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ESAI Student Competition 2017

For many years, the ESAI has run a competition for the best student presentations at the Environ Colloquium.

Each prize will be presented at the prize giving ceremony at the close of conference on Wednesday 12th April 1:30pm-2:15pm. The winner will be invited to submit an article on their research project to the ESAI Website and the ESAI E-Zine 'Environews, receive publicity from their sponsor and a 12 month subscription to the Royal Irish Academy journal 'Biology and Environment'.

Best Oral Presentation Catherine Ludden NUIG and Ryan Institute and Duncan Stewart Broadcaster

The prizes so far this year include:

  • ESAI Best Oral Presentation (500) sponsored by Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland (ESAI)
  • ESAI Best Poster Presentation (250) sponsored by Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland
  • Best Air Quality Presentation (250) sponsored by Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
  • Best Soils Presentation (250) sponsored by Soil Sciences Society of Ireland
  • Best Waste and Resource Management Presentation (250 and 2017 CIWM Student Membership) sponsored by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)
  • Best Water Related Presentation (250) sponsored by the Chartered Institution for Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)
  • Best Biodiversity Related Presentation (250) sponsored by the Chartered Institution for Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)
  • Richard Fitzgerald Poster Prize for Best Aquatic Environment Presentation (250) sponsored by AquaTT

View last years winners

Click here to view the judging criteria for oral presentations.

Click here to view the judging criteria for poster presentations.


Dr. Richard D. Fitzgerald

Dr. Richard D. Fitzgerald

Richard was an exemplary fisheries zoologist. He was an excellent researcher and a gifted and inspiring lecturer. A UCC graduate [BSc and PhD], Richard was involved research and development in Aquaculture for almost 30 years in a variety of roles and posts in UCC, AquaTT and NUIG. He was also extremely interested in natural freshwater and marine fish populations, with a rare and extensive knowledge in both aquatic environments developed over the span of his career. He published over thirty peer reviewed publications, which are widely cited. Until the end of 2015, he was Research Co-ordinator and manager of the NUIG aquaculture research lab at Carna.

Richard was blessed with an insatiable curiosity about all research, particularly in the aquatic environment and the highlight of his annual visit to Environ was the poster sessions. His rule of thumb for all his students and employees was that they could go to any relevant conference as long as they produced a poster! Richard sadly passed away on December 5th 2016. Thank you to AquaTT for sponsoring the Richard Fitzgerald prize for best poster in Aquatic Environment.

ESAI Student Competition Winners 2016


ESAI Best Oral Presentation 2016

ESAI Best Overall Oral Presentation (500) in memory of Maximilian Von Sternburg, sponsored by School of Natural Sciences TCD, EPA, the Family of Maximilian Von Sternburg and Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland (ESAI) went to Daryl Gunning, UCC for his talk entitle 'Commercial and experimental scale IMTA research'.

ESAI Best Poster Presentation 2016

ESAI Best Overall Poster Presentation (250) in memory of Maximilian Von Sternburg, sponsored by EPA, School of Natural Sciences TCD, the Family of Maximilian Von Sternburg was awarded to Paul Buckley, UCC with his poster entitled 'Sources of particulate matter in small rural towns in Ireland'.

Best Water Related Presentation 2016

Best Water Based Presentation (250) sponsored by Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) was presented to Derek Higgins, University of Limerick, for his a talk 'Use of constructed wetlands to treat alakaline leachates'.

Best Waste and Resource Management Presentation 2016

Best Waste and Resource Management Presentation (250 and 2016 CIWM Student membership) sponsored by the Chartered Institution for Wastes Management (CIWM) was given to Tom Wallace, UCD, for his talk 'Review of fat, oil and grease (fog) waste utilisation trends'.

Best Soils Presentation 2016

Best Soils Presentation (250) sponsored by Soil Sciences Society of Ireland went to Israel Ikoyi, University of Limerick for his talk 'Influence of different rates of inorganic phosphorus fertilizer on soil biological properties in a soil-biota system'.

Best Biodiversity Presentation 2016

Best Biodiversity Related Presentation (250) sponsored by the Chartered Institution for Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)went to Tara Dirilgen, UCD for her presentation entitled 'What controls the abundance and diversity of soil animals? - a manipulation study using mesocosms in a controlled laboratory setting'.

