Meet the Team

Image Credit: Ashley Bennison

Dr Katie Costello

Dr Katie Costello is a marine ecologist whose work has focused on sea turtles, puffins, eels and invertebrates. In selecting the specimens on display here, Katie has aimed to represent a host of creatures across the animal kingdom, reaching from tropical to polar realms. Her own interests are wide and varied; ranging from the micro- to macroscopic, but she has a particular interest in marine invertebrates. These diverse taxa are so alien, yet so beautiful, and Katie can understand why these are the creatures Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka chose to immortalise in glass over a century ago.

Throughout her research, Katie observed that many marine creatures are vulnerable to the threats posed by invasive species and pathogens. Her work now focuses on the ways in which these invasive hosts and parasites are introduced; hitchhiking on aquaculture consignments, dispersing via the hulls and ballast water of globally connected cargo ships and circling offshore in dynamic oceanic systems. Katie’s research primarily examines the ecology of those species harmful to aquaculture practices, in an effort to alleviate some of the impact that invasive species might have on coastal communities.

Dr Fidelma Butler

Dr Fidelma Butler is an ecologist at the School of BEES, UCC with experience in applied ecological issues ranging from invasive species to native species conservation. Fidelma was previously a Professional Assistant at the Natural History Division of the National Museum of Ireland and is keen to promote the use of our natural heritage collections for research and education. Fidelma was principal investigator on the National Forum ELUCiDATA project which funded the development of this website.

Dr Ashley Bennison

Dr Ashley Bennison is a marine ecologist specialising in the spatial ecology of higher predators. Movement is a trait shared by all life on Earth, and Ash’s work looks to understand how the behaviour of individual animals can inform the distribution of species. Ash’s doctoral research focused on seabirds, primarily Northern gannets and puffins, and used tagging technologies to track the movement paths of animals. He has also worked on sharks, sea bass and cetaceans.

Ash has been passionate about photography from an early age. He enjoys the process of taking pictures and documenting the surrounding world. He has always found that showing photographs of science in action, and the people behind the science, allows observers to engage with the scientific process. When working in the museum, Ash particularly enjoyed photographing the skeletons, as the skeletal form and function hints at how the animals move and operate. So much information about an animal’s life and behaviour can be found in the clues left by skeletons. 

Mary Kate Bolger

Mary Kate's BSc and MSc theses focused on bottlenose dolphins in Spain and Ireland, and she has also studied bottlenose in Western Australia.  She is particularly interested in the long-term monitoring, and social and vocal behaviour of resident populations.  Additionally, she is interested in ecotoxicology and the effects of water quality on dolphin skin condition. Mary Kate was involved in Operation Orca as part of Killer Whale Research Ireland, which involved a twelve-day trip to the North Sea aboard the RV Celtic Voyager. She has worked on the UNEP GEMS/Water quality project, and enjoyed the global applications of this work.

Mary Kate started working in the UCC BEES museum with the ELUCiDATA Project in 2020. She has engaged with academic staff to better enable the school to utilise the specimens for learning, particularly through the new display cabinets in the teaching labs. In late 2020 Mary Kate began work on developing the natural collections website and she is delighted to see it come to fruition.

Dr Elizabeth Cotter

Dr Elizabeth Cotter is Senior Technical Officer at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences since 2007. Her research has focused primarily on aquaculture & commercially significant bivalve shellfish, from fouling of mussels by polychaete tubeworms to oyster health & disease, also general marine invertebrate biology.

Allen Whitaker

Allen Whitaker is a Technical Officer in the School of BEES, UCC. Allen is a Marine Science (Zoology) graduate with wide ranging expertise in taxonomic identification of species from intertidal coastal and benthic marine environments. Allen has considerable experience in the use of natural history collections for undergraduate teaching, postgraduate research and outreach activities.


Photographs of these beautiful specimens were also contributed by Tomás Tyner of UCC audio visual media services. The full collection of magic lantern slides was digitised by Dr Lisa Rose Jepson and may be viewed in an online exhibit entitled Past Lives, Hidden Treasures.

UCC Natural Collections