Mayo Dark Skies Festival to explore impact of light pollution

Published by James Orr on

October 26th, 2017

Mayo Dark Skies Festival has an environmental theme this year with a number of events exploring the impact of light pollution on ecology.

The festival, which is due to take place this weekend from 27-29 October, is the second ever Mayo Dark Skies Festival and hopes to build on the success from last year’s event.

“Friends of Mayo Dark Skies” community group will be hosting a three day festival of talks, workshops and outdoor activities in Newport, Mulranny and Ballycroy.

The festival is being held to celebrate Mayo Dark Sky Park. The Park is about 15,000 hectares in size and is made up of Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin.

In May 2016, the International Dark-Sky Association awarded the project in a Mayo a Gold Tier standard of Dark Sky Park.

This is the highest possible ranking for a Dark Sky Park meaning that park in North Mayo is internationally recognised as one of best stargazing sites in the world.

Environmental Theme

This year’s festival will have an environmental theme due to the increasing popularity in the study of how light pollution influences the environment.

This popularity is demonstrated by the fact that the 2017 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology was awarded for research carried out on circadian rhythm.

A number of experts on the subject have been invited to give talks at the festival. For example, Dr. Jon Bennie, a conservation ecologist based at the University of Exeter’s Penryn campus in Cornwall, will be speaking about his research on Saturday at 2pm in Mulranny.

Dr. Bennie’s talk is entitled: “Light pollution and the living world” and will explore the “ecological consequences of increasing artificial light at night.”

A growing amount of research has shown that artificial light significantly impacts a wide range of species including vertebrates such as bats, nocturnal invertebrates like moths and even plants.

One of the most famous example of how light pollution influences ecology is how street lamps can lure hatchling sea turtles who have an innate instinct to move towards the brightest object. Instead of moving towards the reflection of the moonlight in the ocean the hatchlings move in the opposite direction, towards roads, buildings and potential predators.

Tickets for any of the events during the Mayo Dark Sky Festival can be purchased online. Most talks are only €5 and many of the events are free.

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James Orr

James is The Green New's Biodiversity Reporter and a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Dublin. James has a BA in Zoology from TCD.