Research Projects

Our members are involved in a range of interdisciplinary projects addressing many aspects of environmental and sustainability research. Below are a sample of some of the projects that some of our members are currently or recently engaged with. It's not a complete list, but it aims to give a flavour of what our members are working on. 

AI for Anti-Greenwashing

AI for Anti-Greenwashing, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, proposes to build a climate change mitigation greenwashing detection tool which analyses the claims of companies worldwide and contrasts them with the actual performance and activities of companies. By doing so, it aims to build a useful tool for asset owners, asset managers, policymakers and broader stakeholders concerned with the effective transition towards a low carbon economy. The project team includes Professor Andreas Hoepner from the UCD School of Business. 

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BiOrbic, SFI Research Centre

BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and led by Professor Kevin O'Connor, is Ireland’s national bioeconomy research centre, focused on the development of a sustainable circular bioeconomy. The Centre works closely with citizens, consumers, producers, industry and policy makers to achieve this. The bioeconomy is about  the sustainable and wise use of our resources.  It promotes the use of  renewable biological resources, sourced sustainably from land and sea such as crops, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, micro-organisms to produce the everyday products as well as proteins, feed, fertilizers, plastics and energy. Researchers at BiOrbic work on selectively separating and extracting valued compounds from renewable materials, converting those resources into novel bio-based products and processes, delivering market and industry- scalable sustainable resources.

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BlueCarbon

Processes and mechanisms controlling carbon sequestration and storage in “blue carbon habitats”; advancing Ireland’s capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change (BlueCarbon), funded by Science Foundation Ireland, aims to quantify the magnitude of carbon stocks and fluxes, assess carbon sequestration rates and determine factors that lead to carbon preservation. In addition, the BlueCarbon project will assess adaptation measures such as storm-surge attenuation ability. This information will be compiled into a comprehensive management framework that can be used by relevant governmental agencies to enhance critical ecosystem services, thus realising significant benefits for Irish society. The project team includes Dr Grace Cott from the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science. 

 

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The Cultural Value of Coastlines

The Cultural Value of Coastlines: Assessing the Cultural Influences and Impacts of Ecosystem Change on the Irish Sea Coasts was a two-year interdisciplinary research project funded by the Irish Research Council New Horizons programme, 2016-2019, to investigate the cultural influences and impacts of ecosystem change on the Irish Sea coasts. The project team consisted of the two co-directors, Prof. John Brannigan and Prof. Tasman Crowe, and two postdoctoral fellows, Dr Frances Ryfield and Dr David Cabana Permuy. The project involved archival and field research in Dublin Bay, the Cumbria coast, and Strangford Lough, as well as knowledge exchange and engagement with coastal communities. 

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Financial Needs Assessment

This Financial Needs Assessmentfunded by the Irish Research Council and led by Dr. Craig Bullockfollows on from a National Biodiversity Expenditure Review that was undertaken in 2017/18 of the levels and patterns of expenditure on biodiversity protection in Ireland and the degree to which this expenditure has contributed to Ireland’s international and national commitments to halt biodiversity decline. The Financial Needs Assessment (FNA) will determine how this expenditure compares with the levels required to meet our national biodiversity conservation targets and protect biodiversity into the future. The study will examine the financial gap, identify the potential for improvements in efficiency or expenditure allocation, and highlight the potential of future sources of funding from, for example, private finance. 

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Food, culture and identity in Ireland, c 1550-1650

FoodCulta five-year project funded by the European Research Council, is the first major project to establish both the fundamentals of everyday diet, and the cultural ‘meaning’ of food and drink, in early modern Ireland. Exploring the period c. 1550-1650, one of major economic development, unprecedented intercultural contact, but also of conquest, colonisation and war, it focusses on Ireland as a case-study for understanding the role of food in the demonstration and negotiation of authority and power, and as a site for the development of emergent ‘national’ food cultures. Dr Meriel McClatchie is the UCD partner on this project which is led by Dr Susan Flavin of Trinity College Dublin.

