What’s the most common cat in Ireland? It turns out it’s a black cat with white markings. While this may seem like a trivial use of a survey, a cat’s colorings are important because it traces the cat’s genetic background.

Studying cat populations even helped earn Dr Andrew Lloyd, a lecturer in the department of science and health at Institute of Technology Carlow, a PhD in the 1980s. “It serves as a fantastic resource for critical thinking. The concepts are so simple you could do a study as a Young Scientist project. You could use it as a tool to explain gene frequency or evolution, but also questions about overall genetic make-up – for example, looking for the greatest level of difference between two counties and seeing how this relates to geographic distance,” he says.

To read more about the national cat survey in Ireland, click here.