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A look inside a co-op in Ireland

“It sounds like an obscure topic, but understanding how species interact with each other and with their environment is crucial for implementing conservation efforts, maintaining biodiversity, and protecting threatened habitats and species.” That’s what Julia Renner said about her research at the Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute at the National University of Ireland – Galway (NUIG).

The marine biology major has spent the past several months on co-op at the institute researching the spatial and temporal distribution of several barnacle species on the rocky shores of the Irish coast — where they settle, how they compete with each other, and whether and how they survive. She has spent most of her time looking at the Chthamalus stellatus and Semibalanus balanoides barnacles, both common along the Irish coast.

“I’m interested in determining whether there being some barnacles already living on a section of rock is beneficial for the settlement of new barnacle larvae — even if they’re of a different species, and would theoretically be competing with the already-established barnacles,” she said.

a building

The Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute

Julia explains that barnacles are a great model to study because they’re permanently attached to rocks, so it’s easy to see how they’re growing and interacting over time. She adds that since they settle densely, she can collect a lot of data over a small area; and they’re found all over the world.

Julia says she’s always been interested in population dynamics and how organisms interact with others of their species and with other species. She’s worked in ecology and biodiversity at the Marine Science Center in Nahant, and when she returns from Ireland she’ll be starting Northeastern’s Three Seas Program.

This isn’t the first time Julia has been to Ireland; last summer she was there for a Dialogue of Civilizations. She says it was during that time she became interested in developing a co-op. “We took a day trip out to Inishmore, an island off the coast—which was where I first saw some really interesting distributions of barnacles,” she said. “I was lucky enough to find a researcher who had worked with barnacles in the past and was willing to take me on to do my own work.”

She’s not just all about work, though. Julia’s been able to find some free time, and in that time she’s been training with the NUIG Triathlon Club and running the beautiful trails around the campus; she’s been to Galway Bay; and she’s been spending weekends perusing the used bookstores in the city center. She’s also been writing about her experiences as part of the Beyond Boston Bloggers series! It’s at jules-on-coop.blogspot.com.

A rainy night on a street in Galway.

In the Galway town center during the evening. As always in Ireland, the picture’s not complete without an umbrella. (courtesy photo)

Julia Renner on a rocky coast in field gear

Julia Renner, a marine biology major, spends time on her co-op taking photos of experiment sites on the coast of Spiddal, which is a small town near Galway, ideally suited for field experiments because of all of the undisturbed rock space. (courtesy photo)

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