A STRABANE Marine Science student at the Ulster University is a co-author on a scientific paper that has been published this month in one of the leading natural sciences journals, Nature Communications.
Rory O’Donnell got the unique opportunity to work on a major scientific project at the research lab Criobe in French Polynesia as a result of his Erasmus-funded placement and Ulster University’s collaboration with European partners.
The scientific paper addresses the impact of global warming on sea anemones and follows 14 months of intense research including monitoring clownfish and anemones in the island of Moorea, French Polynesia.
The research discovered that high sea temperatures caused by global warming resulted in the bleaching of anemones which in turn disrupted the reproduction of wild clownfish due to stress. The fish only started laying eggs again once sea temperatures had returned to normal and the anemones recovered.
Rory O’Donnell explained, “I applied for the Erasmus programme to gain experience of a working environment in my field of interest. I’ve been interested in marine biology for many years and the programme gave me a unique opportunity to work in a research station in French Polynesia.
“The research project focuses on the influences of increasing sea temperatures and the frequency of bleaching events that are damaging to clownfish and, in all likelihood, other species that live in a similar environment. We photographed over 500 nests and counted over half a million eggs and the impact of bleaching on reproduction was striking. This type of research is very important to understand the impact global warming is having on the environment.
“The Erasmus placement helped me gain both life experience and educational opportunities that I wouldn’t have had without the programme.
“I would encourage other students to take the opportunity of embarking on the programme while at university, you will step out of your comfort zone, learn new things and meet some great people along the way.”