Having had a number of expressions of interest we’re going to run an Observer course with a difference in September. We will be posting course packs to all participants and making the training videos available online for viewing for the duration of the course. The videos will then be supplemented by two workshops recapping the main points of the videos and giving participants the opportunity to ask any questions that may have arisen during the videos. We’re aware it’s extremely difficult to recreate the intimacy of an in-person training course and the ability to ask questions and learn peer to peer but we will organise further virtual dives during the winter to allow people to build up their skills.
All courses videos will be available online from 15 September till 1 October to allow participants to work through course in their own time and supplemented by two online workshops to reinforce the learnings of video and to allow questions and answer sessions.
Dives for the course will take place the weekend of 2 and 3 October 2021 in Galway. These will be shore dives and may be slightly weather dependent, however we are confident we can get students in to see some of the amazing wildlife that Galway has to offer. (Dives are also open to existing Seasearch divers)/
The cost of the course will be €65 or €20 for any existing Observers who wish to undertake a Refresher course and further details can be obtained by emailing Seasearchireland@gmail.com
Preparation and planning is all well and good but the proof is in the pudding so armed with our bulging folder of health and safety documents we headed to Kilkieran last week armed with 4 housings, a bag of cameras and a pile of weights. We’d done all the prep work on the cameras the night before so all that was needed on the pier was to set up our dive gear and lift bag and hit the water.
Luckily for us the site is extremely shallow so visibility isn’t an issue with deploying so we quickly laid out our transect and began deploying cameras (well Tony did the support diver mostly just hung there and took photos).
Cameras are deployed at 10m intervals along a 50m transect approximately 1m from the nearest Serpula colony. Cameras are deployed for 2 hours (the approximate battery life of a Go Pro 7 and then retrieved). This provides more than a sufficient surface interval (to be honest in the midst of a global pandemic with not much open it’s pretty hard to fill 2 hours with conversation so it’s mostly just watchin seagulls). Cameras are then retrieved and returned for video analysis.
We’re delighted to announce that thanks to funding from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage through the National Parks and Wildlife Service Small Recording grant Seasearch Ireland will be beginning the Serpula project in 2021. You can find full details of the project by clicking on the link but the aim is to study the mobile fauna of Serpula vermicularis habitats using remote cameras in the form of Go Pros deployed by divers.
We’ll be keeping everyone updated on our progress through our social media channels, our website and this blog, while also posting videos captured to our YouTube channel. We hope on completion of this project to be able to use the learnings of this project to run similar projects at other sites with other species of interest.
We’re extremely grateful to the Department for funding this project, as while it’s been a dream for a number of years the costs of equipment were totally beyond the reach of a volunteer organisation. We’d also like to thank anyone who contributed to our Go Fund me page.
Scientists from NUI Galway and Seasearch Ireland are asking divers and marina users to keep an eye out for Undaria pinnatifida commonly known as Wakame or Japanese kelp. This species was first recorded in Ireland in 2014 but had been found in Carrickfergus Marina in Northern Ireland two years prior to that. Having subsequently been recorded at Dun Laoghaire and Greystones Harbours scientists believe it is likely to be far more widespread than currently recorded.
What can I do?
We are asking any marine users who see a kelp species matching the description below to send a photo to SeasearchIreland@gmail.com to confirm the identification and then our colleagues from the KelpRes team in NUIG intend to collect samples of the seaweed for genetic analysis.
Why is it important to know the location?
International experience with Wakame would indicate it is much more likely to occur in marinas and on other man-made structures. From here it can attach to boats and be carried to other parts of the country when boats are moved. Marinas and harbours with wakame need to alert users to the danger of spreading this species to allow people to take biosecurity measures such as cleaning or drying out their boat before moving it.
Current distribution in Ireland
Following the initial record from Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland in 2012, Wakame has subsequently been recorded at Carlingford Lough in 2014 and Kilmore Quay in Wexford in 2016. Since then it has been recorded by Seasearch diver Frances O’Sullivan of the Dalkey Sub Aqua club recorded it in Dun Laoghaire Harbour in 2017 and by Seasearch Ireland and KelpRes divers at Greystones Harbour in 2020. Given the widespread nature of the records on the east coast it is thought that the species is likely to occur in suitable habitats between these areas and may have spread to other areas of the coast.
