© Alexandra McInturf


The Irish Basking Shark Group (IBSG) is an amalgamation of research studies based on the island of Ireland. Our team is international, comprised of researchers, citizen scientists, educators and conservationists in Ireland, the UK, and the United States. Our aim is to educate the public on the unique marine life that occupies Irish waters. In particular, we center our research and education efforts on the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus). We strive to promote responsible and sustainable research, exploitation and monitoring of this species both in Ireland and on a global scale. To do so, our research projects actively focus on contributing to existing knowledge on basking sharks, and we simultaneously work to promote the development of partnerships with relevant organizations worldwide.

In order to comprehensively monitor basking shark "hotspots" along Ireland's coast, the IBSP possess multiple research teams in different regions. Among these, the Inishowen Basking Shark Study Group (IBSSG) is currently one of the most active. Located at Malin Head on the Inishowen peninsula (County Donegal), the IBSSG has spent the last decade observing the basking shark population at the northernmost part of the country. 


In order to achieve our overarching goal of contributing to basking shark research and conservation, we have determined a number of objectives:

| DETERMINE an accurate estimate of the current basking shark population in Irish waters

INVESTIGATE trends in the population over time and identify factors that may affect basking shark presence in certain locations

| PROMOTE the legal protection of the endangered basking shark under Irish and international law

| IDENTIFY the critical habitats for this species (i.e. “hotspots”) that may be part of its global range.

Emmett Johnston

Co-founder, IBSG

Researcher, IBSG/IBSSG

Divisional Ecologist, National Parks and Wildlife Service;

PhD candidate, Queen's University Belfast

Emmett Johnston is a divisional ecologist with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and a part-time researcher at Queen's University Belfast. He co-founded the IBSG and is involved in all facets of the groups activities, including: conservation policy, research, education, and community liaison.

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Simon Berrow

Co-founder, IBSG

Researcher, IBSG

Lecturer, GMIT;

CEO Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG)

It took Simon 15 years to tag his first basking shark; off West Kerry in 2008. Since then he has tagged over 400 and pioneered the technique of obtaining DNA from basking shark mucus. He lectures on the Applied Freshwater and Marine Degree at GMIT and is CEO of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, which validates all basking shark sighting records.

Alexandra McInturf

Researcher, IBSG/IBSSG

Science Communicator, IBSG

PhD candidate, University of California Davis

Alex McInturf is a member of the biotelemetry laboratory at UC Davis, and visiting researcher at Queen's University Belfast. She examines the link between behavior, movement, and conservation in marine apex predators using biotelemetry and biologging. 

Chelsea Gray 

Researcher, IBSG/IBSSG

Science Communicator, IBSG

PhD student, George Mason University

Natasha Phillips

Researcher & scientific advisor, IBSG/IBSSG/QUB

Post-doctoral researcher, Queen’s University Belfast

Rosemary McCloskey

Researcher, IBSG/IBSSG

Education/outreach coordinator, IBSSG

Chelsea Gray is a PhD student at George Mason University (USA). She has researched public perceptions of basking sharks and basking shark tourism in Ireland, and plans to continue researching the species throughout her PhD. Chelsea is also dedicated to scientific outreach, with experience in education, writing, and video editing. She is currently on the board of the Society of Conservation Biology (SCB) Conservation Marketing Working Group. 

Natasha Phillips is a post-doctoral researcher based at Queen’s University Belfast whose research focuses on the conservation ecology of large pelagic fishes. She is the telemetry & biologging lead for basking shark & flapper skate research on the EU-funded SeaMonitor project. Alongside her research, she co-produces science outreach films for Swimming Head Productions.

Rosemary McCloskey originally trained as a marine biologist and has worked in both public and private sector delivering environmental projects. These include marine/freshwater research, conservation and community engagement programmes. She has coordinated several projects for the IBSSG engaging the local community in citizen science and marine research.

Jenny Bortoluzzi

Field Support, IBSG/IBSSG

Science Communicator, IBSP

PhD Candidate, Trinity College Dublin

Paul Mayo

Researcher, IBSG/IBSSG

Seabed Habitat Modeller, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute

Donal Griffin

Researcher, IBSG/IBSSG

National Living Seas Officer, The Wildlife Trusts

Jenny is a PhD researcher in the Department of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin where she is supervised by Dr Andrew Jackson and Dr Nicholas Payne. Her research focuses on the ecological niches (foraging and habitat) of large marine migrators using biologging and stable isotope analysis. She is also a passionate science communicator working, among other things, as a Sharks4Kids Ambassador to educate children around the world about sharks.

