Spring is in the Air

by Jessica O’Connor

I would firstly like to thank Dr Anne Dubéarnès and John Parnell for their help. Without them, this article would be very sparse! Now onto the good stuff.

Sometimes we find ourselves getting wrapped up in the many items on our to-do lists that we forget to take notice of what is around us. I plan to fix that with this article on the flowers that are to be seen on campus! Over the last few weeks colour in the form of flowers has begun to emerge on our campus. Anyone, whether you are looking or not, will have been greeted by them. There are currently many different plant types in flower, from small understory plants to shrubs and trees.

You will hopefully have noticed the many daffodils around campus. Daffodils mark the beginning of Spring and good weather for most of us. These bright yellow and often cream flowers are throughout campus, planted around the trees by the cricket pitches and dotted throughout some of the garden areas. These plants are part of the amaryllis family and are known botanically as narcissus. They are hardy plants that are not too bothered about soil or the amount of light they receive. This is probably why we see so many of them. Daffodils return year after year during the spring meaning they are perennial. Daffodils emerge in Spring after going dormant during the winter. After they have finished their growth season in Spring, they will use their foliage to accumulate food sources so that they may flower the next year. A tip is to let them die back naturally and when the leaves have lost their green colour cut them down to grass level.

Another yellow flower that may be seen around campus is the dandelion. Some call it a weed but I would have to disagree! Like the daffodil, dandelions are also perennials so they come back yearly. Dandelions are a favourite with pollinators as they provide food early on in the season. For example, they provide both nectar and pollen to many insects including Bombus ruderarius, also known as the red-shanked carder bee or red-shanked bumblebee. We all probably have memories and plucking fluffy headed stems from the ground when we were younger and making a wish as the bits of fluff floated away from us in the wind. This is how dandelion spreads, ensuring pollinators have food and we have a bit of colour the following year.

Primrose is another famous flower we know can be found in the physics garden. Primroses are extremely diverse in both flower shape and colour, ranging from blue to pink to yellow, and are one of the first species to flower in spring. These flowers are also good for our pollinator friends- the bees and maybe lesser-known hawkmoths.
Another common plant throughout campus is the hyacinth. The ones on campus are generally purple and white and can be found surrounding many of the great trees, especially in New Square, where they bring a lovely colour to the otherwise green lawn. They are also in the small garden plot near the Museum Building. Although they are pretty for us to look at and exude a lovely smell, they have little to no pollination value.

Onto some flowering plants that are a little larger! The Japanese cherry tree or as we probably know it the cherry blossom is arguably one of the prettiest flowering trees on campus. The flowers range from pink to white depending on the variety and flowering usually only lasts a short time, around 2 to 3 weeks. After this time the petals begin to float down and the brief beauty is over. The trees on campus are of the ornamental variety and are therefore grown for beauty as opposed to fruit production. Interestingly they are quite short-lived, some only living between 15 to 20 years!

Another stunning flowering tree although lesser known is the Amelanchier. This tree goes through multiple colours in a year. It flowers on bare branches adding colour when little else is in bloom. These star-shaped blooms are followed by orange-coloured leaves which then mature to green before turning a deeper orange or red in Autumn. This tree can be found in the Provost’s Garden.

Another, though much smaller plant you may not have noticed is the purple Anemone, this plant is in the same family as the buttercup. If you want to have a look for these, they can be found in the shaded area that lies between the rugby and cricket pitch. As the name suggests, the flowers are purple in colour. These plants are sometimes called windflowers. This is linked to the frailty of their petals which can easily break and be blown off in the wind.

Another flowering plant in the same family is the Winter Aconite. The flowers are small and yellow with the overall size of the plant rarely going above 10cm. This plant, somewhat like us, is a sun lover! This plant has a short life cycle during the spring. Its flowers bloom when sunlight is at a maximum and dies off completely into an underground tuber after flowering.
Another plant that is in flower at the moment is the Silene dioica, or as you and I can call it Red Campion. This plant can be found in the wilder patches of grass around campus, its flowers range from pink to as the name suggests red. This plant usually flowers in the later Spring so it is somewhat unusual that it is in flower currently. This is likely due to climate change and the warm weather we have experienced recently.

A plant that is growing in the flower patch just before the rugby pitch by the Museum Building that some of you may have noticed is the Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis). This plant is imposing with a large stem that can reach over a metre in perfect conditions, orange bell-shaped flowers, and a tuft of green leaves on the top. You can’t miss it! While pretty to look at it is also a known source of nectar and pollen for bees.

I would like to thank Dr Anne Dubéarnès and John Parnell who were both a great help with this article providing a comprehensive list of the plants on campus. A little extra information for those who are interested: Dr Anne Dubéarnès also mentioned a flower which would be a shame to leave out. Although this is not found on campus, I do feel it is worth mentioning. The scented violet or as it is formally known Viola odorata. Warning this next bit is a bit botanical: Interestingly, (well to me anyway) this flower has an ephemeral scent which means that you can only smell it for a few seconds. This is because the aromatic molecule that gives it its scent, ionone, binds to our smell receptors and blocks them for a moment.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to some of the plants on campus (and one that is not!). Keep an eye out when you are on the way to your next lecture or to the library to catch up!

Green Labs

by Faye Murphy

In the past couple of years, many Trinity students and staff have been trying to find a way to create a more sustainable lab environment. In August 2020, the Institute of Neuroscience began its journey to becoming Green Lab Certified.

As Trinity College Dublin has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, the green labs initiative will significantly help Trinity in its journey towards this commitment. While the numbers vary from lab to lab, globally, labs use ten times more energy and four times more water than an office of the same size. In addition, labs alone contribute 2% of the total global plastic production.

Even on an individual basis, bench scientists contribute much more to climate change than the average individual. For example, while the average Irish person produces 61kg of waste a year, the average bench scientist can produce up to 1000kg of waste annually.

globally labs use ten times more energy and four times more water than an office of the same size

From these statistics, we can conclude that labs are resource-heavy environments, but this is not entirely necessary. Most of this energy and waste comes from poor management practices and bad habits. If only 2% of lab plastics were diverted from landfills, it would prevent 100 million metric tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere annually. This change would not only aid in Trinity’s goal but also aid in the international fight for climate control.

The My Green Lab programme is an international certification system where laboratories undergo a five-step programme to reduce their environmental impact and introduce sustainable practices continuously. These steps include a baseline assessment to understand the current state of lab practices. After the evaluation, some recommendations of change to improve lab sustainability are discussed and implemented. Based upon the percentage of green lab practices adopted, a lab is then certified as bronze, silver, gold, platinum or green. After initial certification, more recommendations and re-certification occurs down the road to ensure the lab is keeping up with their green practices.

labs alone contribute 2% of the total global plastic production.

As part of their green lab initiative, a group of PhD students from the institute of neuroscience and the school of chemistry created the Trinity Green Lab Guide. This green lab guide offers simple ways to reduce lab costs and improve efficiency. Trinity’s green lab guide focuses on five main areas, water management, energy, waste, green chemistry, and sustainable purchasing and management of substances inventory. The guide can be followed and used by any lab within the campus.

bench scientists contribute more to climate change than the average person … while the average Irish person produces 61kg of waste a year, a bench scientist can produce up to 1000kg

During Green Week last February, the college voted to decide which lab would be next to receive funding to become green lab certified. The vote decided that this funding would be allocated to The Cocker Chemistry Teaching Lab. This choice is a new step in the right direction as green chemistry is one of My Green Labs and Trinity Green Lab Guide’s main aims. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green chemistry is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances”. Green chemistry involves using safer and more environmentally friendly chemicals and substances as well as reducing solvent waste. There are 12 principles of green chemistry that one can find on the My Green Lab website. Also, the EPA provides an environmental toxicity report of chemicals used in labs. All types of labs must try to become “greener”, as for chemistry labs alone, 60% of their energy is used for ventilation, which can be significantly reduced by introducing green lab practices.

There are many ways to get involved in the green lab initiative, such as introducing your colleagues or peers to the Trinity Green Lab guide. On a personal scale, the My Green Lab website offers a free course to become a Green Lab Ambassador. This course is an introduction to lab sustainability, behavioural changes as well as how to suggest and make changes in the lab. Green labs are in the best interests of all individuals as not only will they create a more environmentally friendly lab, but a safer and more economically sound environment.

Wellbeing, Markets and Careers; Green Week Day Two

By Rory Chinn, Aoife Kiernan and Faye Murphy

The second day of Green Week began with a Climate Wellbeing Workshop, organised by the Green Campus Committee. Gary Tyrrell, Climate Action Officer with An Taisce’s Climate Ambassadors spoke to a group of budding and experienced climate activists on addressing eco-anxiety. For reference, eco-anxiety is the feeling of anxiousness and fear that comes with fully embracing the scale of the climate challenge. The committed climate activist is sure to run into this feeling and although some may feel that it is part and parcel of advocating for climate justice, this can lead to burnout. True strength, according to Gary, is about setting boundaries in our own lives and knowing that we can’t do everything. 

The highly interactive session was most akin to a tutorial in its comfortable intellectual discourse. This meant that engagement was free and encouraging to those with their ideas. One attendant discussed the relevance of the history behind the climate movement, with a particular focus on the esteemed marine biologist Rachel Carson. He said that the history of humans’ relationship with the earth has been thousands of years of connection, thrown away in the past few hundred. 

The session rounded up with a chat on how we take care of our well-being, and those privileged to take part in the workshop shared their outlets. 

The final message from Gary should stick with everyone, as a reminder of the optimistic attitude we should have in our approach to climate action and life as a whole, “Failure is not making a mistake- failure is giving up”.

The afternoon continued with a plant market organised by Envirosoc and Botsoc. This market facilitated students and staff in buying and swapping plants, cuttings and seeds. It proved to be a great success, with many members of the college community bringing in plants that they had propagated themselves, and expanding their own plant collections. Several botany students and members of the botanical society were in attendance providing sound advice on the caretaking of the plants. The society set up the market within one of the kiosks in the arts block and managed to gain traction throughout the college. The market was run as a fundraiser for the charity SEED Madagascar, and attendants were extremely generous. In total over €450 was raised. This money will go towards a myriad of projects, mainly in southeast Madagascar, ranging from conservation to food distribution, as Madagascar is currently experiencing a famine caused by drought, to education. Madagascar is commonly referred to as a “biodiversity hotspot” due to the high numbers of endemic species caused by its locations and nature as an island. 

The evening finished off with two talks, a discussion with Manchán Magan and a panel on Careers for a Sustainable Future. In a collaboration between the Environmental society and the Cumman Gaelach, Manchán Magan joined his discussion from zoom, which was then streamed into the beautiful surroundings of the Botany Lecture Theatre. The event was bi-lingual and gave insight into the interconnectedness of the Irish language and nature, and the common struggles the Irish language movement and the environmental movement have. Manchan proved to be a very engaging speaker, and his extensive life experiences made for an interesting talk, as he described his worldwide travel, casually dropping in comments like “when I came back from the Himalayas” , and inspired students with talk of his self-build house in county Westmeath.

