birdring2WEBAndrea McSweeney St.Angela College Cork

I found this week very interesting, personally I didn’t know much about BEES or see myself in a BEES course in the future but this week showed me what one would be like. I really enjoyed the different lectures as I learned a lot about the different degrees. It was a very good way of getting young people to consider bees as a college course as now we have an insight into what it would be like and it’s at a time where we must consider our career options.

Personally I really enjoyed the Careers talk as that’s where I felt I learned the most about each particular degree and the requirements of each course. It was a very sociable week and I not only learned from the lecturers I also learned from other transition year students. We got a very good insight into college life here at UCC as we got campus tours and talks with current Bees students.

This week was very interactive as we got to work up close with the birds while doing the bird ringing. I liked the fact that we were shown what a life studying birds was like as a job. I was unaware of the places one could travel to with a job like that and how many people one would meet.

After finishing my week of BEES I don’t know if I have yet found the college course for me but it definitely showed me a whole different aspect of courses and I side to it     I wouldn’t even of considered before.


Posted in TY2016 | Tagged | Comments Off on TY2016: BEES WEEK

TY2016: The BEES-t Week

b1Isabel Gallagher, Coláiste Muire, Ennis

This week I attended the BEES Transition Year Programme 2016. I thoroughly enjoyed this week and gained a lot of useful information about the Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences course here at UCC.

I was incredibly nervous on the first day, as I am from Clare and did not know anybody who would be doing the course with me. I had concerns about who I would spend time with for the week, however this was not a problem as we were all in the same boat. On the first morning, the group met with the course co-ordinator Simona, who helped us all to feel at ease and organised the week very well. Within a few hours on the first day, everybody had made friends and we all began to bond as a group.

The week commenced with an introduction to the course. We then went on a tour of the BEES buildings so that we would be able to find our way around for the week. I found these very interesting, as I had never been to UCC before. Later in the day we completed our first practical, which was an observation of the insects found in both clean and polluted rivers.

We had the opportunity to carry out a wide range of practicals throughout the week, which I really enjoyed. One of my favourites was the sea urchin practical. We were each supplied with a sea urchin in a tank. Our task was to drop various rocks and shells into the tank to observe what the sea urchin would go for. Another practical I enjoyed was bird ringing. We all went outside and got to look at various types of birds and record different measurements such as their weight, fat and muscle.

On Wednesday, we had a Q&A session with a current fourth year student studying Geology. This was very helpful as he told us about being a BEES student and also just student life at UCC. Later in the day, we went on a tour of the main UCC campus and Boole Library. During our tour of the library, we visited the Special Collections department. I loved this as we got to see some very interesting and incredibly old books.

On Thursday I had made a lot of friends and felt very settled in the course. We had an interactive career talk that morning, and had to organise ourselves into groups to create a poster on a BEES subject of our choice. That afternoon we completed a Geology quiz, which I found very intriguing.

This week was an incredibly experience, and was well worth doing. I got to meet a lot of new people, and gain a huge amount of information related to the subjects I love. It has helped me to decide that I am very interested in this course, so I am very glad that I competed this valuable week.

Posted in TY2016 | Tagged | Comments Off on TY2016: The BEES-t Week

TY2016: Buzzing after my week at BEES


Aoife Dillane                                                                                Presentation Secondary School Tralee

This week I attended the BEES TY programme at the school of biological earth and environmental sciences in UCC. I really enjoyed my week here and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the environmental side of science.

Being from Kerry, I was quite nervous at first to come as I thought everyone would know each other but this was not the case and everyone on the course was very friendly. I wasn’t sure what it would be like or if I would even be interested in what was going on but I found it to be a great experience of what college life is like and what type of courses I am interested in.

Over the course of the week we did had lectures on topics like geology, zoology, marine biology, plant science, environmental science and ecology, we also did a number of practical’s. My favourite lecture was the zoology lecture we had. We got a general overview of what studying zoology at UCC would be like and then we focused in on the aquatic side, doing a practical with sea urchins. I also enjoyed the marine biology lecture we got where we learned about life in the sea and how global warming is effecting certain species of animals.

On Tuesday we got a tour of the ERI where we learned about the work they do there and we were able to ask the scientist there questions about the type of work they were doing and what courses and subjects they did to get into the job they were in. One man was working on a way to use methane gas in a productive way.

We also got a tour of the main UCC campus and the library there. We learned about the history of the college and got to see the oldest book they had in their library.

On Thursday we got a talk on invasive plant species which I found very interesting. We were shown type of plant species that was brought into Ireland that had covered the bottom of Corrib Lake and had killed all its fish.

We also did bird ringing where we caught birds and were shown how they track them in the wild. They told us how each bird has a unique voice and how they can identify familiar bird’s voices.

Over all I loved my week at BEES and I can definitely see myself pursuing a career in one of these fields

Posted in TY2016 | Tagged | Comments Off on TY2016: Buzzing after my week at BEES

TY2016: A Scientific Week at BEES

By Ciara Stack, Carrigaline Community School

92TankIt was an experience that I’ll never forget! From the tour of the Cooperage Building to the handling of birds my week in this institute has been one that’ll go down in history for me.

Being very interested in science I was expecting to be at least somewhat interested in this course but I never thought I’d leave with such a good introduction on not only the courses but the entire UCC complex.

Our week began with our introduction to the complex via quick tour from Professor Andy Wheeler, who not only showed us around but gave us some insight into the fascinating cold reef corals. We also had Simona showing us around and helping us if we ever got lost.

We then proceed with the week going from learning about sea urchins (This was the intro course to Zoology) to learning about rocks and their hidden values. I found everything interesting and held a firm grasp on my attention, no matter what we were doing.

There was also the social aspect of this week which was fun for everyone. I got to meet people from all over the place and learned about how their schools function. I’ll finish by saying this: if you have any interest in science (especially anything on the BEES course) I would highly recommend looking into this course.

Posted in TY2016 | Tagged | Comments Off on TY2016: A Scientific Week at BEES

Algarve 2016 – Day Three


The first exercise of the day was a behavioural study of Fiddler Crabs, Uca tangeri. This involved getting up to be at the seashore for shortly after 9 AM. You would think that a clear blue sky, sunny day in the Algarve in April would mean lovely warm weather……… we learned to our misfortune that this is not the case. Some poor souls (Joe!) didn’t dress for the weather and suffered the bone chilling, teeth chattering conditions that a strong wind across the Alvor estuary can bring. The cold didn’t appear to bother the crabs too much as we were treated to fantastic views of displaying males.

We waved goodbye to the crabs (pun intended) and after lunch we headed to the Salgados lagoon where we conducted focal and scan samples of various avian eccentricities! We were treated to fantastic views of European Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, and Purple Swamp hen. A Marsh Harrier was seen hunting over the reeds and even Collared Pratincole made a flyby. However, the highlight was an appearance from a Bonaparte’s Gull, a rare American visitor to Europe!

We went to bed with our hearts full of the joys of Fiddler Crabs and Flamingos, wondering what tomorrow would bring.

Ronan O’Sullivan

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Algarve 2016 – Day Three

Algarve 2016 – Day One

The Sermon on the Mount. Prof Matthijs Schouten lectures the BEES field course students on the Algarvian ecosystems.

The Sermon on the Mount. Prof Matthijs Schouten lectures the BEES field course students on the Algarvian ecosystems.

Today was the first day of our field trip to the Algarve, Portual. We went to the Salgados sand dunes, which began with the traditional “sermon on the mount”. The day got very stressful, with a long walk to the beach for an ice-cream. On the way we encountered a green spotted lizard, which gracefully posed for a photo.

Once we began habitat mapping, we saw a brown grass snake Lacerta schreiberi in the brackish water of the salt mars. As well as that we saw over 90 flamingos, an ibis, an Iberian hare and a bright green spider Micrommata ligurina. In the surrounding abandoned orchards we saw numerous fig and pistachio trees.

Just as Gavin Burnell was explaining to us how rare it was too see nomadic shepherds in the area (having only seen two in over 20 trips to the Algarve), we happened upon a man and his herd of sheep and goats. After he noticed us admiring his flock, he approached us with one of his kid goats and let us pet it. So now we’re off to see Ruth Ramsey for her famous goat recipe!

Lindy Verstraten, Melanie O’Driscoll, Sara Leacy, Tom Raymond, Alyssa Laprise, Derick Bora

BEES students with Algarvan shepherd and lamb on the Salgados

BEES students with Algarvan shepherd and lamb on the Salgados

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Algarve 2016 – Day One

MSc Marine Biology fieldtrip to Millport

Phrase of the trip: ‘There’s a schmell a whelk!’; meaning, there is an aroma similar to that of dog whelks in this region/from this person.

Sarah Long reports on the MSc Marine Biology fieldtrip to Millport.


The MSc Marine Biology class jetted off to Millport bright and early on Sunday 28th February for a week of intertidal and subtidal fieldwork. After a long bus journey from Edinburgh to Largs, chips and ice cream were much needed as we waited in the sun for the ferry across to Millport. Having settled into the new Field Studies Council (FSC) accommodation, we made the most of the blazing sun by taking a whirlwind tour of the island before the forecasted rain and wind set in. Along the way, we gained an extra student in the form of a photo-bombing German tourist, who was very impressed by Rob’s extensive knowledge of the island!

