Daily Archives: 2nd April 2020

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Sophie Gregson

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Sophie Gregson

Planet Earth 2 – Islands

Blog by Sophie Gregson

On remote islands, such as Escudo off the coast of Panama, many wildlife face many struggles these reflect the challenges we all face with life on earth. The Pygmy three-toed sloth strives on this island with a large food source of mangroves that provide them with leaves and no predators to threaten them, however with only a few hundred Pygmy sloths left in existence, finding a mate can be difficult. A female sloth will call out which can be heard from across the island, the male sloth will travel across the island even swimming across deep water rivers to reach their mate. This can be difficult with such a large amount of area to cross at only a snails place, the whole population of the Pygmy three toed sloth is isolated on a piece of land no bigger than Central Park. Humans can also struggle to find a mate, not because of our inability to travel fast, as we are a nation of globetrotters, but due to the sure amount of people available to us at one time. Due to the constantly evolving platform of social media people have adapted to this meaning they tend to find love online as they may believe this is a better option than having to go out and work to make something happen. We are a generation of dating apps and short-lived relationships with hopeless romantics feeling defeated, with little romance left in the world the younger generations expectations are much to be desired. Being part of a society where everything is so fast-paced and readily available relationships now have to be that too.

The island of Komodo in Indonesia is home to the largest living lizards on earth, it is unusual to find predators on such small islands yet for four million years the Komodo dragon has dominated this island. With such a large predator based on this small island lack of food  would maybe be deemed a problem but with reptiles being cold blooded they only need a tenth of the food a carnivorous mammal would, one single meal could last them a month. Their biggest problem comes from others of their own kind with space being limited on the island dragon territories overlap creating continual conflict. This can also be seen among the human world, we too are our biggest predators and threat to one another. With limited space due to over population, pollution and mass unmanned landfills, the fight for land and over lapping territories have been a problem since the dawn of man.  Humans have always seen it as their right to go wherever they want to go whenever they want which has caused many wars corrupt governments along with greedy leaders have destroyed many countries and cultures.  One country trying to conquer another based on oil supply or other rare natural elements and food supply has and always will be a problem.

On bigger islands, such as Madagascar, the animals have had time to evolve and adapt to every available niche. The island is home to two hundred and fifty thousand species many not found anywhere else on earth. From one single ancestor about one hundred different types of lemurs have evolved. The indri is the largest; it hunts through the trees while the smaller ring tailed lemurs hunt in groups on the forest floor searching for fruit, the tiny bamboo lemur eats nothing but bamboo. With few competitors the lemurs have been free to colonise almost every environment on the island even the most extreme. The sifaka has a hard life being born in the harshest environment in Madagascar it rarely rains so water and food is hard to come by. Just like the lemurs the human race has evolved over thousands of years spreading widely across the planet, colonising every part. Some parts are plentiful with food and water such as America and the United Kingdom while other countries such as some in Africa find it difficult to survive just like the sifaka their land doesn’t receive a lot of rain so water and food is difficult to come by.

Over the last fifty years, ten volcanic islands have been formed, they are newly created and usually remote making them hard for colonists to reach. Fernandina one of the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific is young and still volcanically active, making it a desolate place. The surrounding sea however is particularly rich with life, making it perfect for sea going iguanas they graze on the floor of the sea but then return to live on Fernandina. By doing this the iguanas are also helping other animals to survive too, crabs feed on the dead skin on the iguanas backs while smaller reptiles feed on the flies the colony attract. Just like humans they all work together to support and provide food for one another, without the iguanas life on Fernandina would be scarce much of the wildlife relies on the iguanas to support their food chain.

To finalise in the animal kingdom there is a vast amount of similarities to the human world, they have adapted over thousands of years in order to survive the devastating effects we have had on their home. Their abilities to constantly adapt to the changing world is what ensures their survival against us.

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aoibhe McCarron

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aoibhe McCarron

Planet Earth 2 – Islands

Blog by Aoibhe McCarron

This week in quarantine; my fellow placement students and I have decided to watch Planet Earth II to see how animals adapt to their changing environment and see if there are any lessons we cant take from them. This week we watched episode 1 (in isolation of course), the episode is about islands, and aptly focuses on life in isolated or extreme environments, adapting to changing environments and working together. In the documentary David Attenborough says ‘The challenges on these islands reflect the challenges faced by all life’, islands are a microcosm of our living planet.