Identification of Wakame
Wakame can be distinguished from other species of kelp found in Ireland by it’s large size, undulate margins and distinctive midrib. The distinctive midrib on this species makes it easy to distinguish from other kelp species in Irish waters while dabberlocks (Alaria esculenta), another species of seaweed with a distinctive midrib is typically much smaller. The image below can be downloaded for use as an identification tool in the field.
Studying the genetics of invasive species is important in terms of identifying vectors for introduction and vectors for spread. For example in Zebra mussels Dreissena polymorpha (a freshwater invasive species) a study combing genetic analysis with field work revealed leisure boats from the United Kingdom as the most likely source (vector) of introduction. If the Wakame populations in Ireland are extremely similar genetically that would likely indicate a single introduction event and subsequent spread, a close genetic clustering might indicate multiple introduction events from the same location, while a number of different genetic populations might indicate multiple introduction events from multiple locations.
It’s hard sometimes with the doom and gloom of lockdown to find something to look forward to but yesterday at lunchtime I got the pleasant surprise of the first Brimstone of the year float past my window. So with that in mind I decided, it’s Lent, there’s 40 days, 40 days for 40 species is definitely achievable. (I should have started on pancake Tuesday but I was too full). So this morning armed with a notebook, a pair of binoculars and my trusty assistant we headed out to make a start.
First we primed our garden with a mix of bird seed and peanuts and waited to see what would show up. Unfortunately two issues quickly arose, a) my assistant has very little patience and b) cats (Felis catus) eat peanuts so off we went. On the bird feeder around the corner we found two blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) munching away and adding to our Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) from the day before we were already up to two species. Our neighbour has starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) nesting in her attic so we knew we’d be able to tick those off next before we’d even left the garden.
My assistant hopped on his bike and we were off to see what we could find further afield. Down the road we saw Blackbird (Turdus merula) with nesting material, a robin (Erithacus rubecula) hoping in the road and a pair of magpies (Pica pica) on a silage bale and we started getting excited, maybe we’d tick off all 40 today. We headed down to the lake hoping to tick off mute swan (Cygnus olor) and maybe a a duck or two (Anas platyrhynchos) but no luck on this occasion. Circling our 5k radius it was more blackbirds and robins but not much else to see until we came to a local farmers field where in addition to the sheep (Ovis aries) we came across a flock of rooks (Corvus frugilegus).
Thinking 9 was a good start we headed for home where on our return to the garden the cat presumably having eaten it’s fill we startled a mixed feeding aggregation of chaffinchs (Fringilla coelebs) and collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto) and then while we enjoyed a celebratory yoghurt we were lucky enough to see our neighbourhood jay (Garrulus glandarius).
While my assistant took a well deserved break I got on to Biodiversity Ireland to log our records. We lost two species at this point (you can’t record domestic species so cat and sheep had to go) but we were happy enough with our mornings work. And the best part of it all once I’d logged the records I could log in there was a full list for me to review. 10 down only another 30 to go.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and the Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, this week launched a public consultation on the process of expanding Ireland’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes. The Government aims to expand Ireland’s MPA network from 2.13% to 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030.
Creating an MPA regime will constitute a major change in marine environmental protection in Ireland. At present, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law. Environmental protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore. Protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited, both in terms of space and species.
Marine Protected Areas in Ireland cannot be allowed to become paper parks offering no practical protection to marine biodiversity but should promote the conservation of marine biodiversity over the vested interests of the fisheries industry. A well designed network of marine protected areas in inshore waters managed at local level would offer marine reserves with complete exclusion of damaging activities to carefully managed areas with sustainable use of natural resources that favour our neglected low impact fishermen rather than industrial fishing.
We would encourage anyone with an interest in the protection of the marine environment to make a submission by clicking here.
The full report Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network can be found here.
