the irish times

For the Irish Times, I have written a number of features on the topics of science, health and the environment.

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[SCIENCE] Digesting sea lettuce: why our bioenergy isn’t blooming

In Northern Ireland, incentives are driving development in renewable replacements for fossil fuel, but the South is playing catch-up, and could well pay a big price in the form of EU fines

♦ Maria Delaney    ♦ 09 October 2014    ♦ Science    ♦ Page    ♦ 1,104 words

Many bioenergy researchers around Ireland have had to become policy experts as they attempt to navigate the complex world of regulation and legislation in order to bring their ideas from experiments to commercial models.

“The technological development is deeply interlinked with the policy, regulatory and commercial frameworks,” says Bart Bonsall, the technology leader at the Technology Centre for Biorefining and Bioenergy. “It is virtually inseparable.”

The centre was set up to develop new technologies for this sector. Bonsall says they had to adapt, and now they work on research and “all of the enabling frameworks that facilitate the deployment of the technology and the development of the market”. This includes implementing this in industries such as dairy, water, farming and breweries

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[HEALTH] Bed occupancy far above safe levels

In a survey of 18 public hospitals, only three had occupancy rates lower than the OECD’s recommended limits

♦ Maria Delaney    ♦ 23 September 2014    ♦ Health + Family    ♦ Page 3    ♦ 1,089 words

New figures reveal that Ireland’s main public hospitals are still running at a bed occupancy rate far above what is considered safe. An investigation of 18 large acute public hospitals discovered that a majority were operating above the recommended 85 per cent of bed occupancy last year, with an average occupancy of 94 per cent.

“This is the best litmus test of the volume of work facing the health system at the moment,” says Liam Doran, deputy general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO). He says patient care is comprised, staff are overworked and procedures are often delayed when a hospital runs at such a high level of bed occupancy.

Last year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted a number of countries, including Ireland, that were above the recommended 85 per cent limit of safe occupancy

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[SCIENCE] The global march of antibiotic-resistant bugs

While media attention in Ireland has primarily focused on MRSA, there are many other forms of multidrug-resistant bacteria on the rise here and around the world

♦ Maria Delaney    ♦ 14 August 2014    ♦ Science    ♦ Page 12    ♦ 1,008 words

Antibiotic resistance is not news to anyone in Ireland: we have lived with alarming levels of MRSA in our hospitals for many years.

The World Health Organisation recently published its first global report on antimicrobial resistance. In the report, Dr Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director general for health security, discussed how resistance has “reached alarming levels in many parts of the world”. Many of the available treatment options for common infections are now becoming ineffective.

While media attention in Ireland has primarily focused on MRSA, there are many other forms of multidrug-resistant bacteria in this country

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[HEALTH] Special delivery: Microbes fresh from Ireland

As there are not enough reference labs in Ireland, samples have to be sent to up to 11 locations in the UK

♦ Maria Delaney    ♦ 01 July 2014    ♦ Health + Family    ♦ Page 6    ♦ 1,237 words

What happens to the samples you give in hospital? Patients are routinely asked to give samples of urine, sputum and blood. After a few hours, or sometimes a few weeks, you get the results. In the meantime, the bugs often go on a journey to different corners of Ireland or the UK. The samples are first tested by hospital laboratories but if a particular infection or disease is suspected, they are sent to reference labs that use more sophisticated equipment. These complete additional analysis including genetic testing.

Though a number of reference labs have been established here, Irish hospitals still post samples to 11 locations in the UK. The most recent version of the Public Health Laboratory’s Clinical Microbiology User Manual lists 115 reference lab tests. Just over 40 per cent of these tests can be completed here, and the rest are done in the UK

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[ENVIRONMENT] A total boar or a pig’s pedigree?

The wild boar has its champions, but the consensus is that it is an invasive, not native, species

♦ Maria Delaney    ♦ 04 May 2013    ♦ Weekend    ♦ Page 6    ♦ 986 words

‘Go against the boar, but it shall be as if you hunted the sea or the wind. Your spears shall break, and your hounds fly and whimper at your heels.”

The boar has always been a troublemaker. It is entangled in Irish folklore, in which it kills the mythical warrior Diarmuid. Wild boar disappeared from our forests hundreds of years before Yeats recounted this tale. Now, with numerous sightings around the country, is the boar of ancient prose living among us again?

The National Biodiversity Data Centre has recorded 27 appearances since 2009. The sightings have come from around the country, from Waterford to Roscommon. Although the total number is unknown

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