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Galway student studies impact of marine litter on wildlife



Marine litter has become a major issue that cannot be ignored, according to Galway PhD student Heidi Acampora who is researching the effects of marine litter on the health of the ocean.

Based in GMIT, Ms Acampora carries out her research on sea birds. She says European regulations such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) require countries to monitor marine litter through animal life and this has proven to be successful in other countries.

In the North Sea, for example, a species of sea bird called Fulmarus Glacialis (fulmars) are used for monitoring sea litter.

“My research aims to prove if this can be done in Ireland and if not through fulmars, then which would be the alternative species suitable for such monitoring,” said Miss Acampora.

“Sea birds are good indicators because they spend an enormous amount of time at sea, but come to shore to breed, and that is when we can assess them. Marine litter has become a major issue that cannot be ignored.”

According to Ms Acampora, it’s difficult to find parts of the sea that aren’t polluted, especially with plastics.

“Plastics break down into smaller pieces and marine animals can mistake them for food. You see, plastics are generally positively buoyant, so they are at the surface or high in the water column and birds can mistake them for small prey that they would be used to eating.

“So they think they are ingesting nutritious food, when in reality they are eating a synthetic material that can have severe damages to their health, even leading them to death,” she said.

Heidi became involved in this research when writing her Masters thesis, which focused on the ingestion of litter by a species of seabird which is very common in Australia; the muttonbird, also known as Puffinus tenuirostris.

“I was very moved and intrigued by the marine litter issue while doing that research. When I came back from Australia to Brazil, where I’m originally from, I joined forces with other people and groups interested in doing something on the marine litter issue, and we together founded an NGO, the Brazilian Marine Litter Association. So I ended up being very active on the subject, but still wanted to continue doing research,” she said.

“I had been to Ireland for a Summer School and saw GMIT was looking for PhD students, so I contacted them, told them my research interests and we wrote a project and applied for funding and I got it.”

Ms Acampora is funded by the Brazilian Government to do her PhD research in Ireland, but is still very active with the NGO she founded.

In her research, she analyses the stomach contents of seabirds. One such seabird found on Dog’s Bay in Connemara had ingested “an impressive amount of litter: more than 400 pieces of plastic!”

“It was clear that his small stomach had no more space for real food, because you see, some species of seabirds are not able to regurgitate non-digestible matter, so that litter accumulates in their stomach, leaving no space for actual nutritious food,” she said.

Marine litter can have a negative impact on not only seabirds, but also human health, according to Miss Acampora’s research. Marine life can get tangled in debris or nets and suffocate or suffer injury.

“Plastics have additives in their composition to give them certain characteristics, such as colour, resistance to UV or flames and the like. These additives are extremely toxic and they have been proved to cause hormonal disrupt on species.

“These impacts can escalate up the food chain and even fish or any seafood that we are known to consume could have been contaminated that way. Thus marine litter is not really only an aesthetical problem; it can cause an array of severe damage to marine and even human life.”

Heidi is currently putting together the ‘Republic of Ireland Beached Bird Survey’ with the help of volunteers who regularly walk the beaches and report or collect any dead seabirds they find.

She then takes these seabirds and analyses their stomach contents so she can carry on with the research on marine litter.

“And of course, it all starts with no littering. The litter you dispose of inappropriately on land is most likely to be carried by wind or rain, end up at sea and have an unfortunate encounter with marine life,” she said.

For more information on Miss Acampora’s research, visit or email


Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate



From the Galway City Tribune – A poem about litter forms part of a vibrant colourful new mural painted on the walls of a City Council estate in Ballybane.

The poetry and artwork by local artist Irene Naughton is part of an initiative to restore pride in Sliabh Rua.

The final two lines of Ms Naughton’s poem, called The Dragon’s Foot, read: “The land, the sea and the river all get hurt when we leave a littered footprint on the earth.”

The full poem was painted onto boundary walls as part of a large colourful mural that was created by Ms Naughton.

The street art includes handprints from children living in the estate on the city’s east side.

It also depicts an enchanted forest, a dragon sitting atop Merlin Castle, a view of the Burren, a wolf, butterflies, insects and foliage, as well as a man playing the guitar, a former resident who died.

Ms Naughton, who was commissioned by the City Council’s Environment Department, said it took about five days to complete.

“The residents were very, very helpful and kind,” she said.

Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) explained that the mural was part of a wider, ‘Ballybane Matters’ project, which stemmed from Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

“We were doing a lot of talking at the JPC about anti-social behaviour, and it seemed to be more prevalent in the Ballybane area. When we boiled it down, it was in the Sliabh Rua and Fána Glas areas.

“Month after month it was just talking. So Níall McNelis [chair of the JPC] said we should set up a small group to hone in on exactly what was going on,” he said.

A group was formed to focus on improving the Council estate of about 40 houses.

As well as Cllr Larkin, it included: Sergeant Mick Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer and community Gardaí Maria Freeley, Nicola Browne, Kenneth Boyle and Darragh Browne; Fr Martin Glynn; Imelda Gormley of Ballybane Taskforce; Councillor Alan Cheevers; Donal Lynch, chairperson Merlin Neighbourhood Residents’ Association; and two members of Galway Traveller Movement, Katie Donoghue and Kate Ward.

