Last week, the NTNU University Museum’s Department of Natural History was benevolent enough to send its staff on a four day journey around Ireland. My previous experiences with Ireland have been two somewhat ill-fated trips on New Year’s Eve 2008 and St. Patrick’s Day 2012, so I was eager to see Ireland’s greener side. In an attempt to spruik some of the more interesting parts of the trip, I’ve broken it down below.

The National Botanic Gardens

I may very well have spent too much time taking photos of squirrels here (it’s the Australian in me, they’re still exotic in my eyes), but I was able to stop for at least ten minutes and enjoy the impressive variety of landscapes that have been put together. The greenhouses contain everything from alpine plants to a mini tropical rainforest, and they also have a great collection of carnivorous plants. This place is a real tribute to what can be achieved with appropriate funding and a long history of ecological concern.

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A snapshot from the National Botanic Gardens (Image Credit: Sam Perrin, NTNU, CC BY-SA 4.0.)

Lough Boora Discovery Park

This park is based on a former peat bog, which was harvested to provide electricity for the nearby houses. Thankfully, the locals are now turning to renewable sources like wind and solar for their energy, however the remains of the former plant can be seen scattered around the area. Through ingenuity, some of the area has now been converted into a wetlands park, home to one of the last extant populations of grey partridge, and much of the native flora has returned.

The Inland Fisheries Ireland

As a freshwater ecologist, this is what I was looking forward to the most. The River Corrib in Ireland is one of the few places in the world where Atlantic Salmon can be fished for in the middle of a city, as they pass directly through Galway every year on the way to their spawning grounds. Incidentally, the Sea Lamprey, which I had encountered as an extremely aggressive invader earlier this year at the Great Lakes, is a protected species here. The Fisheries have played a huge role historically in the life of Ireland, having existed almost half a millenia before my own country was even settled by Europeans.

Malene Nygard and Lene Meleshko observing Irish Plant Life at the Lough Boora Discovery Park
Malene Nygard and Lene Meleshko observing Irish Plant Life at the Lough Boora Discovery Park. I maintain that people who consider watching grass grow as genuine entertainment are not to be trifled with (Image Credit: Sam Perrin, NTNU, CC BY-SA 4.0.)

The Burren

This was a huge highlight for the Museum’s large group of botanists. The Burren is dominated by glaciated karst rocks, forming a very striking environment. There is an extraordinary mixture of plant life found here, with combinations of types of vegetation not seen anywhere else in the world. The Burren contains 75% of Ireland’s plant life in one small area, and was a treat for our plant-based contingent.

There was of course many a visit to a pub or bar involved, but you’ll have to contact me for those stories.