My last week in Ireland was spent touring the country with my Mom and my partner, Kelci. I got to show them where I lived and worked, they got to meet some of the people I worked with at Energy Action and I took them to some of my favorite places, including the Long Room in the Trinity Library. Then, we all got to experience the rest of the country together. We went hiking in Howth and saw dolphins, seals and professional cliff divers! We went to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in Limerick; we went to Killarney National Park and saw the Torc Waterfall; we went to the Cliffs of Moher; and, most importantly, we went to the Blarney Castle in Cork and kissed the Blarney Stone – which also happens to be the place where my partner PROPOSED! All in all, I’d say Ireland has been and forever will be one of the most memorable times of my life.
I learned a lot about sustainability in Ireland that was not specifically related to my internship. I realized that Ireland is sustainable by default simply because the lifestyles and habits of the citizens are much less wasteful and greedy. For example, public transportation, walking and riding a bike are more common modes of transportation than individual cars. Also, most of the cars that are on the road are much smaller than the average vehicle in the U.S. Food portions are much smaller in Ireland, which reduces food waste and materials needed to produce to-go containers. Markets charge customers if they need a plastic bag to carry their groceries in; most people bring in their own reusable bags when they go shopping. While touring Ireland my last week, we saw hundreds of wind turbines up in the hills. These are just a few of the things I observed in Ireland that make me realize how unsustainable our lifestyles are here in the U.S. and this realization really solidified for me the fact that I truly want to tackle environmental issues on a global scale.
So, this is my first trip to Europe and I am super excited! I am working with Coastwatch Europe, which is an NGO based out of Trinity College Dublin that is concerned with the health of the Irish and European coastal zones. I want to thank Lindsay Ortega and Joseph Dorsey for recommending Coastwatch as an internship for me. I will be helping Coastwatch with their annual survey of the Ireland coastline that takes place between September 15th and October 15th. The survey will be looking at the litter, biodiversity, and water pollution from nitrates (fertilizers) on the coasts as well as any other degradation that may be present such as development or destruction of dunes, etc.
I am really lucky that there is already another intern here to show me the ropes. Her name is Christine and she is an environmental science major. She has already been to Ireland a few times and has really helped me learn the city and the public transportation in and around Dublin
The first week I was here I visited Malahide beach. Malahide is located about 30 minutes north of Dublin and has an amazing coastline with dunes and rocks and lots of seabirds. We set off from Dublin and rode the train, called the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport), to meet up with one of the regional coordinators for Coastwatch in order to survey a 500 m section of the beach at low tide so that I could start to learn the process.
Fieldwork is Definitely my favorite thing to do because I get to go to the beach! However, sometimes you also have to do things you don’t really enjoy while interning. A lot of my time is spent writing emails, booking survey units, and packing up mail for our volunteers. So, I really cherish the time I get to spend outside.
My first field experience with my supervisor, Karin Dubsky, was at Bulloch Harbour just south of Dublin. We completed the Harbour form questionnaire which was pretty much the same thing as our other survey with just a few different questions about litter. I was very surprised by how nice the staff were. They answered all of our questions and were very helpful. We also performed a water clarity test with a secchi disk. This test helps determine if there may be any extra nutrients in the water. I feel like in the United States we would have gotten a lot of backlash for asking the questions we did. The most notable thing we saw was a lack of garbage bins, lots of litter, and an invasive Japanese seaweed.
The next day we set out to Howth Harbour just north of Dublin. This was my first experience driving on the other side of the road. I was nervous at first but got the hang of it fairly quickly. While at Howth we noticed again the lack of garbage bins and lots of litter in the rocks surrounding the harbour.
My first day off (Saturday) I traveled to Malahide Castle with Christine and her roommate. This castle was in the same family for over 800 years and is one of the oldest castles in Ireland. There are beautiful gardens on the grounds of the castle that we walked through.
Birding at Sean Moore Park Dublin Bay
On my second day off (Sunday)I walked about 8 miles roundtrip with the hopes of seeing a Peregrine Falcon, a rare visitor to Florida but a local resident of Dublin. This species was facing extinction due to the use of pesticides like DDT. I didn’t manage to see the Peregrine, but I did see a lot of other birds, most notably a Harrier, a type of raptor that also lives in Florida. I also saw a lot of other birds, but the weather conditions made it hard to take pictures. So far my bird list is up to 25 species in just a week.