Biodiversity Week 2024

Biodiversity Week falls in the latter half of May each year, organised by the Irish Environmental Network. The objectives of the week are to communicate “the importance of biodiversity” and motivate people to engage in protecting it.

This year, Midlands Science were delighted to facilitate schools on guided, educational walks through a bog in Co. Laois. The aim here is that the students would leave the experience with a new or refreshed desire to care for their local biodiversity and have their natural curiosity further inspired. Schools who had responded to our Outreach Callout from 2023 were delighted to partake in this 90-minute outdoor celebration of all the wonderful biodiversity that their peatlands have to offer. Each school was provided with their own walk, to minimise footfall and potential damage to the peatland.Prior to the walk beginning, students and teachers were provided with a booklet, which detailed some of the local flora and fauna we may come across on our walk. This included pictures and information on daisies, nettles, hawthorn, silver birch, holly, and scot’s pine, as well as hares, field mice, chaffinches and more.

As students were led on their way, our Science Outreach Executive Criodán Ó Murchú expanded on the information already presented, stopping along the route to call attention to other flora such as dog-violet, rowan, oak and willow trees, and bog cotton. The role and use of bug hotels were also discussed, as well as how technology can aide biodiversity monitoring. Swatches from the National Biodiversity Data Centre were also demonstrated, and students were provided with booklets on trees, butterflies, and bumblebees to try their hand at identifying any we came across.

“As the biodiversity and climate crises continue to threaten our collective futures, every generation must become engaged in ways they can understand what is happening and what better way to engage than through science,” explained Criodán. “Our objective with our biodiversity week activities  is to spark an interest in science and the world around us and understanding our localities, through such understanding, we can all work to protect nature and help it flourish for years to come.”

Once students reached the bog, they discussed the formation of peatlands, their rate of formation, their importance as carbon stores, and as biodiversity hubs. Once all questions had been looked after, we took a drone photo and video for the groups to have to show to their friends and family. This also provided an opportunity to expand on the role of modern technology in biodiversity monitoring.. 

A number of people in the region also participated in hands-on workshops in sustainability with environmental educator Aoife Munn. Participants learnt how to make soaps and understand that making small choices with how we live and shop can make a big difference. Soap-making is a fascinating scientific topic. Soap is a mixture of oil or fat with water and an alkali or basic salt, the process of making soap is called saponification [there’s a great Scrabble word for you !]. We think that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make soap as archaeologists found their soap recipes carved in to clay containers dating back to 2800 BC. Their soap recipes included animal fats, wood ash and water and their soap was probably for washing wool and cotton for weaving.  

If people are interested in learning more about Biodiversity in Ireland, the following resources are a fantastic place to start.

National Biodiversity Data Centre

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is tasked with collating, managing, verifying, and publishing data related to Ireland’s biodiversity.

There are a huge range of citizen science opportunities available, regarding pollinator monitoring, dragon and damselfly occurrence, and more.

This list is a great way to start helping your local biodiversity.

You can also purchase various Swatches to aide learning or teaching about Tree and Shrub species, Bumblebees, Butterflies, and more.

Leave No Trace Ireland

Leave No Trace is Ireland’s only Outdoor Ethics Education Programme designed to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation whilst demonstrating and teaching Techniques designed to minimise the environmental and social impacts of enjoying nature.

They have a number of free resources on flora, fauna, mountain plant species, sustainable outdoor exploration, checklists and more.

Irish Wildlife Trust

The Irish Wildlife Trust aims to conserve wildlife and the habitats it depends on throughout Ireland while encouraging a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the need to protect it.

They regularly publish opportunities to engage in Citizen Science in Ireland.

Irish Peatland Conservation Council

The Irish Peatland Conservation Council run a number of peatland conservation projects across Ireland. Their website is a plethora of information on peatlands in Ireland and resources for teachers and other educators.

Bird Watch Ireland

Bird Watch Ireland is focused on the conservation of birds and biodiversity in Ireland.
They are involved in a multitude of monitoring and surveying projects throughout Ireland, detailing bird populations and local biodiversity. They regularly request citizen science support for monitoring garden birds and more.

Midlands Science wishes to thank Gas Networks Ireland and Laois Offaly Education and Training Board for supporting our Biodiversity Week initiatives.