Dr Pádraig Whelan, Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder ApisProtect
Dr Pádraig Whelan is a former lecturer in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, at University College Cork, Ireland. As a lecturer, he supervised several research projects on honey bees including one in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He took early retirement to co-found ApisProtect.
Pádraig is an expert beekeeper who has been involved with beekeeping in Ireland for over 15 years. He is passionate about improving conditions for honey bees in hives. Pádraig worked closely with our hosts to carry out detailed inspections on hives. These inspections were pivotal in the development of machine learning algorithms that ApisProtect uses to provide beekeepers with insights about their hives.
Pádraig has been instrumental in the design and implementation of several experiments related to various aspects of conditions in beehives which continue to inform technical research and development of further insights for beekeepers.
Apart from working in Ireland, he has lived and worked in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador, and in the Amazon region of Brazil. He is fluent in English and Spanish.
Why did you found ApisProtect?
I had taken up beekeeping as a hobby in 2004 when I hived a swarm from the roof of a house in which I lived. Since then, I have been fascinated by the biology, ecology and evolution of honey bees, as well as the relationship between humans and honey bees. As large-scale problems of honey bee health became manifest and I had the opportunity to work with electronic engineers in 2013, I saw the possibility that miniaturization of electronic sensors could gather a lot of information on in-hive conditions, without the need to disturb the bees, and thus improve conditions for hived bees.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with honey bees presents endless challenges and there are always more questions than answers. Being able to determine in-hive conditions via our hive monitors and take action to improve in-hive conditions for the bees is enormously rewarding.
Why did you specialize in Biology/Ecology?
I was always lucky in knowing that I wanted to attend university to study biology/ecology/environmental science. My parents encouraged this interest and never questioned whether such a fascination from childhood would ever lead to gainful employment. While my second level school did not offer Biology as a subject, I was lucky to be able to enter University College Cork, where a pre-requisite in Biology was not required for taking that degree.
What has been the most interesting aspect of your role?
Working with beekeepers across different honey bee subspecies and in different environmental settings has required me to travel a lot and beekeepers never tire of their fascination with their bees. With my career in biology/ecology, my beekeeping expertise and the hospitality of the beekeepers, I have learned so much and made many good friends. When I inspect a hive for the first time in a new setting, there is a nice blend of familiarity and novelty along the lines of “Hello girls!” and “Wow, that’s different!”.