A beautiful book on birds written in beautiful prose which makes you look anew at these fantastic creatures. It describes 10 of the charasmatic seabirds their lifecycle and gives you a real feel for them – all written in lovely prose with poetry added to enhance the experience
The Unhabitable Earth
David Wallace-Wells – Crown Publishing Group
A genuinely depressing read this book lays out in all it’s glory detail the extent of the trouble our planet and by extension the human race is in when it comes to climate change. I can’t promise you’ll enjoy reading this book but it is a fascinating read and incredibly broad in its coverage of the implications of the climate catostrophe.
Isabella Tree – Picador Press Highly recommended by 2019 Wainwright book Prize
Very interesting book on the wilding of an estate farm in southern England, the section on trying to maintain good farming practices and loosing money should be compulsary reading for Irish TD’s and farming representative. The resistance encountered to their plans seem to be redolent of what we are constantly hearing here. Well worth a read !
Benedict Macdonald – Pelagic
Building on some of the themes in Wilding this book contains a call to arms to UK birders and, after painting a bleak picture of how they got there, presents an amazing vision for the future of UK birds with everything from warblers to pelicans finding a home in the UK through habitat restoration. While the end point seems incredible the book lays out how simple changes in UK public policy could create an amazing and inspiring future for British birds.
Pádraic Fogarty – Collins Press
Obviously can’t mention rewilding and the shocking state of nature on the British Isles without coming to our very own denuded landscape. Laid out in great detail this excellent read by the campaign office for the Irish Wildlife Trust this book explains how we got where we are (spoiler alert our biodiversity isn’t doing great) but more importantly how we can fix it.
Hugh Aldersey-Williams Penguin press
More about tides than you really want to know – but an enjoyable piece of prose with interesting anecodotes – lots of history on tides and also current science – well worth a read.
Cuckoo : Cheating by Nature
Nick Davies – Bloomsbury
This is a book about cuckoos. That’s really all there is to it, cuckoos, information about cuckoos at a depth and scope that you didn’t think you needed. And you probably don’t but I have to say this is an incredibly enjoyable book and will give you a great appreciation of the struggle that goes into that wonderful cry you hear on a summer morning.
Bopyrus squillarum is a parasite on the common Palaemon serratus. Researchers from GMIT’s Marine and Freshwater Research Centre have noticed a high parasite load in the common prawn fishery in Galway Bay. As an extremely visible parasite (see images below) we thought it would be a useful exercise to post some images of this species and alert recorders to its appearance in an effort to get a better understanding of the distribution of this species around Ireland.
You can record this species on your Seasearch form as part of any of the Seasearch Ireland schemes or directly with the National Biodiversity Data Centre here.
So get examining your prawns and let’s fill in that map below.
Carlingford Lough is a multiple-designation marine protected area (MPA). Through its designated status as both a Special Area of Conservation (EU Habitats Directive) and a Special Protection Area (EU Birds Directive), it is part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. It is listed under the Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance and a nationally-designated Marine Conservation Zone and Area of Special Scientific Interest on its Northern Irish shore. It is also part of the OSPAR Commission’s North East Atlantic Network of MPAs (Region III – Celtic Seas). These multiple designations should, in theory, improve the management and monitoring of Carlingford Lough due to the legally-binding nature of most of these designating authorities (e.g. the European Commission or the OSPAR Commission).
Marine Protected Areas
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are be designated for many reasons, from nature conservation to fisheries management, and are considered successful if they can meet their biological objectives while maintaining sustainable use. This means taking into consideration not just environmental sustainability (i.e. ecological resilience) but also socioeconomic sustainability – maintaining the cultural and economic services that the area provides. Stakeholder involvement in MPA management is necessary to ensure a functional balance between nature conservation and human activity, because research shows that when stakeholders are not aware of and not involved in MPA management and governance, biodiversity suffers. This respect and inclusion of stakeholders in protected area decision-making is known as equitable governance and it is one of the aims of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for improving the status of biodiversity by protecting ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity. Aichi Target 11 of the CBD calls for ‘effectively and equitably managed’ protected areas. However, equity tends to be overlooked in protected area management assessments.
