Clean Coasts Roadshow

The Clean Coasts Roadshow is a series of seminars that takes place every year all over Ireland. The main goal is to promote awareness and discussions amongst local communities about ocean health and marine litter. There are several Clean Coasts groups all over the country that get together for beach clean ups regularly and the roadshow is a way of discussing results and stimulating conversations that will result in more actions towards cleaner beaches and oceans.

Myself and Amy were invited to give talks about our projects focusing on marine litter. It was a great opportunity to spread the word out about ‘The Republic of Ireland Beached Bird Survey’ and get more people involved. It is very common that people who walk beaches regularly either for a clean up or say to walk the dog would come across a dead seabird and not know who to contact or what to do. So it was the perfect opportunity to make sure people knew about the project and that they can contact me and those birds will be used for marine litter research and hopefully to advise policy for a cleaner marine environment.

If you would like to attend the roadshow, there are still some more stops to go and to be announced. Check here for details.

Another event to look forward to is the Clean Coasts Week, which takes place from the 8th to the 17th of May and it is the time to join a beach clean up group or create your own. You can order a free clean up kit and check for more information here. Every piece of litter removed does make a difference. And if you come across any dead seabirds during this period, please contact me on

Clean Coasts Roadshow - Waterford Stop - ©Ralph Acampora

Giving a talk at the Clean Coasts Roadshow – Waterford Stop – ©Ralph Acampora

Published by Heidi Acampora


Eco Eye: ‘Rethinking Waste’

A still from Eco Eye where I talk about seabirds and marine litter

A still from Eco Eye where I talk about seabirds and marine litter – ©Heidi Acampora

Eco Eye, the long term environmental television series on Ireland’s RTE One aired an episode about litter in Ireland. The episode was very well put together, making the viewer understand and re-think their options regarding waste products.

I had the opportunity of briefly speaking about the potential impacts marine litter could have on seabirds.

Watch the video below.

With Eco Eye's host Duncan Stewart at Portmarnock Beach, In Dublin

With Eco Eye’s host Duncan Stewart at Portmarnock Beach, In Dublin – ©Heidi Acampora

Published by Heidi Acampora

The Galway Tribune on Marine Litter and Seabirds

I had the opportunity of giving an interview to the local newspaper “The Galway City Tribune” about my research involving plastics and seabirds. It was a great chance to spread the word out about litter and the Republic of Ireland Beached Bird Survey, spread awareness and get more people involved. I think we’re on the right way 🙂

If you’d like to read the full story, click here.


Published by Heidi Acampora

Micro and macroplastic ingestion by marine mammals

… “When marine mammals strand, the present a unique opportunity to obtain insights into the ecology”….. (Lusher et al. 2015).

It’s not uncommon to see reports on the news and the web about the marine mammals stranding on coastlines around the world. In the most part, their deaths are associated to natural causes. However, in many cases their deaths are attributed to marine debris, specifically large plastic items that have been ingested, caused blockages, malnutrition, starvation and eventually death. Regardless of the route of entry to the marine environment, discarded plastic can be accidently ingested by animals mistaking it for prey.

A quick Google search lead me to these reports:

It is not only large plastic items that could be present in the digestive tracts of these animals. As part of my PhD research and collaborative work with Dr. Gema Hernandez-Milian from University College Cork (UCC) we have been investigating methods for the identification of microplastics in stranded animals on Irish shores.

We were fortunate enough (not fortunate for the animals), to have three True’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon mirus) strand on the west and north coast of Ireland within two weeks of each other. A mother and calf in Co. Donegal, and an adult female in Connemara, Co. Galway.

True's beaked whale stranded in Co. Galway, May 2013

True’s beaked whale stranded in Co. Galway, May 2013 (Image: Ian O’Connor)

It is important to note that strandings of True’s beaked whales in Ireland are very rare, with only 13 record to date, check out the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) for more details.

A laboratory procedure was developed, to prevent contamination and to search effectively for microplastics in our samples. In short, we looked at each stomach separately, and divided the intestines into 20 equal sections. Rinsing the samples through stacked sieves, we were able to remove remains of prey, for dietary analysis, and the retained material was digested to leave non-biological material.

Any items remaining following digestion were visually analysed under a microscope, and a sub-sample were retained for FTIR analysis to find out which polymer new were looking at. For more information on this technique, read the methodology section of Lusher et al. 2013.

We found microplastics throughout the digestive tract (stomach and intestines) one female whale. We also identified macro plastic items in both the adult whales. The calf had no sign of plastics or food, but did have milk, which suggests it was still feeding from the mother.

