In the 1950’s, the late Professor Padraic O’Ceidigh, then the newly-appointed Chair of Zoology at University College Galway (UCG), decided to use the old Congested Districts Board building on the pier at Crumpaun, Carna, as a field station for ‘hands-on’ marine science classes for his undergraduate students. In the following decade, basic research and pilot-scale culture of various aquaculture species was taking place in bays around the Carna/Connemara area with particular interest in the raft culture of mussels and the rearing Rainbow trout in wooden sea-pens. At the same time, UCG had also established a new Department of Oceanography under Professor Barry and thus, by the early 1970’s, a field research facility was being actively sought by UCG to satisfy its research and teaching needs in these disciplines. Finally, the then Minister for Finance, Charles Haughey, agreed to support the concept and he provided funds to finance the project with the core building being constructed on the Carna site in 1974.

Over the next three decades, under the direction of Prof Padraic O’Ceidigh and Dr John Mercer, the ‘Shellfish Research Lab’, with its pioneering staff, undertook basic and applied research on an extensive, almost exhaustive, list of shellfish, finfish, crustacean, echinoderm and micro-/macro-algal species, including inter alia the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas), the Manila clam (Tapes semi-decussata), the purple sea-urchin (Paracentrotus lividus) and the Japanese abalone (Haliotis discus-hannoi). The research teams at Carna contributed to a greater understanding of the basic biology and requisite rearing protocols for these native and novel species. As testament to their efforts, many of these species are still being actively grown commercially in Ireland.

Over these years, the rearing and experimental facilities and supporting infrastructures have been added to, modified, improved and, often, replaced by newer facilities around the ‘core block’ which now largely houses offices and an administrative centre.