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GMIT and IWDG host 26th European Cetacean Conference

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Press Office

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Over 500 marine mammal biologists from all over the world are to gather in Galway from Saturday 24 to Wednesday 28 March for the 26th annual conference of the European Cetacean Society hosted by Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWD).

The international conference will be formally opened by the Minister of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, 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, Salthill.

The conference theme ‘Communication’ will be explored by keynote speakers including Professor Louis Herman, 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.

GMIT Marine Science lecturer and conference organiser Dr Simon Berrow, says this year’s conference has the largest 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”.

“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 vocalizations.” explains Dr Berrow.

“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.”

“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.” adds Dr Berrow, who is also a founding member of the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The conference will reflect on the success of the research coalition between the IWDG, GMIT and the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation. Conference Chair, Dr Ian O'Connor, lecturer in Marine Science in GMIT, said “we are delighted with the interest in the conference and I would like to thank our sponsors for supporting it, which will be one of the premier marine conferences in Europe this year.  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 generously 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.

For more information, see http://www.iwdg.ie/ecs