Modelling and Observation

Cross-Thematic Activity Team Leader: Dr. Jim Duggan

Modelling & Informatics is a research activity that is common to many research fields.  Within the Ryan Institute Modelling & Informatics is structured as a cross-cutting activity interfacing with all of the research thematic areas.

Environmental systems modelling is an activity in which environmental processes are represented as simply as possible by mathematical and physical scale models. Modelling physical, biological and chemical processes has become central to developing a more detailed description of the environment and its management.  Modelling complements field based marine and terrestrial research by providing predictions of complex systems and processes such as:

    • Marine processes: hydrodynamics; biogeochemical cycling; surges and coastal flooding
    • Water quality modelling: radionuclides; heavy metals; phytoplankton; public health
    • Energy systems: marine renewables; smart buildings
    • Mathematical, statistical and physical scale modelling
    • Climate change modelling: global modelling; dynamic downscaling; Air-sea gas exchange
    • Waves and associated sediment transport
    • Deep ocean, estuarine, and coastal circulation


Informatics is concerned with the development and application of information communication technology to diverse problems.  In the Ryan Institute the focus is in integrating modelling and informatics with data and outputs from the various thematic areas.  Various informatics and communication platforms are used to integrate these strands: GIS, web technology; open source software; radars; wimax radio links.  This integrating approach provides research with platforms/tools to add value to independent datasets and to help improve predictive models.  This approach also brings research closer to the market place and more available to environmental mangers. Modelling and Informatics is a field that is critical to Environmental, Marine and Energy research, where data needs to be generated, processed, and visualized.

Modelling and Informatics researchers at the Ryan Institute have established excellent links with many national agencies such as Met Eireann, the Marine Institute, the Radiological Protection Institute, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Enterprise Ireland, and the EPA.  Internationally, we have established strong links with research groups working in institutes such as Max Plank Institute (Hamburg), University of Cantabria (Santander), Ifremer (France), Cardiff University (Wales), University of Davis (California) and Instituto Superior Technico (Portugal).


Photo: Michael Hartnett, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Prof. Michael Hartnett
Civil Engineering
Phone: (091) 49 2502; Email:
Prof. Hartnett is the Research Director of the Marine Modelling Centre. Activities within the centre include: deep ocean water circulation modelling; estuarine and coastal circulation modelling; nutrient modelling; water quality modelling; biological modelling; heavy metal modelling; wave climate modelling; and modelling air-sea interfaces.  Some examples of current projects are “Bacteriological modelling of Galway Bay” (project partner HSE),  “Modelling radionuclide discharges from Sellafield into Irish Sea” (project partner Radiological Protection Institute) and “Operational modelling of Irish Sea” (project partner Office of Public Works).
Photo: Valerie Ledwith, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Valerie Ledwith
School of Geography and Archaeology
Phone: (091) 49 2372; Email:
I use modelling to visualize and trace the geographies of social and demographic change.  Current projects include: (i) examining the influence of neighbourhood effects on early school leaving in Ireland using GIS, spatial data analysis and multi-level modelling, and (ii) incorporating multi-level modelling to examine the educational attainment of migrant youth in Galway city.
Photo: Niall Madden, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Niall Madden
School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics
Phone: (091) 49 3803; Email:
I am interested in the design and efficiency of numerical models.  Some of my interests in the area of environmental numerical modelling include: (i) efficient computer modelling of the transport and diffusion of pollutants (ii) incorporating novel numerical methods into existing software environmental models.
Photo: Stephen Nash, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Stephen Nash
Civil Engineering
Phone: (091) 49 3738; Email:
Research interests include physical and computer modelling of oceanic, estuarine and freshwater systems including: hydrodynamics, water quality, sediment transport, primary production, and climate change scenarios.  Applications to offshore and sustainable energy of particular interest.
Photo: Colin O'Dowd, Ryan Institute for Environment, Marine and Energy Prof. Colin O’Dowd
Director of the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies (C-CAPS); and School of Physics
Phone: (091) 49 3306; Email:
Research interests in this area include modelling processes such as: atmospheric aerosol formation, transformation and climate effects, air quality, climate-air quality interactions, air-sea exchange, and biogeochemical cycling.
Dr. Nathan Quinlan, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Nathan Quinlan
Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering
Phone: (091) 49 2726 ; Email:
Dr. Quinlan’s research interests are in fluid dynamics, with experimental and computational methods applied to renewable and conventional energy systems, among other areas. A speciality is the development of mesh-free methods (smoothed particle hydrodynamics and the finite volume particle method) for fluid dynamics. These approaches display unique advantages for the modelling of complex free-surface phenomena including breaking waves and wave-body interactions.
Photo: Chaosheng Zhang, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Chaosheng Zhang
School of Geography and Archaeology
Tel: (091) 49 2375; Email:
Dr. Zhang’s research in the area of Environmental Modelling focuses on using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and geostatistics to study the spatial structure and distribution of different environmental parameters, such as heavy metals and nutrients.


Photo: Dr. Jim Duggan, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Jim Duggan
Information Technology
Tel: (091) 49 3336; Email:
Dr. Duggan’s interest is in policy modelling to investigate the feedback interactions between economical and energy policies and the environment. He is lead investigator with the System Dynamics Research Group at NUI Galway, and specialises in the design  of computational methods to model complex social systems.
Dr. Hugh Melvin, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Hugh Melvin
Information Technology
Tel: (091) 49 3716; Email:
In this area, research interests are in the areas of Energy Informatics, Time & Timing Systems and Wireless Technologies. He is a member of the Performance Engineering Laboratory research group, a distributed group of researchers, based out of UCD and DCU but with a presence in other Irish institutions including NUI,Galway.