The Careers for a Sustainable Future panel began with Melanie Allanson, Head of Human Resources at FoodCloud.  She discussed how FoodCloud goes about eliminating and distributing food thus addressing the SDGs 2 and 12.3. Allanson stated that there are many ways to get involved in FoodCloud, from technology, data analytics, finance or communications. She mentioned that before joining FoodCloud she wanted to find a purpose and believed joining FoodCloud would achieve this goal. 

The next panellist was John Dardis, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Glanbia. 

Dardis discussed how the nutritionist solution business is targeting dairy industry waste and converting it to protein. He mentioned that Glanbia is also developing packaging and partnering with Foodcloud. When looking into future careers, Dardis believes that you “don’t need to decide on a path immediately”, and should “stick with your gut”. You must “be prepared to grow, and see setbacks”. Dardis mentions that he “enjoys helping people with a vision”, and states that “trust with the team is important”. He maintains the outlook that empathy is a skill set, that in order to be in charge you must be able to “give solutions rather than issues”. 

Dr Sabrina Dekker, Climate Action Coordinator at Dublin City Council was the final panellist. Dekker discussed her career experience, from originally wanting to be a doctor to becoming involved in DCC.

She gives the advice to “love your space and don’t need to know your path immediately”, as it took her until the age of 25 to decide on a path. Dekker believes that one needs “skill in uncertainty and how to respond and think creatively to give aid and answers where needed”, she mentioned that as students have already suffered through the pandemic they, therefore, have increased resilience.

There are currently graduate programmes at DCC and unpaid internships but with a chance of ending up with a job. There are also Foodcloud internships including a stipend, Allanson mentioned that FloodCloud is waiting on a graduate programme, they just need funding.

Graduate programmes are available within Glanbia, with sustainability entry jobs available in the future. There are also two campaigns for students, in spring and autumn.

Day three of Green Week sees a myriad of events, from a college-wide swap shop, a green lab panel discussion to a flower hammering event by Trinity’s Environmental Society. 

Green Week Day One: A Rundown

By Faye Murphy and Aoife Kiernan

Green Week was launched with a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of Trinity’s green week. This year’s theme is “repairing our broken food systems”, chosen by the popular vote in November. 

The ceremony began with Michele Hallahan, sustainability advisor to the Office of the Provost. Hallahan spoke of how society’s “broken capitalist economy” has been letting down cultures worldwide. She spoke fondly of the many initiatives and changes that have occurred in the past year, from a change in provost, the election of a vice provost for biodiversity and climate action, as well as a new sustainable travel policy for staff and new green lab initiatives. Although many of these initiatives are due to small people groups, she announced that no action on a university scale without “unified efforts” and “unified passions.”

Sam Foley, the Environmental Officer of TCDSU, gave the student perspective for the event. Foley praised the student-led initiatives currently taking place. She believes that the “desire for social change is self-evident”, especially on a curriculum, divestment and food choice level. She believes that “sustainability is for everyone” that everyone has a different perspective to bring to the table. 

Senator David Norris, who was described by Hallahan as a “long-time champion of human rights”, has opened 19 of the 20 green weeks. Norris, who saw the population of earth triple so far within his lifetime, believes that it is vital we continue and maintain the conversation around the climate crisis. 

Provost Linda Doyle mentioned that although there is a lot to celebrate, green week reminds us that there is still a lot to do. We have the opportunity to change, but simultaneously, the burden that we must act on or the earth will continue to die in front of us. She believes that Green Week gives us the opportunity to think on a personal and university level of how we can make changes. 

Iseult Ward, the co-founder and CEO of FoodCloud, an NGO helping businesses to redistribute food waste to charities, was the next to take the stage. She began with the many disappointing statistics of food waste. Still, Foley mentioned that she is hopeful for the future due to small actions currently taking place and believes young people are the driving force for change. She states that the 140 billion meals that FoodCloud had prevented from ending up in the landfill due to their work would not have been possible without the community of environmental activists. Food is something that brings us together; every culture and community around the world is influenced by its cuisine and food security. Therefore we must inspire and encourage others to make changes to create a better world for us all. 

To close the ceremony, Michele Hallahan offered the audience a chance to imagine a world where everyone is fed, where ecosystems are cherished and a world where it is a sovereign right to be a part of nature. She then stated that this is not just a dream, it was a reality in the past, and it can and will be a reality again if we make the appropriate changes. Although these changes “should’ve started 30 years ago”, they must start now. Finally, she stated that we need to stop buying into the marketing that “commodifies nature”, taking up every acre of land and destroying our environments. 

Pop-Sci Book Club

The next event of the day was a pop-science book club. The science societies on campus are running a pop-sci book club throughout this semester, and this week it was hosted by the natural science societies: Botsoc, Envirosco and Zoosoc. Held in a cosy room in the atrium, the participating students sat around a table and snacked on some vegan treats while discussing a wide variety of books. Some highly recommended books included Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan and Thor Hansons Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid. The discussion ranged from the human biome to the frustrations associated with reading hopeless climate change-related books. 

Law Economics and The Environment Panel

The first day of Green Week concluded in an informative panel discussion organised by Envirosoc, Student Economic Review, Lawsoc and Trinity Free Legal Advice Centre. Chaired by Anne Spillan, the Auditor of Lawsoc, this panel was run in a hybrid fashion, as one of the participants, Dr. Andrew Jackson, joined Zoom from France, where he is on sabbatical. Other panellists included Dr. Jackson, an environmental and planning lawyer and a faculty member of UCD, and Dr Surya Roy, the Assistant Professor of Regulatory Law at Trinity College Dublin. 

