We have a wonderful tradition in Botany here in Trinity College Dublin – that of communicating our research to each other via a cake competition: The Botany Bake Off. Each week, members of the Botany Discipline gather to hear the stories associated with the cakes, to taste the cakes, and then cast their votes.
Members of the Plant-Animal Interactions Research group have contributed fantastically to this competition in the past, and this year is no exception.
Up first was Prof Jane Stout, with her bumble bee cake, which represented her plant-pollinator ecological research at a variety of scales: from the landscape, with its different habitats and floral resources for pollinators, to individual flowers and how their traits affect their value to insects, their visitation and pollination, to interactions with bees that forage on those flowers. From the colour patterns on the bee, we can tell it is from the Bombus lucorum cryptic complex, and so molecular methods are needed to identify the species.
PhD students Irene Bottero and Elena Zioga then upped the game by presenting not only a wonderful cake, but a fantastic theatrical piece to go with it to describe their research which focuses on identifying the hazards bees face as part of the EU PoshBee and DAFM Protects projects.
Emeritus group member, Paul Dowding, reflected on 50 years of research on various topics including air quality and pollen forecasting, and treated us to home-made buns representing various pollen morphologies, and home-made hedgerow jams from his sustainable farm in Co. Carlow.
Finally, PhD student Cian White, presented his research on plant-pollinator interactions and how they are influenced by human activity in landscapes along a disturbance gradient. He used four different cakes to illustrate different intensity of human activity – from intensive agriculture to intensive urbanisation, to less-intensive agriculture and suburban habitats. And he told some tales about the interesting people he met along the way…
The 2018 winners will be announced next week…