Spotlight 2018

Peadar Brehony - Wildlife Conservation

7 Aug 2018
Peadar Brehony

A childhood spent in East Africa has led Zoology graduate, Peadar Brehony, to a career in wildlife conservation. After college, Peadar returned to Africa, working with dolphins off the coast of Gabon and on lion and elephant conservation projects in Tanzania. He is currently back in Europe, studying for a PhD in Cambridge on the socio-ecological systems in the Borderlands area of Kenya and Tanzania. Peadar talks to us about his memories of UCC, the mentors who influenced him and the opportunities he found along the way.

Course/subjects studied in UCC and year of graduation:
BSc (Hons) Studied Environmental and Earth System Science – Major in Zoology 2007-2011
SEFS Graduate of the Year 2011
Máire F Mulcahy Prize 2011

Best memory of University College Cork:
Anytime there was a bit a sunshine! I loved sunny spring or summer days having lunch in the President’s garden, playing a game of touch rugby down at the Mardyke, or sneaking off for a surf in West Cork! The field trips that we did as part of my course were also always a great time away. There was a good mix of work and play, and we got to travel all over: Antrim, West Cork, and even the Isle of Great Cumbrae in Scotland!

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
The way our course was taught meant that we got to apply the theory we learned in lectures to real-world research in labs and field trips and eventually in our thesis in 4th year. This practical research experience has really stood to me in my research career. Spending time in the field, doing research, getting outside was exactly why I wanted to study in this field, and UCC gave me the perfect foundations for that.
I also really made an effort to be as busy as possible while I was at UCC and was involved in several clubs and societies; that has really stood to me both professionally and personally. Making the most of my time in UCC and doing well academically meant I had the opportunity to study in the University of California, and helped me get to where I am now, in the University of Cambridge as a PhD Student. 
Finally, I have a great network of friends for life from UCC who are scattered across the globe.

What is your advice to current UCC students?
Make the most of the unique opportunities afforded to UCC students. There are numerous clubs and societies; there really is something for everyone. But there are also lots of other opportunities that might not be as well-known or advertised. I found out about the opportunity to go to the University of California for a year; I applied, and got it! So make an effort to find out what opportunities might exist for you.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
Our field trips and small class size meant that we developed good relationships with our lecturers and professors. I have stayed in touch with several of them, but Dr. Tom Kelly and Dr. Ruth Ramsay have been great mentors. 
Saying that, you spend most of your time at university with your friends and classmates. They made the UCC experience as great as it could be for me.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
I was involved in as many clubs as I could be, rugby, surfing, mountaineering, scuba diving, and orienteering. In my first couple of years, I did dedicate a lot of my time to UCC Rugby. Between team training sessions, weight training and speed training, we were kept pretty busy! But I also made sure I found time to participate in other clubs. I represented UCC in orienteering a couple of times, I helped to organise the surfing intervarsity when it was hosted by UCC, and I got my Diving Emergency Responder Qualification with the Sub-Aqua club. I was not as involved in clubs, but in my first year, I was very involved in a successful campaign with the Oneworld society to have Fair Trade products available at all campus food and beverage stalls.

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