 

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Framework for Achieving Environmental Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Framework for Achieving Environmental Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provides a governance, reporting and data needs framework for transitioning Ireland towards achieving environmental targets for the SDGs. This will represent the first such attempt in Ireland and will establish an important benchmark for understanding future SDG requirements in the environmental area. This project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and involves two UCD academics: Professor Paul Walsh from the School of Politics and International Relations and Professor Enda Murphy from the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy. 

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GEOTECS

Geophysical and Earth Observation Tools for Evaluating the Condition of Slopes (GEOTECS), funded by Science Foundation Ireland and led by Associate Professor Shane Donohueaims to develop tools that are capable of monitoring the condition of infrastructure slopes. Geotechnical infrastructure elements are essential parts of the transportation and flood defense networks that require sustainable, cost-effective management, while maintaining an appropriate service level to meet social, economic and environmental needs. Recent effects of extreme weather have highlighted their vulnerability to climatic variations, with the resulting failures impacting users, operators, and the wider economy. GEOTECS will link satellite ground motion data with a novel seismic geophysical approach to (a) identify regional/network scale slope instability (b) forensically analyse the internal properties and processes causing instability at the site scale and (c) monitor the development of these properties and processes, with respect to climate variation.

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Land2Sea

Land2Sea: integrated modelling of terrestrially derived and climatic impacts on freshwater and marine ecosystems, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and led by Professor Tasman Crowebrings together a multidisciplinary team of aquatic ecologists, ecosystem modellers, socio-cultural researchers and economists, focusing on the combined impacts of human activity and climate change on freshwater and marine systems. Empirical research will characterise combined effects of these stressors on multiple dimensions of biodiversity and on ecosystem processes, services and benefits. Findings will fill gaps in existing knowledge, which will be reviewed and complemented by expert opinion as a basis for a framework of coupled models (physical, biological and socio-economic) to predict impacts on aquatic ecosystems and ecosystem services and socio-economic and cultural benefits. The framework and its application to policy and management will be developed and trialed through four case study catchments with differing environmental and societal contexts:  Dublin Bay, Ireland; the St Lawrence Estuary, Canada; Kosterhavet, Bohuslän, Sweden and the Tidal Elbe, Germany. Others working on the project in UCD include: Associate Professor Mary Kelly QuinnProfessor Michael BruenProfessor John BranniganAssociate Professor Ainhoa Gonzalez, and Dr. Craig Bullock

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LIFE Farm4More

Future Agricultural Management for multiple outputs on climate and rural development (LIFE Farm4More), funded by the European Commission, aims to implement a suite of technologies, strategies and techniques to achieve climate mitigation in animal protein production. The two technology implementations central to this project are a novel biochar- and green biorefinery-pilot plant both of which are being commissioned in Austria. The biochar pilot plant aims to produce GHG reducing animal feed additives while the green biorefinery aims to process organic grass-silage into high value organic protein feeds (pigs and chickens) and green chemicals. The biorefinery pilot plant will also produce an organic grass silage press cake which will be tested for its ruminant animal feed properties. Professor Kevin McDonnell from the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science is one of the researchers involved in this project.   

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Managing the Small Stream Networks

Managing the Small Stream Networks (SSNET)funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, is led by researchers in University College Dublin, including Associate Professor Mary Kelly-Quinn, with partners in Trinity College Dublin, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Queen Mary University of London in the UK. The overall objective of the research is to build a science-informed knowledge base on the role of small streams in water quality, biodiversity and ecosystem services protection to inform policy, measures and management options to meet the WFD objectives and other regulatory targets. The SSNet Research Project will seek to better understand the role that small streams play in maintaining biodiversity and determining water quality in the lower reaches of river systems.

