In a momentous year for science and global health, we’re delighted to be back filming series 6 of “10 Things to Know About…” with Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, Kathriona Devereux and Jonathan McCrea revealing how Irish research is helping drive us towards a brighter, better world…
Bioluminescence is nature’s chemical flashlight in the dark – illuminating lakes and oceans with a beautiful, magical glow. One of the best examples of bioluminescence in Ireland can be seen in Lough Hyne, and Jonathan takes a night trip to see how this amazing natural phenomenon creates stunning blue sparkles in the pitch-dark water! Back on dry land, the glimmering power of light is driving important research developments in medical science. Photonics – or the science of light – is one of the key technologies of the 21st century, and Kathriona meets the Irish researchers using fluorescence in cancer diagnosis and developing infra-red light technologies to monitor the lung function of premature babies.
Biological diversity has made our planet habitable for billions of years, and now more than ever we’re realising we need to understand, manage and protect our species, habitats and ecosystems to keep it that way. In this episode Aoibhinn visits the National Botanic Gardens where Colin Kelleher reveal how centuries-old plant samples can provide clues to changes in our biodiversity. Kathriona meets the UCC research team who are using plants, trees and even insect and birdsong recordings to measure and monitor environmental and climate change by combining field data with the latest satellite imaging. And Jonathan is in Maynooth to meet Sarah Larragy who investigating the critical role of the humble Irish bumblebee in pollination and biodiversity.
What we smell, see, hear and feel has a significant influence on how we taste and experience foods. And even our environment and surroundings can have an impact on our enjoyment of what we eat. In this episode, we meet the researchers trying to make sense of food sensory perception as Teagasc’s Emily Crofton puts Aoibhinn, Jonathan and Kathriona to the taste test – could our presenters be supertasters? And with Irish whiskey being one of the oldest spirit drinks in Europe whose quality and reputation is linked to its geographical origin, we investigate the potential of terroir in Irish whiskey distillates. Focusing on the aromas that arise due to differences in barley varieties, geographical location of the crop and season, how does terroir affect taste, and will Jonathan and Kathriona match up against the scientists and sniffing experts?!
FLOODING & DROUGHT
Groundwater lakes or turloughs – where water lies hidden within the soil and rocks underground – dominate the west of Ireland. They’re hugely important as a source of drinking water and connect into our rivers, lakes and ecosystems… but they also contribute to devastating flooding events. In this episode, Kathriona meets the Geological Survey Ireland researchers who are using satellite technology to monitor and map Ireland’s turloughs to develop effective flood risk management systems for the future. And what of that other hugely damaging weather extreme, drought? It may surprise you to know that Ireland is one of the European countries most at risk from drought. We find out how memories of our past may provide clues to better managing future impacts of drought, and meet the researchers who investigating more resilient groundwater resources for Ireland.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and for years, researchers have been studying it as a potential pollution-free energy of the future. In this episode, we investigate how aligning wind energy with hydrogen production could be a key part of the decarbonisation jigsaw for transport and heating, meet the scientists who are developing new materials and technologies that could split water to produce emission-free ‘green’ hydrogen and find out the latest on Irish trials of state-of-the-art hydrogen-powered buses! We also investigate hydrogen’s wider potential as an exciting alternative fuel for world transportation – on land, across trade and shipping routes, and even offering a practical and sustainable future for the global aviation sector.
2020 will be remembered for one unprecedented global event… the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of thousands have died from COVID-19, and empty parks, streets and skies have become the eerie symbol of nationwide lockdowns which devasted global economies and local businesses. But Irish scientists are playing a key role in the fightback against this deadly virus. Kathriona meets the researchers using Irish patient samples to analyse the genetic makeup of coronavirus to help minimise the spread and identify changes that may impact on treatments and vaccine development. Jonathan highlights how Ireland’s world-leading TILDA Ageing study is ideally positioned to examine and better understand the impact of the pandemic and lockdown measures on older people. And of course, despite the current negative associations, not all viruses are bad! Kathriona is in Teagasc Moorepark to meet Olivia McAuliffe who is working with the most abundant and deadly viruses on the planet… but using them to tackle infection and harmful bacteria in food processes.
“10 Things to Know About…” is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, Geological Survey Ireland, Higher Education Authority, Irish Research Council, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Teagasc and RTÉ