Marine Institute

Our People – Francis O’Beirn

In 2021, the Marine Institute is profiling our people, sharing their study and career paths, the work they do at the Marine Institute and the important contribution their work delivers.

Francis O'Beirn, Marine InstituteFrancis O'Beirn
Section Manager
Marine Environment and Food Safety Services
Marine Institute

What is your current role at the Marine Institute and what's involved in your daily work?
I'm a Section Manager for Licencing and Policy Advice in the Marine Environment and Food Safety Services team. My role is to coordinate and provide a Marine Institute response for advisory requests specifically as they relate to foreshore and aquaculture licencing. The subject matter may range from shellfish to wind farms and from licencing academic research to pier installations. We are asked to consider the ecological and environmental effects of these and advise accordingly. In addition, I oversee the process of assessing the interactions between aquaculture operations and conservation features and advise the Department of Aquaculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) accordingly. I have a great team that helps with this role who also carry out a range of other tasks including implementing the national benthic monitoring programme for coastal and transitional waters as part of the Water Framework Directive. Since I started working in the Marine Institute, I have participated in numerous International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) expert groups specifically those that relate to aquaculture activities. For three years, I was the Irish member of the Advisory Committee on Ecosystems (ACE) and have since been reappointed as the Irish member to its successor the Science Committee (SCICOM).

What did you study and why?
For my Bachelors I studied Zoology in University College Galway (the precursor to NUI, Galway). Following some years working in marine consultancy, I was a recipient of a PhD fellowship at the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service. I lived in Georgia, United States, dividing my research time between two islands at the coast (Skidaway Island near Savannah and Sapelo Island) and the main University Campus in Athens – a great college town! My research was focused on the reproduction and recruitment of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea Virginia. Following my PhD, I worked as a post-doctorate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. I worked on freshwater mussel conservation where I help devise methods to successfully culture these fascinating, yet critically endangered, molluscs. In 1997, I moved back to the coast when I joined the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and was based on the Eastern Shore lab at Wachapreague, Virginia. My work here was very wide ranging from basic research on oyster restoration to outreach activities such as educating school children and participants in life-long learning institutes. Upon hearing that the Marine Institute was relocating from Abbotstown to Galway, the lure of my hometown encouraged me to apply for a role. I have been working at the Marine Institute since 2000.

What are you interests and passions?
I have been known to collectively sing a song or two in both formal and informal settings. Singing has been a wonderful outlet for me and in terms of participation at the Marine Institute, it's a great leveller! Scouting has me hiking a lot, and when I'm not playing golf, I avidly support Connacht and Arsenal!

What is the best thing about working in the Marine Institute? What do you enjoy most about your job?
It is definitely the people. Working alongside some of the smartest, most interesting, kind, and sometimes, challenging people means you are always learning. One such person's mantra was "Every day is a school day" and this will always resonate with me.

What is something you think everyone should know about the ocean?
The ocean has something to offer everyone and on this basis, it must be considered a shared resource.

ENDS