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

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

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.

Lough Neagh Conference – Student Blog by Michael McCoy

Lough Neagh Conference – Student Blog by Michael McCoy

Student Blog by Michael McCoy

Hi everyone, Michael here. Today I had the honour of attending the Lough Neagh conference. This meeting focused on the future management of Lough Neagh and how councillors, MLAs and local residents and their businesses can work together. A presentation was given by Dr William Burke, Lough Neagh Partnership (LNP) manager who informed the audience of the current management in place along with what is needed for the future. A representative from each of the main political parties also spoke about their views on legal responsibilities and what the aims are for future policies regarding Lough Neagh.

John Blair, representing the Alliance party, was knowledgeable about many concerns regarding management and referred to his experience in working Inland Fisheries for NIEA. Blair understands that realistic ideas need to be in place to work inside the budget. Tourism was highlighted as it is deemed important to improve public awareness of the Lough. Blair acknowledged the biodiversity rich environment and the unique species that live in and around the Lough. Blair wants to develop government policies with great detail and ensure everything is planned out instead of rushing poorly thought out ideas.

Rosemary Barton spoke on behalf of the Ulster Unionist party (UUP). Barton understood the need for more support from the government and the need for structure. She acknowledges that there is conflict of interest between communities. Barton highlights the need for inter-departmental grouping and only by working together can this task be achieved. Barton praises the good work done by LNP so far.

Dolores Kelly represented the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). She focused on farming and fishing communities, highlighting the issues of flooding on agricultural farmland. Kelly also briefly mentioned Eutrophication and focused on the need for more creative ideas. She highlights the importance of community involvement and the need to be flexible and adaptable. Kelly concluded by pledging the SDLP support to having a proper structure for regulating policies on management for Lough Neagh.

Francie Molloy, who was representing Sinn Fein focused on the need for one department to make the important decisions for future management of Lough Neagh. He highlighted the need for navigation authority on the Lough that the general public and fisheries should follow. Malloy wants to develop tourism across the whole Lough and feels that Lough Neagh needs to reach its full potential. He wants more people fishing on the lough to help generate revenue.

Overall, every politician was emphasising the importance of Lough Neagh and the need for a more structured approach to managing the lough. I personally found the conference interesting and hope that the meeting today will hopefully improve not just the economic and social aspects of the Lough, but also the environmental side, which requires more focus from the government.

Lough Neagh Litter Campaign

Lough Neagh Litter Campaign

Lough Neagh Partnership and the Rivers Trust are delighted to support the local community groups around the shores of Lough Neagh who want to change attitudes to litter.  Around Lough Neagh we can see the damage done to valuable wildlife habitats through our careless attitude to litter.  Plastic bottles, straws and single use coffee cups are blown from roads and lanes into streams and into Lough Neagh where we are contributing to killing of sea birds and sea animals.   Lough Neagh Partnership and the Rivers Trust are throwing our efforts behind the Live Here Love Here Campaign to do our bit.

Because we  Live Here beside the Lough

                           We Love Here and do not want our place looking like a skip!

Please join and like our Lough Neagh Litter Campaign on facebook

Next events coming up: –

Saturday 27 July        Derrytresk Community Centre      12noon

Saturday 3 Aug          Newmills at the MACE shop at 10:30am

Student Blog – Aine Cullen

Student Blog – Aine Cullen

Hi everyone! My name is Aine, I am 21 years old, and I am a new student on a 16-week placement with the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership. I am currently studying Environmental Management at Queen’s University Belfast and have a fond interest in nature and wildlife conservation, so this placement opportunity was right up my street! I applied here with the hopes of expanding my knowledge and experience on fauna and flora, and with only three weeks in, I have learned so much already.

There are currently six new placement students, and we have travelled to different sites learning valuable new information and developing key skills in areas such as Plant Identification with Bob Davidson, Dragonfly and Damselfly training with Robert Thompson, Woodland and Habitat Training with Dermot Hughes, Bumblebee Identification with Geoff Newell and First Aid / Rescue Emergency Care Training.


We carried out our first survey with the RSPB at Portmore Lough assessing the Irish Damselfly population in the Montiaghs Moss area. The Irish Damselfly (Coenagrion lunulatum) is thought to be a vulnerable and declining species. However, it is still considered to be an under-recorded species with lesser known information about it, compared to similar species such as the Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) and Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum).

