Strategic Priorities

The 2024 call is now open. Full details of the call are in the SPSM 2024 Call Document and applicants can apply using this Application Form (doc). Deadline 5pm, Wednesday 12 June 2024. 

The call announcement in the news section gives some insights from previous awardees on the application process and benefits of the scheme.

For any queries email

Current Strategic Priority projects

Earth Institute Strategic Priority projects 2023

Our current Strategic Priority projects are led by Institute members and are addressing key environmental issues linked to our research themes:

Irish Energy Narratives in the Transition (IE-NARR)

Narratives provide invaluable ways of expressing the grassroots experiences of energy transitions from fossil fuel to renewable energy-systems, both in the past and today. Ireland is an exemplary site from which to examine the narrative mediation of such transitions, in literary texts, written reportage, to public discourse, and oral stories. The IE-NARR project will bring together scholars and communities interested in narrative and just transitions, to establish research strands, sources, and a network, to probe how energy shifts are being registered by focusing on three sites of energy transition and potential friction in rural and urban Ireland. The sites are Kilrush, Co. Clare (coal at Moneypoint to offshore wind), Carna, Co. Galway (fossil fuels to Sceirde Rocks offshore wind project), and West Dublin (fossil fuels and emergent renewable infrastructures tied to data centres). The team will organise workshops with varying formats at each of these sites to probe how extractive energy pasts, contemporary local action, and desired energy futures are being registered by communities and creative works at key moments of energy transformation.

Led by Treasa de Loughry (UCD School of English, Drama and Film) with Tomas Buitendijk (UCD School of Earth Sciences/Business) and Patrick Brodie (UCD School of Information and Communication Studies)

SoilSphere – Connecting UCD soil researchers

Soil is inherent to many of the global challenges we research, including food security, climate change, biodiversity collapse and sustainable cities. SoilSphere will formalise a network for soil researchers in UCD to collaborate and develop interdisciplinary research consortia. It will also facilitate knowledge and technique sharing and break down disciplinary boundaries. Crucially those new to UCD, including postdocs, Ad Astra and Early Career Researchers, will benefit from this scheme as they can fast track their research network through the events planned. SoilSphere legacy materials will be co-created with stakeholders at a soil and art wrap-up event, to ensure SoilSphere is the seed for a network with longevity. 

Led by Saoirse Tracy (UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science) with Sharon O’Rourke (UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering) and Tancredi Caruso (UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science).

Earth Institute Strategic Priority projects 2022

TREAH: Transport Research Hub @ UCD

Transportation directly affects our lives in a myriad of ways, both positively by connecting people, goods and services and enabling participation in activities, and negatively via impacts on the environment, traffic congestion and health and safety concerns. Transport was responsible for 18% of sectoral emissions in 2021 and the decarbonisation of transport is a significant task to be addressed in the energy transition. The Transport Research Hub @ UCD (TREAH) seeks to bring together all transport researchers in UCD under one research umbrella to provide an identity for their research and engender greater collaborative output to address these challenges. TREAH will highlight the importance of transportation research in UCD and the value of interdisciplinary study of transport as they align with the many of the goals of the Earth Institute. It will raise broader awareness within and beyond UCD of the range, role and dynamism of transport analysis and experimental activities, especially in the context of the climate crisis and its vital role in the Sustainable Development Goals. TREAH also aims to contribute to development of policy and offer expert advice in relation to transportation options and solutions.

Led by Páraic Carroll (Civil Engineering) with Aisling Reynolds-Feighan (Economics), Aoife Ahern (Civil Engineering), Geertje Schuitema (Business).

Data Farms and Urban Farms: Alternative Energy Flows Within Data Storage Infrastructure

This strategic priority aims to build a knowledge platform to explore the holistic integration of data storage facilities in the Irish landscape. It will facilitate collaboration between interdisciplinary thinkers at UCD from scientists, and horticulturalists to designers and industry experts and beyond to speculate on future productive industrial and cultural relationships between data storage and land use, as well as architectural and urban space. The immediate goal is to communicate the potential co-benefits between the data storage infrastructure and urban farming systems to “kick start” a conversation on alternative approaches to energy flows within data storage at the intersection of science and design.

