Garry Kendellen

Blog: build fences, build biodiversity, build new relationships

Posted: 8th February, 2024

Garry Kendellen (Galway Atlantaquaria) writes about How BIAZA Zoos and Aquariums can add value to society by supporting local community projects.

As a proud BIAZA member, Galway Atlantaquaria echoes and supports the values and ethos of BIAZA.

Since becoming Wild Atlantic Way Champions in 2016, we wanted to show how BIAZA members can add value to local communities through the promotion of local resources, like iconic parks, sites, areas of interest or champion causes that would improve the local areas.

Initially, our goal was to showcase the very best of our aquarium and surrounding public amenities. However, in 2016 we attended Fáilte Ireland Local Experts and WAW (Wild Atlantic Way) Champions training and after this training were inspired to showcase why people should come to Salthill, and not just the aquarium.

Our local coastal areas are often vulnerable or at risk of coastal erosion, so in 2023 we were excited to get involved in a Pilot Sand Fencing Project that was developed by Galway City Council, CARO, and The University of Galway. We wanted to show the value of Nature Based Solutions (Nbs) to protect and improve these areas.

Galway Atlantaquaria felt it was important to record the progression of the pilot and help communicate its value to the community and environment through volunteering our time and technology to manage a community Facebook Page (see I LIKE BEACHES Galway).

Image 1. The Sand Fence Pilot Project Before- (Garry Kendellen)

Working closely with Dr. Kevin Lynch from University of Galway we started to develop posts/stories about the role the fences would play. We took photos of the site before and after, and utilised digital assets and drones to record the Sand Fencing Project from the very beginning.

It would have been very easy for us to move on to the next project, however, we committed to recording the progression of the dunes every week. Recording the progression of the dunes became a habit, and once you record one week, why stop there? As we started to get comfortable recording the Sand Fencing, we began to see the benefits of the dunes to the community, environment, and biodiversity levels of the area.

Over 4 months of recording the progress of the dunes, we’d gathered a lot of data, producing time-lapse photographs, digital brochures, and more communication materials. Through sorting hundreds of hours of video and images we were able to prove the effectiveness of the Pilot Sand Fencing Project. Our First Publication of results can be seen here.

Image 2. How quickly the flora flourishes with the Sand Fences (Garry Kendellen)

Some of the benefits we communicated include:

  • The development of marram grass; how it had grown exponentially week on week.
  • When the marram was growing, we also found many birds, who had found protection and shelter amongst the growing dunes system.
  • We showed how drift seaweed was feeding and being absorbed by the dunes too. This natural defence against waves also provides nourishment for flora and seabirds.
  • We took many photos of new species of coastal flowers that had taken root, thanks to the influx of pollinators, bees, etc.
  • The sightings of many species of birds were truly amazing, with one species which was from the IUCN Red List, the Meadow Pipit.

Finally, we were able to add another ‘Iconic Site’ for visitors to see, adding more value to the experience of visiting Salthill. Visitors to the area could observe how a small coastal area could lead the way in protecting and enhancing the Coastline.


This was a truly remarkable story to be able to share with our community. We wanted to showcase this project, to attract interest in the area and promote Nature Based Solutions. By doing so we showed visitors to Salthill that beaches can be shared spaces where biodiversity and people can co-exist.

We had done a lot of work to showcase the growth of the dunes over time, and how it can be used on other beaches along the famous Wild Atlantic Way. This was a reflection of BIAZA ethos, and how zoos and aquariums can add value to society.

Image 3. The Community at work (Garry Kendellen)

Galway Atlantaquaria would like to thank Dr Kevin Lynch University of Galway, Paula Kearney Galway City Council, and the I Likes Beaches Galway Volunteers for creating this opportunity.

- Garry Kendellen (he/him), Marketing and Content Creation, Galway Atlantaquaria

Appendix - the Digital Guides

Here is a series of Photo Records of the Sand Dune Fencing Project. It is quite a story!

All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not necessarily a reflection of BIAZA's positions. 

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