University of Galway leads the pack on environmental research grants

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University of Galway has been awarded more than €2.3 million in grants for research projects aimed at climate change and environmental problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded funding to a total of 42 research projects, with University of Galway having the highest success rate of all applicants.

There are seven projects led by University of Galway researchers under EPA awards categories, and the university is partnering on a further four projects.

Professor Jim Livesey, Vice-President Research and Innovation at University of Galway, said that this is a testament to the success of research at higher education institutes in Ireland, adding that it a bonus to see such high achievement in Galway.

“The focus of this funding on environmental research further demonstrates the drive among our researchers to collaborate for the public good and the ambition to respond to the challenges facing humanity and society, now and in the years ahead.”

The researchers are focused on addressing issues related to greenhouse gas emissions, ozone levels, radon, human biomonitoring and earth observation.

The funding was awarded across four thematic areas: addressing climate change evidence needs; delivering a healthy environment; facilitating a green and circular economy; and protecting and restoring our natural environment.

Laura Burke, EPA Director General said that their research delivers scientific evidence that helps to inform environmental policy in government.

“The EPA places a high priority on promoting the uptake of funded research to inform policy development and implementation and to maximise the impact of research and innovation.”

“To this end, the EPA supports and fosters linkages between the public research system and policymakers to address key environmental challenges.”

The Galway led projects awarded funding are:

Addressing climate change evidence needs 

  • Professor Colin O’Dowd will develop a Nitrous Oxide emissions verification system for Ireland. The two critical components are an operational network of precise long-term Nitrous Oxide measurements and a model, which can generate accurate estimates of emissions of the gas.
  • Dr Liz Coleman will assess knowledge regarding factors influencing ozone pollution relative to the Irish atmosphere. The project aims to improve the understanding of ozone levels and trends in Ireland, with a particular focus on the contribution of methane to the formation of ozone and the interplay between climate policy and air pollution policy and potential for targeted policy to limit ozone pollution in a changing climate.

 Delivering a Healthy Environment

  • Dr James McGrath and Dr Miriam Byrne will deliver a comprehensive and scientifically-robust assessment of the implications of radon in deep-retrofitted dwellings. It will also develop a tool to estimate renovation measures on pre/post radon concentrations. This will help to strategically inform national policies on protecting citizens from indoor radon in homes undergoing deep retrofitting and ensure that national retrofits commitments remain achievable.

Facilitating a green and circular economy  

  • Dr Liam Heaphy’s project will make a strategic contribution to recent initiatives to bring back town centre living by comparing the carbon costs of new build versus restoration. Building on the Town Centre Living Initiative pilot scheme, the project aims to advance analysis of the costs and barriers to adaptive reuse of buildings by including embodied emissions and life cycle analysis into cost-benefit analysis, while also connecting to strategic initiatives to reinvigorate rural villages and towns. It therefore extends the discussion on end-of-life and upcycling in life-cycle analysis to expand into wholesale reuse of existing buildings, relevant for Ireland with its particularly high rate of vacancy and dereliction in urban centres of all scales.

Protecting and Restoring our Natural Environment

  • Alastair McKinstry’s project aims to build data infrastructure which will makes it easier and more affordable to access Earth Observation and climate data. The project will also focus on statistics of land use change from 1990 to present, and also generate statistics of flood occurrences in Ireland.
  • Dr Agnieszka Indiana Olbert’s project aims to use Copernicus data to improve efficiency, accuracy and implementation of coastal water monitoring programmes. It will allow deeper understanding of nutrient cycling, water quality problems and environmental stressors/pressures in our waters related to human activities including climate change.
  • Dr David Styles will develop a model framework to generate key indicators of land use sustainability across air emissions (greenhouse gases and ammonia), nutrient losses to water at catchment scale and economic outcomes at farm and national scale.

Researchers from University of Galway will partner with other institutions on four projects including:

  • Dr Liam Morrison – Occurrence and sources of Persistent, Mobile and Toxic substances in Irish waters
  • Dr Liam Heaphy – Fire, Land and Atmospheric Remote Sensing of Emission-Projections, Policy and Land use and cover Synthesis
  • Professor Dearbhaile Morris and Dr Georgios Miliotis – Investigating integrated constructed wetlands as a means to reduce antimicrobial resistance and carbon emissions in the environment
  • Professor Chaosheng Zhang – Characterising the relationship between soil geochemistry and biodiversity in Ireland