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Citizen Science and Marine Ecology Symposium - Rostrevor, 24 February 2024

Hosted on the beautiful seafront of Rostrevor, our launch event presented some of the new opportunities now emerging for people around Carlingford Lough to get involved in citizen science.  We also provided some insight into some of the ways that communities across the island have utilised citizen science and collective action to protect and restore their own marine environments. More than 60 people attended the event, which acted as a fantastic catalyst, connecting and gathering fresh ideas that will help carry the project forward. 

The event began with an introduction from Shifting Tides Project Manager Suzie Cahn followed by a welcome from Michael Alcorn, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Sustainability and Strategic Projects at Queen’s University Belfast. Both spoke of the role shared by science and the arts in meeting some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Michael directed participants towards the QUB Festival of Arts and Sustainability in April, where Shifting Tides will soon be taking part. Making connections between communities and academic institutions is one of the threads  which we hope to weave into the fabric of the Shifting Tides project.

We heard from Martha Farrell, a founding member and director of the coastal community group Maharees Conservation Association CLG. Martha reflected on how learning about particular plant species or recognising the egg cases of skates and rays on the shore led her to develop a love for her local area that drives her work with the MCA. This in turn has helped to raise awareness of the cultural and ecological importance of the area and ensure the viability of the Maharees community.

A major theme of the event was the democratisation of science.  There was broad agreement on the importance of access to information that can be utilised directly by communities to lead action in their localities. One of the main discussion points from our panel of speakers was bridging the gap between communities and policymakers. In this way, decisions can be made that respond to the needs of local people and that benefit from their more detailed knowledge of place.

Local dive instructor Dain McPartland told us about the rich biodiversity of Carlingford Lough and the need to protect it. Dain also discussed the difficulty that local people can have in making their voices heard.Tori Moore, community engagement officer for Ulster Wildlife, and Robert Walsh, coordinator of the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force, were able to explain some of the ways that people could learn more about protective measures for Carlingford Lough.

Citizen science was highlighted as a means by which communities can access knowledge about their locality, and so have a stronger voice in local and regional decision-making forums.. Dave Wall from the National Biodiversity Data Centre brought the concept of citizen science alive when he introduced participants to the “Explore Your Shore” program, which empowers people to identify and record marine species whilst contributing to scientific research. We also got an insight into the wonders of the undersea world through a glimpse at the Dive Ireland Underwater Photography Exhibition, learning about anemones, sharks, swimmer crabs, and sea hares, among other creatures. 

A diversity of voices with different approaches and backgrounds was key to this event. Artist Yvanna Greene altered our perspectives on the humble limpet through her performative talk “The Limpet and the Anthropocene”. Her work beautifully demonstrated the role of the arts in asking serious questions as we all tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies, and provoked us to think critically about where our information comes from. 

The day also created space for audience participation through interactive workshops on citizen science, community action, ecology, and art. The talks, workshops, and discussions which took place throughout the day provided prompts for many conversations between community members, policy makers, academics, and artists. The Shifting Tides team members listened to all the inputs and ideas and will be taking forward many learnings gathered during these sessions into the next phases of the project.

If you were inspired by the event or some of the details you have read about here, please get in touch and make sure you have filled out the Expression of Interest form on our website. Keep up to date with our activities through social media and introduce yourself at one of our events. Connecting people through ecology and ideas is precisely what this project is about.

We invite you to watch the summary video below:

Feedback from attendees:

"I made so many connections and have been inspired by the talks and information given. It made me aware of so many things such as eating seafood sustainable stocks, litter on the beach and my use of plastic."

"I am from Newry and I made connections with artists and other ecologists from all over Ireland and beyond. Tides are changing and I hope we welcome them on our shores."

"Really amazing collaborative event..."

"Extremely well run & informative..."

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