2017 a year of growth, discovery, outreach and engagement for the Marine Institute

Marine Institute, Oranmore. Pic Cr Tom Szumski2017 has been another year of growth and innovation for the Marine Institute as it has delivered key projects relating to national marine research, technology, development and innovation; as well as continuing to expand on its international collaborative achievements in marine research.

We had a very busy year for the Institute's research programmes where our teams were involved in projects ensuring that Ireland maintains its prominent position in marine research in Ireland and Europe. These have included exciting projects being completed at its headquarters in Galway, as well as its offices in Dublin and Newport ranging in fisheries research, marine environment and food safety, oceanography, data and technology, as well as seabed mapping and the discovery of new cold water corals at the deepest locations in Irish waters. A successful year of marine research funding has been managed by the Marine Institute, which has helped to deliver on 'Ireland's Integrated Marine Plan – Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth' by investing in researchers and organisations that are developing expertise and networks to address national policy objectives.

The RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager collectively completed 586 science days and 58 surveys, including several internationally co-ordinated surveys. Among these was the GO-SHIP A02 survey which involved an trans-Atlantic voyage of an international team of scientists from six countries on the RV Celtic Explorer to study the impact of climate change and ocean acidification.

A number of research workshops, conferences and events were hosted and supported by the Marine Institute this year. More than 200 international delegates attended the 11th International Conference on Molluscan Shellfish Safety (ICMSS), which was convened by the Marine Institute. The ICMSS is the only international conference that focuses specifically on molluscan shellfish safety, and the event brought together food safety professionals, scientists, regulators and industry experts to exchange ideas, information and the latest research findings, and also offers the opportunity for delegates to review the current and future prospects in molluscan shellfish safety.

Experts in marine technology and engineering attended the Digital Ocean Conference which outlined the enormous opportunities that exist in this exciting new field where science and technology converge. The Institute also supported the fourth annual Our Ocean Wealth Summit that looked at strategy, innovation and policy formulation to create a sustainable marine economy for Ireland. This saw the launch of key publications including the National Marine Research & Innovation Strategy which will ensure that the outputs of new research and innovation are combined with existing knowledge to maximise the value of the marine economy from 2017 to 2021.

2017 was a very successful year for the Marine Institute in terms of pubic engagement and outreach. SeaFest, Ireland's national maritime festival, is a key part of Harnessing our Ocean Wealth: An Integrated Marine plan for Ireland (HOOW) and its goal of increasing participation and engagement with the sea. This Summer SeaFest attracted a record 101,113 visitors to Galway Harbour during the three day event. The figures show a phenomenal 68% growth in attendance in just one year and now firmly places SeaFest as one of Ireland's largest and most popular festivals.

Dr John Killeen, Chairman of the Marine Institute said, "Our Ocean Wealth Summit and SeaFest 2017 have both exceeded our expectations in terms of attendance and also for creating public awareness of the immense marine resources which are abundant around the island of Ireland. We are now, as a country, beginning to become more aware of the potential wealth that can be generated by our seas. SeaFest offers a platform to engage the public in the importance of our seas and the contribution to our local and national economy."

The Marine Institute's role in promoting awareness and engagement of the ocean was also exemplified this year by the opening of Ireland's first marine science gallery at Galway City Museum. Open to the public, and free of charge, the interactive exhibition spans a variety of topics including the nature of how tides operate, multi-beam mapping, deep sea exploration and marine life along the seashore.

The Marine Institute also supported the continued expansion of the Explorers Education Programme where nine outreach centres reached up to 15,000 primary school students, and worked with over 600 school teachers in Ireland promoting marine in the classroom. The programme includes aquariums in the class, seashore safari's, and a range of marine based projects where primary school pupils learn about biodiversity, marine environmental awareness and care. This year the programme worked with Tulca to develop an exciting project that brought art and marine science together to teach pupils about hydrothermal vents in our ocean. Tulca and the Marine Institute received an award from the Allianz Business to Arts Awards 2017 for this project.

With a wonderful year of exciting research, promoting the importance the ocean has on our lives, as well as delivering services to a range of stakeholders, the Marine Institute would like to extend our warmest thoughts and best wishes to everyone and wish you a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year in 2018.