Denise Glynn, a Scientific Technical Officer is the Residue Programme Manager at the Marine Institute who provides essential information to government, agencies and industry on seafood quality, helping to ensure farmed finfish are safe for human consumption.
Growing up in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, Denise recalls spending childhood summers swimming and picnicking by the lake shore, and has fond memories of visiting the seaside. "I remember the excitement of swimming, running along the sandy beach, building sandcastles and of course of eating ice-cream. Even as a kid I just couldn't get over the sheer vastness of the ocean and the sound of the crashing waves and this started my sense of wonder about what lies beneath the ocean," she says.
Denise says she was a very inquisitive child, "I was always asking questions and wondering how things worked in the world. In primary school I loved the nature table and learning about the outdoors through walks and tours. I had an excellent teacher in secondary school who really fostered a love of science and the natural world."
Denise completed a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Chemistry and Mathematics at Dublin Institute of Technology. During her third year of study, Denise completed a summer bursary in the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, and in her final year she took part in a bursary at the Marine Institute.
"The chemistry department at the British Antarctic Survey was at the forefront of the UK's national scientific activities in the Antarctic, and my work involved examining Antarctica ice cores. At the Marine Institute I worked in the Marine Environment Chemistry and looked at on organochlorine contaminants concentrations in bottlenose dolphins. These experiences really helped me decide what direction to take after my degree."
After graduating from university, Denise worked in the pharmaceutical industry before obtaining an analyst position at the Marine Institute. Working in the organic chemistry team, Denise gained hands-on experience in the analysis of environmental contaminants.
"It was such a diverse role as it involved not only routine analysis but also research, examining emerging contaminants present in water and sediment which can bioaccumulate in the marine food chain. I was part of a team which monitored levels of contaminants in fishery products to ensure that Irish seafood remained safe for human consumption. I could be sampling shellfish, taking part in nutrient surveys on board the RV Celtic Voyager, or analysing environmental pollutants in the laboratory and reporting results," Denise said.
As the Residue Programme Manager at the Marine Institute, Denise is responsible for preparing, implementing and overseeing the delivery of the Marine Institute's Veterinary Residue Aquaculture Finfish programme in Ireland. Like other livestock rearing sectors, fish-farmers may use authorised veterinary medicines and treatments to control disease and infestation, and in some cases residues may remain in animal tissues often at very low levels. The monitoring programme is driven by EU Directives which tests for residues of veterinary drugs (banned, authorised and unauthorised) in addition to contaminants (metals and persistent organic pollutants). This programme is in place to ensure that animal and animal products pose no threat to consumers and that good practices are adhered to on farms.
"The residues programme ensures compliance in accordance with various European directives and regulations and supports our seafood sector by providing key data on seafood quality. The backbone of the programme is to ensure contaminants and veterinary residues are at safe levels in farmed finfish for human consumption," Denise said.
Denise's role varies from day to day, she could be preparing the annual national residue plan, coordinating and implementing residues field sampling, coordinating the analysis of veterinary residues or environmental contaminants, reporting the residue national programme for farmed finfish to meet EU legislation, or reviewing and inputting into proposed new EU legislation.
Another important part of Denise's position involves providing information and scientific advice to clients such as the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.
Denise says meeting with people is one of the enjoyable parts of her job. "I really enjoy meeting with people whether it is other government agencies, our clients, fish-farmers at a processing plant, fish farm or in a meeting. It connects me with the human element of my job, the importance of our residue reporting work to industry and the marine environment and how the residues programme fits into the overall bigger picture," she says.
Denise says communication skills are a vital part of the role, "Effective communication is essential, as well as clearly giving and receiving information, along with excellent interpersonal skills. Solid technical, analytical and troubleshooting knowledge is fundamental for not only delivering the residue programme but moving it forward," Denise says.
While working at the Marine Institute, Denise has completed a Postgraduate Higher Diploma in Statistics through Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Environmental, Toxicology and Pollution monitoring through the University of Ulster.
"The Institute has encouraged me to study and also attend conferences and workshops in Europe. This has not only enabled me to deepen my knowledge and foster working relationships with scientific experts, but also develop skills in multi-tasking and forward planning too. I believe it's very important to keep learning alive throughout one's career."
Denise says it is so important for us all to take care of our ocean. "What we do in our daily lives has an impact on the ocean. Awareness of the fragility of the ocean is crucial. Like everything, education is fundamental in understand this, bringing about change in our environment and keeping our ocean healthy for future generations."