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Jamie Quirke: Research Collaborator of August 2019

Meet Jamie Quirke, a biologist from Ireland with a soft spot for corals and drive for restoration!

Read on for a Q&A to delve deeper into the subject of his master's research and how to help save our coral reefs!

Where do you work and what is your current position title?

After recently finishing an MSc. in Conservation Behavior at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (or GMIT) in Galway City, Ireland and I got a job as a biologist in AQUAFACT Environmental Consults, also in Galway City. 

How did you get involved in marine science?

Being from the Dingle Peninsula (or Corca Dhuibhne in Irish) in Co. Kerry, Ireland, I've been surrounded by water on three sides my whole life. I was exposed to the marine environment from an early age as my father fished and my mother's family always had a close connection with the sea. From this, I was always fascinated about how everything is connected which drove me to read about cetaceans, elasmobranchs and cryptodires, which lead me to my BSc. in Applied Freshwater and Marine Biology.

What is your research/project focus on?

I've always had a soft spot for corals and turtles so I wanted to try and direct my college degree towards achieving experience with both these topics. During my undergrad, I spent a summer abroad in Barbados as a research assistant with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project which monitors all nesting turtles on the island and records each individual (either from nests, previous tags or newly tagged females). Now with my MSc. thesis, I've gotten my foot in the door with coral restoration and hope to do more in the future.

How does your research collaborate with CRF?

As mentioned previously, my research with CRF was for my MSc. thesis. I looked into whether each person outplanting had an effect on the condition of each species. I also analyzed the genotypes and restoration sites. This gave an indication of the success rates for each species, but also if the experience level of the individuals outplanting affects coral survivorship.

Why should the average person care about coral reefs?

Not only do coral reefs contain a wide range of biodiversity but they filter the water, and also where a lot of commercial fish stocks take shelter and grow, eventually adding back to the environment. They also help dissipate storm strength, which will protect the shore (and luckily save your beach front house).

In order to save our world's oceans, where should our focus be?

This is a bit of a controversial topic at the minute as microplastics are all the rage, but, I think our focus should be on conserving biodiversity. Without varying genotypes, that species may collapse and have a cascading effect throughout the ecosystem. I also think a more unified force should be created to combat IUU fishing and to yield greater penalties. 

How can the average person mitigate climate change?

Mitigating climate change is a tough one to answer. Of course, I'm going to say reduce your use of fossil fuels for more sustainable alternatives but that's easier said than done. These alternatives can also be bad for biota, as here in Ireland for example, hen harriers are being hit by wind farms. Aside from the 'mainstream' answers, I would say try changing your diet. I've read that the meat and dairy industry adds a considerable amount of greenhouse gasses to the environment. I'm not saying to give up meat and dairy altogether, but try having meals 1-2 times a week without these products in it. 

What is your favorite marine animal?

Where to even begin with this? This is quite a hard one to answer but I would say my top 2 are definitely hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the giant manta (Mobula birostris). I've worked with Hawksbills previously but yet haven't got to work with mantas yet. That being said I don't really have a favorite as I find everything interesting.

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