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  • The Institute provides a forum for debate on the present structure and future development of the biology profession in both domestic and international context.

  • The Institute is a founding member of the European Federation of Biotechnology and the European Countries Biologists Association (ECBA).

  • Through its members, the Institute maintains an extensive network of contacts with biologists within the E.U. and worldwide.

  • The current membership comprises professional biologists in universities, institutes of technology, schools, government departments, hospitals, semi-state bodies and a wide range of industries

Report on Lecture, Biotechnology and Creativity – reflections on multiisciplinary degrees by Dr Siobhan Jordan

Dr Siobhan Jordan presenting the lecture at DCU

Figure 1 Dr Siobhan Jordan presenting the lecture at DCU

Dr Siobhan Jordan, Director of Interface, the knowledge connection enterprise for business and academic collaborations in Scotland, presented a lecture on “Biotechnology and creativity – reflections on multidisciplinary degrees” , jointly sponsored by the Biological Research Society in the School of Biotechnology at Dublin City University and the Institute of Biology of Ireland on March 24th in DCU. Siobhan gave an inspiring account of how successful collaborations can be forged between industry and academics and how her multi-disciplinary training assisted her in developing this focused approach in Scotland. She originally studied Biotechnology in DCU followed by a Ph.D. in Genetics at TCD. The lecture was attended by over 50 staff, researchers and students and there was a very extensive question-and-answer session after the lecture, which extended into an excellent social event with coffee and sandwiches. It was clear that Siobhan was a great role model for young scientists seeking to develop all aspects of their knowledge to further their careers.

 

Jonathan Loftus, Chair BRS, Kim Connick, Vice Chair, Dr. Siobhan Jordan, Prof. Richard O'Kennedy, President IBIOLI

Figure 2, (L to R) Jonathan Loftus, Chair BRS, Kim Connick, Vice Chair, Dr. Siobhan Jordan, Prof. Richard O'Kennedy, President IBIOLI


The aims and activities of the Institute of Biology were presented, at the start of the meeting, by Richard O’Kennedy, President of the Institute of Biology, who chaired the event.


 

Report on the Prof. Michael Hennerty Memorial Prize and Medal award ceremony at UCD, 17th November 2016

The UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science awards ceremony was held on Thursday 17th November in the UCD O'Brien centre for Science. There were 13 awards in total.   

The Institute of Biology of Ireland (IBIOLI) Professor Michael Hennerty Memorial Prize and Medal was awarded to Ms Eva Ziggiotto, BAgrSc (Horticulture, Landscape and Sports Turf Management). 

Michael Hennerty award presentation

Ms Ziggiotto, from the Florence region of Italy, was delighted to be chosen for the award by Dr. Caroline Elliot-Kingston of UCD faculty of Agriculture

The medal was presented by Mrs Maire Hennerty, widow of Professor Michael Hennerty, while the monetary award was presented on behalf of the Institute of Biology of Ireland by John Loughman, treasurer.

The atmosphere and welcome for all guests and recipients was extremely pleasant and relatively informal.   Refreshments were served afterwards for all those attending. 

John Loughman, Treasurer, IBIOLI
November 30th 2016


Institute of Biology of Ireland Annual Awards 2016

Friday night, November 18th 2016 marked The Institute of Biology of Ireland annual awards to the highest performing students in this year’s Leaving Certificate Biology examination. This activity is just one of the many engaged in by the Institute ( see www.ibioli.net) to disseminate and encourage interest in Biology at all levels in Ireland. Each of the awardees were presented with a gold medal and a Certificate in recognition of their excellent achievements. In addition, the teacher of Biology of each of the students received a Certificate of Commendation, and each of the schools were presented with a Certificate. This was a lovely occasion offering a real celebration of all the work that the students, their families, teachers and schools put into attaining such high standards in biology.

The ceremony was followed by a stimulating lecture entitled "In Search of Sanctuary! Is it in the biologist's contract to inform and lead public policy and law towards environmental sustainability?" delivered by Brendan Price, Director of the Irish Seal Sanctuary.



The winners this year were drawn from two schools:

Dominican College, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9, and
Coláiste Mhuire, Réalt na Mara, Crosshaven, Co. Cork.


The winning students were:

Ms Saoirse Pagel. Dominical College, and
Mr Luke Eugene Fehily, Coláiste Mhuire.

Saoirse Pagel presentation

Figure 1. Prof. Richard O'Kennedy presents Saoirse with her medal and Certificate

 

Karen Ward presentation

Figure 2. Prof Richard O'Kennedy presents a Certificate of Commendation to Saoirse's teacher, Ms Karen Ward.

