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Posts Tagged ‘An Taisce’

DCU and Sustainability

This week seems to have been a big week for DCU and sustainability. One of my supervisors was part of this initiative and so people from our lab got roped in to attending a couple of meeting organised. Yesterday was a lunchtime talk organised by the Biological Research Society at DCU and the Institute of Biology in Ireland. The talk was given by Professor Roland Clift and it was on ‘Bioenergy – and why biofuels for transport are a nonsense’. Professor Clift is at the top of the pyramid in the area of environmental science and sustainability. I really enjoyed listening to him and getting an idea of how things work, especially in relation to policy making.

It was especially enlightening to see the openness with which he gave the presentation, and particularly relieved to see that even in the higher echelons of science and even more so in policy making, pragmatism is one of the main considerations. You do not necessarily do what is the best out there (and very often you would not even know what is the best), but you take a decision based on practical factors, some of which are not wholly ‘scientifically’ based. For example, why a particular year was chosen by himself and the rest of the team preparing a policy document in relation to a particular target, where one of the reasons was that it is not too close that people in government say it is not possible and therefore not do anything about it, yet not too far away that people can afford to sweep it under the carpet.

I could link his train of thought very well with some decisions I have had to make as part of my PhD, where sometimes selection was based on practical rather than a wholly ‘scientific’ basis, such as the selection of analytes for my project…it would have been nice to be able to analyse for everything (this could run into the hundreds), but it is simply not possible, and the analytes finally selected were based on a number of criteria, which include financial considerations and time considerations rather than simply ‘scientific’ considerations.

Then today, a one day forum was held on Sustainability at DCU. I could not attend the whole day, since I was getting some other training related to my PhD, but I really enjoyed the parts I could attend. I missed out most of the morning session, where different members of the panel presented what is currently being done at DCU in achieving a green campus and future initiatives to reducing the University’s environment impact and making the campus more sustainable. I was present for part of the presentation by Dr Yvonne Ryan from An Taisce, regarding the Green Campus initiative. I had previously attended a seminar by An Taisce, when I had just moved to Ireland, where I had seen their enthusiasm in the area of environmental awareness and initiatives. This was followed by a presentation by Maggie Fagan, a student at Colaiste Dhulaig, who was part of the ‘green committee’ at the college for further education for the past 3 years, during which time they have maintained their green campus status. Maggie talked about the initiatives they have taken and the particular considerations of importance.

After these talks, a DCU campus environmental audit was carried out. However I had to be back in training, and therefore missed out on that, though I was back for the reporting back by the different groups. One of the suggestions which was of great interest to me was the introduction of a Dublin Bike stand at DCU for students to use. This would be really handy, and I would definitely use it to go to the city centre or so, if it becomes available. I have been toying with the idea of buying a bike, and this would be a good alternative.

In the afternoon session, principal investigators from the different DCU schools (including my supervisor) gave a short presentation on the research in the environmental and sustainability sector being carried out within their groups, giving a better idea of what is happening on campus. I had known what some of the other groups are doing, particularly from the Chemistry and Biotechnology schools. However I had no clue about the research being carried out in the school of engineering.

Overall, successful meetings, and I look forward to seeing what comes of these couple of days.

Biodiversity Training Seminar

October 9, 2010 3 comments

Today, I attended a Biodiversity Training Seminar organised by An Taisce, the national trust for Ireland. I had seen this advertised some time ago, on the ESAI (Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland) listserv, I had joined in before I left for Dublin. The subject and programme content had interested me and therefore I had signed up. In particular I saw this as an opportunity to understand better the Environmental Agencies of Ireland.

The day was fully packed. Three Sessions and a Field Trip were organised. The first session concerned ‘Irish Ecosystem Services’. Three presenters from different backgrounds described how different ecosystems provide numerous services to humankind. This session was not as technical as the following sessions were. However it gave a good introduction to the subject.

This was followed by four presenters in the area of ‘Plans, Strategies, and Legal Instruments’. I really found this session of great interest to me, as it allowed me to understand better the way that different entities in the Irish environmental sphere act. In addition I learnt a lot about the legal frameworks of importance and how these are applied in an Irish context.

The final session was about ‘Information Sources’. Three different presenters explained the best ways of finding and accessing data which is available. The presentation by Sinead O’Brien, from SWAN (Sustainable Water Network) was of particular relevance to my studies. This is because it dealt with accessing water quality data of Irish relevance, in particular in relation to the Water Framework Directive.

In the afternoon, we could choose to go to one of two different field trips. I took the Dublin Bay SPA fied trip, where Siobhan Egan from Birdwatch Ireland and a representative of Coastwatch Ireland explained the different aspects of this site, and the particular challenges faced with the site designation.

First up we went to the mud flats at Dublin Bay, and Siobhan Egan from Birdwatch Ireland explained about the issues related to SPA designation at the site. Another member from Birdwatch Ireland also joined with her telescope to explain about the overwintering birds that were visible.

Dublin Bay Mud Flats

Dublin Bay Mud Flats

After this, we went to Booterstown in Dublin, a bit farther along the coast. The Coast Watch Ireland member explained about the biodiversity we could see along the mud flats. She could recognise the different organisms and shells we found lying along the shore. At the moment the highest spring tides are currently present, and therefore a considerable amount of debris could be seen. She also explained about the issues related to designation, and the concerns they have related to the designation of the site in relation to changes in habitats and their description within the water framework directive.

I am sure that I will make good use of the information gained today at this seminar in my studies. The seminar gave all of us participants an overload of information. nevertheless, it was provided in a manageable way. The presentations were of only 15 minutes, which I found useful. This is because we managed to get a good overview of the various different aspects of biodiversity from the relevant legislation, to their application and how the data collected can be accessed. In addition, the field trips allowed us to see the various considerations in action.

I must congratulate An Taisce, for a wonderful seminar, and I will certainly be back for another event organised by them.