The panellists touched on various topics, from carbon leakage to greenwashing. Dr. Martha O’Hagan-Luffe spoke about the power economic systems have over the environment and how Trinity Student Managed Fund have purchased shares in Irish companies and have plans to attend their AGM’s and ask them questions about their climate goals. Overall the event was uplifting for the audience gave insight into plans for the future. 

Tomorrow’s events for Green Week will see discussions in climate well-being, careers in sustainability, a market to buy and sell plants, and many more.

“Connecting Nature” & Humans in Trinity

by Roisin Gowen

Humans have historically placed themselves superior to nature. Although it is common knowledge that we rely heavily on natural capital and resources, we have kept ourselves at a distance to our environment, rather than accepting that we are deeply embedded in it through our reliance, but also by our mere existence on this earth. As climate change becomes more integrated into our everyday vocabulary, more and more new terms have emerged to help scientists, sociologists, and politicians alike to grasp ways to solve our current environmental issues.

‘Nature-based solutions’ is amongst these new concepts that aim to integrate nature into the ways in which we tackle these environmental challenges by mimicking processes that occur in the natural world. This concept follows the path of other newly popularized terms such as ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘natural capital’ that are leading a movement towards greater emphasis on the relationships between society and the environment and the ways in which humans perceive and use nature. Rather than looking purely scientifically for solutions to environmental problems, nature-based solutions aim to bring humans more in line with nature by searching for answers within nature itself. Environmental action is being more realised as a multidisciplinary discourse. Therefore, environmental issues and initiatives are becoming more considered on multiple planes, such as environmental, ecological, social, cultural, economic and political. 

we have kept ourselves at a distance to our environment, rather than accepting that we are deeply embedded in it through our reliance

“Connecting Nature” is a framework being funded through Trinity that is inspired by nature-based solutions and aims to help small-scale organisations and cities adopt this concept. I was fortunate to be able to speak to Marcus Collier, Professor of Botany in Trinity, about his involvement in this project and why nature based-solutions is a very promising avenue for future environmental action. 

“Connecting Nature” is based on innovative action instead of research action, as it looks to the surrounding environments to help guide environmental action that is beneficial on an environmental, ecological, political and social scale. Moreover, this framework was designed to be available as a tool to guide the implementation of nature-based solutions. Prof. Collier noted that there is a lot of “untapped knowledge” in urban spaces and that we can source information from our cities and surroundings to be able to scale them up to effective large-scale environmental action. For many organisations and cities, motivations for making positive environmental changes must often come with a supplementary case for growth within their cities or businesses. By implementing more nature-based solutions, particularly in urban areas and cities where we are often more disconnected from nature, we will become more integrated with natural capital and resources, and have a more circular approach to the way in which we rely on nature. 

“Connecting Nature” aims to put a value on resources so that we pay for them rather than depleting them. The framework has three main phases; Planning, Delivery, and Stewardship, of which each phase has seven different elements that must be considered at each phase. An important aspect of this process is the ‘co-production of planning’, where shared knowledge and multidisciplinary opinions are valued for creating an interrelation between all the parties involved. Collier emphasized how nature can be a powerful tool to bring people together and can be used to build cohesion in communities. This cohesion goes beyond relations between individuals in society but also extends to the relations between individuals and their surrounding natural environments.

Waste on Campus

by Aoife Robertson

Disposing of our waste correctly can often feel confusing, especially if we don’t know what can be recycled or where to put it. Trinity generated nearly 60 tons of waste during the month of September 2021 and this number is expected to rise to over 130 tons per month as we make a full return to pre-Covid teaching and activities. However, up to 40% of domestic waste in Trinity is contaminated by incorrectly disposed items, meaning that this waste cannot be recycled and instead is treated as general, black bin waste. With this in mind and with many students on campus for the first time, we are here to give you the breakdown of waste on Trinity campus!

It is important to note that Trinity consists of many campuses, not just the city centre location that we all know and love. With the exception of Tallaght Hospital, all Trinity campuses follow the same waste management system so whether you are in Halls, Front Square or the TBSI, this article can act as a one-stop-shop for all your waste disposal needs!

Mixed, dry recyclables

Trinity has an incredible waste management system and facilitates the recycling of many different types of waste. The simplest of recyclables are mixed, dry recyclables including paper, plastic and aluminium. To dispose of mixed dry recyclables, you can use the numerous green bins that are found in nearly every building on campus. There are also four “Solar Belly” bins placed in Fellow’s Square and beside the Cricket Pitch. These bins are easily identified by their green lids and shouldn’t be confused with their black lidded, general waste counterparts. When disposing of mixed, dry recyclables don’t forget the golden rule; They must be clean and dry, otherwise, they will contaminate the rest of the bin! 

Large blue bins can be found in locations such as Botany Bay, the Science Gallery and the Museum Building. These bins are specifically for white office paper, no coloured paper or cardboard is allowed! You can put all other paper in the green bins while cardboard can be flattened and placed beside these large blue bins for later collection.  

Glass

Having a great night out and wondering what to do with your empties? Currently, the biggest problem for Trinity Waste Management is that glass is being put in the general waste bin, not only preventing its proper disposal but also proving a health risk for anyone handling the waste. Glass bins can be found outside the Pav, in Botany Bay or behind the Arts Block and all glass items can be disposed of here if they are clean and empty. Plastic and aluminium lids can be disposed of in the green bins while mixed material lids can be put in the general waste bins. 

