Creating a buzz

Maria Kirrane helps to raise the Green Flag at UCC

The following article comes from the Western People and features BEES student Maria Kirrane. She talks about her work towards the Green Flag award for University College Cork and her research on bees:

A CLAREMORRIS lady has been blazing a trail in both the scientific and environmental worlds and, in addition to her international research into bees, has played an integral role in making University College Cork (UCC) the first university in the world to be awarded the Green School/College Award.

Maria Kirrane, a daughter of Angela and Johnny Kirrane from Claremorris, is currently a PhD student with the School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Research Institute.

Maria has just returned from two months working at the US Department of Agriculture’s bee labs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

A recipient of a Travelling Studentship Award, Maria conducted a number of experiments while in Louisiana into the reproduction of the mite and resistance mechanisms of the bees.

Honey bees are immensely important for agriculture, as they pollinate four-fifths of the flowering crops, which in turn provide a third of the human diet.

In recent years, bee populations across the world have come under threat due to the introduction of a parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, which was first detected in Ireland in 1998 and has brought about the almost complete loss of our feral honey bee colonies.

Maria was also proud to be part of the UCC team that had the honour of becoming the first thirdlevel educational institution in the world to be accredited with the prestigious international Green Flag award.

The award, presented by the Minister for the Environment, on behalf of An Taisce, to UCC president Dr Michael Murphy, is a direct result of the Green-Campus programme, a student-led initiative undertaken by UCC students and staff over the last three years.

The Green-Campus programme, operated in Ireland by An Taisce, has seen the university save €300,000 in waste management costs, reduce waste to landfill by nearly 400 tonnes and improve recycling from 21 to 60 per cent.

Furthermore, UCC has conserved almost enough water this year to fill the equivalent of the Lough of Cork.

The students established a Green-Campus committee, in conjunction with the Buildings and Estates Department and academic staff. An environmental review followed.

“There were absolutely no recycling facilities for students walking on the campus,” recalls Maria, a student representative on the committee.

“In fact, our very first action was to put on overalls and literally dive into the skips to see exactly what types of waste were being disposed of !”

In addition to staff recycling systems that previously existed, new recycling facilities for students are now available in front of the lecture halls and in the canteens, where the staff trained in minimising waste. Students in lecture theatres and laboratories are alerted to turn off lights and electrical equipment, while college maintenance vehicles are now running on biodiesel.

Carpooling has been introduced to facilitate lifts to and from campus and enhanced park and ride and bike parking areas are designed to encourage more sustainable travel.

Each year the students’ union holds a Green Awareness Week on campus, where real actions are supplemented by academic talks on environmental sustainability.

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