NUI Galway has launched a new biodiversity trail highlighting the rich variety of animal and plant life on the campus.
The university grounds extend along the River Corrib and include a number of habitats such as parklands, woodlands, a herb garden, meadows, and reed beds. The new trail, which can be followed via a freely available map and audio tour, takes visitors from the historic Quadrangle building at University Road along the river to the northern part of the campus at Dangan.
The trail is accessible to both the campus community and the wider public.
"The trail highlights some of the wilder parts of the campus," said Dr Dara Stanley, who developed the trail along with Jamie Maxwell and Dr Caitriona Carlin. "We wanted to highlight the animals and plants we have on campus. Another purpose is to get people outside and enjoying nature."
There is certainly plenty of nature to enjoy on the campus — its rich biodiversity has been acknowledged in the Intervarsity Bioblitz competition, run by An Taisce and the National Biodiversity Data Centre, with NUI Galway being recognised for having the most species on campus of any Irish university in 2014 and 2015.
The new biodiversity trail guides visitors through NUI Galway's natural habitats, which are often also used for teaching and research, while finding out a bit more about nature along the way.
The birdlife on campus ranges from Ireland’s smallest bird, the goldcrest, to the largest, the mute swan, as well as the world’s fastest animal, the peregrine falcon. The River Corrib and associated wetlands also play host to many fish, aquatic plants, and waterbirds. Mammals, including the badger, fox, otter, stoat, woodmouse and pygmy shrew, also call the campus their home. NUI Galway’s gardeners take great pride in the university’s landscape and invite visitors and the campus community to pick and taste from the many fruit trees, berries, organic vegetables, and herb gardens.
Distinct habitats along the biodiversity trail include the College Park in front of the Quadrangle, with sycamore and horse chestnut trees, and pipistrelle bats can be seen at sunset in the summer. The Eglinton Canal runs underneath the O'Shaughnessy Bridge that links to Fisheries Field, and is home to trout, kingfishers, and otters.
Bees and pollinators
The university's herb garden, outside Moffett's Restaurant at the Orbsen Building, is a great spot to see bees and other pollinators visiting flowers in summer. Follow the River Corrib along the campus river path to see yellow iris and common spotted orchids in summer, as well as mute swans and grey heron year round.
The Engineering Lawn, in front of the Alice Perry Engineering Building, attracts blackbirds and goldfinches, and is dotted with clover and buttercups in summer. Further along the river path, deciduous woodland between the Alice Perry Engineering Building and Corrib Village provides a habitat for woodmouse and pygmy shrew, along with bluebells and wild garlic in spring.
The alluvial woodland along the path past the Dangan Park and Ride facility features alder trees, ivy, fox, stoat, and haws in autumn.
Along the path visitors can also enjoy the reed beds between the river path and the river — home to common reed, meadowsweet, and birds such as willow warbler and reed bunting.
At Menlo Castle, on the opposite bank of the river from the sports campus, watch out for barn owl, peregrine falcon, and lesser horseshoe bats at dusk. In fact, all of Ireland's nine bat species have been recorded in the night skies over the campus.
The Biodiversity Trail is available as a leaflet from several locations around the campus, including the information office at the Quadrangle and the Zoology and Marine Biology Museum in the Ryan Institute, and is also available from the Galway Tourist Office.
An audio trail is available in both podcast and downloadable format, and features many of the campus community who are involved in research, teaching, and stewardship of biodiversity on and beyond the campus. The audio trail takes about 90 minutes to complete.
Funding for the trail was provided by the NUI Galway Community and University Sustainability Project (CUSP ), the Ryan Institute, and the Climate Change and Environment Section of Galway City Council, as part of Galway city's European Green Leaf 2017 designation.
The trail was produced by Jamie Maxwell, Dara Stanley, and Caitriona Carlin, with input from many others involved in biodiversity research and stewardship around the campus. The audio trail was recorded at Flirt FM by Padraig McMahon.
The biodiversity trail and audio trail versions can be found at www.nuigalway.ie/biodiversitytrail