To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February 2021, the Marine Institute is highlighting the many brilliant women who play transformative and ambitious roles in understanding, exploring, protecting and sustainably managing our oceans wealth.
The Marine Institute is profiling our female scientists, sharing their study and career paths, the work they do at the Marine Institute and the important contribution their work delivers.
Scientific Technical Officer, Research Vessel Operations
What is your current role at the Marine Institute and what's involved in your daily work?
I work as a Scientific and Technical Officer with the Research Vessel Operations team. Depending on the time of the year, my job is primarily focuses on planning and scheduling scientific surveys on the two Irish national research vessels - the RV Celtic Explorer and the RV Celtic Voyager. The vast majority of planning takes place from January through to September in terms of interacting with chief scientists and P&O Maritime management (operations and instrumentation) to ensure all aspects of a scientific survey are prepared well in advance of the survey start date. The latter part of the year involves scheduling the surveys for the following year by reviewing ship-time applications.
For the past five years, I have sailed on board the RV Celtic Voyager with a team of French scientists from Ifremer, on a 14-day survey in the Bay of Biscay collecting scientific data on Nephrops norvegicus (langoustine) burrows. The survey team use an underwater camera system to record HD video footage of prawn burrows which are then recounted on board. The results from the survey are submitted to the annual International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) working groups.
What did you study and why?
I received a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from the University College Cork in 2009. When I was growing up I always had a huge interest in nature, and that's why I decided to study zoology. I grew up on a farm in Kilkenny and in the primary school I attended there was an emphasis on learning about our natural environment as well. I knew in second year of my college course that I wanted to pursue the study of marine over terrestrial ecosystems.
I had the opportunity to do a bursary with the Marine Institute in summer 2009, and I had the chance to join an Underwater TV survey on the RV Celtic Voyager. From there I was hooked, and knew I wanted to work for the Marine Institute. My career path has been a bit convoluted, as I ended up studying economics and gaining a Masters in Economic and Environmental Modelling from NUI Galway in 2012. I have an interest in the connection between conservation and human activity. I started a job as a Stagiaire with the Research Vessel Operations team in August 2012 and as a Scientific and Technical Officer in 2014.
What are your interests and passions?
I have been living beside the sea for several years. I walk daily and walking by the sea is one of my favourite things to do. I have my PADI diving course which I completed in Pirate Bay, Tasmania, several years ago but I haven't dived in years. I love to snorkel in the summer as well and Trá an Dóilín (the coral beach) is a great spot in Galway! My other interests include running and camogie training. After a hard session (last year at this stage for the camogie) I would swim in the sea to help with the recovery. My main other interests are cooking and reading. Once we get back to normal it will be eating out with friends and the other half!
What is the best thing about working in the Marine Institute and what do you enjoy most about your role?
From a career point of view, I wanted to work somewhere that values sustainable economic development while understanding the importance of conservation and protection of the marine environment. In my role in the Research Vessel Operations team there are several aspects of the job I really enjoy. I really like the process of meeting new chief scientists and learning about their research as they are very passionate. It's great to see a ship-time application becoming an actual scientific survey on either of the vessels and being a part of the planning process. Being at sea is always brilliant as well, and remembering why I choose zoology and reinforcing again my love for the sea and adventure.
What is something you think everyone should know about the ocean?
There is so much to know, but I think everyone has a reason to love and enjoy the ocean and if people can relate to it we have a better chance of protecting it and understanding its importance from a scientific and economic point of view. The ocean can play a part in so many aspects of our life whether you have an interest in history (shipwrecks and explorations), technology (between robotics, Remotely Operated Vehicles and renewable energy), medicine (such as the ground-breaking work on anti-cancer properties from sponges, corals and multiple other marine organisms), sport, food and art. I guess it's about remembering just how amazing the ocean really is!