We also shadowed the previous students on their Bumblebee transects where they carry out bee surveys once a month to assess population numbers at Oxford Island, as we will be taking over this survey in the coming weeks. This is to identify the 6 different common bumblebee species including the Common Carder Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum), the Buff Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum), the Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum), the White Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) and the Red Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)./p


Student Blog – Lin Jiali

I am Lin Jiali, studying Environmental management at Queens University Belfast. This year is my second year at Queens, so I need to undertake a placement in the light of the school regulation.  I have many reasons to choose to conduct my placement with Lough Neagh Partnership at Oxford Island. First of all, when I first came here for an interview, this place impresses me by its gorgeous natural view. Thus, I think doing my placement in this beautiful environment will be enjoyable. Secondly, based on the recruitment information from the Lough Neagh, they require the intern have acquired the basic knowledge with regard to the Environmental impact assessment and Geographical information service. I have studied both of them in my second semester in my second academic year at Queens. As a consequence, I am able to meet these two recruiting requirements. Apart from that, I can also reinforce my academic theory regarding EIA and GIS by applying them to the workplace. The last reason is that this placement can provide various training by expert trainers, such as plant ID training, dragonfly training and internship will have the opportunity to carried out the field survey frequently during the placement. That means I will learn lots of new knowledge and gain the practical field survey experience in the period of the placement.  So far, I have attended the three times of plant ID training, once of dragonfly training and bumble bee training, several times of grassland survey and one woodland training. All of these training not only have expanded my current knowledge but also taught me how to solve and prevent the issues that would meet in the field surveys. First aid training is the training provided by the Lough Neagh partnership that surprises me. It is a very considerate decision they made for the interns since working in the field have a higher possibility to get injured than staying in the office. Thus, the first aid training can teach the placement students how to react once they get an injury in the field.


As far as I know, I already learnt much new knowledge, which related to the biology and environment subject and obtained useful practical field survey skills in the past two weeks. I believe the following journey will still be exciting and meaningful.

Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership Moss Blog – June 25th 2019

Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership Moss Blog – June 25th 2019

Siobhan Thompson, the project lead for Saving Nature in the Area has been working alongside Bryonie and Gemma from Quarto to explore Community Connect with Moss.

Local community members joined us on two walks through the moss, one along the condemned rampart and one on the ramparts behind Derrytresk community centre.

We looked at how the moss has changed and altered over the lifetime of local people, and to get a sense of what is important for you as community and how we could help move this forward.
We had a lot of good discussions with people and have collated insights from those that came along, from local place-names to stories of using special moss shoes and the right way to stack the peat. There were a lot of photos taken and there will be a final workshop on Wednesday the 26th June at Washing Bay Community Centre @ 7.30pm which we hope as many local people will get along to as possible… Children are also welcome to come along and take part…

The curlew have been very active, and our Ornithology team on the ground (which consists of Kendrew Colhoun and Kerry Mackie) have been out monitoring and watching – as well as getting lots of cups of tea, and pieces of cake – they tell me this element is particularly vital and an integral part of the hard work they are doing – and actually it is, as the information they get from you is massively important and helps us shape our project for the current and future benefit of the Curlew and other wildlife.

We are well into the season, the Curlew arrived mid-March and have been busy courting one another, setting up nests, guarding their nests from aerial/ground predators, and trying to get their eggs to the hatching stage.









From our monitoring we have observed one pair has managed to get their eggs to hatching point – as they are ground nesting birds many of the eggs in nests are predated by other birds, or by ground predators, and never get to hatch.

We watched with great excitement as the pair we know got the eggs to hatching stage, but sadly we suspect the chicks that hatched have already been predated.

These birds as ground nesting birds have a lot of contend with and we hope that in years to come we can help manage this local landscape with your help for their benefit. Future funding will include how we can create a benefit for the community as you have been integral in shaping this landscape to date.








Rosalind Lowry our project artist has been working with Kingisland Primary school, and together with the students and staff, has created and painted the beautiful mural you can see on the gable wall… it shows the wonderful wildlife you have in the area, from Curlew, Cuckoo, Meadow Pipits, to Large heath butterfly and insect eating plants known as sundew which are a wonderful plant found on bogs. If you get the chance pop along to see it, it blends in very well with the colourful school grounds. We have also delivered some workshops to the students on Curlew and local wildlife and have been very impressed by the Curlew calls the kids can make…








We will be meeting with Anne Reid the Access and Recreation officer for Mid Ulster Council in the next week – to progress discussion around access and recreation across the site, across ramparts and through the moss – from discussion with many of you we know that this is something that local community would like to see happen – the roads are busy in the area and it’s good to have routes you can take that avoid traffic and lead you through beautiful areas.

