Current Projects

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 is led by Orla Murphy (Architect and Assistant Lecturer in UCD APEP) and Dr Philip Crowe (Operations Manager for EU CCAT), who 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.

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 the 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.


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. The consortium is led by Meriel McClatchie (UCD School of Archaeology) and Sonia Negrao (UCD School of 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 UCD School of 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.

Lead: Ibrahim Khalil, UCD School of 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.

Lead: Tamara Hochstrasser, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science