Thursday, 18 July 2024

Irish peat soils - vital for the environment - are far more vast than we realised

New research has revealed that peat soils which are vital for locking away greenhouse gases are much more abundant than previously thought. Data analysed by researchers now suggests that these soils cover 13% more of Ireland’s land mass than previous maps would have shown. The new map includes areas of shallow peat soils, which, crucially also contain large stocks of soil carbon. The maps are useful in land use planning - with peat soils being critical in absorbing greenhouse gases and helping to meet some of Ireland’s most pressing environmental challenges. As recommended by the United Nations Global Peatlands Initiative, the research team from University of Galway, Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast, included these shallow peat soils in the new peat map of Ireland. In doing so, they adopted a broader definition of peat soils by including soil material containing 8.6% of organic matter or more that has accumulated to at least 10 cm. The research has been published in the journal Geoderma and can be read here. Dr Terry Morley, University of Galway, one of the co-authors of the research article, said: “Peat soils are important because they help the country meet national and international targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also play a major role in regulating stream flow, water quality, or providing habitat for ecologically sensitive species.”   Dr Louis Gilet, Trinity College Dublin and lead author, said: “Our technique involves continually updating these peat soil maps as new data become available, and this new IPSM can now be used confidently and contribute to a more precise identification of the location of peat soils across Ireland.   “The IPSM can thus help to accurately implement regulations concerning carbon-rich soils and climate change mitigation, while informing management decisions related to other key sustainability issues such as land use planning, biodiversity management or water regulation.”  Historically, interest in peat soils primarily focused on economic productivity, via extraction, or conversion to agriculture or forestry, but in recent years there has been a growing appreciation of their role in regulating environmental processes as well as providing recreational, educational, scientific and cultural value. Dr Raymond Flynn, Queen’s University Belfast, is also co-author of the research article, and he said: “This map changes our approach to mapping peat soils from the traditional approach concerned with agronomy to one where we can now more reliably focus on the role of peat and peat soils in environmental processes.”  Dr John Connolly, Trinity College Dublin, geographer and one of the Global Peatlands Assessment authors, added: “Peatlands hold a significant percentage of Ireland’s total soil organic carbon stock, but they have been severely degraded over the past 200 years due to land use change and associated human activity, resulting in increased emissions from both deep and shallow peat. As a result, accurate identification, mapping and management of peat soils is essential for programmes that aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to improve biodiversity in the Irish landscape.”  This research is part of the RePEAT project, which is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Ends

News Archive

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

University of Galway has announced the appointment of leading environmental geographer Professor Frances Fahy as the new Director of the Ryan Institute. A Fulbright Scholar, Frances Fahy was previously Head of Geography at the University and is the past President of the Geographical Society of Ireland.   Professor Fahy currently leads several international research teams on sustainable consumption and energy citizenship research. President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Fahy, an accomplished researcher in her field and an exemplary colleague, to lead the Ryan Institute at the University, building on the work of Professor Charles Spillane. University of Galway is ranked #1 in Ireland, top 5 in the EU and among the Top 50 in the world by the THE for our impact in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This work carries a particular resonance in Galway, given our location and the Ryan Institute is a fulcrum of this work.  We look forward to a deepening of the interdisciplinary research that happens at the institute thanks to our academics and the postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and research assistants and the stories of their impact on the world.” Professor Frances Fahy, Director of the Ryan Institute, said: “It is a great privilege to lead the largest research institute at University of Galway, supporting all our colleagues from the natural and social sciences who pursue cutting edge interdisciplinary research that provides knowledge for transformations to environmental, social and economic sustainability for people and our planet." Professor Frances Fahy Bio Frances is a leading environmental geographer and has more than 100 publications to her name, including four books (Methods of Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences published by Sage, 2013, Challenging Consumption Routledge, 2014, Energy Demand Challenges in Europe Palgrave 2019 and Energy Citizenship across Europe, Palgrave Macmillan forthcoming in 2024). Professor Fahy has coordinated more than 20 funded research projects and obtained competitive research funding, totalling more than €36 million, including from Horizon Europe, H2020, JPI-Climate, Interreg, the Marine Institute, National Economic and Social Council and the Environmental Protection Agency.  She has supervised 10 PhD students to completion, 11 Postdoctoral Research Fellows and Master’s students, many of whom have gone on to hold key roles in policy and academia. Professor Fahy has also won numerous awards for her research and academic life, including the President’s Award for Research Excellence (2017); Societal Impact (2017); Teaching Excellence (Team Award 2020); and the Irish Research Council’s National Ally Award for Mentoring and Supervision (2023).  Professor Fahy joined University of Galway as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2005 and lives with her family in Corcullen. Ends

