UCC PhD student studies squirrels in Ireland

Blog by Emily Goldstein

My name is Emily Goldstein and I came to Ireland from Boston, Massachusetts to study squirrels for my PhD in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences in University College Cork. This might sound like a strange thing to do – most people in Ireland rarely see squirrels in their daily lives. However, there are some fascinating things going on with squirrels in this country. The native squirrel species in Ireland is the red squirrel – it has been present here since the end of the last ice age. The grey squirrel, however is an invasive alien species and competes for food and habitat resources with the native red squirrel.

The expansion of the grey squirrel’s geographic range in this country has proceeded more slowly in this country than it has in Britain. I used a citizen science survey to collect public sightings of both squirrel species in Munster to find out where the invasion frontier of the grey squirrel was. You can see the current sightings map using the species viewer on the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s map page (http://maps.biodiversityireland.ie/#/Home). Once I had found the invasion frontier I studies two populations of grey squirrels on the frontier in-depth with a two-year intensive live trapping programme. During these two years I captured, studied, and released 131 individual squirrels during over 1,000 squirrel capture events. Repeat measurements from individuals over a period of time can give valuable information on population functioning.

I found that grey squirrel populations at the invasion frontier do function differently than grey squirrel populations in established areas or in the native range of the species in North America. For instance, populations at the invasion frontier have higher birth rates showing that the populations are increasing. Annual survival of grey squirrels is higher in introduced populations than in the native range in deciduous forest habitat but is lower in mixed or coniferous habitat. The highest reports of annual grey squirrel survival are recorded in Britain where the grey squirrel invasion has been more dramatic than in Ireland. Grey squirrel population density is also lower at the invasion frontier than it is in established populations as would be expected.

Other research on squirrels in Ireland has shown that there is a correlation between recovering pine marten numbers in the Midlands and a decrease in grey squirrel numbers. Encouragingly, red squirrels are also returning to these areas. Further study is needed to better understand the relationship between these events and on how to best control grey squirrel population numbers going forward to protect the native red squirrel.

You can read more about my research in these published scientific papers feel free to contact me at e.goldstein@umail.ucc.ie if you would like a pdf copy:

Goldstein EA, Butler F, Lawton C. 2014. Frontier population dynamics of an invasive squirrel species: Do introduced populations function differently than those in the native range? Biological Invasions. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-014-0787-x

Goldstein EA, Lawton C, Sheehy E, Butler F. 2014. Locating species range frontiers: a cost and efficiency comparison of citizen science and hair-tube survey methods for use in tracking an invasive squirrel. Wildlife Research 41(1): 64-74. http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/144/paper/WR13197.htm


University College Cork and the Fulbright Commission cordially invite you to INTER-CHANGES: RESIDENCY OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERS with US Fulbright Awardees & Alumnus

WHEN: 10.30 am – 1pm
28th November 2014

WHERE: Boole Library Meeting Room
University College Cork


10.30 a.m. Registration Tea / Coffee
11.a.m. Welcome from Colleen Dube, Director Fulbright Commission & Claire Connolly, Head of English, UCC
11.15 a.m. US MFA Program & Writers Residencies:  Overview, Opportunities, Application Processes
Brendan Mathews, US Fulbright Scholar
12 p.m. Experiences of Writers Residency Programs
Erin O’Sullivan, 2014 – 2015 US Fulbright Student at UCD and Oregon State MFA Alumnus
Nell Regan, 2011-2012 Irish Fulbright Alumnus and International Writers Program, University of Iowa Alumnus
1 p.m. Networking Lunch


Professor Brendan Mathews is an author and faculty member at Bard College, Simon’s Rock. While in UCC on his Fulbright Scholarship Professor Mathews teachs a course on the short story to Creative Writing MA students, offers workshops on writing fellowships & related professional opportunities in the US, and is working on his own novel. Mathews has a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the University of Virginia. His short stories have been published in The Southern Review and The Manchester Review and selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories, 2010 and 2014.


Erin O’Sullivan is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BA) and Oregon State University (MFA). Ms O’Sullivan is enrolled on the Master’s Programme in Irish History at University College Dublin, focusing on issues of identity and voice in lesser-known women writers, and the broader role of women in Irish history. Her short stories have previously appeared in MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Sheepshead Review, and Bartleby Snopes, among others. She has taught numerous undergraduate writing courses at both Oregon State University and Linn Benton Community College.


Nell Regan studied history at UCD and has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and The Poets’ House in Donegal. Underworld, a chapbook was published by Lapwing in 2004. Her non-fiction publications include the first biography of Helena Molony in Female Activists, Irish Women and Change. In 2006 she was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Awards and in 2007 she received the Dublin City Council Bursary for Literature. Preparing for Spring, her debut poetry collection, was nominated for the 2007 Glen Dimplex New Writing Awards. In 2011 she published Bound for Home, a second book of poetry in conjunction with artist Monica Boyle. She received a Fulbright Scholar Award in 2011 to attend the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa and spend time at University of California, Berkeley and in New York. She completed a residency in the Centre Cultural Irlandais in Paris in Autumn 2013 and was Artistic Director of the West Cork Literary Festival in 2014. She just launched her third book, One Still Thing.