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Two hundred and eighty five delegate registered for the hugely successful three day Environ conference in Athlone Institute of Technology which was organised by Dr. Andy Fogarty and Dr. Sile O’Flaherty (Conference Joint Convenors), Marese Ward Shine (Conference Coordinator), Sinead Macken (Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland – ESAI Liaison) and ESAI council members. The theme of the conference was “Putting the Eco in the Economy”.

CPD Approved Event:

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Launch of Environ in Feb 2017: Cllr. Aengus O Rourke, Deputy Kevin Moran, TD, Dr. Andy Fogarty, Ms. Marese Ward Shine, Dr. Sile O Flaherty

Over 100 oral papers and sixty poster were presented at the conference which was divided into sixteen themes:- Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Nanotechnology and the Environment, Environmental Socioeconomics, Air Quality, Urban Development, Water Quality and Resources, Invasive Species, Ecotoxicology, Sustainable Land Use and Agriculture, Waste Management, Environmental Management, Environmental Policy and Communications, Marine and Coastal, Environment and Human Health, Energy and Climate Change.

Delegates from USA, Germany, UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland attended the conference. The overwhelming success of the conference was largely due to the amazing student volunteers, AIT staff and the ESAI.

Highlights of the conference included a public engagement debate entitled “Draining the Shannon- Flood Mitigation” which was attended by 240 people and was addressed by two ministers, Minister Denis Naughten (Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment) and Minister Sean Canney (Department of Office of Public Works and Flood relief) This debate was reported on the RTE 9 pm News and was also featured on Newstalk radio as well as all the local radio stations. The conference trended twice on Twitter which is unusual for academic conferences.

Minister Denis Naughten planting a native Irish Oak tree (Quercus petraea).

A unique feature of Environ 2017 was the production of an edible art centrepiece which was made entirely from chocolate. The art piece depicted a steel and concrete base, propping up a tree and entangled around the world to represent the intersection between ecology, the environment and the economy. The theme of the conference was “Putting the Eco in the Economy”. Monday evening proceedings began at 6.30 when Minister Denis Naughten planted a native oak tree in the president’s garden to commemorate the special occasion of AIT hosting Environ.

This was followed by a cheese and wine reception in the fountain area of the canteen. All of the invited speakers for the evening which included Minister Denis Naughten, Minister Sean Canney (OPW and Flood Relief), Dr. Ciaran Byrne (CEO Inland Fisheries Ireland), Ms. Anja Murray (RTE), Mr. Éanna Rowe (Waterways Ireland), Mr. Michael Silke (IFA Spokesperson), Mr. Ciaran Mullooly RTE (Chairman) were presented with a beautiful piece of bog oak from the Celtic Roots studio in Ballinahown, Co. Offaly.

Minister Naughten delivered his keynote address on the theme of Ireland’s Climate Change Policy which was followed by the much anticipated public engagement debate entitled “Draining the Shannon – Flood Mitigation. This was always going to be an interesting event and didn’t disappoint on the night. All of the six invited speakers were given seven minutes to outline their position. The contentious debate was very skilfully managed by the Chairperson, Mr. Ciaran Mullooly (RTE). It was then thrown open to the audience for questions. The Douglas Hyde auditorium was full to capacity and a lively debate ensued with lots of audience interaction. The evening finished up a little later than anticipated at 10.30pm due to the interest in the debate and the number of question fielded from the audience.

Professor Ciaran O Cathan and Dr. Don Faller in front of the chocolate centrepiece which was specially commissioned for Environ 2017.