One of the islands in the documentary is Madagascar. Madagascar is one of the oldest islands on earth and has over 250,000 species occupying every niche. We see several lemurs in the episode, who all live extremely different lives and in different habitats. All lemurs came from a single ancestor and there are now thousands of species adapted to many different niches, which makes for little competition and harmonious living (most of the time). This evolution to such a wide range of niches is an adaptation to the vastly varied habitats in Madagascar, lemurs and other animals have been able to make their homes even in the most desolate and harshest environments to reduce competition between species. This is not dissimilar to humans adapting to living in all sorts of different environments around the world, from the deep cold of north Norway to the dry heat of the Sahara.

We then move to one of the Galapagos Islands. The island is young with lots of volcanic activity so there isn’t a great variety of species which can survive there. However, there are many reptiles living on the island. The main species are the aquatic Iguana and the Racer snake, however there are other smaller reptile species there too and these live in mutually beneficial relationships (symbiosis) with the iguanas. Small crabs and Lizards eat dead skin and flies that pester iguanas, providing them with food (and a good exfoliation for the iguanas). This behaviour is an adaptation to the volcanic environment which doesn’t provide a wide range of food sources. As humans, we too have to work together to survive. Each person in our society has a different role to play much like the different species on the Galapagos, for example we have food growers, street cleaners and nurses, all playing their part to ensure society runs smoothly.

On Christmas Island, one of the most spectacular sites is the march of the Red Crab. Unfortunately, lots of tourists share that opinion, which has increased traffic on the island causing many of the crabs to be run over. As well as this Yellow Crazy ants which have come off boats have now established a super colony on the island. They use acid to kill the Crabs, these are not a natural predator of the crabs and therefore the crabs do not have any adaptations to defend themselves. This is all down to the action of humans.

In a way, we are like a disease on the natural world in the same way that COVID-19 is on us. I really enjoyed watching planet earth II, and I think it would be great for us to take a leaf out of our neighbours in nature’s book. If the planet can change to adapt to the changes we’ve made, then surely we can change too. At this time especially, we live in competition with each other. We’ve all seen the pictures of people coming out of the supermarket with 50 toilet rolls, which causes some people to have a lack of resources ; if we could all be a little more considerate of others resources like groceries and toiletries could be shared out equally and increase all our chances of getting through this together.

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aine Mallon

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aine Mallon

Episode One- Islands

Blog by Aine Mallon


Due to the circumstances of the pandemic situation regarding the Coronavirus, it is important for one to understand how humans could learn about how animals work with one another to survive in harsh environments. The purpose of this report is to explore the collaborations of different species and how they make living on an island together bearable for one other. Such islands have been described as a microcosm of our living planet. Island ecosystems also contribute to the maintenance of ecosystem functions, they provide defence against natural disasters, support nutrient cycling, and soil and sand formation. They contribute to the regulation of climate and diseases.

How can the size of Islands impact Species and an example?

The size of an island can have a huge influence on the fate of those cast away there.  What this means is that an island’s size also affects its biodiversity, smaller islands will have less niches, less habitats, and lower immigration which negatively impacts the food chain for the area. However, since larger islands will have a wider variety of habitats, species which arrive on the island will diversify to fill up the available niches. Larger habitat size reduces the probability of extinction due to chance events.


The Komodo dragon in Indonesia dominates the small islands here, but on these mini-continents, life experiments and evolves. The Komodo dragon has been recorded as 2.6 metres long when fully developed, which asks the questions why would such a big predator thrive on a small island when food source may be scarce? These islands are volcanic in origin, the dragons like it hot, with daytime temperatures during the dry season that often reach 95 degrees. As these islands provide warmer temperatures the predators have merely adapted to a reduced food supply. Since in one feeding, they can consume 80% of their body weight therefore, they only need small amounts of food to survive, a meal will last a Komodo dragon a month before it needs to eat again.

Remote Islands

An island, especially a remote one, may be colonised by relatively few species. This allows the members of one species to exploit numerous different lifestyles, or niches. As the individual groups adapt to their different niches, they may evolve into distinct species.