Paul Mayo is a marine biologist who studies primarily the movement ecology of sharks. He has a variety of international research experiences from different shark labs and universities including Bimini Biological Field Station (Bahamas), Oceans Research (South Africa), University of Hawaii (Manoa), Queen’s University Belfast and the Irish Basking Shark Group. His recently completed PhD used baited underwater camera systems to investigate how scavengers such as demersal sharks utilize fisheries discards at the seabed.

Donal is a marine biologist who has worked with the IBSG since 2010 and carried out research on the diving behaviour of basking shark in Irish coastal waters. Donal also helped coordinate the 2014 shark lecture tour delivered by Dr. Pete Klimley (a.k.a Dr. Hammerhead), which ultimately provided the group with an international collaborative connection in the United States.

Lucy Hunt

Co-founder, IBSG

Founder of Sea Synergy Marine Awareness, Education, Research, and Activity Centre

Heather Vance

Researcher, IBSG/IBSSG

PhD candidate, Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St. Andrews

Paul Mensink

Scientific Advisor, IBSG/IBSSG

Assistant Professor, Centre for Environment and Sustainability, Western University;

Honorary Lecturer, Queen's University Belfast

Lucy Hunt is a marine biologist with a Master's degree in Marine Environmental Protection. She has been involved in marine research and education projects worldwide and still rates Ireland at the top of the list. Lucy was a co-founder of the IBSG and was the first female scientist to tag a shark in Ireland. She has worked in Cork and Kerry on different projects, from tagging, sampling to observing behaviour and maintaining the Photo ID catalogue. She currently works mostly in education raising awareness of the importance of a healthy ocean and, of course, basking sharks. 

Heather Vance is a PhD candidate at the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews, and a former master’s student at Queen's University Belfast. Her research focuses on the analysis of high-resolution multi-sensor tag data to study the behaviour of marine species, particularly in relation to foraging, energetics and conservation applications.

Paul Mensink is an assistant professor at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability at Western University and an honorary lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. His work revolves around the interaction between people and the marine environment and aims to promote ocean sustainability by improving management and conservation outcomes. He uses a diverse array of empirical approaches to study the behavior, movement ecology and population dynamics of marine species, with a strong focus on species that are directly exploited or adversely affected by commercial and recreational fisheries.

Danny McFadden

Field Support, IBSG/IBSSG

IT Specialist, Letterkenny Institute of Technology

Karl King

Field Support, IBSG/IBSSG

Environmental manager, Donegal Co. Council

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Officer, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

Danny McFadden is an IT specialist with Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Specialising in remote area communication systems, data security and big data management, he provides the group with logistical and technical support. Danny is a native of Donegal, and a Gaeilgeoir. He spent 18 months as communications manager with the British Antarctic survey and is a prospective Helm at Lough Swilly RNLI station. He is also a qualified dive instructor, VHF and HF radio instructor and frequently operates a support RIB for the group's fieldwork in Donegal 

Karl King is an environmental manager (water section) with Donegal Co. Council. He is a keen advocate of community-based environmental programs and is a member of the Inishowen Environmental Forum. He manages the Buncrana "Tidy Towns" project and is heavily involved with woodland and river conservation groups throughout County Donegal. Karl provides the Inishowen group with administrative, financial and backroom support

Pádraig’s involvement with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) dates back to 1992. He has been the group’s Sightings Officer since 2000, where his primary role is the validation and processing of cetacean and basking shark sighting records. A long-time advocate of sustainable whale watching in Ireland, he has been a regular contributor to a range of natural history publications, media and wildlife documentaries. His work has been published in peer reviewed publications, and he was the recipient of the National Biodiversity Data Centre Distinguished Recorder award in 2015

Boyd Bryce

Field Support, IBSG/IBSSG

Boyd is first mate on our research vessel and runs a mixed sheep and arable farm on Inch Island, Co. Donegal. He fished commercially for salmon during the 1970's - 1990s and later ran the traditional wooden charter angling boat out of Inch pier,  specialising in catch and release shark fishing. Boyd has a keen interest in all aspects of natural history and is a qualified bird ringer with BTO. He holds a certificate in conservation management and enjoys a good day at sea.