Organic waste

Organic waste such as food can be put into brown, compost bins. A good rule of thumb if you’re confused about whether a non-food item can go in the brown bin, is that if it once grew it can be composted. Paper and corks were once trees so they can go in the brown bin! You can find organic waste bins in Botany Bay, behind the dining hall, behind the Pav or in Goldsmith Hall. Compost bins may be a little rarer on campus, but they are still there so make sure to avail of them! 

Electricals

General electrical items can be disposed of in the WEEE cages in the Hamilton, Botany Bay or on the second floor of the TBSI. If you’re a resident of Halls you can also bring your electricals to Front Desk for recycling. When disposing of electricals make sure to remove batteries where possible. Trinity also offers facilities for battery recycling in House 6, the Arts Block and the Civic Engineering Building. House 6 also has facilities for toner and mobile phone disposal.

Other waste

There is a whole range of other waste disposal points for the above-mentioned items, with dozens of disposal points around campus. There are also many more items that can be recycled on campus such as construction and demolition waste, hazardous materials, light bulbs, metals, oils and timber all easily disposed of using on-campus facilities. If you are unsure of whether an item can be recycled or how to recycle off-campus you can use the mywaste.ie website which sorts objects into categories for recycling and even gives you your nearest recycling point!
For the full list of recyclable items at Trinity and to access a map of disposal points please consult the webpage tcd.ie/provost/sustainability.

The Life that Lives on Campus

by Hazel Herbst

Hazel Herbst, a summer intern on the Trinity College Dublin Biodiversity Audit reflects on her time spent working on the project.  

As another strange COVID summer has come to a close, it is time to unmask what we’ve been up to these past few months and draw some much needed attention to the natural side of Trinity College Dublin.

As living beings on this dynamic planet, we are highly reliant on the interconnected nature of our ecosystems. Meaning, we are dependent on both the physical and organismal world around us. Should the world around us change and cause certain organisms to become less abundant, a healthy level of biodiversity can ensure that these organisms’ activities are compensated for by others, allowing their essential functions in nature’s systems to remain fulfilled. As such, the diversity of life throughout the world aids in nature’s resilience. But biodiversity does not stop there.

Biodiversity helps boost ecosystem productivity as each species contributes to the maintenance of life, no matter how small their existence may seem. For example, pollinators such as birds, bats and bees benefit the production of 75% of our food crops. Biodiversity further supplies us with medicinal resources, oxygen, clean air, clean water and the regulation of climate and disease control. That’s not to mention the recreational and cultural services that our biodiverse ecosystems gift us for free! We are interacting with the world around us each and every day so it’s important we understand and appreciate the impact of biodiversity on our daily lives. Thus, the importance of biological diversity within Trinity College Dublin deserves more prioritization.

Trinity Biodiversity Audit set out … with the objectives of seeding new initiatives to enhance campus sustainability

It’s no big secret that our college has long been hailed for its historic relevance and academic excellence, but what is known of its biodiversity? In a time of biodiversity crisis where climate change and human intervention continuously threaten the existence of many plant and animal species, we must better acknowledge the variety of life surviving directly around us. For as we now know, a loss of biodiversity is a problem that affects us all.

A biodiversity audit is a way of recording and quantifying the biodiversity of a selected area by looking at and recording how well the grounds are providing habitats for various wildlife. Thus, an audit is an evidence-based approach to understanding the requirements and conservation needs of priority species. As for what inspired the commencement of the Trinity Biodiversity Audit, our team lead Dr. Jane Stout expresses that “there has long been interest in generating baseline biodiversity data for Trinity, with the first “Trees of Trinity College Dublin” book having been published by the Botany Department in 1993 (a 4th edition was then launched in 2019).” Furthermore, Jane instigated the first campus “Bio blitz” in 2013 along with subsequent efforts in both 2014 and 2017, a “Birds of Trinity” book was published in 2016 by the Zoological Society and in 2017 Jane was involved in the launch of a Campus Pollinator Plan. Then in 2020, alongside the biodiversity audit in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, Jane had planned to start a similar project in Trinity before COVID ultimately intervened. However, Jane points out that “the success of and interest in the audit of Áras did inspire renewed efforts in Trinity in 2021” and she is “delighted that [they] were finally able to push on with the project.”

And so, a pilot Trinity Biodiversity Audit set out in May 2021 with the objectives of seeding new initiatives to enhance campus sustainability, to enable behaviours that will benefit the environment and life on campus and to enhance communication and education on sustainability amongst all. By developing a better understanding of Trinity’s biodiversity, a system and protocols can be developed that will allow for continued monitoring of the biodiversity of Trinity with reference to baseline biodiversity data.

However, a project of this size was no simple feat and required the collaborative work of many professionals from various fields and disciplines. For example, we had David Hackett from Estate and Facilities, Dr. Aoibheann Gaughran from the Botany and Zoology departments and Dr. Tony Williams, a landscape architect with knowledge of GIS mapping. Many more esteemed professionals from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences were also involved, particularly in the sampling and identification of the animals and plants throughout campus, such as Collie Ennis (amphibians), Dr. Carla Harper (fungi), Dr. Steve Waldren and Professor Trevor Hodkinson (plants) and Dr. Martyn Linnie (insects). Additionally, there were three undergraduate students employed as interns as well as two undergraduate student volunteers partaking in the audit. With many interested parties working together, the addition of Dr. Ursula King as project coordinator was essential in handling the sheer amount of coordination and management that this audit required.