Ms Gormley carried out a survey to get feedback from residents.

“A lot of the problems people had were horses on the green, people being harassed going in and out of estates, trailers full of rubbish left around the place, the City Council not cutting the grass, and anti-social behaviour,” explained Cllr Larkin.

Small improvements, with community buy in, has helped to revitalise the estate.

Cllr Larkin praised Edward Conlon, community warden with the City Council, who has been “absolutely brilliant”.

“He looked funding that was available to get trees or shrubs and to get the grass cut more regularly,” he said.

“Fr Martin got a residents committee set up because he knew people through the church, and that means there is community buy-in, people are actually taking an interest now.

“When we started originally, Sergeant Mick Walsh mentioned ‘the closed curtain syndrome’. You go into your home in the evening close your curtain and don’t want to see what’s going on outside. Whereas now, with community pride restored to the area, if somebody is acting the maggot outside, people are keeping an eye on it and that curbs anti-social behaviour,” said Cllr Larkin.

Covid-19 delayed the project but it “came together very quickly” once work started.

Cllr Larkin said that the project will move to other estates in Ballybane, including Fána Glas and Castlepark, but they also plan to maintain the progress made in on Sliabh Rua.

“We decided to concentrate on Sliabh Rua, because if we could crack Sliabh Rua we could crack the rest of them. Pride has been restored in the community,” added Cllr Larkin.

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QR codes hold the key to podcast tour of Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – From singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s teenage days busking on the corner of William Street, to the rich past of the 14th century Lynch’s Castle on Shop Street, a new interactive tour of Galway City covers modern and ancient history.

Regional tour guide Jim Ward has created a series of podcasts detailing the history of eight places of interest in Galway City.

The Salthill native has created two-dimensional QR codes that are located at each of the eight locations, which allow visitors to download the podcasts to their smart phones.

Each podcast gives a flavour of the tours that Jim gives in ‘real-time’ when he leads hordes of tourists around the city’s famous sites.

The podcasts range from five to ten minutes and are located on or near buildings at the following locations: Eyre Square, William Street, Lynch’s Castle, the King’s Head, St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the Latin Quarter, Spanish Arch and Galway Cathedral.

During the Covid-19 Lockdowns, Jim gave virtual tours by video through sustainable tourism website, Flockeo.

He has also brought Ukrainian refugees on tours through the city streets to allow them to become familiar with Galway’s rich history.

The podcasts are hosted on his website, and are accessed on mobile devices through via QR codes scanned onto posters.

Jim said he was grateful to the businesses of Galway, who have allowed his to put up posters on their premises near the sites of interest.

“I propose to ask Galway City Council for permission to place some on public benches and poles at a later date.”

He said the idea was to “enhance interactive tourism in Galway and bring connectivity to the city”.

He also has other plans in the pipeline, including rolling-out an interactive oral history of certain areas such as Woodquay.

This would involve interviewing local people of interest in certain historic parts of the city, which could be accessed through podcasts. The stories would be their own, or that of local organisations.

“The recordings would be accessed through QR codes on lamp posts or park benches and would provide a level of interactivity and connectedness with our historic town,” Jim added.

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Renters in Galway City have to fork out an extra €11,500 annually



From the Galway City Tribune – Renters in private accommodation in Galway City are paying, on average, around €11,500 more per annum than they were at the bottom of the market ten years ago.

According to figures published by property website this week, the average monthly rent in the city now stands at €1,663 – that’s up a whopping 138% since the market trough in early 2012, when it stood at around €700.

At the end of June this year, the average monthly rent had risen 16.4% – one of the biggest jumps in the country.

Nationally rents in the second quarter of 2022 were an average of 12.6% higher than the same period a year earlier, as availability of rental homes reached an all-time low.

County Galway has seen a similar pattern of increases – average rents stood at €1,184 per month, up 12.4% on the previous year. The averages have also more than doubled – up 132% – since the bottom of the market.

At the moment, there are fewer than 60 properties available for for rent in Galway city and county – the lowest figure recorded since the rental reports began in 2006.

A breakdown of the figures shows that a single bedroom in Galway city centre is renting for an average of €588 per month, up 19.5% on June 2021, while in the suburbs, a similar room is commanding €503 per month, up 15.9% on a year earlier. A double room is generating €633 (up 16.4%) in the city centre and €577 (up 19.2%) in the suburbs.

In the city, an average one-bed apartment is currently ‘asking’ €1,110 per month (up 17.3% year on year); a €1,297 for a two-bed house (up 15.6%); €1,542 for a three-bed house (up 16.9%); €1,923 for a four-bed house (up 21.8%) and €2,016 for a five-bed house, which is up 10.6%.

Ronan Lyons, Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin and author of the Daft report, pointed to a resurgent economy which has accentuated the chronic shortage of rental housing in Ireland.

“The shortage of rental accommodation translates directly into higher market rents and this can only be addressed by significantly increased supply.

“While there are almost 115,000 proposed rental homes in the pipeline, these are concentrated in the Dublin area. Further, while nearly 23,000 are under construction, the remainder are earlier in the process and the growth of legal challenges to new developments presents a threat to addressing the rental scarcity,” he said.

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