ZooSoc Takeover: The Start of Something Great

Whenever someone finds out that I study zoology, the first thing they say is ‘Wow, that must be really interesting’. I agree with them, it is. The second thing they ask me is ‘are you going to work in a zoo?’. Unfortunately this time I have to disappoint them, most graduates of zoology  don’t end up working in zoos. Just like a graduate in botany isn’t trained to grow plants in their back garden, a graduate of zoology is trained in much more than animal handling.

A degree in Zoology from TCD is more than just handling animals and fun field trips abroad. Image credit: School of Natural Sciences, TCD.

What a degree from the School of Natural Sciences teaches you is how to analyse a system, take it apart, examine the components and then rebuild it taking into account the interactions. And the interactions are the important aspect here. Ecology is the science of interactions and networks, and evolution is really just ecology over a longer period of time. And so graduates of the Natural Sciences tend to have a knack for ending up as city planners, addressing questions such as ‘how does the city function, what are its components and how do these interact?’ Perhaps most importantly:  ‘how will this city evolve over the next ten, fifteen, twenty years and how do we want it to evolve?’.

With 35% of the Irish population living in urban centres (Ireland actually has one of the lowest urban/rural population ratios in the EU) city planning is becoming more and more important. By incorporating ideas like ecosystem services into city planning we can make a city a much more enjoyable, livable experience. Pollinators are important, an annual value of 153 billion speaks for itself. They’re easy to understand: with no insect visiting the flower, you don’t get an apple! But I think they’re just the tip of the ecosystem service iceberg, easy to see but just a small bit of the overall picture. There’s carbon sequestration and storage in parklands, flood mitigation and waste water treatment by appropriately placed wetlands, urban temperature regulation, traffic noise reduction, pest population control and they’re just some of the regulating services.

Bees are the poster girls of ecosystem services! Image credit: RedBull Trinker flickr.com/blackhole_eater.

Some of the most expensive houses in New York City are the Brownstones located around Central Park. In the future, such recreational areas shouldn’t just be reserved for the privileged and rich but rather integrated into the cities themselves. Let’s have rooftop gardens connected with bridges, creating elevated green spaces. Let’s have a connected network of greenways so that people can cycle and walk to work in an environment that doesn’t frankly annoy you. College Green is ironically grey. Or how about Urban farms which can show kids where food actually comes from, not just a Tescos. Let’s have places people can go and simply get away from it all. It has been shown that Urban green infrastructure reduces stress and improves mental health. We have a pandemic of mental health issues in Ireland, especially among my generation, about which not much is being done.  Having a network of green infrastructure that serves the people, communities and biodiversity of this the city not only makes economic sense, it creates a happier society.

Green infrastructure for flood mitigation in Singapore. Image credit: Stefan flickr.com/_stefano_.

However creating a city such as this requires an inter and transdisciplinary approach! It will require working closely across disciplines and Trinity has placed itself in a unique position with which to address this by establishing the Engineering, Energy and Environment Institute, E3. This sees the schools of Natural Science, Engineering and Computer Science coming together to teach and work in close collaboration to address some of society’s biggest needs. Integrating cultural, educational and provisional ecosystem services into civil engineering is the one I’m most excited about. It’s already happening in London, Singapore, Milan but with E3, Ireland could become a world leader in this area!

It’s not just about building a city that we could survive in, it’s about building a future we want to live in. The Trinity Campus Pollinator Plan could be the start of something great!

This week ZooSoc are taking over CampusBuzz! Today’s entry was the last in this series and was written by TCD’s ZooSoc President, Cian White (@Cian_De_Faoiche). Cian is a fourth year Zoology student at TCD. He’s interested in ecology, evolution and how ecosystem services could best be integrated into society.


A bee feeding on a cornflower in the middle of diverse grassland, with many other flower species visible in the background.

ZooSoc Takeover: Should the law mind its own B(ee)sense?

A look at the role of regulation in facing pollinator decline.

The vital role of science in researching the importance of pollinators and their role in food production and the protection of the environment is well established. However, a further trans disciplinary approach is required to spread the message of their importance and to convince society at large that we all need to play a part in addressing pollinator decline. As a Law student with a strong passion for the environment, I am interested in the practical realisation of such an approach.

Upon my selection for the Trinity Hall environmental team this year, I was encouraged, by my reading of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, to attempt to create a pollinator friendly haven on the grounds of Hall. By cordoning off an area of Hall’s land and encouraging the growth of pollinator friendly plants, we could do our bit to reverse the decline in Ireland’s pollinator population, thus benefitting both the environment and the population of Hall.

A pollinator friendly grassland! Image credit: Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows.

My desire to implement such an initiative was surprisingly compounded by my first year legal studies. At the end of our final lecture in my favourite module of the year, entitled Legislation and Regulation, our lecturer imparted some apt words of wisdom. He acknowledged that even though both legislation and regulation are oftentimes used to break down and tear apart human behaviour, they can also be used to create and to positively influence both individual behaviour and society at large.

This sentiment may appear aspirational, particularly in the context of environmental law. However, application of some of the substantive lessons taught in the module revealed to me that attitudes towards the environment may be altered without having to rely on the imposition of explicit legislation or regulation.

A different approach, that of reliance on a duality of subtle regulation, must be adopted. This duality includes, first and foremost, regulation by norms.

Convincing people that it is socially beneficial to act in an environmentally friendly manner begins with the implementation of schemes such as the Pollinator Plan. Educating people on the importance of pollinators and publicly displaying pollinator friendly gardens affects a subconscious attitude change in how people understand pollinators and their important role in biodiversity. Over time, and through the increased advertisement of this message, it becomes the norm to adapt one’s garden to become more pollinator friendly. Once this norm takes hold, it is regulated by people, for people, through peer pressure and desire to maintain a reputation.

