Biodiversity Week with The Botanical Society

by Eva Dreyer

It’s no revelation to those of us involved in the climate action sphere that the protection of our planet’s biodiversity is integral to combating climate change. However, while interning in the sustainability office over the summer, Lisa Cleary (SS Environmental Science, Envirosoc committee) and I couldn’t help but notice how Trinity paled in comparison to other major universities when it came to biodiversity advocacy, especially at the student engagement level. It was then that our idea for Biodiversity Week spawned into existence. We quickly pitched the idea to Professor Jane Stout, Vice President for Biodiversity and Climate Action of the Provost’s Office, who gave us her utmost support and encouragement. With that, we began planning the many weeks ahead. 

Biodiversity Week took place from Monday 10th to Friday 14th of October 2022, and it was a huge collective effort from the Botanical, Environmental and Zoological societies, as well as the Biodiversity Subcommittee of Trinity’s Green Campus Committee (GCC). It was so exciting to see so many people working together to bring this week to life, and we could not have been happier with how it went. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone involved – I’ll be giving my proper thank-yous at the end – and it is because of this large coming together of people from so many different corners of the university that we saw such success. So, without further ado, here’s my rundown of everything that went on in Trinity during Biodiversity Week 2022!

“Trinity Urban Garden is situated between the O’Reilly Institute and the bike storage by the Science Gallery exit, and is open to volunteers”

The week kicked off on Monday with a lunchtime tour of Trinity Urban Garden, a new project set up by a group of student activists this summer with the use of the Provost’s COP26 Climate Change Fund. The tour was accompanied by a talk on the importance of green urban spaces by Professor Marcus Collier, a member of the Botany Department whose research surrounds land use and how land use is changing, resilience thinking, societal transitioning and collaborative management. Trinity Urban Garden is situated between the O’Reilly Institute and the bike storage by the Science Gallery exit, and is open to volunteers. A huge thank you to Marcus for the engaging talk and to Anangi Sumalde, JS Botany student and head of the Biodiversity subcommittee of the GCC, for organising this event!

On Monday evening, we all packed into the Lombard pub for our Biodiversity-themed pub quiz. Myself and Ryan Brennan (SS Environmental Science, Botsoc committee) lost our voices calling out questions (sans microphone) for six thrilling rounds of trivia, including plants & fungi, animals, music and film. The night was great fun, with over 60 people participating – thank you to all who came, and well done to our winners!

On Tuesday, Ryan transitioned from quizmaster to the only known lichen representative in Trinity College Dublin, and ran a lunchtime Lichen Walk. Lichens are a unique (and beautiful) symbiosis between photosynthetic algae, a fungal partner and oftentimes some bacteria. For this event, Irish lichen expert Paul Whelan began a tour of lichen diversity on campus outside the Botany Building, and worked his way through the rewilded triangle beside the Pavilion Bar, and along the cricket pitch for the rest of the hour. This was both a relaxing and fascinating event, and many thanks go to Paul and Ryan for bringing it to fruition. An extra thank you to Carla Harper, Professor of Mycology, for not only allowing, but encouraging her entire JS Mycology class to ditch their lecture and come along! 

“The Trinity Swift Project is an effort driven by postgraduate students to encourage the return of this beautiful native bird species back to campus”

One of my favourite events of the week, our Biodiversity Panel Talk, held in the historic Botany Lecture Theatre, was held on Tuesday evening. Aoife Kiernan (SS Environmental Science, Chairperson of Envirosoc, editor of this wonderful magazine) chaired the panel with three speakers: Professor Yvonne Buckley, Chair of Zoology, TCD; Lorraine Bull, Biodiversity Officer for Dublin City Council; and Declan Doogue, renowned Irish botanist, ecologist, teacher and author. It was a brilliant and inspiring discussion, and we all enjoyed some tea, coffee and cakes in the Botany Kitchen afterwards. Well done to Aoife for doing a fantastic job, and thank you to all three of our speakers for sharing their ideas and giving us their valuable time. 

On Wednesday afternoon we hosted an interesting and inspiring talk on the Trinity Swift Project, delivered by Jamie Rohu in the Maxwell Theatre. The Trinity Swift Project is an effort driven by postgraduate students to encourage the return of this beautiful native bird species back to campus. It was great to learn more about how this project works, and a big thank you to Jamie for speaking to us. 

On Thursday at noon, our casual BioBlitz kicked off. A BioBlitz is a 24-hour collective effort to identify as many species as possible in a given area, bringing together students, activists, enthusiasts, professors and many more. We decided that for our BioBlitz, it would be an informal project (requiring no formal identification skills) in order to inspire students and staff alike to get more familiar with the nature around them on campus. It was great fun to see the observations flooding in, and an impressive total of 187 observations of 144 different species were made. A special congratulations to Simon Benson, botany graduate and PhD student in zoology, for winning with the most observations made in the 24 hours!

At dusk that evening, Scott Bastow (SS Zoology, Chairperson of Zoosoc) ran the first half of the Nocturnal Animals event, which involved setting up fox trail cams and bat detectors in order to investigate some of the zoological diversity on campus. At the crack of dawn on Friday morning, Scott revisited the equipment to assess its findings for the second half of the event, and revealed images of a European red fox and recordings of both the common and pygmy pipistrelle bats! Huge thanks to Scott for his efforts here, and for bringing some much-needed zoology to Biodiversity Week – us plant people can’t do it all!

When noon on Friday rolled around, our BioBlitz came to an end, and we celebrated the end of the week later that evening. This involved pizzas, prizes for those with the most identifications made, and an outing to the pub afterwards for continued celebrations. It was a great way to finish off the week, and for us to finally kick our feet up after many weeks of planning.

And just like that, Biodiversity Week came to a close! It was a hugely successful week, and I had an amazing time taking part in running it. The experience as a whole gave a great sense of community and fulfilment, and I would really recommend volunteering in projects like this in future. I’m hopeful that this can continue a legacy of biodiversity advocacy from Trinity students for years to come. Some milestones we’d love to see for Biodiversity Week in the future include running a fully-fledged BioBlitz/24-hour biodiversity audit with expert identification and potentially making it an official week in Trinity’s calendar!

Finally, I’d like to give special thanks and acknowledgement to anyone who hasn’t already been thanked thus far; 

  • Lisa Cleary, for being an enthusiastic and ambitious partner during the planning and running of the Biodiversity Week,
  • Professor Jane Stout, for being a great source of inspiration for the week and for her continued support and encouragement throughout its organisation,
  • Jane Hackett, Sustainability Manager, for being so helpful and supportive with administrative tasks and college-wide outreach,
  • Aoife Kiernan, for being so keen to get Envirosoc involved and taking the project onboard,
  • Roisin Dolliver (SF Engineering and Environmental Science, Botsoc and Envirosoc committee) for designing our fabulous posters, and Jessica Mahon (JS Engineering, Botsoc committee) for distributing them, and
  • All of our classmates, professors, peers and society members for taking part and offering their support.

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