We struggled out of bed at 6am Monday morning to chase the tide as part of our intertidal project work on different rocky shores across the island, surveying edible periwinkles (Littorina littorea) and imposex in dog whelks (Nucella lapillus). Now that’s dedication! Even the seals watching us work from the water seemed curious as to why anyone in their right mind would willingly subject themselves to the rain, strong winds, and near freezing temperatures that battered us on the rocky shore. But we persevered and were rewarded with a liquid hug in the form of a warm cup of tea just in time before our fingers fell off!


Unfortunately the weather was too bad to allow us out on the boat to collect samples for our subtidal project using beam trawls and grab samples. Luckily for us, the skipper braved the choppy waters on our behalf (or unlucky for us when we saw the amount of creatures we then had to identify and count!!). The pier at Millport proved impossible to approach so they went above and beyond to get our samples to us by using a roundabout way back to the mainland and across again on the ferry to Millport. Meanwhile we lazed around the FSC station, making copious amounts of tea and chatting (it’s a hard life in the field!!).


Our lounging about was short-lived, however, and the samples arrived mid-afternoon. We eventually got through it all, sorting, counting and IDing brittle stars, crabs, fish, urchins, and many more! The worms were especially fun to identify, especially because they’re all so small and similar to each other!! Our favourite worm by far was definitely the Disco Worm, a nickname we gave to Nephtys sp., which sparkled like a disco ball depending on which way we looked at it under the microscope (we may also have gone a little mad at this stage!). This gruelling work drove the class to the pub for a drink (or two… or three!).

The next day was primarily intertidal work, with many of us staying in the lab examining the dog whelks we collected for imposex. This involved finding a penis and identifying if it was a male or an imposex female. This examination was done with the utmost professionalism expected from Masters students (i.e. constant, very mature penis jokes). This was followed by a wild night of tea and a movie in the lounge! Examining microscopic dog whelk penises is hard work!


Over the rest of the week the weather slowly improved, allowing us to really enjoy the trip, with Rob pointing out some of the sightseeing attractions to us along the way. Crocodile rock, in particular, caught our eye… although some of us stand by our original thought that it’s more like Dragon Rock but Rob is still adamant that it’s a crocodile… the jury’s out!

We kept the best shore for last, with some 1m2 quadrats yielding 200-300 miniscule juvenile dog whelks (most so small that they could comfortably live inside barnacle shells with room to spare!). Probably just to make life more difficult for us; they have no consideration for the plight of Marine Biologists!!

Luckily we finished our subtidal report early and so had the majority of Friday off. A hike to the top of the island was in order, with stunning views all around. Then it was back to the station for more tea and Countdown – Marine biologists gone wild! Our trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a bit of deep fried haggis, gourmet cuisine from Largs!

Thanks to Rob (bus driver extraordinaire!), Ruth, and Mary Catherine for organising the fieldtrip and helping to make it a fantastic experience for us all!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on MSc Marine Biology fieldtrip to Millport

Bigger Arms Race

by Adam Kane

He stands 189cm tall and weighs 107kg. Who is this giant? He is none other than an average player in the Irish Rugby Union team’s starting 15 this weekend. By contrast, your bog standard Irish man typically stands 177 cm tall. Clearly, rugby is a strong selector of body size.

Image by Eoin Gardiner (Creative Commons License)

Image by Eoin Gardiner (Creative Commons License)

This is no secret, we know that rugby selects for big players but some researchers have shown how dramatic this increase in size has been over the past 100 years or so. If we look at body weight, from 1905-1974 an average player weighed 87.8kg but from 1975-1999 this had risen to 95.1kg. The onset of professionalism in rugby was a big driver of this growth spurt.

And why are we seeing such a trend? We can argue about the benefits of tactics, French Flair and the Haka all we want, but there is an obvious advantage in being bigger than your opponents. Taller backs can reclaim the ball more easily, taller forwards are better at taking lineouts and bulkier props can shunt the opposing scrum. Success in the Rugby World Cup backs this up, teams with the taller backs and heavier forwards get the job done more often than not.

What we have here is a type of Arms Race in the sport such that no team can afford to fall behind in the size game. Biologists are familiar with this kind of dynamic in evolution where we have the Red Queen effect, typically realised as a game of one-upmanship between a host (Ireland) and its parasite (England) or a predator (Ireland) and its prey (England). To paraphrase the Red Queen herself, when it comes to rugby it takes all the growing you can do, to keep in the same place.

