Current Projects

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. 

SHWEL is led by Nessa Winston (Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice)  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 Gott (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 (School of 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 (School of 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 is led by Orla Murphy (Architect and School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy) and Dr Philip Crowe (School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy), 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. 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 and UCD organised a collaborative workshop with University of Edinburgh on 8 March 2021 called Nations of Towns: the past, present and possible of towns in Scotland and Ireland.short video was produced to document some of the event highlights.

Please fill out this short form if you are interested in becoming a member of CfIT. As a member you will be listed as an affiliated researcher on our website, become an active participant in the centre and the conversation around Irish towns, and receive updates and supports on collaborative funding opportunities.  Please fill in this short form if you’d like to be included on CfIT's mailing list. Those on our mailing list will receive updates on CfIT events and activities. 


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