Marine Institute

Faces of the Sea - Ger Rogan, Analyst at the Marine Institute Newport Research Facility

Ger Rogan, Analyst at the Marine Institute Newport Research Facility in Mayo. Photo Wonkyeye Photography. Ger Rogan, who works as an Analyst at the Marine Institute's Newport Research Facility, grew up in the Mayo area and was familiar with the marine environment from an early age.

"When we were growing up as kids, we were always outdoors. It's very different to nowadays when kids are indoors a lot of the time," he says. "We didn't have Planet Earth or nature studies in school but we did get to see and experience the environment around us."

Ger pursued his interest for the marine world through aquaculture studies at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). "At that stage the aquaculture industry in Ireland was just beginning to evolve," he says. "Part of my training during college involved gaining practical experience in fish rearing. I went to the Salmon Research Trust in Furnace, just outside Newport, which would later become part of the Marine Institute."

After his studies finished, Ger was invited back to the Salmon Research Trust initially as a research assistant on an ongoing biochemical genetics project.

"And the rest is history," he says. "I'm still here and my role has evolved over time. I originally came from an aquaculture background and discovered this whole new world of migratory fish and fish stock assessment, many of the techniques we take for granted now were really just developing when I started my career."

Although my aquaculture training provided me with the necessary skills for the aquaculture industry, wild fish stock assessment required a completely new set of skills. As a result Ger went on to study a course with the Institute of Fisheries Management based in the UK, and later took up the chance to do a research Masters in Trinity College on the migration of Atlantic salmon and the economics of salmon ranching to a rod fishery.

Ger categorises the work that he does as an analyst into three parts: "collecting and analysing data and collaborating with other scientists. The Burrishoole catchment in Newport is recognised as an international index site for diadromous fish - fish that spend part of their lives in freshwater and part of their lives in saltwater.

The data is used to provide long term monitoring of the stock of salmon, trout and eel. It is used to assess changes in stock structure, production and survival over time and support local, national and international management of these stocks. With recent advances in the area of genetics we can now use both historical and current data to carry out unique fish pedigree studies. This is adding considerable value to the data already collected in relation to fish stocks and moving forward we are building on our understanding of a stock to an understanding of an individual's genome and individual genes within that genome.

In addition, The Newport Research Facility is a hub for national and international research with Marine Institute staff, collaborating researchers and students based at the facility. Research focuses on a wide range of topics including fish ecology, genetics, population dynamics and advice for a broad range of species including salmon, sea trout, eel, sea bass, blue fin tuna, Pollack and stickleback. There are also a range of research projects on oceanography and the long-term impacts of climate change and aquatic ecosystems.

The unique fish trapping facilities at Newport where fish are counted and biological data collected, enables us to calculate an annual spawning stock as well the annual survival of fish stocks in both the freshwater and marine environment.

Although most of his work is carried out at Newport, Ger has participated in several international collaborative sampling programmes looking at the origin and biological characteristics of Atlantic salmon in the North Atlantic. This data is used as part of an ongoing investigation of marine ecology and salmon abundance.

People skills have also come in handy with some interesting projects that he's been involved in during his career, whether it was being a part of the early days of surveying in Greenland (which meant building relationships with local people) or being involved in an EU wide task force to advise on fishery/wildlife conflict issues across Europe. He's involved in school visits and open days at Newport and he has also supervised countless students, bursars and staff over the years

Outside of work, Ger can often be found boating in Clew Bay or carrying out various surveys on the wildlife of the region.

When it comes to the importance of the ocean, Ger says, "It's our ocean, our responsibility. Everyone should be aware that everything is interlinked – the ocean is dynamic and we are all under its influence. "