 

Luke Fehily presentation

Figure 3. Prof. Richard O'Kennedy presents Luke with the IBIOLI medal and Certificate.

 

Mary O'Dowd presentation

Figure 4. Prof Richard O'Kennedy presents Ms Mary O'Dowd, Luke's teacher of Biology, with the IBIOLI Certificate of Commendation.


Speaking at the award ceremony, Prof. Richard O’Kennedy, President IBIOLI acknowledged the supberb achievement of the winning students and paid tribute to the dedication and commitment of their teachers, their schools and parents. In offering his warmest and enthusiastic congratulations to the winners, he also wished them success and satisfaction in their studies and, eventually, in their chosen careers.


Report on Lecture, In Search of Sanctuary! Is it in the biologist's contract to inform and lead public policy and law towards environmental sustainability? by Brendan Price on November 18th 2016

Brendan PriceBrendan Price, the founder of the Irish Seal Sanctuary, and marine and wildlife advocate, stimulated the audience with his obvious commitment to the role of biologists in promoting environmental sustainability. He enthused everyone present as he presented photographic evidence of his personal engagement with the range of focal points where Sanctuary was the theme.

Brendan argued the importance of Biology as the "mother ship" of the softer sciences and as such of its very important role, and that of Biologists, in guiding our relations with the natural world. Biologists have responsibility, he challenged, to engage, inform and lead the public on policy and law in these relations with a view towards ensuring that human society operates within safe, just and sustainable ecological limits. He illustrated his lecture with copious examples and stories from the worlds of mega-fauna; it was abundantly clear from his lecture that he wished to engage with citizen science and society in general, including the science community, to raise a greater awareness and engagement with issues of environmental concern.

He successfully engaged the audience and generated high levels of interaction with them.

Frank McGourty, Secretary IBIOLI


Report on Lecture, Human Genetic Differences: unravelling which ones matter by Dr. Anne Parle McDermott on 27th October

Dr Anne Parle McDermottDr Anne Parle McDermott presented a fascinating lecture that generated a high level of interest amongst the assembled audience. In the hour assigned to her, she brought the audience on a trip of discovery as she narrated our journey to date and captured our fascination with the human genome, describing some of the latest findings in functional- and epi- genetics and providing a glimpse of what the future might hold. 

“It's all in the genes, or so they say”, she declared. She went on to relate that the complete (almost) human genome sequence has been within our realm for over 13 years, and that with the explosion in DNA sequencing technologies since then, we now have an in-depth catalogue of the genetic differences that exist between individuals.  And keeping in mind that adding to this genetic complexity is the impact of environmental influences, such as nutrition and other factors, have on our DNA (epigenetics) and the possibility of passing such DNA modifications onto the next generation. But, she emphasised that simply knowing the sequence of our own genome is not enough; the challenge is deciphering those differences that drive our characteristics, including disease susceptibility i.e., figuring out which genetic differences actually matter? She explained that while large-scale genomic projects are striving to address this question, genome gazing is not sufficient and ultimately more gene-focused experimental approaches are needed. “We know what all the differences are but we are a long way off knowing which ones matter”, she suggested. The arrival of efficient genome-editing technologies is beginning to pave the way for such functional genetics approaches, but she queried whether at this point we have a sufficient level of knowledge to make permanent changes to our genomes. In a wrap up comment she reflected that “evolution has been doing a good job up to now and perhaps we should probably just leave it that way”.

Frank McGourty, Secretary IBIOLI
November 20th 2016


 

Institute of Biology of Ireland Gold Medal Winners 2015

The Institute of Biology of Ireland awarded gold medals to the highest performing students in this year’s Leaving Certificate Biology examinations at a ceremony in the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin on November 20th.

At this annual event three winners drawn from various parts of the country were presented with medals. In addition, each were granted student membership of the Institute of Biology. In his introduction to the awards, Dr David O’Connor, Chairman, Institute of Biology of Ireland emphasized the very high achievements of the award winners. The Institute of Biology of Ireland wished to recognize the hard work and commitment shown by these students and, therefore, it was very pleased to award each of them the cherished gold medal for excellence. 

 

The winners were:

1. Anna Walpole, Presentation Convent Secondary School, Kilkenny.

Teacher:  Ms Caitlin Brennan

Anna Walpole presentation

Dr. David O’Connor presenting Anna Walpole with the Gold Medal and Certificate.
Anna is currently studying Actuarial and Financial Mathematics at UCD.