Image: RWC 2007 (Creative Commons License)

Image: RWC 2007 (Creative Commons License)

But as the rugby environment selects for ever greater size the pool of potential players shrinks. All animals have a limit to the how big they can become and humans are no different. The loading stress on our bones mean we’ll never see a team of King Kong sized players duke it out. Even over the past decade player size is starting to plateau.

To take the natural selection analogy further, changes in the rules of the game can change the selection pressure on the preferred morphology of the players. In the future, for example, if scrums are banned or rarely occur then we would see a move away from the gigantic front rows populating the sport today.

What about the game on Saturday? The Irish team outweigh the English starting 15 by 2kg and are about 3cm taller. So an Irish win then. But wait! England are playing at home and this confers big advantages. For instance, the home team produces more testosterone before a game than the away team. This can be explained in evolutionary terms as well, whereby the home team view their opponents as territorial intruders so they need to get ready to defend themselves. So it’s England to win then? Well do remember the aphorism, prediction is difficult, especially about the future.

Adam Kane is a postdoctoral researcher at UCC who is studying the ecology of seabirds.

Email: adam.kane@ucc.ie

Twitter: @P1zPalu

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Bigger Arms Race

Millport Fieldtrip 2015


Last Monday 31 brave Zoology/Ecology students set forth to the land of highland cows, haggis, and most importantly the Millport Marine Station. After a smooth journey over we were thrown straight into life at the station with a tour of the area and the first of many interesting lectures. The next day we set out to Kames Bay where we conducted environmental surveys, took grain samples, and dug box cores. Digging a box core involves a metal box that is jumped on until it is firmly in the ground, obviously an incredibly graceful technique. We spend the rest of the day identifying all the species in the sand.

mill3The following morning we were lucky enough to tag along on a beam trawl. The weather was not so great this day so we had to keep checking that we hadn’t lost anyone overboard!! The rest of the morning was spent identifying all the weird and wonderful starfish, crustaceans, and fish. We then got to look at all the crazy plankton under the microscope! On Thursday we braved the rain to count the species in rock pools, and when I say rain, I mean a monsoon that we practically had to swim through! No one was washed away and we made it back to base safe and sound.

mill1On the last two days we had to collect data for our own projects. We had a great taxi service (Rob) who brought us anywhere we needed to go. There were many different projects on jellyfish, crabs, anemones, and various other invertebrates. We all had to come up with an experiment and design different sampling methods with the help of our lecturers.

mill4On the final day there was a big celebration in Millport to mark the end of the tourist season. This was a strange event with houses decorated with padella candles and displays honouring great movies, including Bear Wars (Star Wars with teddy bears).

mill6Overall we had a really great time and learned a lot about marine biology. It was an incredibly well organised trip and we all wish to thank Dr Rob McAllen, Prof. Sarah Culloty, Prof. John Davenport, and Mary Catherine for all their help and guidance.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Millport Fieldtrip 2015

Certificate and Diploma in Field Ecology

1The Field Ecology Diploma students recently completed their second and final 2-week intensive summer field school. The students got out into the field each day of the course and learned about many different types of habitats and survey methods.

They surveyed for bats and caught small mammals. They enhanced their vegetation and habitat identification skills in semi-rural grasslands and coastal dune systems and learned about soil sampling techniques. Students learned about the techniques and rationale behind habitat restoration work and learn how to decipher the quality of lakes and river systems based on invertebrate life.

The students on the course were in their second year of the programme and are working towards gaining their Diploma. Students who choose to exit the programme after one year can gain a Certificate. Both are NFQ Level 7 qualifications.


One student said of the week “the bat survey was excellent and was my favourite part – it was great to learn about the different sounds they make and how to identify them with a bat detector”. The final project for the summer school was a full site survey where the students worked in groups to produce a full habitat map and ecological assessment of a site.

A student said, “It’s great that as we come to the end of the course we can see how the lectures and practicals come together and give us the confidence to survey sites in our groups.”

One of the project groups even found and identified a muskrat – an invasive mammal species that had not yet been to occur in Cork City surroundings.

Video of Muskrat by one of our students in Cork recently cc @eagoldst @johbees @NatureRTE @fotawildlife https://t.co/Us3RsW0Vue

— School of BEES, UCC (@uccBEES) July 28, 2015

Please note, the Certificate and Diploma in Field Ecology is no longer being offered by School of BEES. For information on courses currently available see: http://www.ucc.ie/en/bees/courses/ 


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Certificate and Diploma in Field Ecology