Algarve Field Trip- Day2- Monchique Trip

by David Murphy


We set off at 9, bright eyed and bushy tailed. We made our way towards the Monchique mountain. We took many stops as we travelled up the mountain whilst receiving talks on the culture and development of the Algarve and how it has changed since the Neolithic  to the present day.

At our first stop we were introduced to the semi-natural agriculture landscape that was once common throughout the Algarve. Our next stop led to the exploration in the bacaral zone. On this stop we discovered snakes, lizards, salamanders and plenty of insect and plant species. At our next stop we discovered even more animals, including scorpions (see picture) and giant centipedes in the serra zone. We then stopped once more at the top of the Monchique mountain to search for the only species of tree frog, which was unfortunate as we didn’t discover one even though we could hear them taunting us! We even got into the pond in search but no luck.

All in all it was a very interesting and exciting day with plenty of animal and plant species being discovered at every stop.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Algarve Field Trip – Day 1 – Rocky Shore Diversity and Saltmarsh

By Mary Kate Bolger

After spending 20 minutes convincing ourselves that we were, in fact, in Portugal and not in Ireland on a rainy day we set off for our first day of field work. We arrived at the rocky shore site at about a quarter to 11 and set to work straight away. First, we went down as close to the sea as possible and started to identify different species while avoiding the giant waves. Some species were very familiar to us and others were new including Siphonaria pectinata, a more delicate limpet. We then moved up to the mid-littoral zone and compared the species found at the different sites. We found a crab (see picture) that was obviously not as happy to see us as we were to see him.


After lunch we walked up to the salt marsh. We then had to complete 3 relevees to examine the zonation between a salt marsh, an embryonic sand dune, and a stable sand dune. We were all amazed to see the changes that occur in vegetation distribution within a relatively small distance! There were several species that we had never seen before and many of the plants were herbs that we use regularly including thyme, curry leaf, rosemary, and even asparagus.

Despite the weather we all enjoyed our first day and are looking forward to the rest of the trip!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

MSc Organic Horticulture – A graduate experience

Some of the recent graduates from the MSc Organic Horticulture at the University College Cork Spring conferring ceremony (Photo by Tomás Tyner, UCC)

Some of the recent graduates from the MSc Organic Horticulture at the University College Cork Spring conferring ceremony (Photo by Tomás Tyner, UCC)

Recent MSc Organic Horticulture graduate Raedi Higgins writes about her experience of the course and her new role with the Organic Trust.

I’ve always had a keen interest in food production and have really enjoyed growing food for myself and my family in the past. So the decision to return to education was certainly prompted when I saw the MSc in Organic Horticulture which was on offer in UCC. I had previously researched and visited a number of colleges and centres, both in Ireland and abroad, which offered courses in organic horticulture as I knew this was the area I would like to work in, I wanted an opportunity to learn and contribute to something positive and sustainable in today’s world.

The course was an excellent experience, one which challenged me greatly and taught me a huge amount

What made the MSc in Organic Horticulture stand out was the range of skills on offer for the student to learn, from statistical analysis to understanding scientific communication, all of which were supported by access to excellent facilities, both online through Blackboard and also in BEES and UCC main campus. The course was an excellent experience, one which challenged me greatly and taught me a huge amount of transferable skills which, in turn, opened up new career options to me which would not have been possible without this MSc.

217smlMy fellow students and I all came from different backgrounds, with knowledge and experience in a wide range of disciplines. The course is delivered in such a way that I felt encouraged and built on my skills, whilst introducing and furthering my knowledge in areas I was less familiar with. Our lecturers were keen to discuss and debate any questions we came across and to share knowledge and experience with us on a daily basis. This attitude created a very positive and inspiring learning environment which I appreciated greatly.

I have, just recently, started a job with the Organic Trust, one of Irelands Organic certification bodies. My role is in Quality Assurance and administration, my duties now relate to a range of elements within the organic inspection and certification process and overseeing and maintaining the Quality Assurance System of the Organic Trust. I am absolutely delighted to be working for an organisation I have a huge amount of respect for and I look forward to building on such a solid educational experience gained through the MSc. I have no doubt that the MSc in Organic Horticulture was a hugely positive factor in securing my new role.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

TY2015: A busy week at B.E.E.S!

Sarah Crowley, Coláiste Na Toirbhirte


When I applied for the B.E.E.S. T.Y. programme I had no idea what to expect. When I finally walked through the door of the Cooperage Building, I began to feel a little bit excited about what was to come. As I, like all the others, was greeted by the programme co-ordinator Dr Emily Goldstein, and was handed a little folder which included a timetable for the week, I had no idea just how busy my week was going to be!

I left that talk thinking there was a lot more to plants than the more boring stuff we are told about in school!

The week in U.C.C. really gave me an insight into what life as a college student is like. We were given a tour of the place at the start of the week to show us where we would be attending lectures, but after that we had to try and find our own way round. At first I thought I’d never be able to find the classrooms but I was surprised at how quickly I got used to the different buildings. We attended many different lectures during the week from all aspects of the School of B.E.E.S., one particular topic which I thought I would have no interest in – Plant Science- turned out to be one of the more interesting lectures we had. We were spoken to about GM foods, an area which is incredibly controversial-but fascinating, and shown a method for creating these crops. I left that talk thinking there was a lot more to plants than the more boring stuff we are told about in school!

One of my favourite parts of the week was the tour of the main campus. I never knew there was so many funny superstitions and rumours attached to U.C.C… It was definitely one of the most entertaining afternoons! As well as that the week, although mainly based academic based, was also a great social opportunity for everyone, as many new friendships were made and laughs laughed.

Overall I really enjoyed my week in U.C.C. and would definitely recommend anyone to apply for it and give it a go!!

Posted in TY2015 | Tagged | Comments Off

TY2015: To “Bee” or not to “Bee”!

Aoibheann Clehane, Christ King Girls’ Secondary School


As my time in UCC comes to a close, I have been given the chance to reflect on my experience in BEES. Thinking back, it was highly enjoyable and very intriguing. I learned many a new thing.

I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the course. I was thrilled to find out that I would be spending my second week of work experience in one of Ireland’s first rate universities. I had been debating on what course I should go for after my Leaving Cert and hoped that this week would help me make a decision.

The morning of the 2nd of February dawned and I couldn’t help but feel extremely nervous. I didn’t know who would be attending the course with me and I was afraid I would be thrown in with a group of people whose IQ was greater than mine. However I had nothing to worry about and I soon found that the group was quite nice and I got along fine with them.

I was intrigued to find out more about how clever plants were and I gained a greater respect for them. It made me realise how much we survive on these little green friends.

The highlight of the week for me would be the plant science lectures with Professor Peter Jones. I had always been interested in biology but never really got into the plant side of it. However, the lecture quickly changed my mind. I was intrigued to find out more about how clever plants were and I gained a greater respect for them. It made me realise how much we survive on these little green friends. I was amazed how we were now able to genetically modify plants in a way that we were now able to produce frost-resistant potatoes! I loved the fact that Professor Jones obviously had a great love for plants and his enthusiasm shone through throughout the lecture.

As the week went on, I found myself being extremely happy that I got into the course. Granted, I didn’t like every lecture and often a time I found my eyes closing. However, I found this reaction to have a positive effect. I was crossing off courses in my mind and I was able to seriously think about what I wanted to do with my life. Before I had entered the course, I was stressing about which course to go for in UCC. However, after the many lectures, I was able to bring that number down to single digits. I can’t say that I’ve made a definite decision but the BEES course definitely did help me a lot.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience in UCC. The lecturers were superb and were definitely top rate material. I was overjoyed with the facilities that the campus had and I’m seriously looking forward to attending UCC in 2017!

