Bright Sparks set sail from Galway

Emmet Clarkin and Jessica Leahy on Voyager

The winning students of the Marine Institute’s 2008 Bright Sparks Award from the Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), NUI Galway, and University College Cork (UCC) set sail today (Thursday 4 September) from Galway on a 5 day scientific survey on board the RV Celtic Voyager.

Emmet Clarkin (QUB), Triona McGrath (NUIG), Jessica Leahy (UCC), Cathal Clarke (NUIG) and Conor Ryan (UCC) propose to survey the value of algal rafts, plankton and jellyfish as biological indicators of different water masses.

This survey represents a unique opportunity for all students concerned to design and implement a collaborative multidisciplinary research programme onboard one of Ireland’s state-of-the-art research vessels.

“Usually undergraduate and postgraduate projects tend to be carried out alone to demonstrate an individual student’s ability to produce his or her own work” says Emmet “but this doesn’t prepare you for the reality of a scientific career. We all have an interest in the Irish marine environment but we come from different perspectives – working together allows us to compare datasets and brings an added level of complexity and thought to each of our projects.”

During the five day survey students will examine algal rafts, jellyfish, mega fauna and study oceanographic parameters influencing these phenomena in the seas west of Ireland.

The Bright Sparks Awards are specifically designed to introduce students of marine science to Ireland’s research vessel fleet and provides successful applicants with “hands-on” experience in preparing a research proposal, and the design, execution and planning of a marine scientific survey. Participants will also interpret and analyse the data collected and will prepare a detailed final survey report and present the results to staff of the Marine Institute.

The programme is one of three elements of the Marine Institute’s Integrated Marine Exploration Programme (IMEP), funded under the Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation. The aim of the IMEP is to further develop Ireland’s research capacity for marine exploration through training the next generation of marine scientists how to conduct scientific surveys at sea. 

This is achieved not only through the Bright Sparks Awards, but also by offering ship-based training to third-level and post-primary students in addition to funding vessel time for dedicated undergraduate and postgraduate training programmes as well as for integrated surveys involving scientists of different disciplines.

A range of opportunities exist for students to gain experience of marine science at sea. Further information on the ship-based training opportunities and other training initiatives available to students can be found at  or by  

The Marine Institute is now accepting applications for ship-time on the Celtic Voyager and the Celtic Explorer in 2009. Further information can be found on the Marine Institute website: