

“The study of animal movements offers one of the best ways to monitor animals from regional to continental or even global scales, and from minutes to decades,” the ATU team says.

“Although animal tracking is not new, it is only recently that the technology has enabled the tracking of animals over larger areas and longer timescales,”it says.

ATU marine scientist María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo GalvánATU marine scientist María Pérez Tadeo and Yaiza Pozo Galván setting up the acoustic equipment onshore before its deployment

“ This advancement has yielded key information about the biology and ecology of these animals, but much more knowledge could be gained if efforts to tag and detect animals were performed collaboratively, as part of a network. This is one of the primary goals of STRAITS,”it explains.

Published in Marine Science
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