Biodiversity and Bioresources

Priority Research Area Leader: Dr. Anne Marie Power

Photo: Seaweed: Laminaria digitata Photo: Bumblebee and bluebells Photo: Field and hedgerow

Research in this cluster is concerned with two linked areas: 1) the distribution of species, habitats and ecosystems and 2) the materials, products and services (potential and existing) provided by natural resources. Underpinning these areas is research on taxonomy, species distributions, community structure, functional studies on model organisms, habitat classification, monitoring and mapping. Research in these areas is a key supporting component of national and international commitments to conservation, environment and planning. Ecosystem services include processes such as soil and wetland function and fish stocks. Research in the bioresources and biodiversity theme includes applied work on aquaculture and fisheries, conservation and land management. Understanding species distributions, abundances, molecular diversity and functional biology are integral parts of areas such as biodiscovery.

Algal and seaweed research are a major focus within this research cluster, with particular strengths in algal biotechnology, cell wall chemistry, cultivation, ecophysiology, taxonomy, and the sustainable utilisation of algal resources.

Photo: Dr. Michael Gormally, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Michael Gormally
Applied Ecology Unit, Microbiology
Phone: (091) 49 3334; Email:
Research in the Applied Ecology Unit primarily deals with the management and conservation of a wide range of terrestrial habitats including woodlands, turloughs (disappearing lakes), wet grasslands, machair (rare coastal habitat), callows (flood meadows), riparian habitats, peatlands, stonewalls and HNV (High Nature Value) farmland. Members of the research team have a particular interest in the effects of management on terrestrial invertebrate and plant communities. In addition, the development of sustainable stocking densities for grazed ecosystems using questionnaires to determine past/current grazing practices and using direct animal observation and GPS collars is of particular interest. Another area of research is the use of invertebrates as biological control agents of agricultural pests and diseases. Considerable expertise has been developed in the Applied Ecology Unit in the use of sciomyzids (Diptera) as biological control agents of snail-borne trematode diseases and of horticultural slug species.
Photo: Dr. Mark Healy, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Mark G. Healy
Lecturer, Civil Engineering
Phone: (091) 49 5364; Email:
Research interests include: surface and subsurface processes with a particular interest in erosion and surface runoff of nutrients, solids and metals, and leaching of nutrients through soil; greenhouse gas emissions; soil fertility; constructed wetlands; sand filtration; sequencing batch reactors; biosolids; composting; and the effects of forestry activities, such as clearfelling, on the environment (nutrient loss, use of buffer zones, greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere).
Photo: Prof. Mark Johnson, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Prof. Mark Johnson
Marine Environment
Phone: (091) 49 5864; Email:
I have research interests in fisheries and marine conservation, including the design of marine protected areas and in marine spatial planning. Different projects I have been involved in include an evaluation of shellfish harvesting in Strangford Lough SAC, assessments of habitat sensitivity in reserve selection and a network summary of the European Atlantic SACs.Click here to listen to a radio interview with Professor Mark Johnson on our Itunes podcast channel:Ryan instatute Podcast Channel
Dr. Colin Lawton, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Colin Lawton
Phone: (091) 492335 ; Email:
My main research interest is in the field of mammal ecology. I have worked on a number of squirrel ecology projects, with particular reference to red and grey squirrel competition, their distribution, red squirrel conservation and the management of grey squirrel populations. The most recent work in the Mammal Ecology Group has investigated the use of translocation as a conservation tool for red squirrels. The ecology of small mammal populations, the control of pest species, the ecology of invasive species, mammal monitoring techniques and their applications and mammal parasitology are other areas of interest.Click here to listen to a radio interview with Dr. Colin Lawson on our Itunes podcast channel:Ryan instatute Podcast Channel
Photo: Dr. Zoe Popper, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr Zoë Popper
Botany and Plant Science
Phone: (0)91 49 5431; Email:
Research interests include: understanding the impact of parasitic plants on their host plants and the influence on diversity within the plant communities in which they grow. Work is currently being carried out in collaboration with Brigit’s Garden to investigate the role of hemi-parasitic plants in the establishment and maintenance of diversity within species-rich grasslands.Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Zoë Popper on our Itunes podcast channel:Ryan instatute Podcast Channel
Dr. Aaron Potito, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Aaron Potito
Phone: (0)91 49 3936; Email:
My research focuses on the use of lake sedimentary records and tree-rings to reconstruct late Pleistocene and Holocene climates and to assess human impacts on lake and forest environments. My research has increasingly concentrated on chironomid (non-biting midge fly) subfossils in lake sediments as a palaeoenvironmental indicator. Current chironomid-based research projects include assessment of historic and pre-historic human impacts on lake systems in Ireland, and impacts of recent climate change on lake ecosystems in China.
Photo: Dagmar Stengel, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Dagmar Stengel
Botany and Plant Science
Phone:(091) 49 3192; Email:
Environmental management and conservation research interests include the assessment, management and protection of seaweed resources to facilitate their sustainable utilisation.
