Botany-Zoology Postgraduate Symposium 2024

Botany-Zoology Postgraduate Research Symposium 2024

Each year at Trinity College Dublin, the Botany-Zoology Postgraduate Symposium provides a space for students to voice their research and present their projects to the wider School of Natural Sciences.
This year’s symposium organised, among others, by Antonietta Knetge, welcomed keynote speakers Anja Murray and Dr. Cordula Scherer to share their career milestones. Anja Murray is an ecologist with a decade-long presence in Irish media ranging from broadcasting the RTÉ 1programs ‘Eco eye’, ‘Root and Branch’ to writing the weekly ‘Nature File’ on RTÉ Lyric FM as well as pieces for the Irish Examiner. Dr. Scherer is an applied marine ecologist and research fellow at the Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities. Scherer has worked on a range of ERC and IRC-funded projects from ‘4OCEANS’, ‘NorFish’, and ‘Food Smart Dublin’ to sustainably connect a healthy marine environment to human history and culture.
This year’s symposium was judged by Dr. Richard Nair and Dr. James Barnett and the awards were given as follows:
The best 10-minute talk was awarded to Charlotte Morgan on ‘Arable Crop Production and the Threat of Herbicide Resistance’. Charlotte is in the second year of her PhD and won the best 5-minute talk award at last year’s symposium. The award for best 5-minute talk this year went to MacDara Allison for ‘The Role of Changing Ocean Currents in Plankton Transport Dynamics: Insights From Numerical Simulations and Observational Data’. Simon Benson and Emma King were awarded for audience choice for their talks on ‘Kelp Functional Traits: Alginate Evolution, Structure and Function’ and ‘Natural Capital Accounting for Windfarms’, respectively.

Are plants Ecosystem Engineers?

Will Matthaeus presents a case to the International Biogeography Society in Prague

In the frosty early days of January, Dr Will Matthaeus went to Prague to deliver a talk at the Ecosystem Engineering Symposium organized by Kate Lyons and Amelia Villaseñor at the 11th Biennial Conference of International Biogeography Society (IBS). In a session covering everything from Edicarian bioturbation to anthropogenic impacts and rewilding—500 million years of ecosystem engineering—Will presented plants as a foundational aspect of terrestrial ecosystems and classic examples of ecosystem and landscape reorganization with plant evolutionary changes (e.g., ‘The Devonian Plant Hypothesis’). The earliest plants were little more than ‘green slime.’  These small, prostrate organisms that were limited to wet environments may still have impacted global ecosystems by altering atmospheric oxygen concentrations.  Over the course of the evolutionary transformations that led from green slime to boreal forests and savannahs, plants have likely increased the diversity and maximum effect in their impact on ecosystems. Synthesis of paleo-plant traits, among other paleontological techniques, may provide insight into this function over periods of change, upheaval, and extinction in terrestrial environments that are informative for our future. However, understanding these changes requires expertise in a broad variety of disciplines; IBS meetings are a valuable opportunity for developing the frontiers of paleoecology through new collaborations.