GMIT and IWDG to host annual conference of European Cetacean Society

More than 500 marine mammal biologists from around the world will gather in Galway in the coming days for the 26th annual conference of the European Cetacean Society, hosted this year by Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT ) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWD ).

The international conference, which will take place from Saturday March 24 to Wednesday March 28, will be formally opened by Minister of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, and the president of GMIT Michael Carmody. The five-day event commences with two days of workshops in GMIT’s Dublin Road campus followed by the three day conference in the Galway Bay Hotel.

The conference theme ‘Communication’ will be explored by keynote speakers including Professor Louis Herman of Hawaii, an international expert on dolphin cognitive abilities and author of Cetacean Behavior and Language and Communication, and Greg Donovan, head of science at the International Whaling Commission, who will speak on the topic ‘Communicating science to policy makers and the public’.

Keynote speakers and some workshops will be streamed live on the internet for those who have an interest in the work of marine mammal biologists but are unable to attend the event.

According to GMIT marine science lecturer and conference organiser Dr Simon Berrow this year’s conference has the highest number of participants and presentations in the society’s 25-year history.

“Scientists from all over the world are attending, some travelling from as far as Australia, New Zealand, and South America and throughout Europe,” Dr Berrow said. “There will be 70 presentations ranging from exploring reasons for whale strandings to killer whale communication and to the use of smart phones in collecting data and Whale FM, a novel approach to enabling the public to match whale vocalisations.

“Researchers from GMIT’s Marine Biodiversity Research Group will be presenting results from their recent work surveying whales and dolphins in offshore Irish waters and in developing acoustic techniques for monitoring dolphins and porpoise,” he added.

“The conference is an opportunity to not only present results from a range of studies in Ireland on whales, dolphins and seals but to promote Ireland and Galway as a centre of marine mammal research.”

Dr Berrow is also a founding member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

The conference will reflect on the success of the research coalition between the IWDG, GMIT, and the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation.

The conference is part of the GMIT 40th anniversary celebrations.

As part of the Cetacean Conference, the highly-acclaimed Whale and Dolphin Roadshow will visit Galway over the five day event. With life-size blow up models of a range of marine species, the roadshow is a great attraction for children and adults and will be at the Galway Shopping Centre.

The conference is supported by National Parks and Wildlife Service, Marine Institute, Environment Protection Agency, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, The Heritage Council, Petroleum Affairs Division, and ASCOBANS. The conference will be carbon neutral with consideration given to using electronic and digital media rather than printing material.

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