Monday, 8 July 2024

A PhD student whose research is developing a tool to score AI for trustworthiness has won University of Galway’s Threesis challenge showcasing the best research communications. Twelve postgraduates took part in the Threesis Grand Finale, sharing the story of their research in just three minutes, using just three slides, in front of three judges and a voting audience. Originally from Moate, Co Westmeath, Louise McCormack secured the top prize for her presentation - Scoring AI for Ethical Trustworthiness. She outlined how her research is helping to shape a future where AI is both powerful and ethical. Through her PhD, Louise McCormack is conducting research to develop a tool to score AI for trustworthiness in line with the Seven Ethical Principles for Trustworthy AI developed by the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI. She is supported in her research by ADAPT, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for AI-Driven Digital Content Technology. Professor Jim Livesey, Vice-President Research and Innovation at University of Galway, said: “Threesis is one of the highlights of the year for our research community as it provides a snapshot of the ground-breaking research underway by our postgraduate research students. Our 12 finalists were outstanding in their ability to condense their complex and specialised research into just three minutes for a public audience. My congratulations to the winners and finalists, and also to the 80 students who participated in training and heats, and the many colleagues across campus who support this programme.” Threesis is fast-paced research communications competition, with presentations covering a range of topics including saffron farming, solar-hydrogen, bioprinting, contemporary horror and improving road safety. Second place went to PhD student Anastasija (Ana) Walsh, from Dublin, with her talk: ‘Extracellular Vesicles: Tiny but Mighty Messengers Suppressing Anti-Tumour Immunity’. Her research, at the University’s Lambe Institute for Translational Research, is funded by the Irish Cancer Society and focuses on extracellular vesicles - the tiny particles produced by all types of cells which help them communicate and influence each other. Her talk centred on how they may influence the field of cancer research. The audience vote and third place went to Sofiia Tretiak, PhD student based in the University’s Ryan Institute, with her talk on ‘Seaweed Super Solution: Using Ocean Power for Human and Planet Health’. Her research is funded by the European Commission, Cybercolloids Ltd and the Irish Research Council. It explores novel techniques to extract commercially valuable seaweed compounds useful for food, agriculture, medical and pharmaceutical industries. Ruth Hynes, Innovation and Engagement Officer at the University’s Research & Innovation Office and Threesis Programme Director, said: “Ultimately, we aim to maximize the societal benefits and impact of research at the University. Achieving this often requires our researchers to engage across disciplines, collaborate beyond traditional boundaries, and connect with a range of stakeholders. Effective communication skills are essential for researchers to succeed in these areas. The goal therefore of Threesis is to empower our postgraduate research students to make their research accessible and understandable." The Threesis Grand Finale is the culmination of training sessions and competition heats in which 80 postgraduate students took part, before being whittled down to a final shortlist of 12. The judges were John Crumlish, chief executive of Galway International Arts Festival, Sinéad Beacom, Head of the Researcher Development Centre at University of Galway, and Victoria Ward, the previous Threesis winner – with the university’s Dr Jessamyn Fairfield as MC. The Threesis competition was initiated at University of Galway in 2012 and is open to all research students and postdoctoral researchers at the University.   Videos of the winning presentations are available at Ends

