TY2015: A great experience

Week one TY2015 participants at BEES with Dr Emily Goldstein and Dr Sarah Culloty.

Week one TY2015 participants at BEES with Dr Emily Goldstein and Dr Sarah Culloty.

Ciarain Condron, Killina Presentation Secondary School

When I started the BEES transition year programme I wanted to find out what courses I liked and didn’t like. I want to study zoology in college and after several lectures about zoology my mind was swaying in that direction. I had an interest in ecology, botany and geology but after a few days learning more about them I felt they were not for me.

On the first day we all got a good insight into a few of the different courses and gained first-hand experience of the courses through doing practical work and listening to the lecturers. We got a really good marine biology lecture from a lecturer at the college. Coming from the Midlands I had no real knowledge about anything marine or coastal. This area really interested me. We also viewed insects which we caught in pit fall traps under a microscope and did a mammal hair identification class.

The second day started with a really fun project in zoology. We tested sea urchins in captivity to see what type of material was their favourite to hide under. It was nice to deal with a live creature. We had lectures throughout the day on invasive species and their impacts and a class on plant science. We got to ask current students about their courses and how did they pick them and why.

On Wednesday we got a tour of the library which was very impressive and the UCC campus. Earlier that morning we were put into small groups and put with a postgrad student specialising in a certain area. My group learned about animal tunnels under motorways. We got to set trap cameras in the woods. We saw foxes and other wildlife on our cameras when we checked them. That was really exciting.

We were meant to do bird ringing on Thursday but the weather was very wet and we didn’t want to stress the birds. Instead we learned about different personalities in birds species which was really enjoyable. We had a really good geology practical on rocks and fossils.

Finally we had a lecture on environmental science. It was informative. Throughout the week we all got a really good feeling of college life and of the different courses that UCC provide. I am looking forward to working hard in school to get my place in UCC hopefully to study the great zoology course they provide. The week was great fun and it encouraged me even more to want to study the BEES programme at UCC.

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TY2015: BEES TY programme


Léa Brady, St. Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill

The week in UCC really furthered my interest in natural science, and it really helped me to decide if I would be interested in pursuing a career in this field.

At the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities we did. I got to do things that I never would have gotten the chance to do outside of BEES. We were given the opportunity to see the research being done by some postgraduate students which was extremely interesting because it gave us the chance to see the possible paths you can take with a degree from BEES.

One of the things that made the week so enjoyable was that all the lecturers were so genuinely interested in what they were teaching us.

One of the things that made the week so enjoyable was that all the lecturers were so genuinely interested in what they were teaching us. They all had a passion for what they were doing and even if you thought you had no interest in their subject, their enthusiasm made you listen up and even made you a little more interested!

The reason I was interested in doing this course is because I have always had an interest in the science and biology of animals and I was fairly certain that Zoology is what I wanted to do in college, and after the week in UCC, doing practicals and listening to lectures, I now know that Zoology is definitely the course for me.

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TY2015: Geology impresses


James Barry, Kinsale Community School County Cork

The part which I enjoyed the most about the BEES transition year programme was the Geology lecture given by Prof. Andy Wheeler and the geology practical given by Dr. Bettie Higgs. In the geology lecture we were taught about plate tectonics and we were then taken to see the BEES rock viewing garden at which we saw rocks from millions of years ago. We were taught about how they formed, where they came from, some of their uses and how different minerals and crystals formed on the rocks. For example we learned how one of the rocks which contained lithium can be used in the making of mobile phones.

The geology practical was different to other activities we had done during the week. Ten different geology artefacts were displayed. We were given a geographical time scale which would help us identify what timescale we were looking at based on the different samples and sheet of questions based on the samples. Then we split into teams and set off looking at all the samples and answering the questions. I enjoyed looking at the samples and answering the questions. Some of the questions included how old you taught the sample was, whether you taught the sample was a plant or animal and identifying rocks and fossils to work out what elements were in them or identifying certain features.

I really enjoyed this course and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about participating in the BEES Programme to do so.