Minister Denis Naughten, TD

Dr. Sile O Flaherty, Minister Sean Canney and Ms. Marese Ward Shine

Dr. Andy Fogarty, Dr. Ciaran Byrne, CEO Inland Fisheries Ireland and Dr. Sile O Flaherty

Dr. Andy Fogarty, Mr. Eanna Rowe, Regional Manager, Waterways Ireland and Dr. Sile O Flaherty>

Dr. Sile O Flaherty, Mr. Tom Browne, Asset Assurance and Engineering Manager, ESB and Dr. Andy Fogarty

Dr. Sile O Flaherty, Dr. Anja Murray, EcoEye Presenter and Dr. Anne Friel

Dr. Andy Fogarty, Mr. Ciaran Mullooly, RTE and Dr. Sile O Flaherty

Douglas Hyde lecture theatre public debate audience

Panel discussion in Douglas Hyde lecture theatre

Contribution from the audience

Ms. Kathleen Cleary, Flood victim making her point to Minister Sean Canney at the public engagement debate

Mr. Ciaran Mullooly chairing the “Draining the Shannon – Flood Mitigation” debate

At 9.15 am Tuesday 11th April, the conference was officially opened with a ceremony held in the Douglas Hyde Lecture Theatre. The speakers included:

  • AIT President Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin,
  • Dr. Andy Fogarty - Conference Co-Convenor
  • Professor Frances Lucy, ESAI Chairperson
  • Dr. Pat Gallagher, Westmeath County Council.

Dr. Andy Fogarty, Professor Ciaran O Cathain and Dr. Pat Gallagher, Chief Executive, Westmeath County Council at the official opening ceremony of Environ 2017

Over the course of the next two day over 100 oral papers were presented in four parallel sessions. Sixty academic poster were exhibited upstairs in the B rooms. This worked particularly well as it allowed delegates to mingle with exhibitors/sponsors and to view the posters on display.

Dr. Michael Mullen, Dr, Niall Seery, Dr. Don Faller and Dr. Sile O Flaherty at the poster session.

Environ delegates at poster session

Environ delegates viewing poster

The college hosted the Environmental Science Association of Ireland AGM on Tuesday evening which was attended by over 40 people which is a record for the ESAI.

Proceedings then moved to the Sheraton Hotel Athlone for the Environ 2017 conference dinner. The evening began with a drinks reception in the Seige Suite with entertainment from AIT’s very talented Professor Clem Higginbotham (AIT) and Ms. Aine O’Reagan. A buffet dinner was then served in the Hoey Suite with music afterwards from Small Deal.

Professor Clem Higginbotham (AIT) and Ms. Aine O’Reagan

Wednesday began with registration open at 9.00am. The conference then continued with oral presentation taking place throughout the morning alongside the poster presentations.

This was followed by lunch and then the important business of the day, the Environ 2017 prize giving. The prizes and categories were as follows:

  • 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

Environ 2017 Prize ceremony, Douglas Hyde lecture theatre

Professor Frances Lucy,(ESAI chairperson) presenting Dr. Noren Morris with a student award for Ms. Maya Hotta (AIT) whose poster won ESAI Best Poster Presentation (€250) sponsored by Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland

Dr. Andy Fogarty, Environ 2017 (Co-convenor) and Dr. Niamh Power Environ 2018 (Convenor)

A huge thank you to all the students and staff who are too numerous to mention who made the conference such a success.

Reception team: Ms. Aisling Gath, Ms, Shannon Costin and Ms. Emer O Neill (missing from the photo, Ms, Catriona Kielty)

Tech team of Mr. John Naughton, Mr. Iain Murray, Mr. Martin Forde and Dr. Tom Cao (missing from the photo) who were ably assisted by Ms. Felicia Cezar, Ms. Amanda Brennan, Ms. Caoimhe O Connor and Mr. Jason Griffin

Environ 2017 delegates on a tour of Clara bog

Some of the AIT staff and student volunteers who made Environ 2017 possible

Environ 2018 Logo

28th Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium, Environ 2018 will be jointly hosted by Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland and Cork Institute of Technology and held in CIT on 26th March - 28th March 2018.

Watch this space for more info or follow us on twitter https://twitter.com/ESAI_Environ

Queries to conference@esaiweb.org or administrator@esaiweb.org

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Click on the link below to find out more information about previous Environ conferences