 

2. Aisling Doran, St. Angela’s College, Griffith College Campus, Wellington Rd., Cork.

Teacher:  Ms Cara McAdam

Aisling Doran presentation

Dr. David O’Connor presenting Aisling Doran with the Gold Medal and Certificate.
Aisling is currently studying Medicine at UCC.

 

3. Conor Bell, De La Salle Secondary School, Dundalk.

Teacher:  Ms Ann Barrett

Conor Bell presentation

Dr. David O’Connor presenting Conor with the Gold Medal and Certificate.
Conor is currently studying Veterinary Medicine at UCD.

Dr O’Connor also paid tribute to each of the schools and the teachers who contributed to the success of these students. He awarded School Commendation Certificates to each School. In addition, he awarded Teaching Commendation Certificates to each teacher.

Frank McGourty
November 2015


Report on lecture, Molecular Evolution and Adaptation: Birds, Bears, Bowhead whales and Beyond !, presented by Dr Mary J. O’Connell,  University of Leeds, on the occasion of AGM 2015, Institute of Biology of Ireland at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Dr Mary J O'Connell

In this inspiring lecture, Dr O’Connell, 250 Great Minds University Academic Fellow in Computational Evolutionary Biology, University of Leeds, UK, set out to show what happens to living organisms when catastrophe strikes and to recognise some important features that are key to survival. She stimulated the audience when she discussed some principles of evolution and adaptation to ecological niches, calling on recent research from her group, and her collaborators, on terrestrial, volant and marine vertebrates.  She argued that each species is unique at the level of its DNA and every organism has the history of the past locked within that DNA. She went on to explain that by studying these molecules, it  allows them to understand the processes and patterns of evolution that have shaped life on our planet for billions of years. She elaborated on the discoveries that have been made from studying the DNA of organisms such as the polar bear, the bowhead whale, the hummingbird and, of course, ourselves ! 

The lecture generated a very high level of interaction from the audience answering the many questions raised by the audience. A trruly excellent lecture to mark the AGM 2015.


Report on the Professor Michael Hennerty Memorial Prize and Medal

In 2015 the Institute of Biology of Ireland formulated an annual Memorial Prize and Medal Award in honour of the late Professor Michaele Hennerty, UCD. Prof. Hennerty was also a Fellow of the Institute and dedicated in excess of 20 years to its work.

It was agreed that the prize would be awarded to the undergraduate student with the highest overall GPA in the Horticulture, Landscape and Sportsturf Management degree programme offered at UCD.  In the event of two or more students having the same final GPA the student with the best performance in the HORT 30190 Food Production: Fruit and Post-harvest Physiology will be selected.

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Denis Kenny receiving the award from Dr. Kay Nolan, UCD and President of Institute of Biology of Ireland

The award this year was made to Denis Kenny.

Frank McGourty, 2015


Report on lecture, The Value of Pollinators, presented by Prof Jane Stout, TCD and given under the aegis of The Institute of Biology of Ireland at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, on 13th November 2015

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Fig. 1. Prof. Jane Stout, TCD

Prof Jane Stout, TCD presented some startling facts on the decline in pollinator numbers and the potential impact on production and yields of many crops totally familiar to us. She conveyed to the assembled audience, drawn from a wide range of interest groups such as beekeepers, apple farmers, professional and academic interests, that pollinator concerns have become popular in the press, the general public and in political spheres. Much of the argument for supporting pollinators is based on the fact that they contribute to food production by pollinating entomophilous crops. She emphasized that is valuable for several reasons: for food security for an ever expanding human population, to contribute to healthy diets as many insect-pollinated crops contain essential and desirable vitamins, to provide consumer choice and access to luxury foods, and because crop production has an economic value. Turning to a broader theme, she conveyed to the audience the value of pollinators as providers of a service, which is key to many terrestrial ecosystems, and indirectly to a wide range of biodiversity and ecosystem services, is often overlooked. For example, by pollinating wild plants, insect pollinators contribute to the diets of fruit and seed eating animals, enable diverse plant communities with mixtures of insect and non-insect pollinated species to persist, and non-bee pollinators perform other functions during their larval stages (such as population regulation of plants by caterpillars, and of phytophagous insects by hoverfly larvae). Thus the decline of pollinators and their conservation is not only economically important, but also ecologically as well. She also referred to the recently launched Pollination Plan for Ireland and promoted the idea that everyone from amateur gardeners, the farming community and the environmentally aware can contribute in various way to engage with the objectives of this plan.

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Figure 2: Selection of attendees

The lecture, which was followed by a lively session of questions, was extremely well received by those who attended. Dr. Kay Nolan, School of Biology and Environmental Science, UCD, in her concluding remarks thanked Prof Joan Stout for sharing her valuable time and expertise with the membership of the Institute of Biology of Ireland and the various interest groups in attendance. 

