This past weekend I had the opportunity to head down to Lahinch Beach and out to the smallest Aran Island, Inisheer (or Inis Oírr in Irish), to help a fellow colleague in the SEMRU (Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit complete his research. The trip was a good excuse to do some field work, surf, and experience some fairly pristine and historic Irish territory. My favorite part of the weekend was definitely exploring Inisheer. It was truly an incredible experience hiking along largely untouched stones to end up on the back side of such an isolated island.
As for the work part of the weekend, I helped a fellow student complete surveys for his master’s thesis. He is collecting data to determine how a ‘Blue Flag’ rating (or lack there of) affects peoples’ decisions to visit a beach. Essentially, a blue flag signifies excellent safety, beach management, water quality, as well as clean and well-maintained recycling, waste, and restroom facilities. The reason he chose Lahinch as one of the two survey sites is because Lahinch is a very popular beach that recently lost its ‘blue flag’ status due to improper disposal of wastewater from a nearby sewage treatment plant.
Our work entailed surveying individuals about the purpose of their visit, visit expenditures, opinions regarding the blue flag scheme, and how their beach attendance would be affected if Lahinch was to regain its blue flag status for the coming year. Among the people I surveyed, I found that most people were unaware of and unconcerned with the fact that Lahinch recently lost its blue flag. The researcher also plans to a survey individuals at a nearby beach that is better known for its blue flag to determine whether or not those individuals would attend the beach less frequently if the beach was to lose its blue flag. Overall, I found that I don’t much like surveying individuals, especially when they tell me “don’t bother me with that- I’m on vacation!” However, it was a valuable experience and I rather enjoyed talking to some families and tourists about their vacation and whatever else came to mind.