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TY2015: The BEES knees


Isabel Auld, Newtown School Waterford

This week at UCC’s School of BEES was a real eye-opener for me in terms of college level science. Once I saw the time table and what was planned for us I couldn’t wait to get started. Throughout the week we were given lectures and practicals on basically all the topics covered in the school. It ranged from Marine Biology to Geology to Plant Science.

My favourite practicals of the week were the Mammal ID on Monday, and the Plant Science practical on Tuesday. With the ID Practical we were given various mammal hairs and had to make an imprint of them into gelatine on a slide. Once cooled we had to remove the hair and examine the pattern it left in the gelatine. From examining it under a micro-scope we then had to identify the animal. This was a lot of fun to learn about and carry out.

had to stop a few times to catch his breath because he was ‘’getting too excited talking about all the plants’’

What I loved was how enthusiastic the lecturers were when giving their lecture. The fact that they were so passionate about the subject really made you want to listen even if you weren’t interested in the topic! My favourite lecture was by Prof. Peter Jones who was so full of energy and had to stop a few times to catch his breath because he was ‘’getting too excited talking about all the plants’’. I have now learned there is so much more to plants than what you think!

What I loved was that they let us do hands on practical things instead of just making us sit in a room for hours and listen to lecturers! I can now say that I would like to study Zoology after BEES gave me a great insight into the all the possibilities I could pursue after my degree. Overall it was a fantastic week and I would really recommend it for any science loving TY student!!




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TY2015: Terrestrial Ecology


Eilish Kennedy -Rockwell College.

One of the parts of the course I found surprisingly interesting was the terrestrial ecology practical we had with Dr Simon Harrison.

I wasn’t sure what this was but I soon found out we would be going to the ‘distillery fields’ to check the pitfall traps Dr Harrison had set earlier. This didn’t excite me very much as I wasn’t particularly interested in insects or other creatures that could be caught in the pitfall traps. However the practical involved much more than just collecting the traps. First we learned about invasive species and the effects they had on the environment. We were shown an example of Japanese knotweed and I was surprised at how well it was suited to taking over the habitat. The pitfall traps were set to help us study the effects of invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed had on organisms in the area. Pitfall traps were also set in areas of native vegetation (grass) so we could compare our results.

We brought our samples from the traps back to the labs to examine them in detail. At first it looked like we hadn’t caught any organisms in the traps set in the Japanese knotweed. However after sieving through the material and examining it through a strong microscope we saw that we had caught plenty of organisms in the traps. Lots of tiny organisms lived in the Japanese knotweed, although not nearly as many that lived in the grass. Interestingly it was mostly non-native animals we found living in the Japanese knotweed, primarily land hoppers (similar to sand hoppers found at the beach). These are a relatively new invasive species to Ireland. It is difficult for most animals to live in Japanese knotweed as its leaves aren’t good for them to live. We found native animals such as worms, beetles, slugs and snails in the samples from the grass. This helped us understand the damaging impact invasive species can have on native habitats if they are not kept under control.

I really enjoyed this practical class and I found out loads of information about invasive species that I didn’t even realise was significant. I gained a greater interest into ecology and realised there is more to it than you might think.


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TY2015: My B.E.E.S. Experience

Boole Library. Photograph by Tomas Tyner,UCC.

Robbie Wall – Colaiste Chriost Ri

For the past week, I have been studying at the school of BEES. in UCC. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and feel privileged to have had an opportunity like this. I studied a variety of sciences such as zoology, marine biology, geology, environmental science etc. that I would have not gotten the chance to experience in school. I feel it has helped in my subject choice for the Leaving Certificate, and I am quite sure now I will study a science subject in college. Just I’m not quite sure which one yet, as I enjoyed every science we studied this week.

This week has really helped with my future education choice, as it has given me a taste of college life, and I now hope that I will study in UCC. It has also shown me that after doing your degree, you may continue your studies if you wish and do a post-graduate course. A lot of this information has not been shown to us in school yet, but I suppose that is because I am a 4th year. But now I have an advantage over my classmates.