ESAI Student Competition Winners 2015

ESAI Best Oral Presentation 2015

Student Competition Winner 2015

ESAI Best Oral Presentation (500) in memory of Maximilian Von Sternburg, sponsored by School of Natural Sciences TCD, EPA, the Family of Maximilian Von Sternburg and Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland (ESAI) was awarded to Alwynee McGeever, TCD

ESAI Best Poster Presentation 2015

Student Competition Winner 2015

ESAI Best Poster Presentation (250) in memory of Maximilian Von Sternburg, sponsored by EPA, School of Natural Sciences TCD, the Family of Maximilian Von Sternburg was awarded to Kate Moore, UCD

Best Soils Presentation 2015

Student Competition Winner 2015

Best Soils Presentation (250) sponsored by Soil Sciences Society of Ireland was awarded to Tara Dirilgen, UCD

Best Biodiversity Presentation 2015

Student Competition Winner 2015

Best Biodiversity Presentation (250) sponsored by Institutes of Technology Ireland (IOTI) was awarded to Pamela Boyle, IT Sligo

Best Waste and Resource Management Presentation 2015

Best Waste and Resource Management Presentation (250 and 2015 CIWM Student membership) sponsored by the Chartered Institution for Wastes Management (CIWM) was awarded to Jan Gottsche, GMIT

Best Water Related Presentation 2015

Student Competition Winner 2015

Best Water Related Presentation (250) sponsored by Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) was awarded to Greg Beechinor, UCC


ESAI Best Oral Presentation 2015

Student Competition Winner 2015

Exploring the past dynamics of tree populations in Europe

Alwynne H McGeever* and Fraser JG Mitchell

*Corresponding Author: Department of Botany and Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2. (mcgeevea@tcd.ie)

Student Competition Winner 2015

With the challenges of climate change, air pollution and deforestation threatening global tree populations, further work is needed to understand how these slow growing, stationary organisms respond to rapid environmental changes, such as those being caused by contemporary society. The long lifespan of trees presents challenges to investigating the long term dynamics of their populations. Data from fossil pollen preserved in sediment can be used to uncover these dynamics on timescales much greater than can be observed in our lifetime.

This research uses online databases of fossil pollen to explore when and where Pine and Elm grew in Europe over the last 10000 years. This information will be used to determine when these tree populations declined. Questions asked include (1) Why did tree populations decline in the past? (2) How did these declines spread through Europe? (3) What tree populations survived the decline events?

Part of this work involves looking at the collapse of Scots Pine populations in Ireland. Fossil pollen data reveals this to have happened 4000-1500 years ago. Evidence from fossil pollen will be used to identify populations of Scots Pine that might have survived the population decline event, and locate a surviving native Irish population amongst the recently introduced Scottish Scots Pine.

This research project is funded by the Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research and is run under the supervision of Prof. Fraser Mitchell, School of Natural Science, Trinity College Dublin. This work is also part of the Earth and Natural Sciences Doctoral programme.


ESAI Best Poster Presentation 2015

Deer exclusion in Rhododendron cleared sites promote the recovery of plant communities and invertebrates in the oak woodlands of Killarney National Park

Kate Moore1, Kimberley Popek1, Frank McMahon2 & Jan-Robert Baars1

1UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.

2National Parks and Wildlife Services, Killarney National Park, Muckross House, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Corresponding authors: kate.moore@ucdconnect.ie, janrobert.baars@ucd.ie

Multiple alien invasive species require the simultaneous implementation of control efforts to achieve native woodland restoration. Large areas of the Killarney National Park invaded by Rhododendron was cleared but grazing pressure from the invasive sika (Cervus nippon) and native red deer (Cervus elaphus) has so far inhibited the regeneration of native vegetation. The National Parks and Wildlife Service installed large deer proof exclosures, of variable size, in Ullauns wood following Rhododendron control to give the native seed bank a chance to regenerate.

Restoration success of most recent exclosures was not monitored prior to this study. Three fenced sites and adjacent control sites (unfenced) were selected and the recovery of vegetation and Lepidoptera were assessed. The vegetation was surveyed by selecting 20 (4m x 4m) plots in each site and each species was recorded. Moths were sampled using 15W Heath moth traps placed randomly in the centre of each fenced and unfenced site on three consecutive nights. Specimens were identified to lowest taxonomic level.

Student Competition Winner 2015

Visual comparison in vegetation cover between deer excluded and deer accessible sites. Photograph: Jan-Robert Baars

On average, fenced exclosures displayed two times greater vegetation cover than sites which were subject to grazing pressure. Results of community analysis indicate significant differences in species assemblage between sites. While some individual plant species benefit from removal of grazing pressure, others are seen to decrease in abundance indicating the need for greater understanding of browsing pressures. Moth taxon richness was significantly greater in exclosures than adjacent unfenced sites indicating that moths are responding positively to increased vegetation resources. Although fences provide protection from deer pressure, a lack of herbivores for extended periods may be equally problematic. Further studies are required to determine when and how deer exclusion should be removed for the benefit of flora and fauna, indicating the need for continued management to achieve oak forest regeneration.

Student Competition Winner 2015
Student Competition Winner 2015



Best Soils Presentation 2015

Is mite community structure a good indicator of soil biodiversity?

Tara Dirilgen

School of Biology & Environmental Science, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

Corresponding author email address: tara.dirilgen@ucdconnect.ie

Student Competition Winner 2015

The sustainable use of soils in a world, where, at the current rate of human impact, demand for their services will inevitably outweigh the supply, is of major concern. Soil organisms are involved in maintaining, if not driving, the provision of ecosystem services such as; soil formation, nutrient cycling, etc. Therefore it is essential to be able to assess the impact of human activities, such as soil degradation, land use management, climate change, chemical pollution and the introduction of invasive species, on soil biodiversity. Currently there is no effective indicator of either the current state of soil biodiversity or of its rate of change. This study (a component of the EcoFINDERS project) examines the use of mites (Acari) as a possible biological indicator of overall soil taxa community structure. Mites are a hyperdiverse group, with estimates of as many as one million extant species, which contribute directly and/or indirectly to the provision of ecosystem goods and services thro ugh their intricate relationship with their surrounding biotic and abiotic environment and their dietary interactions as microbivores and predators. It is therefore hypothesised that mite communities would be good bioindicators of soil biodiversity.

Sites were sampled across Europe spanning four bio-climatic regions (Alpine, Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean) and 3 land-uses (arable, grass and forestry) for both soil biological (Collembola, Enchytraeidae, Nematoda and microbes) and physiochemical (pH, moisture, texture, etc.) parameters. Results show a significant effect of bio-climatic region and land-use type on mite communities. Procrustes analysis showed that there was little similarity between the patterns of variation in mite community structure and those of other soil taxa. Mite and Collembola communities had the strongest correlation. There was also variation in the indicator values of individual mite groups. Mesostigmata mites were correlated with soil microbial activity, as assessed using multiple substrate- induced respiration, and Prostigmata mites with Collembola.

To conclude, the search for one bioindicator of soil biodiversity is some way away as no single taxon can be expected to adequately indicate patterns for all other taxa at the spatial scale examined in this study.

Student Competition Winner 2015
Student Competition Winner 2015
Student Competition Winner 2015
Student Competition Winner 2015


Best Biodiversity Presentation 2015

Typology of a High Nature Value farmland region in a Northern Atlantic pastoral area

Student Competition Winner 2015

Pamela Boylea, Michael Gormallyb, Caroline Sullivana, Margaret Hayesb, James Morana a Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability, Department of Environmental Science, School of Science, Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ash Lane, Sligo, Ireland

bApplied Ecology Unit, School of Natural Sciences, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland

Corresponding Author:

Pamela Boyle pamgcboyle@gmail.com

Student Competition Winner 2015

High Nature Value (HNV) farmland supports high levels of biodiversity and is associated with farming practices that provide a range of ecosystem services such as clean air and water. Extensive farming practices are intrinsically linked to HNV landscapes. A greater understanding of extensive farming systems associated with HNV landscapes will allow for the development of better targeted supports for farmland biodiversity.

A typology of HNV farmland was developed based on fifty-eight farms within a pastoral landscape in the north west of Ireland. Farm habitat surveys, farmer questionnaires and GIS analysis were completed to gather data on a range of farm biodiversity and farm management variables including habitat number, field size, habitat patch size, stocking levels, artificial fertiliser use and length of linear features. Using Principal Components Analysis and Cluster Analysis, four farm types associated with a HNV region were identified; extensive farming systems, extensive systems under threat of intensification/abandonment, commonage farming systems and intensive farm systems.

The typology describes the farming systems which have contributed to the development of a HNV landscape of the north west of Ireland. This typology can be used to guide the development of targeted measures within agri-environmental schemes which will be more beneficial environmentally and economically in future.

This research project is funded by the Presidents Bursary, IT Sligo. It is run under the supervision of Dr. James Moran, Centre for Research, Innovation and Sustainability, Department of Environmental Science, IT Sligo and Dr Mike Gormally of the School of Natural Sciences, NUIG.

Student Competition Winner 2015


Best Waste and Resource Management Presentation 2015

Typology of a High Nature Value farmland region in a Northern Atlantic pastoral area

Pamela Boylea, Michael Gormallyb, Caroline Sullivana, Margaret Hayesb, James Morana a Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability, Department of Environmental Science, School of Science, Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ash Lane, Sligo, Ireland bApplied Ecology Unit, School of Natural Sciences, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland

Corresponding Author:

Pamela Boyle pamgcboyle@gmail.com

Student Competition Winner 2015

High Nature Value (HNV) farmland supports high levels of biodiversity and is associated with farming practices that provide a range of ecosystem services such as clean air and water. Extensive farming practices are intrinsically linked to HNV landscapes. A greater understanding of extensive farming systems associated with HNV landscapes will allow for the development of better targeted supports for farmland biodiversity.

Student Competition Winner 2015

A typology of HNV farmland was developed based on fifty-eight farms within a pastoral landscape in the north west of Ireland. Farm habitat surveys, farmer questionnaires and GIS analysis were completed to gather data on a range of farm biodiversity and farm management variables including habitat number, field size, habitat patch size, stocking levels, artificial fertiliser use and length of linear features. Using Principal Components Analysis and Cluster Analysis, four farm types associated with a HNV region were identified; extensive farming systems, extensive systems under threat of intensification/abandonment, commonage farming systems and intensive farm systems.

The typology describes the farming systems which have contributed to the development of a HNV landscape of the north west of Ireland. This typology can be used to guide the development of targeted measures within agri-environmental schemes which will be more beneficial environmentally and economically in future.

This research project is funded by the Presidents Bursary, IT Sligo. It is run under the supervision of Dr. James Moran, Centre for Research, Innovation and Sustainability, Department of Environmental Science, IT Sligo and Dr Mike Gormally of the School of Natural Sciences, NUIG.

Student Competition Winner 2015
Student Competition Winner 2015
Student Competition Winner 2015


Best Water Related Presentation 2015

Improving drinking water quality in developing nations using a domestic treatment method

Greg Beechinor, Deborah V. Chapman

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork

Corresponding author: greg.beechinor@umail.ucc.ie

Globally, 1 in 10 people remain without access to a safe drinking water supply, mainly in developing nations (WHO & UNICEF, 2014). Given the significant investment required to construct centralized drinking water treatment networks, it is likely that millions of people will be without access to a safe drinking water supplies far into the future. Hence there is a need for efficient, localised approaches to treating water for domestic use. A biosand filter is a cost effective method which allows drinking water to be treated at a domestic scale (Sobsey et al., 2008). A number of biological and physical processes occur as the water percolates through the sand column, and this aids the removal of pathogenic microorganisms and suspended matter.

The impact of operational conditions for biosand filters on filter treatment performance remain poorly understood. These conditions include varying sand characteristics (gain shape, chemical composition), volume of water passed through the filter per day and biolayer microbial community composition. As part of a study at UCC examining the influence of operational conditions on biosand filter performance in typical domestic-use scenarios, sand characteristics and water dose frequency are currently being studied.

The sand used in biosand filters is often sourced locally by users giving rise to sand with varying characteristics (grain shape, texture and chemical composition). Results from this study indicate that using sand from different sources does not negatively impact the performance of the filter in relation to the removal of thermotolerant coliforms, although the different grain size distributions result in different filtration rates. When complete, this study will have identified the operating conditions that will enable domestic users of biosand filters to achieve optimum filter performance and significantly reduce the risk of waterborne diseases in their households.

This research is funded under the Irish Research Council.

References

Sobsey, M. D., Stauber, C. E., Casanova, L. M., Brown, J. M. & Elliott, M. A. 2008. Point of use household drinking water filtration: a practical, effective solution for providing sustained access to safe drinking water in the developing world. Environmental Science & Technology, 42, 4261-4267.

WHO and UNICEF, 2014. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2014 Update. World Health Organization and UNICEF, Geneva.

Student Competition Winner 2015
Student Competition Winner 2015

Biosand filters used in experiments

Untreated (left) and treated (Right) water from a Biosand filter

Student Competition Winner 2015

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