Researchers at UCD


Bruce Arthur Osborne

Associate Professor

School of Biology & Environmental Science
UCD School of Biology & Environmental Science
UCD Science Centre West
University College Dublin
Belfield, Dublin 4

Tel: + 353 1 716 2249


Originally from near King's Lynn, Norfolk, England. Undergraduate BA Degree in Biology from the University of Stirling. Carried out postgraduate research at the University of Nottingham, followed by postdoctoral positions at Queen's University, Belfast and The University of Dundee. Appointed to UCD firstly as an assistant lecturer, progressing to lecturer then senior lecturer and finally associate professor in 2003. Former Ray Lankester Fellow at the Marine Biological Association of the UK and British Council Visiting Lecturer at the University Of Khartoum, Sudan. Periods of leave of absence spent at the University of Delaware, the Marine Biological Association, Plymouth, UK, The Kenyan Agricultural Research Station in Nairobi and Trinity College Dublin (sabbatical). Was Head of the old Botany Department for a short period in 2005 and previously Head of Subject for Botany; currently Research Theme Leader in Plant Sciences in the School of Biology and Environmental Science and member of the UCD Earth Institute. Currently President of the Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology (FESPB), board member of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), since 2010, Chairman of Euroscience Ireland and interim Chairman of the Irish Plant Science Association (IPSA). Married to Clare, with one son, Joshua.




Research Interests

I am involved in a diverse range of plant and environmentally-related research, including symbioses and symbiotic interactions, encompassing work at cell, leaf , whole plant, canopy and ecosystem scales. Recent research has focussed on environmental constraints on biomass productivity and carbon sequestration in natural and agricultural ecosystems, including forests, as well as investigations on global climate change and mitigation options in croplands. Other work has been directed at the biology and ecology of invasive plant species, including the impact of climate change. My group has also had a long-standing interest in the biology of the Gunnera-Nostoc association the only angiosperm-cyanobacterial nitrogen-fixing symbioses.

Recent Research Projects


Sponsor: COFORD

Title: Carbon Sequestration by Irish forest Ecosystems (PI)

Start Date: 1-JAN-08


Sponsor: EPA

Title: Accounting for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Different Land Use Types (co-PI)

Start Date: 1-JAN-03


Sponsor: EPA

Title: The Impact of two Invasive Species on Biodiversity and their Interaction with Climate Change (partner)

Start Date: 1-OCT-06


Sponsor: EPA

Title: Significance of Dissolved Carbon Losses in Different Land Use Types (PI)

Start Date: 1-OCT-06


Sponsor: EU

Title: Assessment of the European Terrestrial Carbon Balance (partner)

Start Date: 1-JAN-04


Sponsor: Heritage Council/Mayo County Council

Title: Development of Measures for the Control of Gunnera tinctoria (PI)

Start Date: 6-JUNE-06


Sponsor: Department of Agriculture and Food

Title: Assessing the Greenhouse Gas Budget of Eco-Tillage and other Mitigation Options for Arable Systems (partner)

Start Date: 1-APRIL-08


Sponsor: Department of Agriculture and Food

Title: Assessing the Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Establishing Biomass and Biofuel Crops (partner)

Start Date: 1-APRIL-08


Sponsor: Department of Agriculture and Food

Title: Use of Maize as a Multi-Functional Crop (partner)

Start Date: 1-DEC-07


Sponsor: School Research Demonstratorship Award

Title: Molecular genetics of native and invasive populations of Gunnera tinctoria (coPI)

Start Date: 1-SEPT-05 

Sponsor: School Research Demonstratorship Award

Title: Soil respiration from different land use types

Start date: 1-SEPT-04 

I have, additionally, a small grant from the Finnish academy and am Project Coordinator/Institutional PI on the Marie Curie MASS-EXTINCT project, Biodiversity Dynamics at the Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction Event (200 million years ago): a Novel Approach to Studying Ecosystem Responses to Global Climate Change, led by Jenny McElwain. Current research funding is ~¿3million

Currently funded research projects are largely based on ecosystem processes and greenhouse gas emissions related to croplands, forests and bioenergy crops, including the impact of management interventions.

We are also developing new models for improving the likely spread of invasive plant species.

In recent years we have continued our forest GHG monitoring and mitigation research and developed the site at Dooary into a research platform complete with laboratory facilities. Climate warming experiments were also established in 2013 as well as new HEA-supported infrastructure for assesments of GHG emissions and sap flow in trees.

Our work on sustainable cropping systems has also continued with a new project (2013-) on oil seed rape cropping systems. In collaboration with the Geology school we have also established a new field site on a coastal ecosystem to examine the impact of extreme rainfall events on GHG emissions (2012-).






Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is to foster and encourage an understanding of the subject rather than the simple learning of facts whilst still retaining a challenging approach. I believe also in using a variety of methods for assessments that take into account the range of abilities and aptitudes of students

Enhancement of Teaching

I have always sought to improve my teaching since I was first appointed in UCD and had to deliver lectures to classes of over 350 students. The approach here can be quite different from that taken with small groups or tutorials. Improving lecture delivery and keeping things simple and straightforward is important in large classes and I have always tried to improve this year by year. I have always tried to keep the students interested and have always kept up with recent information, as the better prepared you are the better it works for everyone. It is important also to be able to modify the delivery of lectures according to the circumstances-it is no good ploughing on if the majority of students are lost and appreciating this takes some experience, I believe. I have always looked at new ways of presenting material and modified this regularly. The use of blackboard, although common, may not be the best way to deliver material if its simply a place to deposit power point slides! So it should be used sparingly, I believe, unless there are good reasons why some students have a specific need for information presented in this way. I would like to go to more classes on improving my teaching but this is not always possible. My intention is, however, to become better at the use of on-line learnming and testing. Some of this is done in the Core Skills (SBES 40010) that I contribute to but I need to know more about this approach.

Review and Enhancement of Curriculum

As the former Head of the Botany Department and subsequently Head of Subject (Botany) I recognise the value of curriculum review to improve the student experience. Iwas intimately involved for many years in the delivery and assessment of a range of courses in Botany and had to oversee a major reorganisation of the course with the introduction of the Horizons Programme in UCD and their integration with other courses/modules programme. We also had to consider the methods of assessment to use and how the courses should be delivered taking into account practical considerations such as class size, for instance. We introduced new courses, as well as modifying courses that we kept and allocated more marks, in general, to continuous assessment as there was good evidence that formal exam performance did not bring out the best in all students. I think it is important to review the programmes/modules every year and to be honest about what worked and what did not and what was understandable and what wasn't. Feedback from students is important, although not always easy to swallow, because it does provide insights into what modifications could be made and how we would go about making them.

Developing as a Teacher

From my first introduction as a lecturer in UCD I have sought to improve my delivery skills, so that the message is always clear and yet there is also something interesting to listen to. This is not easy and confidence, not over confidence, in what, and at what level, you are teaching is particularly important so you realise very quickly the importance of being prepared. Student feedback is important but this occurs at several levels, as a written statement, for instance commenting on the course overall or the general reception you get when presenting an ill-prepared or hastily concocted lecture and we learn from both. It is important tom listen to what is being said even if you don't agree with the comments as there is always some reason behind the feedback. I have always been prepared to arrange private meetings with students on a one to one basis so that we can talk through the difficulties they are having and to take on board their comments. Overall I have developed a much more flexible approach to teaching than when I started off and to make the experience enjoyable.

Innovation & Leadership

Innovation and leadership in teaching and learning has been provided through advice and support for curriculum reform and reorganisation and the introduction of a range of teaching and learning procedures that provide a wider assessment of a students ability and potential.