Jane Stout, professor in botany at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), has officially taken up the role of vice-president for biodiversity and climate action in May 2022. This new role aims to embed sustainability as a key priority across all of TCD’s operations, research, teaching and learning.

Climate and Biodiversity Action Plans

Prof Stout will lead the establishment of a new Sustainability Office, which will build on and centralise the work already in progress across Trinity, including developing and implementing Climate and Biodiversity Action Plans for Trinity.

The Sustainability Office will also incorporate the Healthy Trinity initiative – a cross-college partnership comprised of nine working groups involving staff and students – emphasisng the synergies of human and planetary health.

During the first year of her term, the vice-president for biodiversity and climate action will work with a new sustainability manager and other staff and students to review ongoing action, policies and obligations, and identify both the gaps and the risks in our current approach.

The team will engage with the college community to consult and co-create strategies and action plans to reduce Trinity’s negative impacts and reinforce the positive ones. During the next academic year, these strategies will be implemented and continuously evaluated.

Prof Stout said: "I am excited to take on this role, but it is not without its challenges, not least because there is considerable urgency, and actions need to be implemented at the appropriate pace and scale. But also, there are a complexity of issues to tackle.

"A lot of our greenhouse gas and particularly biodiversity footprints are likely to come from our supply chains, which are very difficult to understand let alone control. And Trinity’s historic buildings and cultural heritage present challenges. In addition, in the aftermath of the pandemic, financial resources and staff capacity are stretched."

All-Ireland Pollinator Plan

Prof Stout has experience in creating strategies and plans that have made real on-the-ground changes in attitude and behaviour. She co-founded the hugely successful All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, which has transformed how public and private green spaces are managed across the island of Ireland.

With a third of bee species threatened with extinction, the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan aims to reverse decline in bees and other wild pollinators. Instead of closely clipped lawns, more people are letting grasses and other wildflowers grow and bloom; schools, universities and businesses are taking action for pollinators on their grounds; and more and more people are aware of the benefits of and ways to help our native biodiversity.

In 2021, Prof Stout led a Biodiversity Audit of Trinity, which investigated a system for documenting and tracking its biodiversity and called for meaningful change both within and beyond TCD. Ten key recommendations were made, including developing a Biodiversity Strategy and increasing biodiversity literacy.

She added: "Many of us are very familiar with how to take action for climate, but struggle when it comes to biodiversity: one of the key parts of this role is to improve understanding of our impacts and dependencies on nature."

Furthermore, Prof Stout is keen to emphasise the power of partnership and collaboration: “Communication is going to be key – internally in college and externally, with local communities. Effective communication can build trust and engagement, can educate, and is essential to this role.

"I am looking forward to working alongside provost Linda Doyle, the rest of the college community and our external partners to ensure Trinity is a nature-positive university.”