The sea-going iguanas will thrive on volcanic islands, which are remote and lack nutrients they need, although the sea will provide them with their food source. Their short, blunt nose is well-adapted to feeding on algae growing on rocks. The flattened tail is perfect for swimming. Marine iguanas are an excellent example of a species well-adapted and continuing to adapt to their environment

It is important to conserve the biodiversity of the marine iguana because it is a unique and interesting animal. It is necessary to protect their island refuges from feral pests and human exploitation because they are long lived animals that cannot sustain added mortality. By bringing nutrients from the sea to the land, iguanas help other animals to survive here too, by supplying them with a food source. The animals are working together to all survive in this environment.

As the iguanas provide food for such other species, they play their part too. The crabs will eat the dead skin off the iguanas back, this assists the iguanas as it is like an exfoliation for them. As well as this, the smaller lizards that thrive on the volcanic grounds prey on the flies that pester the iguanas. It is evident how the diverse range of species accommodate one another in such a way that benefits them greatly.

What can humans learn from this during COVID-19?

It has been made evident how different species adapt to their surroundings and limited food sources available. As animals work together, we too must help others in our neighbourhood who are older and cannot get out to the shops for essentials very easy, assist them by any means possible. We need to be more sensible with buying essential goods in these unprecedented times, taking into consideration the rest of our community.


Although this report has mainly focused on examples of how animals adapt to change and how humans can bring different changes to their lifestyle during this pandemic. The issue of climate change and human activities regarding the destruction of isolated islands cannot be forgotten.

Island environments are particularly sensitive to human impact because their generally smaller size means resources are limited, scarce or finite, resulting in increased pressure on those resources. The global temperatures could exceed a 3°C above pre-industrial temperature increase by 2100 with global-mean sea level rise projected between one and four feet or higher, all due to climate change and ruin the isolated smaller islands. Human activities must change in a way to reduce their actions that negatively impact and increase climate change.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Family, home and place

It’s not hard to find out who you are and about the place where you and your family come from. A recent course helped to remove the mystique of family and local history and provided some fun while learning. A five-week get-together called Family, home and place was held to help gain some tools and resources for researching family and local history, it took place during February and March at the new Gateway Centre, Antrim. The course was fully booked and culminated in a very successful visit to the Public Records Office at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. This was facilitated under the Ulster Scots element of the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council. The recently opened Gateway Centre on the shores of the lough seemed a very apt place to have the course, thinking about water, place, identity, travel and migration.

Who Do You Think You Are?







The was facilitated by Dr Liam Campbell of Lough Neagh Partnership and Dr William Roulston, who is Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation. William holds a PhD in Archaeology from Queens University Belfast and degrees in history from Ulster University.








He has written a number of books, including Fermanagh: History and Society (edited with Eileen Murphy, Dublin, 2004), Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors (Belfast, 2005), Restoration Strabane, 1660-1714 (Dublin, 2007), Three centuries of life in a Tyrone parish: a history of Donagheady from 1600 to 1900 (Strabane, 2010) and Abercorn: The Hamiltons of Barons Court (Belfast, 2014). He is a Member of Council for both the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland and the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.







This course will be rolled out in other areas around the lough in the coming months as will courses called Know your place – a bit better , a six week get-together on gaining some tools to help read our landscape a bit better – to look for the clues and the features, history and heritage that tell the story of your home area. You’ll enjoy the craic and homemade food by a roaring fire, facilitated by Dr Liam Campbell, Lough Neagh Partnership.








If you wish to register your interest, please email: Liam.Campbell@loughneaghlp.com

In the meantime – possibly having some time on your hands, you can get ahead by looking at some of these useful websites – have fun !

Genealogy, history and mapping websites





Sites-and monuments-record, Historic Environment Division

Website showing locations and meanings and old spellings of townlands and place-names in NI

Ulster Historical Foundation

Hearth money roles ( 1600s ) Protestant householders (1740) and Flaxgrowers Lost (1796)

Irish Family History Foundation ( subscription)

1901 and 1911 and pre 1901 census fragments for all of Ireland

Wills, valuation records, census returns

Births 1864-1918, marriages 1845-1943 and deaths 1864-1968

Church records for certain counties and civil records from 1864 for NI until 1921

Griffith’s valuation1848-1864

Mid 17th century maps of Ireland


Church of Ireland Library

Presbyterian records

British Newspaper Archive

Belfast Newsletter Index 1737-1800


Mellon Centre for Migration Studies