We will also be raising the matter of the walk way between Kingsland primary school and Derrytresk community centre – though we have been told this is a matter for the Department of Infrastructure
We are in the final stages of working with the Department of Education over the lease. As with all legal processes it is proving to be one thing that requires patience, and we will keep the community committees informed as to what is happening with this aspect. So please feed any questions with respect to this either directly to me or to your local community committee members and they will pass it on to us.

Upcoming Workshops, and information talks:

  • Wednesday 26 June – Exploring community connection to the moss – for all members of local communities to attend at washing Bay Community Centre at 7.30 – 9.30 pm (approx.)
  • Wednesday 3rd July – Painting the land – Derrytresk Community Centre – 7.30 – 9.00 pm
  • Wednesday 10th July – A Conversation in Clay – Washing Bay Community Centre – 7.30 – 9.00 pm
  • Meet the Ornithologist – Update on the moss Curlew & other birds – Date & Venue TBC
  • Access & recreation – Consultation with Community – Date & Venue TBC

We welcome feedback on the timings of our workshops – we could hold the last two towards end of July but understand a lot of people may be away – please let us know your thoughts, or ideas for info talks/workshops you would like.

One of the discussions we were having on one of the community walks on the moss was how you do make a peat creel… Has anyone any idea of the local design used? Would you in interested in trying to build couple with us?

Any thoughts and comments let us know… Either on Facebook or by sending email to

Student Blog – Aine Mallon

Student Blog – Aine Mallon

Guest Blog by Aine Mallon

Hello, my name Is Aine Mallon, I am 20 years old and have just finished my second year at Queen’s university studying Environmental management with professional studies. I am currently undertaking a year’s placement at Oxford Island.

I wanted to spend my year out of university based somewhere that broadens my horizon on the environmental aspect and awareness we face today. I enjoy being outside collecting data and being able to work amongst a team, team work here at Oxford Island is a vital part. Also, learning new skills and information regarding the diverse range of different habitats that exposed us to plant species and invertebrates that are situated within these different nature reserves we visit. I want to be in a work-based environment that aims to prevent the degradation of the natural environment. Protecting al living creatures is a key aspect I want to learn more about.

Since I have started placement at Oxford Island, we have been introduced to plant identification training with Bob Davidson. Plants are a fundamental part of our work here at Oxford Island because they sustain clean air which we are dependent on. Being able to identify the broad diversity of plants is to understand the positive and negative indicators for assessment on their ability to effectively carry out photosynthesis for the surrounding landscape. I can now also distinguish the difference between sedges and different types of grassland.



We have been introduced to the importance of bumble bees, the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. At Oxford Island, we have followed a transect around the area to collect data on the numbers and types of bumble bees present here. Knowing the different populations of bees is essential to be able to understand their dynamics and how these change overtime. As well as bumble bees, we have been brought out to a range of areas including Brackagh and Portmore to study dragon flies.

I am also a qualified first aider, as we have all attended classes and been assessed on our ability to perform first aid on people and what do in these situations.

Student Blog – Aoibhe McCarron

Student Blog – Aoibhe McCarron

Guest Blog by Aoibhe McCarron

My name is Aoibhe McCarron, I’m 19 and I’ve just completed second year of Biological Sciences at Queen’s university Belfast. I chose to do my placement with the Lough Neagh Partnership at Oxford island because I knew I wanted to work outdoors and in this area from previous experiences at field courses at university and I want to expand my knowledge of the environment and get some hands on experience.

So far, we’ve learned a lot. On week one, we went to an Carn where we had botanical training with Bob Davidson, we also had a continuation of this the following week back at oxford island. We’ve learned how to identify different species of grasses, sedges, rushes and wildflowers. On week one we also carried out a bee transect. We learned how to identify the most common species of bees and came across around five of these on our transect. We also went to Brookend on week one, where we assessed the habitat and what species were there. We drew up a map of Brookend so we could assess the site. We saw some interesting things at Brookend such as badger sets and also lapwing, we found some lapwing eggs which we think were predated on by something like a badger or a fox.








We started off week two with first aid training in Portadown, the course took us two days to complete and we are now qualified first aiders. Later in the week we met with Robert Thompson, who took us through dragonfly and damselfly training. He showed us a presentation on how to identify the different species by their colours, markings and size etc. We then went to a site called Brackagh with Robert where we caught and identified several different species of damselflies. Yesterday we visited Rea’s wood in Antrim where we had woodland training with Dermot Hughes. We were able to put our plant ID skills into action as we identified different plants in the habitat and we learned to identify invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.