Led by Mary Harty (Agriculture and Food Science) and Clare Lyster (Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy / UIC school of Architecture in Chicago) with Kevin McDonnell (Agriculture & Food Science) and Niamh Harbourne (Agriculture and Food Science)

Just Transition Research Group (JTRG)

A zero-emission society is necessary for a sustainable future for all but this will require transformative changes in technology, society, human behaviour and institutional practices. A transition to a low carbon economy can be economically damaging as fossil fuel dependent regions face job loss and socio-economic deterioration. To limit such negative impacts on people and places, a just transition based on social justice principles is needed, to ensure a Just Transition (JT) for all. Researchers, policy makers, labour unions, civil society, businesses, and others now recognise that while a JT is essential, many challenges exist. Multidisciplinary, stakeholder engaged research can help inform JT processes through discussions, dialogues and dissemination activities. The purpose of the Just Transition Research Group (JTRG) is to increase knowledge and understanding of Just Transition topics by building a national and international research network, dissemination activities including a multi-stakeholder conference, and the creation of a website / database of Just Transition best practice, policy approaches and other materials.

Led by Aparajita Banerjee (Business) and Geertje Schuitema (Business) with Julie Byrne (Business), Vikram Pakrashi (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), Anton van Beek (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), Nessa Winston (Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice), Donna Marshall (Business), Hakan Karaosman (Business), Karen Foley (Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy)

Cultural Landscapes and Social Spaces (ClaSS)

From the prehistoric period to today, large numbers of people around the world make their houses from locally sourced, organic materials. These structures represent complex relationships between people (culture; society; knowledges), landscapes (places; ecologies), and materials (properties; sustainability), offering unique opportunities to consider interdependencies and intersubjectivities. Also, as intersections between local environment and the people that live and lived within them, these houses are important indicators of external pressures (i.e., climate change, mass migrations, pandemics, war). The core objective of ClaSS is to bring together networks of researchers from inside and outside UCD with already established research collaborators from Archaeological Open-Air Museums (AOM) in Ireland, Britain, and continental Europe. Together, we aim to develop specific research strands and questions using ‘the House’ as a focal point to consider wider themes, including material/architectural sustainability, human health and well-being, causes and impacts of change.

Led by: Brendan O’Neill (Archaeology) with Anita Radini (Archaeology) and Samantha Martin (Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy).

Earth Institute Strategic Priority projects 2021

UCD-MRG: UCD Mountain Research Group

Mountains are a key, but often overlooked, landscape type in Ireland, Europe and globally. These landscapes sustain rich, complex, ecosystems and forms of human activity and provide deep-time records of the same. Mountains are essential to global sustainability as an important source of biodiversity, freshwater, energy, food, and cultural values.

The overall aim of UCD MRG is to highlight the importance of mountain landscapes and the value of interdisciplinary study of mountains to many of the goals of the Earth Institute. The group will establish networks of researchers and relevant agencies within and outside of UCD and will support the development of grant applications and capacity building within UCD. MRG will raise broader awareness within and beyond UCD of dynamism of mountain landscapes, especially in the context of the climate crisis and their role in the Sustainable Development Goals. The project also aims to contribute to development of policy in relation to mountain landscapes.

UCD MRG is led by: Graeme Warren (Archaeology) with co-applicants Sam Kelley (Earth Sciences), Christine Bonnin (Geography).

Sustainable wellbeing: humans, environment, and liveability (SWHEL)

Despite the importance and increased concern for sustainability, there is no agreed definition of sustainable well-being. UCD has research expertise in many dimensions of sustainable well-being but at present this is fragmented and dispersed across a range of schools and disciplines. This Strategic Priority (SP) initiative will establish an interdisciplinary network on sustainable wellbeing within UCD to facilitate collaboration and build capacity and community on the topic. The network will forge links with relevant academics and other stakeholders at local, national and international levels. Core tasks will be to develop interdisciplinary conceptual and operational maps of sustainable wellbeing, identify gaps in research and form teams for future projects. The initiative will also act as a platform to communicate with stakeholders, including government and mass media, so that interdisciplinary research and expertise on this topic will impact on relevant decisionmakers and the general public.