Diagram of the stomach of True’s beaked whale (Image: Lusher et al. 2015)

As we are not vets, the cause of death could not be determined. The levels of plastic found did not appear to have caused any significant negative effects on the individuals.

To read more about the study click here.

Or you can contact me for a copy of the PDF:

We are carrying out this work on cetaceans stranded in Ireland, so keep an eye out for future research.

Dr. Simon Berrow from IWDG and GMIT was interviewed on TodayFM about a killer whale stranding in Co. Waterford a the beginning of the month. He discusses the work we have been doing form 11. 40 mins on-wards. Take a listen here.


Published by Amy Lusher

About Marine Litter and Ireland

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about my PhD research on marine litter and my life in Ireland on Brazilian TV. The show aired on the 31st of January and it is available online. A short piece was also written about it. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles, but as we get readers from Portuguese speaking countries, I thought it would be worth sharing.

Watch the video here: Irlanda: Rota de Estudantes

And read about it here: Como Sera

Talking about the ingestion of litter by seabirds with the reporter Mariane Salerno

Talking about the ingestion of litter by seabirds with reporter Mariane Salerno – ©Heidi Acampora

Published by Heidi Acampora

Dave joins the marine litter fight

Dave aka Endangered Dave is a Galway based artist, who tries to raise awareness about endangered species through his paintings. Dave makes beautiful paintings of endangered animals and leaves them around Galway for people to find them and be encouraged to learn about these animals. The game is: Dave leaves clues on Facebook and Twitter as to where he placed his newest piece and if you find it, you keep it. But you have to post a picture to Dave letting him know the painting has found a home!

Although I live in Galway, I learned about Dave in Norway! His fame seems to be expanding  😉 After meeting him and explaining about my work on seabirds and marine litter, he kindly agreed on painting some of the species that are highly affected by marine debris in order to raise awareness on the marine debris issue and how it could have severe effects on populations of seabirds, among other animals, of course.

So keep an eye out for some beautiful seabird paintings around Galway. Follow Dave through his Facebook and Twitter. And please, of course, also keep an eye out for any dead seabirds and let me know through or 086 3615575 🙂

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) painting left by the hospital wall in Shantalla

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) painting left by the hospital wall in Shantalla – ©Dave

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) painting left at Neachtains -

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) painting left at Neachtains – ©Dave

Published by Heidi Acampora

CBD Marine Expert Workshop

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) invited Parties, other Governments, indigenous and local communities and relevant organizations to nominate experts to participate in the CBD Expert Workshop to Prepare Practical Guidance on Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts of Marine Debris on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity and Habitats, to take place from 2 to 4 December 2014, in Baltimore, United States of America.

Participants from all over the world were called to represent their countries and advise on the marine litter issue. A background document was provided by the Secretariat and experts were asked to comment and add on the document. But the main goal of the workshop was to come up with measures to prevent, reduce and mitigate marine debris in a global context that could be added to the document as actual practical guidance. Therefore, it was important to have representatives from all the continents and their various countries.

On the first day of the workshop, participants gave presentations on their current work on marine litter in their respective countries and home institutions. On the second day, participants were divided into two groups of discussion: sea & land-based debris. This way, participants were able to fully exploit their expertise by advising what measures should go on the CBD document. It is known that the advances on assessment and research differ from region to region, country to country, continent to continent and while we have areas that have already started dealing with the problem of marine litter, we still have areas that need that initial assessment to be able to detect amounts and sources. Thus it was very important to have all of the different inputs each person could bring from their own experiences in their home/work countries.

On the third and last day, participants were asked to agree on the document built through their advice and paragraph by paragraph was carefully discussed and agreed or disagreed upon. By the end of the 3-day workshop, there was a feeling of mission accomplished and we were happy to come out with a document that reflected the views of experts from all over the world, who have individually been working hard to address the marine debris issue in their own countries, and now have come together with that same goal, but globally.

I felt very honoured to be representing Brazil, through the Brazilian Marine Litter Association (ABLM – Global Garbage Brazil) as well as Ireland, through my work at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), at the meeting and to be able to advise on measures that could help countries to prevent, reduce and mitigate marine litter in our oceans.