A study conducted by Constance Schéré, a PhD candidate at King’s College London studying marine conservation in the Irish Sea, is exploring the role equity (i.e. fairness and inclusion) plays in MPA effectiveness. Carlingford Lough is one of three case-study sites included in her research. In order to fully understand the state of equitable conservation in the Irish Sea, this study is looking to recruit participants in the Carlingford Lough area to part in a short, fully anonymous online survey. This survey is open to anyone with an interest in the conservation and protection of the lough. It should take about 15 minutes to complete and all participants who complete the survey can choose to be entered into a prize draw to win 1 of 3 Amazon gift cards, worth up to £/€100. Participants can also choose to be interviewed (by phone or by Skype) to elaborate on any issues or good practices they feel are most important regarding how Carlingford Lough is being managed and protected. Since the online survey is fully anonymous, identities will not be revealed in the study results even if participants choose to be interviewed.
The link to the survey can be found here: http://www.tiny.cc/carlingfordlough.
When most people think of the ocean it seems too big to comprehend. We once believed that our smallness by comparison meant that our actions could never harm it in any way. The fact that the Marine environment is not easily accessible, means that it is a world that seems alien, surreal and distant to the wider public. Marine citizen scientists can bridge that distance with knowledge and enthusiasm. My personal experience working in the diving industry was that scuba diving enthusiasts come from all walks of life, excitement from learning, identification and record contributions are infectious to their friends and family. All have in common a superpower, breathing underwater (periodically at least) and a deep love for the ocean and its inhabitants.
Public scientific contributions give communities a chance to actively participate in protection and monitoring of their local environments. There have been numerous successful citizen science initiatives in Ireland, for example: Irish butterfly and bumblebee monitoring schemes and several schemes run by Bird Watch Ireland (Donnelly et al,2013). These initiatives benefit from plenty of volunteers due to easier access, smartphone apps and other automatic data management assists. In the marine environment a smartphone won’t last, you need a smart diver which is where Seasearch Ireland and its members come in.
Citizen Science data has been shown by studies to have the potential to benefit both ecological and biodiversity studies and contribute to monitoring programs as well as help in invasive species management (via early detection) (Delaney et al,2007), and identification of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Donnelly et al,2013 found the potential within schemes such as Seasearches Adopt a dive site program, to address major constraints in the continuous monitoring in subtidal areas of interest. The main ones being time, finance and availability of experts. Many studies such as that of Delaney et al,2007 compared accuracy of trained volunteers versus specialists and found it to be comparable.
Continual surveys create experts who will hone and improve their skills each time, training provided and identification guides which are continually improved upon, all add power to the data. Availability of data, data validation techniques, and survey design methods are all details which are important to any scientist using the data (Burgess et al,2016), if the survey is to be carried out again, for example, to prove a change has occurred in the environment it must be carried out the same way for comparison. Measures of variability must be assessed, and final statistics are always delivered with a probability of error and an expected range for results of a repeat survey/experiment.
None of this of course is any fun at all, well not for me anyway, statistics was my worst module, a necessary evil. Preliminary assessment of the responses I have had with the quiz suggest extremely responsible recording and a high level of knowledge. This week I will be writing the final report and holding off on the statistics in the hope for a few more responses. Please look out for the final report, hope to see you all underwater sometime soon,
Burgess, H. K., DeBey, L. B., Froehlich, H. E., Schmidt, N., Theobald, E. J., Ettinger, A. K., … Parrish, J. K. (2017).” The science of citizen science: Exploring barriers to use as a primary research tool”. Biological Conservation, 208, 113–120. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.05.014. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716301951 (accessed 16/04/2020)
Delaney, D. G., Sperling, C. D., Adams, C. S., & Leung, B. (2007). “Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks”. Biological Invasions, 10(1), 117–128. doi:10.1007/s10530-007-9114-0. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-007-9114-0 (accessed 17/04/2020)
Donnelly, A., Crowe, O., Regan, E., Begley, S., & Caffarra, A. (2013). “The role of citizen science in monitoring biodiversity in Ireland”. International Journal of Biometeorology, 58(6), 1237–1249. doi:10.1007/s00484-013-0717-0. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00484-013-0717-0 (accessed 19/04/2020)