SWHEL is led by Nessa Winston (Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice) and Karen Keaveney (School of Agriculture and Food Science) with co-applicants Jennifer Symonds (Education), Finbarr Brereton (Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy), Orla Kelly (Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice), Conor Buggy (Public Health, Physiotherapy & Sports Science), Leonard Lades (Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy).

SAPBio: Stakeholder Attitudes and Perceptions of Biostimulants and Biopesticides

The EU Farm to Fork strategy and Biodiversity Strategy 2030 seek to reduce pesticide and fertiliser use. Currently research at UCD is developing biostimulants and biopesticides while assessing the efficiency, environmental impacts and costs compared to conventional pesticides and fertilisers. However, stakeholder perceptions of these biobased products have not been explored in Ireland and limited knowledge exists for Europe, particularly for public attitudes. Mapping and engaging stakeholders via workshops and surveys will allow this to be assessed. Findings will form the basis of an infographic, paper and policy document for the purpose of science-policy interface and facilitate a European Innovation Partnership for Agriculture Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRIS) Focus Group. The knowledge gained will be a useful basis for further research in perceptions of sustainable agriculture.

SAPBio is led by Angela Feechan (Agriculture & Food Science) with co-applicants Aparajita Banerjee (Business), Geertje Schuitema (Business), Rainer Melzer (Biology and Environmental Science), Saoirse Tracy, Agriculture & Food Science), Kevin McDonnell (Biosystems and Food Engineering), Fiona Doohan (Biology & Environmental Science), Grace Cott (Biology & Environmental Science), Tomás Russell (Agriculture & Food Science),Carl Ng (Biology and Environmental Science).

Earth Institute Strategic Priority projects 2020

Measuring Sustainable Actions at Community Level (Community SDG Dashboard)

Community SDG Dashboard aims to create an academic-community partnership between the UCD Earth Institute researchers and the Dundrum 2030 community group to foster social engagement for systematically monitoring the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local level.

It will develop an academic-community partnership with Dundrum 2030, to: 1) facilitate and influence national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) monitoring, by developing a UN-aligned local indicator set and building the capacity of communities to measure progress in the achievement of SDGs; and 2) track progress on the ground towards the achievement of SDGs. The outputs will ensure replicability in local monitoring efforts by creating an indicator-led toolkit and supporting dashboard for communities. Community SDG Dashboard will address current local data and knowledge gaps on the achievement of SDGs, feed into national and UN reporting mechanisms, and trigger similar actions in other communities.

Community SDG Dashboard is led by Ainhoa Gonzalez Del Campo (Geography).

Re-EcoNet: Reconstructing Ecological Networks to predict systemic crisis

Network systems provide humans with essential services but can crash dramatically, a case in point being the financial collapse in 2008. Can these crises be predicted before it is too late? The answer is yes, and the key tool is network theory. Re-EcoNet is an UCD based multidisciplinary collaboration between theoretical ecologists, physicists, geomorphologists, and biologists who use network science to discover the processes that control the stability and resilience of ecosystems . The overarching goal is the formulation of a research platform to develop large scale projects and a COST Action focusing on the detection of the onset of systemic crises in ecosystems under global change threats.

Re-EcoNet is led by Tancredi Caruso (Biology and Environmental Science).

Earth Institute Strategic Priority projects 2019

Centre for Irish Towns (CfIT)

The Centre for Irish Towns (CfIT) is an emergent trans-disciplinary centre for research and collaboration in UCD focused on the towns of the island of Ireland. CfIT leads Orla Murphy and Philip Crowe have been involved with research and advocacy relating to towns over many years, most recently through direct involvement with the Venice Biennale 2018 Free Market National Tour and the Government’s Town Centre Living Initiative. Check out the CfIT Leaflet produced to explain the work of CfIT.