Personal view - Presentations on the 1st day - ©Heidi Acampora

Personal view – Presentations on the 1st day – ©Heidi Acampora

Group photo of participants - Lovely bunch of experts :) - ©Heidi Acampora

Group photo of participants – Lovely bunch of experts 🙂 – ©Heidi Acampora

Published by Heidi Acampora

A Quest for Beached Seabirds in Ireland

My PhD research is being conducted at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) to assess the impact of marine litter on seabirds and their potential as a monitoring tool for marine litter in Ireland. Countless marine species have been known to ingest debris that could mimic their prey. Seabirds are highly affected. Because debris such as plastics are buoyant, seabirds mistake them for food when searching for prey on the sea surface. These pieces of plastics can be particularly hard to regurgitate for some species and they tend to accumulate them in their stomach, leaving no space for real food and leading the animal to starvation.

Beached birds can be used as a good environmental tool reflecting the health of our waters. In fact, they have been heavily used as indicators of good environmental status throughout the North Sea, under OSPAR (Oslo-Paris Convention) and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). My PhD project intends to open the way for Ireland to use seabird stranding to comply with monitoring targets under the EU MSFD and to acquire knowledge and be able to advise on marine litter in our waters.

If you wish more information about this project or if you can collaborate with beached, stranded or bycatch seabirds to make it possible for a 3 year project to be completed, please contact me on 086 361 5575 or

Beached fulmar found at Dog's Bay, Connemara - ©Heidi Acampora

Beached fulmar found at Dog’s Bay, Connemara – ©Heidi Acampora

Published by Heidi Acampora

Annual Fulmar Workshop

From October 17th-22nd, the annual Fulmar Study Workshop took place at IMARES, on the island of Texel, in the Netherlands. The fulmar workshop is given by Jan Andries van Franeker, who starts off talking about the fulmar monitoring in the North Sea and then performs an initial necropsy to teach about the standard methodology utilized for the works of OSPAR. From there on, participants are paired to perform their own necropsies on the birds provided for the workshop, during the whole weekend. It is an amazing opportunity to sharpen your techniques and learn new ones. Standardizing techniques is an important feature that enables data to be compared.

On the following days participants gave talks on their current work and we also had the opportunity to go for a bird watching outing. Weather was a bit mad, but luckily we had some moments of no-rain, when we could run out of the van and spend some time watching the birds [some interesting ones for some people’s books! :)].

I took advantage of the workshop to take a couple of my Irish birds, including a fulmar beached on Dog’s Bay, Connemara, earlier this year, and perform the necropsies there with Jan. I also stayed for some extra days to look a bit more closely into the stomach analysis techniques and thus, also looked at the stomach contents of my Irish fulmar and the results are quite distressing! The poor bird had ingested an immense amount of plastics.

The threshold for OSPAR is that no more than 10% of fulmars have more than 0.1 g of plastics in their stomach, in the North East Atlantic. Currently, all studied fulmars trespass that target highly.

The Fulmar workshop was quite a valid experience for me as in calibrating my methodology, updating on current seabird/marine debris research, networking and making friends. It was definitely some fun few days and I most definitely intend on coming back.

Jan van Franeker demonstrates initial necropsy - ©Heidi Acampora

Jan van Franeker demonstrates initial necropsy – ©Heidi Acampora


Fulmars wait to be necropsied 🙂 – ©Stefan Weiel


Performing a necropsy on my Irish bird, followed closely by Jan – ©Heidi Acampora


My Irish fulmar had an impressive amount of plastics in its stomach – ©Jan van Franeker

Edward and Lucy perform a necopsy - ©Heidi Acampora

Edward and Lucy perform a necopsy – ©Heidi Acampora


Group picture of the participants – ©Stefan Weiel

Published by Heidi Acampora

Hear ye, Hear ye!

Until September 12th you can comment on Ireland’s marine environment monitoring programme!!

Yes! So here’s how it goes: The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is an EU legislation that basically sets some rules for the health of the marine environment of the Member States. To achieve the Good Environmental Status (GES) countries have to meet the set targets until 2020. To ensure a healthy marine environment is to work across a whole set of different indicators, and after a first assessment, Ireland has to develop a monitoring programme and that is where you can have your say!

A first draft of Ireland’s proposed monitoring programme is up for public consultation! How funny is that the public hardly ever knows about public consultations? If you care about Ireland’s marine environment and want to comment or suggest something or even just know how it works, have a look at the document on the website below. Comments and suggestions are welcome, but should be made by using the given template (which is very simplified) and sent to the Department of Environment on the indicated email.

It is very important if you have valuable comments that you take this opportunity to speak. Don’t forget comments will be received until Friday, September 12th, 2014. Speak up!

Click here to view the document and leave your comments.

photo 2

photo 1Dog’s Bay, Connemara. You’d definitely want to preserve that. Images by Heidi Acampora.


Published by Heidi Acampora