This is a voluntary initiative set up by researchers at UCC in collaboration with the Irish Naval Service and MOWI (a salmon aquaculture company). The Plankton Club aims to give undergraduate students the opportunity to improve their lab skills by providing them with hands-on experience identifying and counting zooplankton samples collected in our coastal seas. The initiative is funded by the National Forum (Higher Education Authority) and supported by the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at University College Cork.
The Naval officers collect plankton samples on a monthly basis from outside Cork Harbour, giving researchers the opportunity to sample somewhere otherwise inaccessible to them. Check out the video below explaining how they take a sample and what the researchers do with it:
The #IrishNavy has numerous links to the academic & science communities; in this example, LÉ #JamesJoyce (#P62) works in support of @MaREIcentre & @uccbees in the collection of plankton samples which are then analysed and the data used for research & innovation. @defenceforces ?? pic.twitter.com/qpF1crDrLe
— Irish Naval Service (@naval_service) December 2, 2020
Dr Damien Haberlin is a post-doctoral researcher in the marine ecology group, based in the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI) in University College Cork. He is currently working on the Wild Atlantic Mussel project but is also an active contributor to the plankton club. Dr Haberlin has contributed to 15 peer-reviewed publications, with 3 as the lead author. He has extensive experience analysing pelagic zooplankton data, using GIS mapping software and interpreting oceanographic data.
Maria McGuinness is a PhD student in University College Cork and MaREI supervised by Dr Tom Doyle, Dr Damien Haberlin and Prof Sarah Culloty. She previously worked as a research assistant on the ZOEA initiative where her main role was as the coordinator of the plankton club. She organised for students to come into the lab and showed them how to use the equipment and count and identify plankton in the samples. She remains an active contributor to the project.
Hannah Brownlow is a PhD student at University College Cork supervised by Dr Tom Doyle and Dr Damien Haberlin working in partnership with MOWI. She is looking into developing a forecasting model of harmful jellyfish. She contributes to the plankton club by collecting samples for students to analyse and also offering help in the lab. Hannah contributed to a study which originated from her final year project on gut contents and microplastics in mesopelagic fish from the North Atlantic which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science in 2018.