As I arrived in Ireland my first thought was to marvel at the different land around me: the rolling green (and I mean GREEN) hills, Irish breakfast, three prong outlets, driving on the left side of the road, and community singing and dancing to name only a few of the cultural differences encountered so far. But as the next couple of days have passed, I’ve started to notice things that seem familiar despite my never having been in this country. In some respects, Ireland reminds me of my two homes. The small winding roads and close buildings remind me of New England (places like Boston, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire). The shale outcroppings along the coastline are reminiscent of both New England and central/northern California. The steep cliffs, jetting rocks, and seals playing in the splashing waves bring back memories of the California coastline.
As we scrambled over rocks past an ancient alter tomb, down to the intertidal, I saw a marine intertidal community that is at once familiar and totally unique. The community is strikingly diverse in comparison to the fauna and flora of New England (where I’ve spent most of my scientific training). But as I looked closer, I started to see some of my old friends, the periwinkle snails Littorina littorea, L. saxatilis, and L. obtusata, the brown seaweeds Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus, and the ever present green crab Carcinus maenas (although I use the term “friend” lightly here as this green crab is more of the unwelcome cousin that you can’t get rid of in New England) mixed in among the many organisms I saw for the first time. I now have the opportunity to explore the same critters I’ve studied at home in a whole new environment, with a whole new community, and a whole new set of interactions to uncover.
At the same time I am excited to discover Ireland’s unique culture and natural environment, and the origins of some things that are part of my home. (Did I mention that I lived for several years in Boston, an American city that is quite proud of her Irish heritage?)