Seasearch Ireland is a citizen science initiative to encourage divers to document details of species seen during marine dives to help build the knowledge base on the distribution of marine species in Ireland’s inshore waters.

The objective of Seasearch is to build capacity within the network of divers to collect data on marine biology, as a contribution to better understanding our marine environment and how it is responding to changing environmental conditions.

To date, Seasearch Ireland has demonstrated that there is capacity within the sector to generate valuable, high quality citizen science data on marine species distribution in Ireland’s marine waters. This initiative has delivered survey information from 1,196 sites around the Irish coast. This comprises a total of 5,3231 species observations of 1,183 species.

Seasearch Ireland operates an open-data policy, so these data have been provided to the National Biodiversity Data Centre and are freely available on the Data Centre’s mapping portal, Biodiversity Maps (www.


Seasearch speaker lineup for Saturday, March 2nd – all talks taking place in the Seasearch Ireland Room


10:45-11:30 Dr Maria Vittoria Marra, Sponges, NUIG

Dr Maria Vittoria Mara will be discussing her work on sponges and how Seasearchers can get involved in sponge research. In layman’s terms, useful chemicals are produced from sponges but we’re not always sure if the sponge produces the chemical or it’s one of the many microbes living in the sponge.

Dr Maria Vittoria Mara has just been awarded a PhD in Zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway for a project focused on exploring the biological mechanisms underlying the bioactivity detected in a number of marine sponges currently ascribed to the genus Haliclona (order Haplosclerida). Marine sponges are a very important target of biodiscovery because a plethora of compounds with pharmacological applications have been isolated from these animals, but they also host a large microbial community and only in a few cases is it known the actual producers of the compounds of interest between the sponge and the microsymbionts.

11:30 – 12:15 Aisha O’Connor, Kelp Forest Ecology, NUIG

Aisha O’Connor will be giving a talk on kelp forest ecology. This will cover kelp forest ecology generally, how Irish kelp forests are different, what you can see in a kelp forest and why they’re important.

Aisha O’Connor graduated from NUI Galway with a degree in marine science and is currently working on a study looking at kelp population genetics in Ireland. Aisha is a member of DCU Sub-Aqua Club since 2014 and an active snorkeller.


12:15 – 1pm Tom Rossiter, Drones in Marine Monitoring, NUIG

This talk will explore how drones are helping us to build detailed environmental baselines for the seaweed communities and will also look at how to plan survey flights, different drone/software options and the licensing/regulatory issues surrounding drones today.

There is increasing interest in Ireland’s seaweed resources from both ecological and economic perspectives, yet we lack vital baseline environmental knowledge on key species with which to support informed management decisions. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or drones, are increasingly being utilised for habitat mapping across many different environments. For seaweed mapping these drones are used to map intertidal communities at low tide and they are allowing researchers to cover a much larger area than could be achieved using more traditional methods. Sensors mounted on the drones allow for different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum to be analysed, vastly improving our ability to discriminate between different seaweed species.

Tom Rossiter is a PhD student working alongside NUI Galway and the Marine Institute. His core research focus has been looking at how to use drones and novel camera technologies for the mapping of intertidal seaweed communities. Tom has a background in marine environmental monitoring and is, of course, a keen diver.

2:30 – 3:30 Rory O’Callaghan, Seasearch Ireland 2018-2019, Seasearch Ireland

Rory is the coordinator of the Seasearch Ireland Marine Citizen Science Monitoring Scheme (Adopt a Site project) and a keen diver. An active diver and Seasearcher since 2010, he graduated with a B.Sc. in Freshwater and Marine Biology in GMIT in 2012 before completing his M.Sc. in Animal Behaviour at Anglia Ruskin University in 2014.

3:30- 4:30 David Wall, Monitoring Biodiversity in the Coastal Zone – a critical role for Citizen Science, National Biodiversity Data Centre

Dave is Citizen Science Officer at the National Biodiversity Data Centre. He has a degree in Natural Sciences (Zoology) from Trinity College Dublin and has spent the past 24 years working in the areas of ecology and conservation.

Dave has also worked with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group for over 20 years, conducting offshore surveys for whales and dolphins, and managing their ferry-based citizen science programme. He has also worked as an ecological consultant in the areas of terrestrial ecology and marine mammal monitoring and mitigation.

Prior to his current role at the National Biodiversity Data Centre, he was Living Seas Officer at Ulster Wildlife, working on community engagement and marine awareness. Dave has been a diver for 19 years, diving all around the Irish coast and abroad. He has been a Seasearch diver since 2015.

4:30 – 5:30 Pádraig Fogarty, Marine Conservation, Irish Wildlife Trust

Pádraic Fogarty is an ecologist, author and campaigns officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust. He will talk about ocean conservation and the work of the IWT in this area.