Under the guidance of Dr. Ursula King and Dr. Jane Stout, the Trinity Biodiversity Audit has had several successes over the summer months. Dr. Tony Williams and student intern Danielle Varley were able to create a pilot habitat mapping system for the Trinity main campus, student interns Kes Daly and Hazel Herbst and student volunteers Scott Bastow and Isabel Quinn tested and documented various protocols for the standardisation of invertebrate sampling on campus and helped with devising a system for processing, recording, and storing lab samples taken from the field. Moreover, thanks to the hard work and contributions from all those involved an initial baseline inventory of the taxonomic groups (mainly invertebrates) and an inventory of horticultural species on campus were recorded and mapped to location and habitat. Furthermore, the geographical location of all trees on campus were recorded and relationships with external taxonomic experts were established. The collaborative and interdisciplinary aspects of the Trinity Biodiversity audit were highly important as they allowed for a pooling of expertise to create awareness of the resources and current state of knowledge available to us. Thus, revealing where gaps may lie should the audit be continued and/or replicated by fellow universities. 

Our audit efforts … have highlighted the ways in which we can protect and hopefully enhance the biodiversity of Trinity College Dublin going forward

As we can see, this pilot audit provided us with a huge amount of data, protocols, mapping systems and collaborative relationship building and was a successful stepping stone in promoting biodiversity awareness and sustainability conversations amongst grounds staff, researchers, staff and students with many invaluable resources for future biodiversity work and environmental research on main campus and other Trinity properties resulting. 

Our audit efforts and successes over the summer months have highlighted the ways in which we can protect and hopefully enhance the biodiversity of Trinity College Dublin going forward. Hence, the next steps in these efforts, should funding allow, is for biodiversity auditing to be continually carried out by Trinity College Dublin for years to come, and for the College community to understand more about the natural world around it, and it’s critical importance. 

All in all, we hope we have instilled in you a knowledge and appreciation for the diversity you see around you. Perhaps, the Trinity Biodiversity Audit will become a topical conversation amongst those studying, working, and visiting the grounds of Trinity College to promote interest in the conservation and protection of the wonderful life that lives on our campus.

An Introduction to The Trees of Trinity

by Jessica O’Connor

A brief stroll throughout campus will reveal a treasure trove of trees. It is clear even to an amateur naturalist that there is a vast selection present on campus. These trees from all over the world (yes, really!) manage to survive within the boundary of a city centre college campus and they sometimes make it look easy. While there is a rocky history with the survival rate of some trees, most have managed to remain here for decades. It is hard to imagine the variety of trees on campus, they range from native Irish oak species to Maidenhair trees native to China. Most of the trees on campus are deciduous- meaning they lose their leaves in autumn. Beautiful colour changes during the year help to reveal the true beauty of the trees on our campus. I hope to give you a greater appreciation for the trees on campus with an exploration of their complex history and interesting ecology. 

Walking through the main gate and out into campus, you are greeted by Parliament square. Your eyes are (most likely) initially drawn to the view directly in front of you, Front Square with its imposing architecture and characteristic cobblestone paths. However, if you look to your left and right you will be greeted by another different but just as magnificent view. The tree you are looking at is an Erman’s Birch or as those in the trade call it a Betula ermanii. This tree has a spectacular range stretching from Japan to Siberia. This pair of birches were planted following the loss of one of two Oregon maples in June of 1945 caused by an unexpected storm. After an arduous conversation, it was agreed that the second Oregon maple should be removed, the reason being symmetry. However, if you look to the right the birch present there is much less impressive; this is due to the lack of sunlight it receives in comparison to its contemporary on the left. So, possibly in homage to the cosmetic and therefore unjust removal of the second Oregon maple, lack of symmetry persists. This impressive tree can reach heights of up to 30m. Betula ermanii has shallow roots and is deciduous. The bark, which is pinkish in colour, unfurls  into scrolls at maturity. 

As you approach the east side of New Square, past the museum building there are two trees that may grab your attention. Across from house 36 of The Narrows are two Oriental plane trees, called Platanus orientalis. These trees are native to Greece eastwards to the north of Iran! Their leaves are alternate which means that each leaf is attached to the branch alone. The presence of globular clusters of fruit are distinct markers for this tree species. However, the trunk of these specimens present on campus is peculiar. There is a wart-like swelling present on the bottle-shaped trunk. Astonishingly the girth of the largest specimen is an impressive 5.5m. This trunk width is the widest of any other tree on campus. Notably, this tree is listed as one of the ‘Champion Trees’ of Dublin by the Tree Council. If we transport ourselves back to the Birr of 1834, the 3rd Earl of Rosse planted two Oriental plane trees. Why is this of importance to us? Well, the trees planted by the Earl are significant as they have the same unusual bark leading us to the conclusion that they are of the same origin as the pair of Oriental plane trees on campus. 

Without having to move too far you should come across a Sessile Oak or Quercus petraea. Sessile oak has been designated as Ireland’s national tree as it is a dominant species throughout our native woodlands. It can grow in poor acid-rich soils and is found in Europe and the Balkans. On the 13th of March in 1992 Alderman Sean Kenny, the Lord Mayor of Dublin at that time planted a Sessile oak sapling. The date of the planting marked the 400th anniversary of College Charter Day. However, due to building works taking place the specimen was moved, sadly it did not live on. The National Parks and Wildlife Service generously supplied a worthy successor, which thankfully remains standing today! 

