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EPA research project infographic of the year award for project on ammonia emissions

Published: Friday, 13 May, 2022

Congratulations to Earth Institute member Tom Curran from the School of Biosystems and Food Engineering and colleague Daithí Kelleghan on their award for Research Project Infographic of the Year in the Environmental Protection Agency's Researcher Awards for 2021. The EPA Researcher Awards acknowledge and celebrate the work carried out by EPA-funded research teams over the previous year.

Illustration of ammonia


Associate Professor Tom Curran and co-author David B. Kelleghan collaborated with Nathan T. Wright, an illustrator and artist based in Des Moines, Iowa on the winning infographic, ‘There’s Something about Ammonia’. The infographic was produced as a creative research output as part of the "AmmoniaN2K: Assessment of the Impact of Ammonia Emissions from Intensive Agriculture Installations on Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas" project. This was funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020 and researched the ecological impacts of atmospheric ammonia on Natura 2000 sites in Ireland. 

Atmospheric ammonia poses a significant threat to biodiversity and human health. Concentrations of ammonia in the air downwind of hotspot sources, such as pig and poultry farms, are likely to negatively affect the environment. This project quantified and assessed the impact of ammonia emissions from intensive pig and poultry units in Ireland by monitoring detailed ammonia emissions from 17 animal production houses across four farms. The infographic explains some of the key concepts of the project in a simple, graphic and humorous way. 

David ‘Daithí’ Kelleghan (School of Biosystems and Food Engineering) whose PhD explored many of the concepts in the infographic said that "Working on "There's Something about Ammonia" gave me the opportunity to communicate key concepts of my PhD in the UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering to a much wider audience. Thereby increasing awareness of ammonia emissions, impacts and solutions to the general public. Ammonia emissions pose a substantial threat to biodiversity globally, linked with eutrophication, acidification and direct toxicity to habitats. Managing agricultural emissions is essential to reducing associated impacts, and special attention needs to be given to reducing impacts on sensitive habitats, especially those which  are legally protected."

Both Tom and Daithí have received Fulbright Commission Irish Awards. Tom went to North Carolina State University to work on fatbergs in 2017 and Daithí went on a Fulbright award to Iowa State University in 2020. Tom credits his Fulbright period with raising the profile of his work. During this time he realised the benefit of using humour in media interviews to raise awareness of the problem of fatbergs in sewers. This led him to perform stand up comedy in Bright Club Dublin and subsequently to feature as a character in a comic, "Attack of the Fatbergs", which was created by Nathan T. Wright. When Covid prevented an international workshop planned for the AmmoniaN2K project, Daithi suggested they work with Nathan to create a graphic communication of the research. It has been translated into 15 languages via the COST-Action network and with the help of numerous volunteers.
Tom emphasises the value of novel methods of engagement for increasing the reach and impact of research, "I appreciated the opportunity to highlight the ammonia study at a UCD Earth Institute coffee morning talk and the feedback reinforced the benefit of incorporating humour in disseminating research for extra impact as I had found with my previous work on fatbergs."

View the full infographic on the EPA's website.

Illustrator Nathan T Wright website.