Photo credit: Aoife Lynch

Jane Maddocks has news of an ambitious project that is appealing to Northern Irish photographers and marine life enthusiasts for vital data.

For some divers winter is a quiet time; for others it’s a rush to the airport for some warmer water diving. For many, it is time to prepare for next year’s diving activity with friends and club members. This month I want to focus on opportunities for divers in Northern Ireland, then briefly mention an issue in the Mediterranean and Red Sea that BSAC divers and centres could get involved with over the winter.

Aoife Lynch is the Regional Coach for Northern Ireland – she has contacted me about a biodiversity project that she wants lots of Northern Irish divers to get involved with. Enter Libby Keatley and Christine Morrow. They are based at the Queen’s University Marine laboratory in Portaferry, NI. Christine’s project is funded by the DAERA Environment Fund. They are working on developing a ‘web-based portal for marine biodiversity’ which aims to develop an informative resource on the marine biodiversity in Northern Ireland.

To give you a feel for the project, Libby says that the web portal will link species and habitat descriptions, ID resources, survey photos and data (including legacy data) and species distribution data for Northern Ireland. 

There will be a particular focus on Northern Ireland Priority Species (NIPS), invasive non-native species (INNS) and those that could be confused with them, plus other marine invertebrates. 

The project will be helping to build on the existing DNA barcoding available for species ID and INNS detection, as well as liaising with CEDaR (Centre for Environmental Data and Recording) to develop action plans for the priority species.

They hope to develop a resource that will be of use to everyone, including divers who are interested in learning more about the marine life found in NI waters. So, fun and diver involvement, what could be better?

They would love to make BSAC divers (initially in NI) aware of this project and invite any that are interested in volunteering to provide them with video or still images of the marine life and habitats in Northern Ireland. Any material that ends up being used on the web portal will be fully credited to the photographer. 

Kelly Nelson Marine Life Appreciation Ireland

A Marine Life Appreciation SDC was held in November 2023 in Belfast, NI

To get this started, Aoife ran the Marine Life Appreciation SDC in Northern Ireland on 18th November with Libby and Christine and writes: “I just wanted to contact you about a project we hope to promote among our branches over here. It is currently planned to be focused on Northern Ireland priority species and habitats and will involve BSAC members by requesting videos/stills/images of habitats and species taken locally to build a useful resource data base. This project would be run by Christine Morrow and Libby Keatley (BSAC members and Researchers at Queens University Belfast). The region is planning to link the promotion of the project with Marine Life Appreciation SDC/Christmas social evening in later November.”

So, Marine Life Appreciation AND a Christmas social - what a brilliant combination. 

For more information contact or 

Article by Jane Maddocks, first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 141 December 2023.

Marine Life Appreciation SDC Course

Marine Life Appreciation Course

The Marine Life Appreciation course is open to any BSAC member. No diving qualification is necessary to take part, but there is an optional underwater session for qualified divers.

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