We are delighted to share that, on Friday the 20th of October, the Irish Whale and Dolphin group won the National Heritage Week Award for the Wild Child category. We are deeply grateful for this award and recognition of our work. It was truly an honour and a humbling experience.
Our winning event “Be a marine biologist for a day” aimed to celebrate the National Heritage Week theme of passing down knowledge and skills through generations. It took place at the Shannon Dolphin Center in Kilrush, Co. Clare. The event was aimed at children aged 8-10 years old, and started with an introduction to cetaceans, the evolution of marine mammals using real whale and dolphin bones, and an interactive session on how a dolphin or whale makes sounds and songs.
Samy, our “killer whale,” then demonstrated how scientists monitor Shannon dolphins by photographing their dorsal fins and matching them to track individual dolphins over time, allowing the children to try this scientific process themselves. Using shark, whale and dolphin cookies we learned about species identification and how different types of marine animals all look unique. We also played a whale Jenga game to represent how ecosystems work in real life and how conservation efforts try to balance a tower continuously trembling by all the threats against biodiversity. The day ended with sessions on the importance of protecting and preserving all the species in the food chain.
The National Heritage Week Awards ceremony was celebrated at the core of the Irish midlands, in the beautiful 300-year-old Gloster House, in County Offaly. This stunning site is located between the Georgian town of Birr and the mediaeval town of Roscrea, with River Shannon, the Grand Canal, Birr Castle close by. The house is surrounded by gardens, woodlands, and lakes and it felt like the perfect place to host the Awards.
We had a fantastic evening meeting other participants and getting to know all the dedicated people and organisations which projects contribute to protect and promote heritage all around Ireland. We would like to give a special mention to the lovely team of the Maharees Conservation Association CLG who won the Living heritage award and Tralee Bay Experience Fenit team from just across the Shannon who were nominated in the Water heritage category. We had the pleasure to share the same table during the ceremony and the later dinner with them. We talked about their events, and their dedication, exceptional ideas and hard work to make a positive impact in their communities!
This achievement would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the our Shannon Dolphin Project interns, and their hard work in organising this event and making it possible. A special shout out to our former Education & Engagement Officer Sibéal for all of her work and creativity over the years. Her ideas and workshops transform the way our education events are run. A HUGE thank you to the Heritage Council for supporting our work.
We also want to thank all the children who participated in our Be a marine biologist for a day event, and for celebrating National Heritage Week 2023 with us. We are looking forward to continuing making a positive impact in the community encouraging young people to protect the marine environment and follow their passions.