As one heads to the Ussher library observing trees is probably the last thing on their mind, I get it! but if I may draw your attention to the infamous Aesculus hippocastanum or Horse-Chestnut as you and I may know it. This species is native to the mountainous regions of the Balkans but is planted 

around Europe. This tree was planted in the year 1920, unfortunately, we just missed its 100th birthday. Everyone reading probably has fond memories of collecting ‘conkers’ (don’t lie, we all did it!). What you are actually collecting is the distinctive seed of the tree. Interestingly they were fed to sick 

horses by the Turks as the chemical within the seeds was known to have anti-inflammatory properties. But they could make you and I quite ill, unlike regular chestnuts which are edible. 

At the flat iron, there are many different species of tree present but I am going to shine a light on the Maidenhair tree or Ginkgo biloba. This tree is what is known as a ‘living fossil’. It is the lone survivor of a major plant group that thrived during the time of the dinosaurs (Mesozoic). Imprints of leaves in rocks from 200 million years ago are practically identical to the leaves of the living tree. The leaves 

have a fan-like shape and the veins contain a forked pattern that repeats itself. Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous tree, during autumn its leaves turn a golden colour. This species is native to China and wild trees remain, although scarcely in the east. This tree has separate sexes with the male being favoured as when the female reaches maturity the seed coat becomes sticky and a rancid smell develops. The tree won’t begin to produce fruit until it reaches 20 years of age, however, once it does it makes up for the lack of production initially. Interestingly some specimens are thought to exhibit ‘leaky gender’. This means that male/female branches may form on a tree of the contrasting sex. The tree on campus was planted in 1956. 

Although brief I hope this article has given you an appreciation for some of the trees we are lucky to have on our campus. There are still many more to explore! So, I urge you even when rushing to that oh-so-important lecture or meeting up with your friends at the infamous ‘Pav’, stop and look at these magnificent marvels we have right within our reach.

Interview with Yvonne Buckley

by Aoife Kiernan

Hi Yvonne, welcome and congrats on the new role- so tell us how long have you been in Trinity, what brought you here?

Nearly 8 years, I arrived in January 2014. I was working at the University of Queensland in Australia and when the Chair of Zoology came up at Trinity, I jumped at the chance to return home with my family and take up a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have two children and they were just about to start school, so it was great timing.

What is the first thing you’re going to do when you take office?

Resourcing and recruiting to an office that will mainstream climate and biodiversity action and sustainability practise throughout the College’s operations, research and teaching. That means recruiting new professional staff to manage our sustainability work, progress the climate action plan and work on a biodiversity strategy. It also means seconding existing professional and academic staff to the office to enable us to take advantage of existing skills and ingenuity from within the TCD community. I would like to see students represented in this office through a sabbatical or internships and I’d like to talk to students first to figure out the best way of doing this.

I will also establish a new governance structure for how sustainability will be worked on throughout College. The Green Campus Committee done excellent work in getting staff and students working together on sustainability issues and I want to make sure that sustainability is embedded in formal College management structures.

How do you think you can facilitate the student voice on campus when it comes to climate issues? Is it important to you that students play an active role in climate action on campus?

Students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels are incredibly important in shaping our response to the climate and biodiversity crises. The actions (or inaction) we take now will determine what kind of world you will be living in in 50 or 60 years time. Our current students, from all over the world, will feel the brunt of climate & biodiversity change in the coming decades. I would like to see students very actively involved in all levels of climate and biodiversity action on campus and in society more generally and I will facilitate this through inclusion of the student voice throughout the new governance structure for climate and biodiversity action, from the ground up. The Green Campus Cttee has been really great in integrating student and staff ideas and actions. It’s important that students retain their independent voice and I’d like to support ways that students have an opportunity to contribute, examples include your own magazine Evergreen which was supported by the Provost’s sustainability fund.

What do you do in your own life to live more sustainably? 

The whole family is bought into sustainability. I think the most important thing we do is consuming less, we have a plant-based diet and grow some of our own vegetables, we try to minimise new purchases of clothes by buying second hand, swapping clothes, using “hand-me-downs”, and I like to make and mend what I can. We have an electric car and we’re working through retrofitting our suburban semi-detached house to make it more energy efficient. Wherever I’ve worked I’ve always taken public transport or cycled, I’ve recently taken advantage of the bike to work scheme to get an electric bike to make my commute a bit easier. We’re lucky to have a city centre campus which makes it easier to get to from surrounding suburbs.

How can we encourage hope and optimism in the face of the climate crisis?

Before we move to hope we need to acknowledge that this is an existential problem. It is very rational to have emotional reactions to what is going on. As a scientist the data scare me – I feel overwhelmed, sad, fearful and anxious. I feel great hope however when I’m surrounded by people who are taking action, doing what they can to mitigate climate and biodiversity change and working hard to find ways to adapt to the new world we’re living in. I have great respect for my colleagues who work with the IPCC and IPBES to build the scientific evidence base for what we need to do to avert the worst impacts. It’s up to the rest of us to lobby for change, take action where we can and importantly, transform the environmentally destructive systems that we have been constrained by for so long. 

How can climate change action benefit the health and quality of life of the college community?

I’m excited to be working with Healthy Trinity in this new position. There are loads of parallels between what we can do to improve our own health and that of the planet. One of the biggest problems is that we live in environments where the easy choices are bad for us and bad for the planet. Part of my job will certainly be looking at where we can make changes to the systems within which we make choices to make the sustainable, healthy choices easier. There are significant win-wins for the environment and our own healthy lifespans by taking action on our diets, air quality, safe and accessible blue and green spaces to exercise and travel in and cutting down on excess consumption.