Thursday, 4 July 2024

Tá ceapachán an Ollaimh Peter McHugh mar Uachtarán Eatramhach deimhnithe ag Údarás na hOllscoile in Ollscoil na Gaillimhe. Tagann an deimhniú sna sála ar fhógra an 26 Meitheamh a thug le fios go raibh an cinneadh glactha ag an Ollamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh éirí as mar Uachtarán. Tá an tOllamh McHugh ag feidhmiú mar Uachtarán Ionaid agus Meabhránaí faoi láthair agus rachaidh sé i mbun ról an Uachtaráin Eatramhaigh i Meán Fómhair 2024. Dúirt Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Cathaoirleach Údarás na hOllscoile: “Thar ceann Údarás na hOllscoile, Ollscoil na Gaillimhe, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh cheapachán an Ollaimh Peter McHugh mar Uachtarán Eatramhach agus guím gach rath air sa ról sin. Beidh an tOllamh McHugh i gceannas ar an Ollscoil ag am ina mbeidh an iomaí dúshlán roimh an earnáil, ach tá seasamh láidir againn chomh maith agus muid ag díriú ar an todhchaí.”             Dúirt an tOllamh McHugh: “Is mór an onóir domsa a bheith ceaptha mar Uachtarán Eatramhach ar Ollscoil na Gaillimhe agus ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le baill Údarás na hOllscoile as a dtacaíocht. Ba mhaith liom freisin buíochas a ghabháil leis an Uachtarán atá ag dul as oifig, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, as an tsárobair atá déanta aige, as a thiomantas do luachanna na hOllscoile mar atá meas, oscailteacht, barr feabhais agus inbhuanaitheacht le sé bliana anuas, agus as lámh a bheith aige in institiúid den scoth a dhéanamh d’Ollscoil na Gaillimhe. "Táim ag súil go mór le forbairt a dhéanamh ar an iliomad éachtaí de chuid na hOllscoile. Beidh mé ag díriú ar an gcáil idirnáisiúnta atá orainn as barr feabhais sa teagasc, san fhoghlaim, sa taighde agus sa nuálaíocht a neartú agus a fhorbairt, ar ár ndícheall a dhéanamh chun an t-eispéireas mac léinn is fearr a bhaint amach, agus ar an bhfoireann a chumasú le héachtaí a bhaint amach.” Thosaigh an tOllamh McHugh ag obair san Ollscoil in 1991 agus ceapadh é mar chéad Ollamh Bunaithe le hInnealtóireacht Bhithleighis in 2007. Tá tréimhsí caite aige roimhe seo mar Dhéan ar Choláiste na hInnealtóireachta agus na hIonformaitice, mar Cheann Scoile na hInnealtóireachta agus na hIonformaitice, agus mar Cheann Scoile na hInnealtóireachta. Faoina stiúir mar Cheann Scoile, d’fhorbair Scoil na hInnealtóireachta a plean gnímh don chomhionannas inscne, agus de bharr na réamhoibre seo, bhain an scoil Gradam Airgid Athena SWAN amach in 2022, arb í an chéad Scoil Innealtóireachta in Éirinn ar éirigh léi an t-aitheantas sin a bhaint amach. Ghlac an tOllamh McHugh le ról an Uachtaráin Ionaid agus Meabhránaí i mBealtaine 2024. Tá aitheantas idirnáisiúnta tuillte aige mar cheannaire taighde san innealtóireacht bhithleighis agus cuid mhór taighde déanta aige ar bhunfhorbairtí agus ar fheidhmeanna modhanna ríomhaireachtúla agus turgnamhacha sa bhithmheicnic, i meicnic fíochán agus in ionchlannáin agus feistí leighis. Bhí sé ina cheannródaí i bhforbairt na hinnealtóireachta bithleighis in Éirinn agus go hidirnáisiúnta, agus ba é Stiúrthóir bunaidh an Ionaid Taighde Bithmheicnice (BioMEC) in Ollscoil na Gaillimhe é. Tá lear mór dámhachtainí bronnta ar an Ollamh McHugh, agus san áireamh orthu sin tá ballraíocht in Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann (2011), Bonn Airgid Acadamh Ríoga an Leighis in Éirinn – an Rannóg Bithinnealtóireachta (2011), Ainmní an Uachtaráin do Chomhaltacht Innealtóirí na hÉireann (2009), Comhaltacht Acadamh Innealtóireachta na hÉireann (2019) agus Comhaltacht Alexander von Humboldt (1995). Tá tréimhsí caite aige chomh maith i róil oifigigh in Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann, arb é an ról is déanaí a bhí aige Rúnaí ar Pholasaí agus Caidrimh Idirnáisiúnta, áit a raibh sé ina ionadaí Éireannach do roinnt eagraíochtaí acadúla idirnáisiúnta, lena n-áirítear Comhairle Chomhairleach Eolaíochta Acadaimh na hEorpa (EASAC). Críoch

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