Researchers gathered last week for the Daniel Kelly Symposium, which featured a variety of research presentations and celebrated the achievements of retiring Associate Professor in Botany, Daniel Kelly, who was former Head of Botany in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin.
Among the topics discussed were the genetics of Irish woodlands, conservation efforts involving some of Ireland’s important species, and the importance of long-term biodiversity monitoring and floral diversity in South America, before Professor Kelly wrapped up the symposium with a final presentation looking back on his career.
Professor Kelly served in the School for 35 years. He was a Trinity Scholar (awarded 1968) and graduated with a degree in Botany in 1970. He returned to Trinity to complete a PhD, before lecturing in the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He re-joined the Department of Botany in Trinity in 1979, was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1992, and was awarded Fellowship of Trinity College in 2007.
Daniel’s research expertise encompassed plant ecology, especially in forests. He explored patterns in plant community composition and the environmental factors that govern them and was driven by a fascination of the diversity of the plant kingdom, with his interest extending from trees to the Lilliputian world of mosses and liverworts.
His research considered the practical challenges of managing forests and other semi-natural habitats so as to sustain a balance between human needs and long-term safeguarding of biodiversity. He has long divided his research between Ireland and the New World Tropics, especially recently in Cusuco National Park in Honduras, where he was involved in discovering a hitherto unknown genus of tree.
He continues to monitor vegetation plots that he established for his undergraduate moderatorship project in Killarney National Park. Throughout his career he has lobbied for the management of national parks especially the control of Rhododendron in Killarney. He was Editor of Watsonia, the Journal of the Botanical Society of the British Isles.
Professor Kelly said: “I will continue to be torn between Killarney and the Caribbean [in terms of research]… I am very glad that this is not a ‘good-bye’ and I look forward to continuing to be active in research, to doing some teaching, and to remaining part of the ‘Botany family.’”
Peter Wyse-Jackson, Director of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, said: “You have added so much to the fields of botany, ecology and plant conservation at home and overseas… [I have] learnt so much from your thoughtful and thorough approach.”
During his tenure, Professor Kelly served College in many roles including Head of Discipline and chairman of the College Grounds and Gardens Committee. Daniel has been an inspiring and memorable teacher to thousands of undergraduates and postgraduates. He has motivated generations of students not only in the lecture theatre but through his enthusiastic and entertaining leadership of numerous field trips from Kerry to Guyana.
Therese Higgins, former undergraduate and PhD student, said: “As an undergraduate, I held him in awe… He was a wonderful supervisor, very generous. His love of the subject was inspirational and spurred us all on," while Declan Doogue, former PhD student and Honorary Vice President of the Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club, added: “Trinity Botany changed plant sciences in Ireland. Daniel is Trinity.”