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Legal Architectures

Legal Architectures: The Influence of New Environmental Governance Rules on Environmental Compliance, funded by the European Commission H2020 European Research Council Starting Grant, investigates the influence that environmental governance laws have on compliance decisions, and how we might best design our laws to maximise compliance. This project seeks to conduct an interdisciplinary, bottom-up study of the relationships between the legal architecture of environmental governance and compliance decisions, in a selected field of EU environmental policy (biodiversity), and in three selected States. Professor Suzanne Kingston is one of the researchers involved in this six-year project. 

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Looking into Time

Looking into Time- how abiotic stress impacts barley production and malting quality is a research project funded by Science Foundation Ireland that explores the genetic diversity of barley using previously uncharacterized resources. The project team, including Dr Sonia Negrao, has established the European HerItage Barley collecTion (ExHIBiT), comprising 300+ barley old cultivars and landraces that have been used by the malting industry throughout the 20th Century, and is using state-of-the-art imaging cameras to characterize the responses of the ExHIBiT barley collection in response to excess of water. This interdisciplinary project combines plant-imaging cameras, crop stress genomics and computer science (including machine learning)to understand the mechanisms of barley tolerance to excess of water, ensuring the sustainable production of this key crop under future climate change scenarios in Ireland and Europe.

 

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Mapping Green Dublin

Mapping Green Dublin was a collaborative action research project led by UCD’s School of Geography in collaboration with arts organisation Common Ground, artist Seoidín O’Sullivan and event facilitators Connect the Dots. Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, this project aimed to identify specific areas for focused greening interventions. UCD's project team consisted of Associate Professor Gerald Mills, Associate Professor Niamh Moore-CherryDr. Tine Ningal and Dr Alma Clavin.

 

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OPEn-air laboRAtories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manage environmental risks

OPEn-air laboRAtories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manage environmental risks (OPERANDUM), funded by the European Commission, aims to reduce hydro-meteorological risks in European territories through co-designed, co-developed, deployed, tested and demonstrated innovative green and blue/grey/hybrid Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in seven Open Air Laboratories (OAL) in Europe, and push business exploitation. This project establishes the framework for the strengthening of NBS-based policies according to local legislation and promotes technology and innovation in NBS to create a European leadership. The Irish OAL is focusing on co-designing, co-developing, co-deploying and co-monitoring innovative hybrid nature-based solutions to reduce flood risk, which will involve the integration of ecosystem services with smart technology. Associate Professor Francesco Pilla from the UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy is one of the researchers involved in OPERANDUM. 

 

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Strategies to improve Water quality from Managed Peatlands

Strategies to improve Water quality from Managed Peatlands (SWAMP) was a six year project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, 2014-2020, that investigated the pressures on Irish waters from drained peatlands and developed mitigation measures. The project was led by Dr. Florence Renou Wilson of the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science. 

 

 

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SUSPOLL

SUSPOLL: Food in the future; sustainable crop population in a changing world, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, aims to investigate the impacts of both climate change and pesticide use on pollination services to crops. Dr. Dara Stanley and her team will investigate how bee behaviour and pollination services are affected by weather and pesticide use using field observations and experimental manipulations. They will use collected data to construct models to make predictions of bee activity and crop pollination under future scenarios of both climate and pesticide use, with the aim of informing sustainable agricultural production in the face of global change. Outputs from their work will have both short and longer term impacts on sustainable food production and use of our natural capital in Ireland and around Europe, the effectiveness environmental and conservation policy in the light of global change, increasing Ireland’s reputation globally, training and developing scientific talent.

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UrbanArk

UrbanARK: Assessment Risk Management & Knowledge for Coastal Flood Risk Management in Urban Area is a collaborative resesarch between UCD, Queen’s University Belfast and New York University funded under the US-Ireland Research and Development Programme. This project aims to improve the resilience and emergency preparedness of urban centres and their communities to the threat of coastal flooding. UbanARK brings together leading interdisciplinary researchers, including Associate Professor Michela Bertolotto from the UCD School of Computer Science.

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