Despite the global pandemic, lockdown and geographic dispersion of researchers (who are currently scattered across Ireland, UK, Zambia, Ghana, Italy…), the Irish Pollinator Research Network (IPRN) gathered for its annual research symposium on 20th January 2021. Smoothly organised by TCD postdocs Jordan Chetcuti and Stephanie Maher, the meeting featured 16 presentations, with 26 participants at any one time (not always the same 26!).
The IPRN was established in 2017. Since then, we’ve met at TCD in 2018, DCU in 2019 and MU in 2020.
This year, researchers from TCD, UCD, MU, DCU, NUIG, and NBDC gathered to share research outputs, plans and ideas. Presentations covered a range of topics (listed below with my own personal take-home note!), and there was lively and constructive discussion after each one:
- modelling bees and their responses to pressures (is difficult because so many parameters to include and we still don’t know enough about basic biology of bees to parameterise models perfectly)
- how pollinators interact with plants and soil communities (ecological interactions are complicated, and we need to know more about soils and species traits)
- how bees are affected at a proteomic level by stressors such as pesticides and pathogens (we need to know more about bee immune systems, commercial formulations need more testing, and proteins/pathways have weird names!)
- analysing pesticide residues in soils, nectar and pollen (chemical extraction methods depend on both the matrix and the analytes of interest)
- how bees are affected at an individual behavioural and colony level by pesticides and climate (bees don’t always do what you expect in flight cages!)
- pollinators and pollination of flowering crops in Ireland (landscape surrounding fields/orchards can influence pollinators and pollination services)
- schemes to promote pollinators on Irish farmland (with relatively little effort, farms can become much more pollinator-friendly)
- pollination in African woodlands (although many woodland species are valuable to locals, role of pollination is not well understood, and different plant species react differently to pollination).
One thing that was apparent was the huge amount of work that has continued over the past year, despite the pandemic. A massive round of applause for all researchers for continuing to do amazing research despite restrictions, illnesses, constraints and other personal and national traumas…
Another thing that struck me was that there is so much synergy, collaboration and friendship in this network. We are there to support, help and advise each other, not to compete with one another, and that was apparent. This is so refreshing and I am feel very proud and privileged to work in this group. Keep it up everyone and looking forward to gathering at UCD next year!
To find out more about the IRPN members, see links to PIs below:
Jane Stout, TCD: Pollination ecology, plant-pollinator interactions, pollinator diversity and drivers of decline, landscape and agroecology, pollinator conservation, valuing pollinators and pollination services
Dara Stanley, UCD: Plant-pollinator diversity, interactions and conservation, pollinator behavioural ecology, agroecology, impacts of pesticides on bee behaviour and provision of pollination services.
Jim Carolan, NUI Maynooth: Cellular and molecular level effects of various stressors (pathogens, parasites and pesticides) in both native and commercial bees, bumblebee conservation, DNA barcoding and genomics.
Blanaid White, DCU: Analytical chemistry, honey chemistry, pesticide contamination of soils/floral resources.
Grace McCormack, NUI Galway: Disease tolerance/resistance in native Irish honeybees, wild honey bees.
Una Fitzpatrick, National Biodiversity Data Centre: All-Ireland Pollinator Plan
About the Author: Jane Stout is a Professor in Botany in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin and leads the Plant-Animal Interactions Research Group. She is co-founder of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.