Frank McGourty, 2015


 

Institute of Biology of Ireland visits the Great Saltee Island,
Co. Wexford

Click on the following link for PDF report on the Great Saltee Island trip held on 6th of June last.

Blooming Burren PDF link
Great Saltee Island Report


Report on Visit to Natural History Museum, Merrion St., Dublin 2
16th May 2015

Frank McGourty, Secretary, IBIOLI

Members and friends of the Institute of Biology of Ireland, and members of the public congregated at the entrance to the Natural History Museum at 2 pm on Saturday, May 16th. The occasion was activity number 5 of the Activity Series 2015 of IBIOLI - a guided tour of the “Dead Zoo” under the leadership of Dr Nigel Monaghan, Keeper of the Museum.

At the start of the tour, the place of the Natural History Museum in the development of this area of the city was placed in context. This was 1856, when it was possible to see the Irish Sea from where we stood. Gradually, the neighbourhood of Georgian buildings and further building development, including Leinster House, surrounded the present site as the cityscape grew.

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Fig. 1. Nigel Monaghan sets the museum in the historical context of the city development.

The development was closely linked with the history of the Royal Dublin Society. Over the years, huge collections of various world fauna and geological specimens were added. The specimen collection is now estimated at 2 million items, from beetles to sharks and rock samples, with about 10,000 specimens on exhibition. It is this accumulated collection over its 157 years of existence that makes the museum so valuable to science, in particular students of biology. More space was required and further building ensued, resulting in a world-renowned resource so popular that over 300,000 visitors pass through its doors each year.

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Fig. 2. Inside, Nigel leads the group.

One of the most prized and astonishing treasures is its collection of perfect glass models (from scientific illustrations) of soft-bodied sea animals such as tentacled marine worms and anemone and many others made by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, a father and son in 19th Century Dresden. In the 1800s the Dublin Museum commissioned 530 of them for display; many were lost or broken over the years. However, thanks to the skilled museum glass conservator, Lorna Barnes, the lives of over 300 have been extended. Much work continues on the development of a digitized data-base and a virtual tour created by 3D cameras (go to www.museum.ie/nh3d).

Dr Monaghan gradually led the group through 2 floors of a variety of specimens, carefully secured in magnificently constructed and locally made glass cases.

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Fig. 3. Beautiful displays in locally made glass cases.

Along the way, he entertained the group with scientific information interwoven with historical facts and anecdotes of happenings. He pointed out the bullet holes in a polar bear and quipped on the inconsistencies often evident from records of shooting expeditions of species during past colonial days and its imminent extinction.

But credit must go to Nigel and his staff, now greatly reduced in number from the heady boom days of the National Development plan when a grant of €15 million was allocated for an extension, elevators and a café. He lives in hope that some new appointments will be approved in the near future.

Staring at the Basking Shark and caged specimens 1 Staring at the Basking Shark and caged specimens 2

Fig.4. Staring at the Basking Shark and caged specimens.

In conclusion, a great tour enjoyed by all.


The Blooming Burren
Flowers of the Burren National Park

Click on the following link for PDF report on the Blooming Burren trip held on 6th of May last.

Blooming Burren PDF link
Blooming Burren Report


Bealtaine Dawn Chorus, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare May 3rd 2015

On Sunday morning, May 3rd 2015 at 5.30am, 52 interested ‘birdwatchers’ gathered outside the Village Store in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare for the annual Dawn Chorus event. The event, which was organized by BurrenBeo Trust (www.burrenbeo.com), warmly welcomed members of The Institute of Biology of Ireland (www.ibioli.net) to join them. Gordon D’Arcy, the well-known and respected ornithologist, led the group around the local Turlough, Lough Rask.

Heavy rain, accompanied by southeasterly winds, had fallen from the previous evening until about 4am on the Sunday morning. Weather conditions had greatly improved as dawn was beginning to break; patrons were arriving by car, on foot and bicycle, and Jim (from the Village Store) provided freshly made tea, coffee and croissants. What a welcome treat! The scene was set for a great morning.

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Fig. 1. Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask

Little time had passed until Gordon had us ‘tuning our ears’ to the variety of bird sounds, and learning to separate the sounds of the song thrush from the chaffinch and from the myriad of other tweets and chirpings that we take for granted each day.

Gordon gives a class in ear-tuning

Fig. 2. Gordon gives a class in ‘ear-tuning’ to the bird songs

We travelled for about 1km through the dawn chorus and down a tree clad country boreen until we reached the Turlough, locally known as Loughrask. Along the way we learned that it is the male bird that sings to identify his territory and attract females. We also continued to identify other birds as we encountered them from their plumage colour, flight patterns, and the discrete bird songs.