Do you feel like you will have room to make mistakes and experiment?

I think it is inevitable that I will make mistakes, whether I have the room for it or not! I try to use my mistakes and failures to learn how to do better next time. I think it’s important that I step up and takes responsibility for my mistakes, work with the people affected to understand the mistake and its consequences, and make amends where possible. As a scientist I value experiments, I’m also a big fan of observational studies and using systems as “Living Labs” in which we can intervene and evaluate the effects of the intervention. As an ecologist I’m used to dealing with unique and complex systems that are not amenable to a traditional lab scientist approach of multiple replicated interventions, sometimes we just have a single replicate and in my research work I use models, data and a priori working hypotheses to evaluate what has happened. Trinity is certainly a complex and unique ecosystem!

As a professor of zoology working in college did you ever find it frustrating knowing the changes that could be made, but not having the power/resources to do so? What are you most looking forward to?

Meeting new people around college who are doing great things in changing how the College operates, changing how we teach in all kinds of disciplines to stimulate students to think about climate and biodiversity challenges and solutions, and researchers across all disciplines finding solutions to these challenges or bringing new ways of thinking to bear on the problem. We have some of the best thinkers in the world right here at Trinity so I look forward to learning more from them and putting their brightest ideas into action.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

Finding the resources we need to invest in sustainable practises and changing the way things are done so that sustainability becomes “baked in” to how we do things, rather than an “add-on”.

Do you think that Trinity, as an institute of research and education based in the centre of Dublin, can influence more than just the college community when it comes to climate action?

Absolutely! We occupy an important cultural space in Dublin, Ireland and the world. We have brilliant people based in Trinity who influence society from political leaders to their own communities. We get hundreds of thousands of visitors who want to learn more about us and what we do. We have seen through the Covid-19 pandemic how TCD academics have become household names due to their commitment to work with government and society, and there has been healthy debate and dissent as well. As part of the university sector and as part of society in general Trinity grapples with many of the same challenges as other sectors – decarbonising our buildings, reducing the GHG emissions of work travel, reducing waste, promoting biodiversity on a multi-use campus where people and nature can come into conflict, these are all issues that we will work on, learn more about and contribute back into the public arena.

Do you think there will be an opportunity for the college to engage with the residents and business owners of neighbouring communities to decrease our collective climate impact?

Absolutely! We have an ongoing dialogue with DCC, and will continue to work with them to find sustainable transport solutions, including safe cycling routes between TCD campuses. I am currently involved in a couple of art projects that work with local communities around the city centre on climate change and sustainability issues. We need to keep principles of just transition and transformation to the front of our minds; where we have influence we need to ensure that climate and biodiversity solutions are fair and do not place a burden on those least able to bear it. Trinity has a responsibility to the communities that our campuses are embedded in. I look forward to working with the civic engagement office at Trinity to find new ways of engaging with our communities for mutual benefit.

As the first ever vice president for Biodiversity and Climate Action, you have a lot of influence in the direction of the role. What do you see in the future of the office? Where will it be in 10 years?

In 10 years’ time it will be 2031, we will have passed our first big climate action milestone which is halving GHG emissions by 2030. We only have nine years remaining to get there, I hope here at Trinity we will have done our bit to meet this national target. The sustainability office will be well established, and climate and biodiversity action will be embedded in how we operate, teach and do our research. Not only will we have changed our own practises but as a community we will have lit the way for new solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises through our research and sparked new ways of think about the crises and potential solutions through our teaching.

NatPro Centre Awarded MyGreenLab Certification

By Faye Murphy

On January 20th, Trinity College Dublin announced that the NatPro Centre had become Green Lab Certified. NatPro, the Trinity Centre for Natural Products Research, received the green level award, which is the highest level of certification and is only the second lab in the country to receive this certification. This level of accreditation is awarded to any lab that enacts 80% or more of the actions Green Labs recommends to them. 

The Green Lab certification process is recognised by the UN Race to Zero Campaign and is believed to be a key player in creating carbon-zero pharmaceutical companies. Yvonne Buckley, Trinity’s Vice Provost for Biodiversity & Climate Action, believes that the NatPro certification is an “outstanding achievement in providing innovative natural products research together with reducing their impact on the environment”. She also thinks it is “inspiring” as more and more labs are “increasing the sustainability of their world-class research”. 

Dr Gaia Scalabrino, NatPro’s Executive Director, mentioned that NatPro “felt responsible to address global concerns, such as climate change, starting with tangible daily actions”. Scalabrino also stated that they “embedded green practices across the board, from strategic planning to operations and lab practices. It became an integral part of our culture”. Scalabrino proceeded to state that she was “thrilled to contribute to TCD’s green lab ecosystem and national sustainability goals”. NatPro Green Lab Ambassador Peter O’Connell mentioned that NatPro’s sustainability success was due to “significant improvements across the My Green Lab assessment topics, including resource management, travel and procurement, as well as the more lab focused topics, such as waste, energy and water usage”. 

Michele Hallahan, Office of the Provost’s Sustainability Advisor, credits that the green level of certification for NatPro “shows the depth and breadth of dedication that the team have for minimising the environmental impacts of lab practices”. All the while, Dr Rachael Relph, Chief Sustainability Officer at My Green Lab, said that NatPro “did an outstanding job” and that My Green Lab  “look forward to supporting the dozens of other Irish labs currently in the program”. 

For more information on the certification process, visit: https://www.mygreenlab.org/green-lab-certification.html/#certificationprocess 

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