Irish towns are ideally placed to facilitate sustainable development in terms of social inclusion, environmental sustainability and economic development. However, they are generally in decline and face multiple challenges, including significant gaps in data and knowledge, a lack of investment in the physical fabric and infrastructure and a lack of coherent, evidence-based approaches to governance, policy and funding. UCD and the Earth Institute are uniquely placed to establish CfIT due to the breadth of relevant expertise and opportunities for network building and interdisciplinary activity, maximising the societal impact of research outputs, and generating public awareness and engagement. The initial aim is to build a trans-disciplinary network (within UCD and beyond), and to make a case for CfIT. In the coming months CfIT will facilitate an interdisciplinary workshop to identify what exists in terms of relevant research (both nationally and internationally), networks, pedagogy, engagement and collaborations. There will be an open call to all Earth Institute members and UCD staff to contribute to this workshop.

CfIT is led by Orla Murphy (Architect and School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy) and Philip Crowe (Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy


Climate change impacts food security. To minimize such impact, we need to diversify crop production and to sustainably produce nutritious food. We believe that underutilized crops produced in Europe have the potential to supply key nutrients and improve diets and risk of diet-related diseases. DIVERSICROP is a UCD consortium that aims to: 1) encourage partners from strategic areas to explore such changes, namely from crop sciences, culture and society, nutritional impact and policy-making ; and 2) Develop and submit a COST action focused on diversification of crop production in Europe.

DIVERSICROP is led by Meriel McClatchie (Archaeology) and Sonia Negrao (Biology and Environmental Science).


Cannabis sativa (hemp and marijuana) is an extremely versatile plant that has the potential to increase the sustainability and resource efficiency of modern agriculture. At the same time, it is a high-value yet controversial crop used to produce medicinal compounds.

With HempHub we will establish a knowledge hub focused on hemp research at UCD and other Irish institutions. We aim to establish a cross-disciplinary group of researchers that jointly focuses on investigating the environmental, genetic, pharmacological and engineering properties of hemp as well as the societal implications of its use. We will use workshops to exchange ideas and foster interactions between researchers, invite internationally recognized hemp experts to give talks, and foster collaborations with other European and international researchers by lab visits. The research network established by HempHub will form the basis of a COST action proposal.

HempHub is led by Rainer Melzer and Antoinette Perry (both Biology and Environmental Science).

Earth Institute Strategic Priority projects 2018

Climate-Resilient Agri-Environmental Systems (CRAES)

Agricultural systems are large contributors to greenhouse gas production and environmental pollution. An integrated approach is required for mitigation and the creation of climate-smart and environment-friendly sustainable agricultural systems. The Climate-Resilient Agri-Environmental Systems (CRAES) group was formed to provide the critical mass required to address the challenges by harnessing UCD’s multidisciplinary expertise through integration from broad spectrum of disciplines and engaging with national and international collaborators, stakeholders and industry to build partnerships. CRAES aims to improve understanding of agricultural systems, their role in climate change and environmental degradation; and the influence of management practices and climate change on the systems themselves and the wider environment to make productive and profitable ones but also sustainable at local and global scales. These are through fostering innovative agri-environmental research and technology development; integrating and developing models and decision support tools; and providing strategic education and training. The overall goal is to build the CRAES as a centre of excellence for research, education and outreach to help mitigate climate change, reduce environmental pollution, and ensure food security while achieving sustainable development goals.

CRAES is led by Ibrahim Khalil (Biology and Environmental Science)

ECOBROKER: co-producing knowledge between practitioners and researchers to address complex societal problems

ECOBROKER aims to develop a knowledge exchange platform and related communication tools under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) programme to effectively link research with practice in environmental policy, management and governance. The aim of the platform is to create a systematic and accessible means for practitioners and researchers to exchange knowledge on priority questions of societal importance which will feed into best practices, research and teaching. By improving communication between stakeholders, the platform will support development of interdisciplinary activity and strengthen and create connections which help maximise impact of the research outputs and tackle complex challenges and initiatives such the Sustainable Development Goals.

ECOBROKER is led by Tamara Hochstrasser (Biology and Environmental Science).