Dr. Louise Allcock, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine & Energy Research Dr. Louise Allcock
Phone: (091) 495868; Email:
I am primarily interested in the evolution and ecology of cephalopods and other molluscs, particularly, but not limited to, the groups that have radiated in the Southern Ocean and the deep sea.  This research has highlighted connections between the world’s oceans, linked evolutionary radiations to climatic events (through dated phylogenies), and is helping us understand how Southern Ocean fauna survived the massive disturbances caused by Pliocene-Pleistocene glacial cycles.  More recently I have been leading multidisciplinary cruises to the canyon systems on the Irish continental margin aboard RV Celtic Explorer.   Here I am particularly interested in poorly known (and difficult!) taxa such as sponges where congruence between morphology and molecular phylogenies is often difficult to find.Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Louise Allcock on our Itunes podcast channel:Ryan instatute Podcast Channel
Dr. Grace McCormack, Ryan Institute for Environmental Marine and Energy Research Dr. Grace McCormack
Phone: (091) 49 2321; Email:
The molecular evolution and systematics laboratory investigates the evolution of marine sponges from the Order Haplosclerida. We have shown via phylogenetic analyses of ribosomal and mitochondrial gene data, that the current classification needs revision at all levels in the taxonomic hierarchy. This suggests that the skeletal structure of marine haplosclerids is relatively plastic and we need to find other morphological characters to trace the evolutionary relationships hypothesised via molecular approaches. To this end we are studying the ultrastructure of adult and larval sponges to identify possible synapomorphies. Further molecular work planned includes sequencing of transcriptomes and mitochondrial genomes from key taxa.
Photo: Dr. Ger Fleming, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Gerard Fleming
Microbial Oceanography Research Unit, Microbiology
Phone: (091) 49 3562; Email:
I lead the Microbial Oceanography Research Laboratory and have a particular interest in studying microbial diversity of the water column. A key component of these studies is the linking microbial diversity with function in the Deep Sea. The group also examine the response of benthic microbial assemblages to the input of organic matter using culture-independent molecular techniques and culture-based methodologies under conditions of deep sea pressure.
Dr. Gesche Kindermann, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine & Energy Research Dr. Gesche Kindermann
Applied Ecology
Phone: (091) 49 3863; Email:
My main research interest is habitat and landscape conservation management with particular focus on coastal dune systems and machairs. I am particularly interested in the interrelationships between nature conservation and human landuse, particularly recreation and tourism. My most recent research project set out to establish the impacts of recreation on coastal sand dune systems, to assess the management of recreational activities with in coastal SACs containing dune systems and to establish how SACs can be managed for conservation while allowing for other activities such as tourism to take place. This involved assessing the direct impacts of tourism on the habitats in coastal conservation areas, recording and comparing the current ground level management practices and stakeholders’ opinions on current the current situation, with the aim to compile a list of good practice management methods for use in other sites.Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Gesche Kinderman on our Itunes podcast channel:Ryan instatute Podcast Channel
Photo: Dr. Anne Marie Power, Ryan Insitute for Environment, Marine and Energy Dr. Anne Marie Power
Phone: (091) 49 3015; Email:
Research interests in this area include decadal scale zooplankton dynamics on the Irish Shelf; the importance of abiotic factors in mediating intertidal community patterns; other interests include using remote-sensed data to map habitats for shellfish; crustacean ecology in general.Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Anne Marie Power on our Itunes podcast channel:Ryan instatute Podcast Channel
Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington
Botany and Plant Science
My research in the Plant Ecology lab focuses on sustainable land-use for conservation. Current research is on biodiversity in upland farms in Connemara, focusing on commonages and peatland ecosystems. The hay meadows Shannon callows depend on specific management to maintain plant and invertebrate diversity, which is currently being researched. Climate change is a specific interest and is the focus of an upland study on alpine heath and northern hepatic (liverwort) mats in mountains of the west of Ireland. I also have an interest in species-rich grassland management for biodiversity, salt marsh ecology, woodland structure and biodiversity and will be teaching on the Tropical Biology Association field course in Uganda in July 2012.
Richard Fitzgerald, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Richard Fitzgerald
Carna Research Station
Phone: (095) 32201; Email:
Richard is the Research Co-ordinator at the Carna Research Station, a Senior Research Fellow and adjunct Lecturer in Zoology at NUI Galway, and project Co-ordinator for the EIRCOD project. R&D interests in the Aquaculture and Fisheries sectors including: growth performance of finfish in response to critical rearing conditions and husbandry practices; growth modelling; feed utilisation and formation of social hierarchies in farmed fish populations; novel dietary formulations for farmed fish; immuno-competence of farmed stocks; finished/harvest product characteristics and quality. Other research interests are the ecology of inshore/intertidal wild fish communities of the Connemara region; coastal zone management issues; sustainable development of natural resource-based industries; fish parasitology and fish meristics/morphometrics.