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First impressions for new season

a shark with the mouth open
First Impressions
By Christie O’Toole, Sinead Kelly, Esmee Bannenberg and Cian McGuinness
Christie SkelligHi, I’m Christie and I’ll be with Sea Synergy for the whole summer.  I’m really excited to be part of such a fantastic place with a very important message.  I did my undergraduate degree in Marine Science in NUI Galway and have recently completed my MSc in Marine Biology in UCC.  I have had a deep love for all things marine since I was a young girl growing up next to the ocean in west Mayo playing on the beach, surfing, looking for critters in rockpools and out fishing in my dad’s curragh.  I love SCUBA diving, snorkelling, hiking, travelling, rugby and reading…I’m happiest when I’m active and in, on or under the sea!
I have been in Waterville for 2 weeks now and I’m loving every second.  I’ve been helping get Sea Synergy up and running for its opening on June 1st and also exploring the area and finding my feet in my new surroundings.  So far I have been discovering the wonders of the seashore with local school groups, carrying out seal surveys from headlands, whale and dolphin surveys from boats, snorkelling, diving, and attending courses; there is always more to learn!  I also got the opportunity to hike to the top of Skellig Michael which was such a special experience.  It is an amazing place with so much history, as well as being the beautiful home to many different types of seabird including gannets and puffins.  This is just one of the unforgettable memories I have made since arriving in Waterville.  Sea Synergy is a wonderful place and I can’t wait for what the rest of the summer will bring.  The centre allows me to share my passion for the marine world with the public while also getting out in nature regularly, expanding my knowledge, and enjoying the beauty of Kerry and all it has to offer.  We live in a gorgeous country with so much biodiversity; it is fantastic to be in a place which showcases this to everyone who visits!
Sinead“Hey there! My name’s Sinead and I’m studying for a master’s degree in Applied Coastal and Marine Management, with a bachelors degree in Geology. I’m from Killarney which is only an hour or so from Waterville but prior to this summer, I have never ventured down here. Although I’m disappointed that I haven’t discovered the beauty of Waterville before two weeks ago, I’m happy to have discovered this gem now. I was delighted when I received an intern position at Sea Synergy with Lucy Hunt, as I wanted to get the opportunity to make more people aware of the marine biodiversity and resources associated with the ocean. I’ve been here the bones of two weeks now and I’ve already seen and done so much.
Last weekend I took part in a course run by Seasearch Ireland and on the first day of the course I learnt irish landscaphe with a birdhow to correctly identify different types of seaweed and animals seen around the Irish coast. On the second day, I went snorkelling off Abbey Island in Derrynane, in Co. Kerry, where I recorded all the different types of animals and seaweeds I encountered in the lower intertidal zone. The day after the Seasearch course I got the opportunity to go out to Skellig Michael, a UNESCO world heritage site and see the world-famous monastic site, puffins and the second largest gannet colony in the world on Skellig Beag. I spent the remainder of the day recording cetaceans around Scariff Island. The calm seas made for ideal conditions to monitor cetaceans and over the course of two hours, slowly but surely our boat became surrounded by over 60 common dolphins leaping, jumping, and playing in every direction. Two minke whales were also observed off Skellig Michael.  I feel so lucky to partake in the wonderful work Lucy is doing down here, in such a beautiful part of the country and I’m looking forward to making more people aware of what’s out there in the deep blue, if they just take a moment to stop and look out, they won’t be disappointed!”
EsmeeHi there! My name is Esmee and I came down from the Netherlands to help out in the Sea Synergy sea life centre this summer.

Just like many others, as a small kid living near the sea, I fell in love with the ocean. As I grew older I became aware of the threats to the ocean such as overfishing, warming of the ocean and the huge amounts of (plastic) litter present. In an attempt to figure out how to protect our beautiful nature I started studying forest and nature conservation in the Netherlands. I am now halfway in my graduate degree focussing on the protection of marine nature in developing countries.

Because of my love for marine animals, travelling and giving education, I applied for an internship at Sea Synergy and I feel very lucky that I have been given the opportunity to come to Ireland and learn even more about the marine environment and education. The minute I got out of the bus and saw the dolphin tail sticking out of one of the beautiful coloured houses, I knew this was going to be a great summer! While waiting for Lucy to pick me up at the pub, I started talking to some very friendly locals and learned some of the Irish customs, all while drinking my first Guinness 😉

My first impressions so far are great and the weather is being very kind to us. Although even in sunshine the dives into the water are very cold… I am excited to start helping out during the workshops or even create a new workshop (specific requests are always welcome ;)) and provide fun facts to people visiting the sea life centre.  Oh and a first impression not to forget: the mountains are great! Since we don’t have any mountains back home, I really enjoy them while I still can.
CianHello, my name is Cian, an Earth Science graduate of University College Cork. I’m writing while out on a seal survey, sitting just at the end of the prom, and the seals are loving the sun. I first arrived at Waterville on a clear afternoon in mid-May. The car was packed with my wetsuit, fins, guitar, hiking boots, motorcycle tools (my bike yet to be ridden up), and a heap of other gear ready for the summer ahead. I was just catching my breath after driving through the Ballaghisheen Pass, a wild and beautiful stretch of road considered a shortcut to locals but just about put me in the ditch around every other bend, and, while taking in the surroundings, I was excited! Excited that I wasn’t just visiting this beautiful seaside village for an ice-cream and stroll along the prom. I was here for a whole summer by the sea, something I have always desired to do. Soon Lucy arrived on her bicycle and welcomed me to Waterville.
Growing up in Cork, our house well within earshot of the M8, I found going to sleep on the first night in Waterville unusual. The silence was almost deafening. I couldn’t get over how calm and silent it gets here at night. Two weeks on and it still hits me sometimes but I very much appreciate it, it is a welcomed quiet. Living in the west you cannot help but embrace your surroundings. I wake each morning, opening the curtains, excited to see how the canvas has been painted. Today the sky was clear, the sun defining the undulating crests and troughs of the mountains. It’s safe to say I’m loving life here!
I am delighted to have to the opportunity to work with Lucy, Sinead, Esmee, and Christie this summer at Sea Synergy. Being the only boy though I’m getting to do my fair share of ‘man-work’ in haha! I hope this summer at Sea Synergy, having focused my undergraduate thesis on marine waste, to encourage visitors in understanding the importance they play in protecting the preciousness and beauty of our planet’s marine species and environments – now under greater threat than ever before.