Kathriona Devereux: My TV show reveals how Cork is leading the way in science

Science Week starts next week and with it comes the new series of RTÉ1’s 10 Things to Know About, writes Kathriona Devereux, who hosts the show with Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and Jonathan McCrea
Kathriona Devereux: My TV show reveals how Cork is leading the way in science

Kathriona Devereux filming 10 Things To Know About... in the Tyndall in Cork with Stefan Andersson-Engels, Head of BioPhotonics

THIS has been a momentous year for science and global health.

Increased understanding and awareness of the interconnections between humans and planet earth has never been more pertinent.

Science Week starts next week and with it comes the new series of RTÉ1’s 10 Things to Know About. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, Jonathan McCrea and I are back to reveal how Irish research is helping drive us towards a brighter, better future.

A Dublin-centric focus is a common criticism of RTÉs output, but no such criticism can be levelled at the first episode of the new series of 10 Things… which could have been co-sponsored by the PeoplesRepublicofCork.com.

It’s all Cork. Lough Hyne provides the glorious backdrop for an exploration of bioluminescence and it wows in lush drone shots and a spectacular light display.

Bioluminescence is nature’s chemical flashlight in the dark — illuminating lakes and oceans with a beautiful, magical glow.

Lough Hyne offers one of the best examples of bioluminescence in Ireland and Jonathan got the golden ticket to takes a night time kayak with Atlantic Sea Kayaking’s Naoise Kennedy, to see how this amazing natural phenomenon creates stunning blue sparkles in the pitch-dark water!

Dr Tom Doyle, a Marine Biologist from UCC, demystifies some of the magic and explains how his research has revealed a whole microcosm of life in the water.

Back on dry land, the power of light is driving important research developments in medical science, and I had an opportunity to find out about the cutting edge photonics research happening at the Irish Photonic Integration Centre at the Tyndall Institute on the Mardyke.

Harnessing the power of light is one of the key technologies of the 21st century, and Cork-based researchers are using fluorescence in cancer diagnosis and developing infra-red light technologies to monitor the lung function of premature babies.

In collaboration with the INFANT research centre, IPIC researchers are hoping that their new GASMAS technology would spare premature babies from multiple X-rays to check lung function and help monitor lungs in real time.

Cork mum Chloe Kingston shares her experience of a long stay at the Neonatal unit with her premature twins, Paige and Nathan. She hopes new technology will allow for safer, less-invasive care and treatments for premature babies in the future.

Episode two features a 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.

The re-wilding efforts of UCC campus were beautifully apparent when we filmed there on a gorgeous late summer day. Dragonflies and butterflies were in full flight in the meadow next to The Glucksman as if they were drafted in as show-off extras for a story about biodiversity.

Taste is explored in episode three and I visit Teagasc Moorepark, near Fermoy, to explore the science of terroir and see if I might be a super- sniffer (your nose is as important to recognising flavours as your tastebuds).

Terroir is a term associated with wine making to describe the complex interaction between the soil, environment and microclimate that influences a grape and hence the flavour of wine.

Irish whiskey makers are interested in exploring the terroir of whiskey and Teagasc are helping identify the volatile compounds or particular smells associated with different whiskeys produced by grains from different regions.

Other topics in the series include the potential of hydrogen as an energy source and fuel of the future, research efforts to tackle flooding and drought, and the unfortunate topic de jour — viruses.

This is the sixth series of 10 Things To Know About... which was a rebrand of The Science Squad that ran for three years before; so for the past nine summers I have been on the road telling the stories of Irish science.

Despite the years on the clock, Irish research continues to fascinate me and to offer up remarkable insights and discoveries. I hope you tune in and enjoy watching the new series.

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ANOTHER thing worth tuning into is the ‘Science on Screen’ film festival, which is running online from November 5-8 on www.scienceonscreen.ie.

Organisers had hoped to host this inaugural science film festival in cinemas around Galway, but unfortunately there will be no buzz of live audiences or sharing of opinions in the popcorn-strewn cinema foyer after a screening.

However, there is a lot to be said for not having to drive all the way to Galway to watch an interesting festival full of short and feature length science films.

The festival, a partnership between CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices and the Galway Film Centre, aims to bring out the stories behind the science and facilitate discussion about the topics.

There is an extensive festival programme for young people and lots of short films from around the globe to dip in and out of. The opening feature film is called Picture a Scientist and chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists, and asks the important question, how can science itself become more diverse, equitable, and open to all.

Audiences are encouraged to #JoinTheConversation and a live panel discussion follows the opening film, offering an opportunity to share your thoughts and comments on the movie and the issues it raises. No sticky floored cinema foyer required.

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