The importance of balanced regulation in addressing the environment. Image credit: Cabinet Salès.

This method of regulation is compounded by the next – regulation by architecture. The introduction of pollinator friendly gardens on the rooftops of high rise apartment buildings and office blocks could augment the behaviour of their residents and workers respectively. Just as architectural changes like speed bumps make people conscious of their driving speed, the clever placement of such gardens has the power influence one’s desire to affect positive pollinator change.

A pollinator friendly rooftop garden. Image credit: Amanda Carlucci, theNatureFan.com.

Dependence on such indirect forms of regulation could allow an environmental attitude change to be achieved not through reliance on a forced rhetoric of environmental awareness, against which people often feel compelled to rebel, but through the implementation of visible environmentally friendly initiatives, designed to subconsciously encourage people to be increasingly mindful of their own environmental impact.

Buoyed by recent success in creating pollinator friendly plots in Trinity Hall and by the ecological areas blooming with pollinator plants here on campus, I believe that the Trinity Campus Pollinator Plan can be the start of such an environmental mindfulness movement.

This week ZooSoc are taking over CampusBuzz! Expect a new blog everyday written by student members of the society. Today’s entry was written by Caoimhe White (@ZooSoc). Caoimhe is in her 1st year of Law at TCD. Her main areas of interest are environmental and animal welfare policy.



ZooSoc Takeover: Learn your A, Bee, Cs

Bee Alert! A KEY to Identifying Irish Bumblebees

Here in Ireland, we have 20 species of bumblebee. Telling them apart can be quite difficult for amateur naturalists, but hopefully this key can help you distinguish between the Irish Bumblebees!bumblebee-swatch

If you do find a bumblebee and think you have successfully identified it, you should send a photo of it into the National Biodiversity Data Center (NBDC)

Also available from the NBDC are handy swatches for Bumblebee Identification available for €6.

Before you can start identifying your bumblebees you’ll need to know your insect body parts. The thorax is the middle segment of insects, and is the part from which the wings and legs are attached. The abdomen is the large back part of the insect and is divided into a variable number of segments.


ZooSoc Takeover: How to Bee Helpful

There are 20 species of bumblebee in Ireland. These fuzzy little insects play a key role in pollination. However, pesticides, climate change and disease are causing declines in bumblebee populations worldwide. As part of the “Irish Pollinator Initiative” a “Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme” has been set up. This citizen-science monitoring programme will provide a long-term dataset on changes in bumblebee populations over time in Ireland.

You can enjoy a nice walk around local parks or gardens while doing your bit to save the bees. Why not walk around campus and see how effective our Campus Pollinator Plan is!

Here is how you help collect data for the programme:

1. Learn your bumblebeesbumblebee-swatch

Before you go out into the field you’ll need to be able to identify some of the more common bumblebee species (check out Eoin’s blog, going live tomorrow!). The National Biodiversity Data Centre has a fantastic little swatch on bumblebee identification that can fit in your pocket. You can order one here.

2. Pick a route

Your route needs to be 1-2km in length, which would take under an hour to complete while walking slowly. If you’re in Dublin pick a park, or take a trip outside the M50 to find somewhere green! When you decide on a location make sure to let the organizers of the monitoring programme know.

3. Choose a day

To get accurate results you’ll need to monitor bumblebees on this route on eight separate occasions between March and October. Try to avoid collecting data in consecutive weeks and try to do the walks between 11:00 and 17:00 on days when weather conditions are suitable for bumblebees.

One of the great things about surveying bees is they tend to prefer nice weather too! Image credit: Pixabay, Creative Commons.

4. Record the bumblebees you see

Walk slowly along the route and count the number of each species of bumblebee you see within 2.5m either side of you. Make sure to write down the start and finish time of the walk and record the following conditions: average temperature, wind direction and wind speed (using the “Land Conditions” guide in the Beaufort Scale).

5) Upload Online

Once you have collected your data you can upload it online here.

A more detailed description of the monitoring scheme with full instructions can be found here.

The red-tailed cuckoo bee (Bombus rupestris) is one of Ireland’s four endangered bumblebee species. Image source: Andreas Schmitt, Wikimedia Commons.
By collecting these data you will allow researches, such as ecologists in Trinity, to study the long-term population dynamics of bumblebees, which is vital for their protection. So if you contribute to the “Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme” you can enjoy some time out in the natural world while feeling good for helping to save the bees!

This week ZooSoc are taking over CampusBuzz! Expect a new blog everyday written by student members of the society. Today’s entry was written by James Orr (@ZooSoc). James is in his 4th year of Zoology at TCD. His main areas of interest are trophic ecology, rewinding, and plant-animal interactions. He has a passion for wildlife photography – www.jamesorrphoto.com.


A honeybee feeding on a purple inflorescence (possibly an Echinops species)

ZooSoc Takeover: The Birds and the Bees

Ah spring. The bright mornings, the stretch in the evenings, the weather finally nice enough that you should definitely start to study. But you don’t. Instead you take a leisurely stroll around college, soaking up the ambiance; watching birds building their nest/stealing your chips, butterflies landing on the noses of freckled children, bees, humming through the…

Hang on, when was the last time you saw a bee? Could it have been a wasp? What even is a pollinator?

Solitary bee Antidium florentinum. Image credit: Alvegaspar, Wikimedia Creative Commons.

This Trinity Week, Professor Jane Stout will be launching the campus pollinator plan with the aim of increasing biodiversity and awareness thereof within the college grounds. By way of introduction, let’s take a look at some of the core concepts that you have forgotten/have yet to actually hear about pollinators.