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Kilkenny native puts biodiversity on top of the agenda

Dr Brian Deegan's work as an ecologist has brought him to many far flung locations, from carrying out ecological surveys on the Murray-Darling River Estuary in South Australia to helping reintroduce a rare species of snail to a lake in Sligo.

The Kilkenny native now works as an Environmental and Ecological Assessment Specialist with Uisce Éireann. His job is to ensure that safeguarding our precious natural environment is central to everything the utility does. With more than 1,700 water and wastewater treatment sites in almost every town and village in Ireland - many of them located in scenic and ecologically sensitive areas - it is a critically important role.

To mark the upcoming World Environment Day on June 5, Brian and his team are preparing to launch Uisce Éireann's first Biodiversity Action Plan - an ambitious strategy to protect and enhance biodiversity at Uisce Éireann's vast network of sites nationwide.

"The theme of World Environment Day 2021 is Ecosystem Restoration. By working responsibly, we can all play our part in halting the decline of Ireland's rich biodiversity. Uisce Éireann delivers clean drinking water to more than 3.3 million people across the country every day and returns the treated wastewater safely to the environment. This means our sites cross a range of natural habitats and it's our responsibility to protect these healthy ecosystems that benefit us all," he explains.

"Uisce Éireann recognises the need to increase and accelerate efforts to halt the decline of biodiversity and we are committed to ensuring that we build and manage our infrastructure responsibly so that our ecosystems are protected and, where possible, enhanced."

Even as a young child Brian was fascinated with the natural world, finding inspiration in the beautiful scenery of his native Kilkenny and in the TV programmes of David Attenborough. He studied science education in the University of Limerick before going on to complete a PhD in Freshwater Ecology in Adelaide, South Australia. Since then he has had the opportunity to work all over the world, from Australia to the United States and back to mainland Europe. Now home in Ireland, he is proud to play his part in putting biodiversity on top of the agenda in Uisce Éireann.

Already the impact of the work Brian and his team are doing is becoming apparent with many species returning to Uisce Éireann sites, including otters, pine martens, bee orchids and the long-tailed tit. Over the coming years, he is confident that this renewed focus on biodiversity and habitat protection will continue to reap rewards, not only for native wildlife but also for the communities all over the country.

"Working with our Local Authority partners we have already made progress in relation to biodiversity protection across many of our sites including woodland management and wildflower meadows at the 12-hectare Waterford Wastewater Treatment Plant that complement the adjacent Lower River Suir Special Area of Conservation (SAC). In Ballymore Eustace, the site of Ireland's largest water treatment plant occupying 56 hectares, biodiversity measures have been in place for several years, with habitats including wildflower meadows and native woodland, while 5.27 hectares of native woodland is being planted at Lough Guitane Water Treatment Plant in Co Kerry," he says.

"In Uisce Éireann we are committed to playing our part in addressing the current climate change and biodiversity crisis. At all levels of the organisation, this is the 'new normal'. Now I just want to get out there and implement biodiversity enhancement measures across all of our sites, together with engaging with other stakeholders and community groups, where we can work together to restore nature and the benefits it provides us all."

Brian says that everyone can play their part in helping to support our biodiversity. "No action is too small. For instance, why not just let the dandelions grow in your garden - they're a valuable source of food for bees and other pollinators."

To find out more about these and the other biodiversity actions being carried out by Uisce Éireann, visit the Biodiversity section of our website.

Dr. Brian Deegan, Environmental and Ecological Assessment Specialist

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