Gordon gives a class in ear-tuning

Fig. 3. Gordon engages the group as we move towards the Turlough

We reached the Turlough to be greeted by the Grey Heron, the Blackbird, and the Wren. In the distance we observed the gliding flight of the Woodpigeon. Rooks were in abundance; the monotonous cawing made the nearby treetop rookery a noisy place. We were later to encounter the super territorial Robin, the Mistle Thrush, the Cuckoo, the Coot, the Chiffchaff, the Blue Tit, and more.

Gordon gives a class in ear-tuning

Fig. 4. The Turlough in the early morning

We finished the day with a sumptuous champagne breakfast in Logue’s Restaurant.

 

Frank McGourty, Hon Secretary, IBIOLI, 3rd May 2015


IBIOLI members visit Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh, Wicklow, 18th April 2015

 

A bright sun and a sweeping avenue lined with deep red Himalayan rhododendrons (Rhodendron ferrugineum) in full flower set the scene of a memorable visit to the Botanic Gardens KIlmacurragh, East Wicklow.

Himalayan Rhododrendon

Fig. 1. Himalayan Rhododrendon (Rhododendron ferrugineum) found all over the gardens

Arriving at the car park, busy with patrons, we were warmly greeted by Myles Reid from OPW who became our guide for the next 2+ hours. Members of the Institute of Biology, their friends and families and members of the public were gathering to explore and experience the magnificent spring floral displays.

IBIOLI members, families and public with guide

Fig. 2. IBIOLI members, families and public with guide, Myles Reid

Not only were we going to see and imbibe the magnificence of these spring displays, there were additional treats in store for us all. Myles, our guide, expertly unveiled the history of Kilmacurragh, explained the significance of the underlying geology, the soil type and, in particular, the aspect of this garden gem neatly tucked away just a short distance from the bustling N11. As he walked us through the grounds, pointing out the old Wexford-Dublin road traversed by people such as Oliver Cromwell, he expertly interwove some of the various planting regimes with the rather sad personal family history of the owners, the Acton family, and the impact of the First World War; Acton brother followed by Acton brother both gave their lives as British army volunteers. As a consequence, the estate of approximately 6000 acres accumulated major debts; it was eventually offered to the Irish State and today the 50 acres of it that we traversed are under the management of the OPW, specifically the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin.

Myles explained that the garden’s planning and development is based on Geographical themes. These include China, South America, Himalaya, and Australia. Future plans include a focus on Ireland with a simulated Burren area, a Peatland area, and other specialist biomes each placing a particular focus on native Irish plant species. He pointed out a major planted-up scheme completed 3 weeks earlier of 3,500 native oak and Ash species.

Fritillaria thriving in the wild flower grassland

Fig. 3. Fritillaria thriving in the wild flower grassland

We traversed wild flower grassland that in a few weeks time will offer a rich display of naturally occurring wild flowers; the grassland area is under-sown with Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) that acts as a semi-parasite on grass roots thereby suppressing grass growth and, thus allowing the naturally occurring wild flowers to flourish.

We traversed all the geographic areas and noted those various shrub and tree species associated with each particular area. Various adaptations were pointed out, such as that seen on the Monkey Puzzle.

Base of the Monkey Puzzle

Fig. 4. Note the thickening at the base of the Monkey Puzzle.
This acts as protection from molten lava derived from volcanic eruptions in its native areas of Chile and Southern Andes.

We witnessed Robinsonian style garden design (read about William Robinson at www.howbertandmays.ie ) and saw the seed-pods of the giant Himalayan Lilly (Cardiocrinum giganteum) that flowers only once in seven years.

Seed-pods of the giant Himalayan Lilly

Fig. 5 Seed-pods of the giant Himalayan Lilly (Cardiocrinum giganteum)

As we watched the brown trout rise for flies in the lake, traversed the pathways that previously were the “canals” that supplied water to the lake, Myles casually held us spellbound as we competed to identify the knotted clump of green growth located in the canopy of one of the taller beech trees; it was a fine example of mistletoe (Viscum alba), an obligate semi parasite on this beech tree.

Mistletoe high up on a Beech tree

Fig. 6 Mistletoe high up on a Beech tree

Over two hours had sneaked by and never noticed by the participants. Thanks to Myles, the OPW and the professional input of the Botanic gardens in making this location a place to stroll, to learn and enjoy free of charge. We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Frank McGourty, 18th April 2015

 

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