The final flight for air corps research officer
After a lifetime researching our waterways, Dr Martin O'Grady is retiring. Irish Independent photographer Mark Condren joined him for his final flight with the Air Corps
He's had a bird's eye view of Ireland - and especially its many lakes and rivers - for the past 25 years.
But well over 300 trips later, Dr Martin O'Grady has finally come down to earth.
Following a long and distinguished career, the Senior Research Officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland is retiring.
However, he has a lifetime of special memories to savour, as he looks back on a remarkable career with the Air Corps.
The Leixlip man is widely regarded as a leading European expert in fisheries research. And for over 40 years he put his special talents to use while working for the fisheries board - the State agency responsible for the protection and management of one of the jewels in our natural habitat.
He recalls in luxuriant detail many of the "breathtakingly beautiful" parts of Ireland he has seen through his work with the Irish Air Corps.
Travelling at low altitude, the planes help chart the country's major rivers, and offer a rare opportunity to embrace their majesty up close.
Dr O'Grady has devoted much of his life to researching how rivers and lakes can be rehabilitated to improve the quality of fish stocks. After spending much of his career examining freshwater fish populations, the 65-year-old was in reflective mood after taking his last trip with the Air Corps.
"I've been flying with them for the last 25 years so I have many great memories to take with me," he said.
"In recent years, it's involved examining rivers that have been damaged from a fisheries point of view, because of drainage, or the activities of land owners.
"During that time my work has included the conservation of salmon and trout, and I designed relevant schemes with this in mind.
"While we're flying, photographs are taken of all the channels in a catchment area. The pilots have to follow a river - something they wouldn't normally be doing - and it's a training exercise for them.
"The trips usually gave me a complete set of photographs, which helped identify any problems. We would then decide what needed to be done.
"It's a management tool to better understand the problems of a particular river."
"I'm definitely going to miss it all. The trips I will especially remember were the ones into the mountainous areas.
"But I feel privileged to have been able to sample some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland.
"If we were talking about New South Wales or the Caribbean, there wouldn't be a necessity for what I've been doing. In these locations climatic conditions are so good most of the time, satellite photographs would do the job. But in Ireland the problem is that we have to cope with cloud cover, which often makes it extremely difficult to get good pictures.
"I'm a strong advocate in preserving our natural environment; it's something we can't take for granted."
To view the video of 'The final flight' go to Independent.ie