UCD student nets Mary Mulvihill award for project on Norway archipelago

1 Jun 2022

Image: © GunnarE/Stock.adobe.com

Samantha Tobias is a student of the world heritage management and conservation course at UCD. Her illustrated essay analysed the implications of rising sea levels for the Vegaøyan archipelago.

Munich-native Samantha Tobias has been named this year’s winner of the Mary Mulvihill award for her project on rising sea levels and their impact on heritage sites.

A student of University College Dublin (UCD), Tobias bagged the €2,000 award. The competition is now in its sixth year. It runs annually to commemorate the legacy of science journalist and author, Mary Mulvihill, who died in 2015.

This year’s competition theme was water. Students from 10 colleges around the country submitted entries exploring the theme in scientific, environmental, imaginative or other terms.

Tobias’s winning project was an illustrated essay titled ‘Vegaøyan: Impact and Management of Sea Level Rise and Flooding on World Heritage Sites’.

The essay analysed the implications of rising sea levels for the Vegaøyan (or Vega) archipelago off the west coast of Norway. The archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage site comprising thousands of islands, islets and reefs.

The region has been inhabited by humans for more than 10,000 years. Its inhabitants fish, farm and harvest the down of eider ducks, for which they build special nesting houses.

Rising sea levels and associated coastal flooding threaten to upset the area’s delicate balance and undermine the viability of its 222 bird species and its marine biodiversity.

Tobias will complete a master’s degree in world heritage management and conservation at UCD later this year.

She is the second student on UCD’s world heritage management and conservation course to win the award, following the inaugural winner Irene Fogarty, in 2017.

Tobias aims to undertake a PhD in the same discipline. Her ambition is to conduct further research on Vegaøyan to study strategies that could minimise the damage to the region caused by rising sea levels.

The judges for this year’s Mary Mulvihill award were Irish Times tech journalist Karlin Lillington, Nigel Monaghan of the National Museum of Ireland Natural History; DCU Water Institute’s Fiona Regan, and Mulvihill’s sister, Anne Mulvihill.

Presenting the award to Tobias, Regan said her winning entry “was such a strong piece of work”.

“It was thorough, technically sound and displayed a nice grasp of several disciplines.”

This year’s competition runner-up was UCD science student Rodger Clery, who scooped a €500 prize for his short animated film, entitled ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Water’.

Tobias and Clery are invited to the next session of the Robert Boyle Summer School, which runs in Lismore, County Waterford from 23 to 26 June. The invitation also extends to the 2021 and 2020 Mary Mulvihill awardees, who have missed out on attending due to Covid-19 restrictions.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic