The Department of Land Sciences at South East Technological University (SETU) has launched an exciting initiative to bridge gaps in biodiversity education and provide guidance on enhancing biodiversity and sustainability practices within the region.

The Biodiversity and Sustainability Forum, co-chaired by Eleanor Kent, Head of Land Sciences, and Dr Denise O’Meara, Lecturer in Biology, also aims to facilitate the exchange of projects, initiatives, and ideas among regional stakeholders. 

A recent launch event at Mount Congreve House and Gardens brought together stakeholders from across the south east and representatives from SETU’s campuses in Waterford, Carlow, and Wexford.

Professor Peter McLoughlin, Head of the School of Science and Computing, delivered the welcome address, outlining the goals of the forum and highlighting research capabilities and the comprehensive list of courses available at undergraduate, master, and PhD levels at SETU. 

Prof. McLoughlin emphasised the work of the Eco-Innovation Research Centre (EIRC) in Waterford and EnviroCore in Carlow, which have extensive experience in the areas of sustainable agriculture, biodiversity monitoring, marine and estuarine research, and forestry. He highlighted how the West Campus at Carriganore has created a ‘living lab’ environment to facilitate field-based initiatives supporting biodiversity and sustainability practices.

Prof McLoughlin noted the opportunities afforded by the new TU RISE initiative and proposed further developing a ‘Knowledge Hub’ at the West Campus at Carriganore, which would support biodiversity and sustainability training initiatives. 

Dr Úna FitzPatrick, Chief Scientific Officer at the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) and keynote speaker delivered a compelling message about the urgent need to address biodiversity decline. She highlighted the positive aspects of the south east, including the presence of the NBDC, SETU, and the region’s beautiful landscapes. 

Additional speakers included Niall Ryan, Agricultural Inspector with the nature and land use division at the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine. Niall discussed their role in supporting biodiversity-related projects through European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) and LIFE projects. Michael Hassett, Sustainability Advisor with Tirlán, spoke about initiatives that financially reward dairy farmers for engaging in sustainability practices. Dr Catherine Keena, Countryside Management Specialist from Teagasc, Kildalton, discussed educating farmers to plant and manage robust hedgerows to encourage biodiversity. 

Meanwhile, Marina Mulligan, Biodiversity Officer with Waterford City and County Council, highlighted the council's efforts to implement biodiversity plans and develop new policies. Ray Sinnott, Estate Manager at Mount Congreve, spoke about efforts to create a sustainable ‘green car park’ and develop an organic vegetable garden, while also supporting a new horticulture education programme. 

Elaine Greenan, Estates Manager from SETU, outlined the University’s energy-saving initiatives, while Dr David Ryan, Associate VP of Sustainability at SETU, spoke about developing a new sustainability policy and collating current initiatives across the University. 

Siobhán Rudden and Michelle Maher presented the work of the European University EU-CONEXUS, which SETU is part of along with eight universities from across Europe. Dr Sarah Prosser of the south east’s Bioregional Weaving Lab emphasised the interconnected challenges of environmental issues, social isolation, financial insecurity, and mental health concerns. 

The event concluded with a Q&A session chaired by John Geraghty, Programme Leader of the Organic and Biological Agriculture MSc programme, who facilitated a discussion about the participants' plans and ambitions for the region’s future.

Announcing the next steps for the forum, Dr Denise O’Meara scheduled the next meeting for Friday, 5 July, at the SETU Arena in Carriganore, Co Waterford. Guest speaker Anthony Murphy, PhD researcher at SETU, will discuss emerging issues related to rodenticide resistance in rats and mice and its implications for pest management and wildlife. The talk will be followed by a roundtable discussion and a walk led by SETU’s Forestry Lecturer, Tom Kent, around the native tree trail. Additional meetings are planned for September, October, and December, hosted by SETU and Waterford City and County Council. 

The forum is supported by those who presented and additionally by Dawn Meats, Arvum Group, Waterford Distillery, Waterford Lions Club, Sanofi, and Waterford Trees for Life Programme. The forum welcomes new members, and those interested in participating are encouraged to contact Dr Denise O’Meara at