My Irish Diatom Adventure (Part 2)

As I mentioned in a previous article, I travelled in Ireland last autumn and took the opportunity to sample diatoms. The photos here show the best of the 21 sampling locations and the resulting diatoms.

Some samples contained only a few individual diatoms, while others hosted thousands of individuals from a variety of species. Samples taken from calmer water with a muddy composition were easier to select and yielded far more diatoms than the ones taken from faster water or an area with a stony bottom.

Abbey River, Limerick

Images: Looking back at town from the river, a diatom.

The wharf at Arthur’s Quay on the Abbey River, with a one-metre dam and flow into the Shannon River, Limerick, Ireland. The freshwater diatom from the Abbey, Nitzschia vermicularis (size: 100 μm). Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

The Abbey River was my first sample location. It is a freshwater distributary arm of the Shannon River in Limerick. It eventually falls about a metre into the Shannon, which is tidal (salt water). Because the rivers were walled off (as are most of the rivers in Irish towns, I soon discovered), it was a challenge to get to the water level.

Fortunately, a friendly local couple at Arthur’s Quay helped me onto their wharf and into a row boat so I could take a good specimen. I mentioned I was from Canada, and Arthur happened to be my mother’s maiden name, so maybe that helped?

I thanked the couple and returned to the hotel for processing the samples.

Papers and containers for liquids scattered across a work surface.

Kit used in the hotels for drying, preparing and logging diatom samples. Image: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

On my return to Canada, researcher Paul Hamilton and I looked at the samples. Paul is a specialist of freshwater diatoms at the Canadian Museum of Nature in whose lab I regularly do volunteer work. We found freshwater and marine (salt water) diatoms in the sample, which indicates some kind of mixing—perhaps from high spring tides, wind blowing off the Shannon, or birds transporting drops of water… and diatoms.

Kylemore Castle, Lake Maladrolaun

The beautiful Kylemore Castle (shown in my previous article) is located on picturesque Lake Pollacapall and near Lake Maladrolaun. Sampling here was relatively easy. I obtained one sample from each lake, and a third from a drainage ditch. Lake Maladrolaun—and its muddy rather than stony bottom—yielded the best results.

Images: The lake seen through trees on the bank, a diatom.

The Maladrolaun Lake near Kylemore Castle, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, and a diatom from the lake, Diploneis ovalis (size: 40 μm). Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

Carrowbeg River, Westport

The Carrowbeg River flows through the town of Westport to the sea at Clew Bay on the west coast. Although the river was walled, stairs beside a bridge at South Mall and Bridge streets gave me access to the river bottom. The Carrowbeg sample yielded many very interesting diatoms.

Images: A river running between walls through town, a diatom.

The Carrowbeg River looking up towards Bridge St, Westport, County Mayo, Ireland. The diatom, Gomphomenia truncatum (size: 42 μm) is from the river at the bridge. Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

The Burn Stream, Donaghadee

Our tour group spent an evening in the coastal town of Donaghadee, Northern Ireland, just east of Belfast. With an hour free before supper, I discovered a drainage culvert along the sea wall. Walking up some streets and with the help of locals, I found the open-stream part near Crommelin Park and took a sample at a spot just before the water disappeared into the culvert.

Images: Looking back at the sea wall and buildings during low tide, a diatom.

The sea wall where fresh water from the Burn Stream flows into the sea in Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland. A Stauroneis smithii (size: 25 μm) diatom from the open stream above the culvert. Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

I later learned in an email from the Donaghadee Historical Society that the stream was called the Burn, Gaelic for “small freshwater stream”. Also, many years ago, the stream was used to power a mill and then it was culverted in the 1950s after a flood.

St. Stephen’s Green Pond, Dublin

St. Stephen’s Green Park has a beautiful large pond in the heart of downtown Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. There was easy access for samples from each end of the pond, which is shaped like a long bowtie. The pond is home to swans, cranes, ducks and other birds. While I was taking a sample, a curious moorhen came over to me to see what I was up to.

Images: A picturesque pond with walled banks, a diatom.

Water birds floating on the beautiful St. Stephen Green Park Pond, Dublin, Ireland. A diatom from the pond, Encyonema silesiacum (size: 25 μm). Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

Italian Gardens Pond, Garnish Island

Garnish Island is located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, in the southwest of Ireland. The island is accessible by a ferry service. Seals can be seen basking on the rocks along the way. The island has renowned gardens and beautiful walks, with a wide variety of plants and a stone lookout tower. Specimens were taken from the Italian Gardens Pond and two other spots along a creek in what is called the Happy Valley area of the island.

Images: A rectangular pool and a pavilion, a diatom.

The Italian Gardens Pond, Garnish Island, County Cork, Ireland, with a diatom from the pond, Pinnularia appendiculata (size: 28 μm). Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

Deenagh River, Killarney

The Deenagh River flows through beautifully forested parts of Killarney National Park in the city of Killarney. Because of the fast current and stony bottom, I took a sample in a calmer spot along the shore. Horse-drawn carriages in the park give rides to tourists along the trails and across the bridge.

Image: A river flows under a bridge, a diatom.

The Deenagh River and bridge, Killarney National Park, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland. This Navicula lanceolata diatom (size: 26 μm) is from the river. Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

Abhainn Bhaile na Rátha River, Dunquin

Dunquin is a small town on the spectacular Dingle Peninsula (where the 1970s movie Ryan’s Daughter was filmed). The Abhainn Bhaile na Rátha River flows through farmlands from around Dunquin to the sea at Dingle Bay. Because of the current, I again obtained a sample in a calmer spot not far from the stream mouth.

Images: The estuary where Beal Átha Cliath Stream flows into Dingle Bay, a diatom.

The Abhainn Bhaile na Rátha River looking southwest into Blasket Sound, near Dunquin on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland. A Cocconeis placentula diatom (size: 35 μm) from the river. Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

Washing Pool, Adare

Adare is a town just southwest of Limerick where a small tributary of the Maigue River flows through. The Main Street bridge crosses it at a place called the Washing Pool. This is where many years ago, women of the area would gather to do their washing. Animals used it as a watering hole. While drawing a specimen, small crustaceans (that likely ate diatoms) darted around and tried to get into my sample.

Images: A picturesque walled length of the river with an access point, a diatom.

The Washing Pool on a tributary of the Maique River, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland. This diatom, Cymatopleura solea (size: 130 μm) is from the pool. Images: Joe Holmes © Canadian Museum of Nature

These photos of locations and diatoms are representative of many diatom photos taken from a variety of samples from the beautiful and historic island of Ireland.

This entry was posted in Fieldwork, Plants and Algae, Research and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My Irish Diatom Adventure (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Hunting the Urban Diatom in Vancouver, B.C. (Part 1) | Canadian Museum of Nature – Blog

  2. Pingback: Pilgrim’s Progress: Sampling Diatoms in the Holy Land | Canadian Museum of Nature – Blog

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