Some of the things we did this week involved lectures, on things like sea life, fossils, rocks, but we also did practical work and field work,

Some of the things we did this week involved lectures, on things like sea life, fossils, rocks, but we also did practical work and field work, like working with pitfall traps and identifying what was inside them, and looking into microscopes at mammal hairs and plant cells. I enjoyed all of it.

I look forward to coming to UCC. now and to further study the sciences, as this week in my opinion was brilliant, and everyone on the course (both staff and other 4th years) were sound out. I would like to thank Emily Goldstein and everyone involved for making this week such a great experience.

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TY2015: Geology Rocks


Peter Lahiff, Ashton School

For my BEES work experience at UCC, on Thursday afternoon I had a geology class. There were different kinds of rocks and fossils arranged on the desks, and we were divided up into groups and sent around the room to examine and answer questions about them.

My group started off at a Microraptor gui fossil, and answered questions on how feathered dinosaurs such as this are similar and different to birds, their descendants. We continued on to fossils of other animals such as a crinoid, a shark, coral, bivalves, gastropods and an ammonite. We answered questions such as what kinds of animals they were, how details about their lifestyles are known, and how old their fossils are.

There were also plant fossils and minerals there. One of the plants was an Archaeopteris fern, while the other was a section of tree trunk from the Triassic. The minerals included haematite, an iron based stone with a red colour from which its name is derived, as well as igneous rocks such as obsidian, which were recently formed in the twentieth century from volcanic eruptions on Iceland.

After answering the questions on the minerals and fossils, we passed our question sheets around and corrected each other’s. My team got seventeen out of twenty questions right, and I was able to ask questions about and discuss the fossils with the professors who were there afterwards, which was useful and informative.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the class and found it to be very interesting. I learnt some new things from it, and was able to put what I knew already to use. Many of the BEES classes, including this one, have been relevant to my interests, and so I have a very good time here and have learned a lot about biology, environmental and earth sciences. I would recommend these courses to anyone who is interested in these sciences, and I look forward to participating in more courses and learning more in future.


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TY2015: My week in BEES


Charley Breen, Carrigaline Community School

For me, I did not take part in the school of BEES TY programme for the work experience but for the chance to learn about science in a different way and from scientists who are specialists in their field and who have researched and studied a topic of science for many years.

I really enjoyed the week and learned a lot.  My favourite learning experience from the week was the lecture and practical we had on biotechnology. I learned about how scientists changed the genes of different plants and food to make it better or to give it an added feature so that it can solve some of countries biggest problems. For example scientists are working on adding a gene that carries the components that glow in the dark to the genes that make up a tree, the idea is that these trees will then be planted along motorways so that when they grow big enough they will light up the motorway in the dark which will make it safer for drivers  need  nothing to power it and will produce oxygen and take in carbon dioxide – Helping the environment all while decorating our motorways in beautiful greenery.

I also loved the lecture that we had on birds  we learned how smart they really are and how birds have thought of new food sources for them selves and how they have adapted to there environments such as some birds dropping mussels from the ocean on road so that the cars would roll over them and open them so they can eat the fish inside.

All of them delivered each of there lessons with extreme excitement and happiness

Of course I am slightly biased to say that this week was brilliant because I am very interested in science but what initially amazed me was not the science and amazing discoveries I got to learn about it was the passion and excitement of every lecturer who came to speak to us, every single one of them was at least five minutes early for our lesson and had clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into what they were going to say and teach us in the lesson. All of them delivered each of there lessons with extreme excitement and happiness, as each described the field they had studied and researched they spoke about and delivered what clearly was their passion in science and even if you weren’t interested in that specific science subject they made you want to be interested in it.

I was very overwhelmed by the teachers and students who loved what they did so much and for me not including the information I got to learn about, this week has pushed me to find a career that I can be that passionate about and it has thought me that science is not just about inventing things to help  people or things that make our lives easier its also about looking at all the amazing phenomenons of nature so that life in all forms is possible.


