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The Wild Atlantic – Sea Science

The Sea Has A Lot To Offer

The Sea Science galleries are the result of a collaboration between the Galway City Museum, the Martin Ryan Institute in the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and the Marine Institute Galway. Sea Science was initially installed in 2014 and The Wild Atlantic expansion followed in 2017.

The Wild Atlantic – Sea Science exhibition will take you from the rocky shore to the ocean depths, and help you find out more about the wonders of our marine world; from about how the moon affects the tides and the global movement of ocean currents, to who eats whom in the ocean depths, and what it’s really like to explore our oceans. The Wild Atlantic exhibition was commissioned in 2016 by the Marine Institute for the national maritime festival, SeaFest, and was further developed to increase public awareness and understanding of our marine environment.

The Ryan Institute is NUI Galway’s hub for environmental, marine and energy research activities. One of its aims is to stimulate interactions between people and their environment to benefit human well-being and the health of the biosphere. The Marine Institute is the State agency with responsibility for Marine Research and Development in Ireland. Galway City Museum is a centre for community learning and is an ideal platform for promoting and sharing research, and for providing visitors with an experience that will help to shape the way they view and experience the world. The Ryan Institute and the Marine Institute and Galway City Museum are delighted to have had the opportunity of working together on this project.


The ocean is full of tiny, single-celled organisms called phytoplankton.

Some types of phytoplankton are bacteria, but most are plants. Just like plants that grow on the land, phytoplankton are very important for making fresh oxygen for us to breathe. Scientists estimate that they convert at least as much carbon dioxide into oxygen as all of the trees and land plants on the planet! They are also very important food for other creatures – being at the bottom of the marine food chain you could say that all other life in the ocean depends on them. Creatures glow through a process called bioluminscence for a number of reasons: to attract a mate, to lure prey, or to communicate with one another. It is thought that some plankton bioluminesce to avoid being eaten by predators. The clever plankton protect themselves by making their own predators vulnerable as prey for creatures even higher up the food chain!


What is it?

Almost all natural and industrial materials will eventually break down (rot) into pieces so small that they are essentially part of the natural environment again. This process is called biodegradation. Have a look in your compost bin and see biodegradation in action! Micro-organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, together with chemical reactions with air and water, cause materials to biodegrade.

How Does so Much Rubbish End up on Our Beaches?

Do you ever see bits of plastic gathered along the high tide line at the beach? Litter can enter the ocean from rivers and coastlines, and sometimes it is dumped directly into the ocean from boats at sea. It can then travel on ocean currents, washing up on shores hundreds of miles away, and many years later!

How Does Rubbish Travel Across Our Oceans?

The water in the world’s ocean is continually moving, in patterns called currents. If you look at a map of the world you can see that all the oceans are really part of one big Global Ocean. Because all the water is connected and always in motion, currents can move litter and other debris all over the world. There is one major circulation pattern – which oceanographers often refer to as the “Global Oceanic Conveyor Belt” – that cycles water around the entire globe over a 1000 year period! So, the water you swim in down in Salthill this summer could travel the world, making its way back just in time for your great-great-great-great-great-great-great – (…plus another 30 or so greats) grandchildren to swim in!

Widely regarded as the first significant writer in modern Irish, Ó Conaire was described as “absolutely the only writer you can imagine a European reading”. Máirtín Ó Cadháin, the foremost Irish-language writer of his generation, judged him the “most successful exponent in the Irish language”, adding that “this is no mean praise in a country which is world famous for its short story writers”.

Get Electric

Magnetic Attraction

Some materials are magnetic and some are not. A magnet can attract or push away another magnetic object. It does this because it has an invisible field around it called a magnetic field. A magnet has a NORTH pole and SOUTH pole. And because opposites attract, sometimes magnets will stick together, and other times they will push each other away. The first ingredient for making electricity is a magnet!

Magnetic Fields

What you are seeing in the fluid at this station is effectively the magnetic field of a bar magnet. When moved, this magnet triggers a response in the tiny particles of magnetic iron which are contained in the fluid. And presto, the magnetic field becomes visible!!

Creating a Current

Everything on the Earth (including you!) is made of tiny little parts called atoms. In these atoms are even tinier parts called electrons. Electrons like to be on the move! When they move an electric current is generated. Materials that let electrons move easily are called conductors. The second ingredient for making electricity is a conductive material containing lots of electrons! Copper wire is a good material for this.

Sea Sound

What is Sound ?

Sound is a type of energy made by vibrations. Sound causes molecules in the air to vibrate as the sound waves travel from their source (like a speaker) to your ear.

What is Subsea Sound Used For?

Acoustic scientists and engineers use beams of sound to map the sea bed. The research vessel has equipment that sends out pulses of sound, which echo (bounce) off the sea floor and return to the ship. The echos are displayed on a screen, and the researchers look at – 1 The amount of time it took for the sound to bounce back -as this is related to how far away (how deep) the sea floor is. 2 How the volume (amplitude) and pitch (fequency) of the sound has changed – as this says something about what material the sound has bounced off. Very useful to help geologists to find out what types of rocks make up the sea floor. People use undersea sound for lots of other reasons too, including fishing, communication and navigation.

Exhibition Gallery


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