Usna completed his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology in University College Cork. Upon graduating in 2009 he undertook an MSc in Marine Biology, also in University College Cork. His MSc dissertation investigated the population structure of Atlantic cod using previously published and novel microsatellite DNA sequences to gain insight into the evolution of this species and to identify a more sustainable way of exploiting the stock. After graduating, he spent time gaining experience abroad in projects involving the conservation of seals, turtles and birds with a number of NGO’s. He subsequently spent a number of years working as a fisheries assessment technician, working on commercial and research vessels. In 2014, he was accepted onto the ADAPT project in UCC, in a project involving ornithology, conservation, habitat management and industry.
Usna’s research interests are very broad, incorporating marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments, and animals of all shapes and sizes. He is largely interested in the conservation of species and public outreach. He is currently doing a masters by research in University College Cork and is working on the Avian Diversity and Afforestation Planning Tools (ADAPT) project. This project is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and aims to identify the risks posed by forest planting to vulnerable habitats and bird species in Ireland, and to ensure that forest expansion targets are met without compromising vulnerable habitats or bird species. This Project is supervised by Professor John O’Halloran, Professor John Quinn, Dr Sandra Irwin, Dr Ilse Corkery and John Lusby and is a collaborative project between University College Cork and BirdWatch Ireland.
Usna’s research focuses on identifying important non-forest habitats for birds of conservation concern and to investigate the impact that adjacent plantation forests have on these birds. So far, he has found that both raised and blanket bog habitats tended to have higher densities of birds of conservation concern than improved or wet grassland habitats. He has also shown that areas within 450m of forests had higher densities of forest hedge and scrub associated species but that open habitat specialist species have higher densities further than 450m from forests. The findings of this study allow for better planning of future commercial forestry which is compatible with conserving rare birds and habitats and which may provide a conservation opportunity for certain species.