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TY2015: My Week at the Transition Year Programme at BEES

Stand websizeBayleigh Hanrahan, Transition Year Student, Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh.

My week at BEES started on Monday Jan 26th and finished on Friday Jan 30th. I found this week to be a great experience and highly enjoyable. There was much to learn throughout the week and there was many fun and exciting activities planned.

My favourite part of this week was the Plant Science lecture led by Prof. Peter Jones on Wednesday morning. I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture because of the enthusiasm of Prof. Jones. I found all of the lecturers to be enthusiastic but he was by far the most enthusiastic.

This one lecture managed to change my mind on Plant Science and I am now looking forward to learning a lot more about it.

Going into the Plant Science lecture I wasn’t very excited as I was not hugely interested in the topic of Plant Science, however this has since changed. Prof. Jones was very well educated on the topic he was lecturing on but also because of his enthusiasm, I found it extremely interesting and also very exciting. This one lecture managed to change my mind on Plant Science and I am now looking forward to learning a lot more about it. This is the reason it was my favourite part of the week. I did not expect to come out of the lecture wanting to learn a lot more on the topic, but I did due to my enjoyment of the lecture.

During the week, all the lecturers were very enthusiastic and well educated and researched on their topics. I found this to be very helpful and I have decided that because of this I would love to come back to BEES in the future. I enjoyed both the lectures and all the practical’s which would not have been things that I have gotten the chance to experience in the past. I really enjoyed my time at BEES and learned a lot of new information and experienced a lot of new programmes while I was here.

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Improving Zoo Life for Cheetahs

cheetahDr Tom Quirke is a graduate of the School of BEES. This article, by Anthony King,  first appeared on science.ie

A cheetah can hit speeds of over 100 kilometres an hour and visitors to Fota Wildlife Park in Cork can watch them in action. The cheetahs chase after chicken or rabbit meat on a pulley system in runs, which encourages the animals’ natural behaviour.

Irish scientist Dr Thomas Quirke has compared cheetah speeds in Fota and zoos in South Africa and Namibia, with one female breaking the 100km barrier.

He also studied the exploratory behaviour of 112 cheetahs in 88 enclosures in nine zoos – in Ireland, the UK, Canada, Namibia and South Africa. His dedication will help zoos to design and improve enclosures for these big cats.

“It is important that we preserve the fundamental aspects of their behavioural biology when they are kept in captivity,” Quirke explains. He defined exploratory behaviour as scent marking, sniffing objects and exploration of an enclosure.

“For the cheetahs, it is all about gathering information and then leaving information for the next cat,” says Quirke. It is a bit like leaving a post-it note for the next guy, which is important since males and females are territorial.

Encouraging exploration

As part of his PhD thesis research in University College Cork (UCC), Quirke discovered that raised areas in zoo enclosures significantly encourages exploratory behaviours. These could be platforms, mounds, logs or trees with accessible lower branches; they are used for tree scratching, cheek rubbing, sniffing and scent marking.

“It mirrors wild cheetah behaviour, where they use raised areas and ‘play trees’ for scent marking,” says Quirke. Cheetahs are regularly spotted in the Serengeti scent-marking prominent landmarks such as lone trees, rocks and termite mounds.

Now Quirke has provided scientific evidence that simply placing raised areas or objects in enclosures encourages natural exploratory behaviour – and it is not just about scent marking.

Cheetahs are somewhat unusual among big cats in that they hunt during the day and rely heavily on eyesight for hunting. “You could introduce [raised] areas and encourage wild exploratory behaviour. They have quite good vision, and it allows them sit on these platforms and look around the zoo and they get enrichment from that,” says Quirke. This is good for their welfare and emotional well-being.

More successful breeding

Allowing the animals express a fuller array of natural behaviour can assist breeding programmes.  Monitoring such behaviours may help zoo keepers spot when females are more likely to mate successfully, allowing for more breeding in captivity.

There are only around 10,000 cheetahs in the world, most outside protected areas, so zoos would like to keep open the possibility of captive animals being released into the wild.

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