Posted in TY2015 | Tagged | Comments Off

TY2015: Biological studies

Adam Holland, Hamilton High School Bandon Cork


This week I attended the BEES course in UCC as a part of the transition year curriculum in my school. The idea of this week I believe was for me to have an understanding of the topics covered in this department which I believe were fulfilled. I also believe it was for me to grasp an understanding of what I like and do not like.

On the first day I met Emily a student of the school, she brought me to the room where I along with about forty other students were going to be given our introduction. We were then given a tour of the facilities that the school of BEES provides plus so as to ensure we do not get lost in the latter part of the week.

Throughout the week we listened through lectures and practical’s attempting to grasp an understanding of the following topics: geology, ecology, marine biology, zoology and so on.

I entered this week focusing my attention to the zoology related information but realised that there is a lot more to biology then meets the eye and that we take it all for granted. And by the time I reached the end of the week I discovered that my interest overlapped on the majority of the topics and that zoology was in fact not that interesting.

Away from all the science stuff I met some great people who I hope to cross paths with in the near future. I would like to thank all those professors and Emily and extended staff for a great week and I hope it becomes a huge success which I believe it will

Posted in TY2015 | Tagged | Comments Off

TY2015: A Week in Bees.

Clodagh Brackett, Christ King Secondary School


I started off the week not knowing much about what course I wanted to do in college. All I knew is that I would love to do something with science but by the end of week I have narrowed down my choices to just a few.

On Monday morning we started off the week by and induction and welcome by Emily. Throughout the week we got to have lectures and practicals on a variety of different courses.

Both the lectures and the practicals were interesting with a few sticking out as being my favourite. My favourites would have to be the plant science practical and lecture and the ecology practical and lecture.

During the week we also had the opportunity to get a tour of the UCC library and campus, I found this enjoyable as I learned a lot of facts about the history of UCC.

Another activity in which we took part in was a question and answer session with current fourth year science students in UCC, I found this beneficial as I had insight to what being a UCC student is really like.

This week has been a great experience for me as I now know what type of science courses I am interested in for when it comes to filling out my CAO application, I have also made some great friends through this programme. I would like to thank all those involved in the programme especially Emily for organising such a great enjoyable week.

Posted in TY2015 | Tagged | Comments Off

TY2015: A week at BEES in UCC

Diarmuid O’Halloran, St Peters Community School


For this week, Monday 2nd to Friday 6th, I was a UCC school of BEES (school of Biology Earth and Environmental Science) my favourite part of the course was bird ringing with Dr John Quinn. Bird ringing is catching birds in a net and putting a small ring around their leg. This ring has identifying numbers on the side which are catalogued. We mostly caught blue tits. The bird’s weight is taken as well as the length of its wings and its age. Its gender is also noted. The weight is taken by putting the bird in a small cup so it doesn’t get out and then put on small scale. Its wing length is taken using a specially designed rule that hooks at the top of the wing and the length is taken. Its age is not specifically determined, just weather or not it hatched in the last spring to when it was caught. The age is determined by its wing feathers, the feathers at the edge if the wing will be a different shade to the others. The way to determine the gender of a bird differs with all birds.

I also enjoyed doing terrestrial ecology with Dr Simon Harrison. In this we collected pit-fall traps and looked at their contents under a microscope to find any living organisms, there were mostly small bugs in the traps. The traps had some anti-freeze in them to kill the bugs when the fell in. some of the traps had already been taken up by and animal in the night.

We also worked with some of the postgrads, they showed us what they were studying for their PhD. The post grad my group was working with was studying badgers, specifically them crossing under animal crossings, which are built under motorways for animals to safely cross. He set up camera traps which are motion sensing cameras that take a picture when something walks by. He got pictures of lots of badgers as well as some foxes, dogs, cats and other animals.

That was my experience in the school of BEES. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was worth it.

Posted in TY2015 | Tagged | Comments Off

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.

Posted in TY2015 | Tagged | Comments Off

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.

Posted in TY2015 | Tagged | Comments Off