This work is undertaken currently by Dr Richard Moles, Dr Bernadette O’Regan, Dr John Breen, Dr Tom Harrington, Dr George Mullen, Dr Tom O’Dwyer, Dr Olga Aslibekian, Ms Ruth Kelly, Mr Paul Byrne, Ms Deirdre Mullins.
Within this area of expertise there is a focus on two aspects of environmental quality.
The first is Ecological Investigation of Biodiversity and especially studies on the impact on biodiversity of human activities, such as management and pollution. Published studies include the impact of pollution levels on estuarine molluscs, the impact on avifauna of farming practices, the environmental impact of abandoned mine sites, and the impact of management strategies on limestone grassland communities.
The second is Environmental Management: UL is the sole Irish university to have developed this research capacity. Published studies to date include the identification of sustainability indicators for the Mid-Western region of Ireland, system dynamics modelling of the environmental impacts of base metal mining, modelling the spread of disease, and the production of a protocol for the identification of polluted soil and water associated with mines. Current work includes studies on the environmental impacts of the extractive industry, mechanisms responsible for the movement of nutrients from soil to surface and groundwater, movement of phosphorus through soil, and the identification of settlement size optimal for sustainability. Researchers have undertaken environmental impact assessments for industrial plants, landfills and quarries, providing practical experience to back up more academic study.
CER offers considerable experience in the use of building and using computer simulation models to examine the economic impacts of environmental policy, for example on the investment decisions of mining firms. This type of computer simulation modelling allows the user to examine the economic implications of a range of possible environmental (and other) policy changes in order to arrive at, with the aid of regulatory bodies, the set of policies that are most likely to achieve the goals of both parties. Computer modelling is also being applied to tackle the question ‘What is the optimal Irish settlement size for sustainable management?’, within the context of the National Spatial Strategy.
We also have experience in the development and use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) modelling for environmental risk assessment related to mine sites in Ireland. The use of GIS facilitates for example demand/supply analysis, cost/distance estimation, assessment of appropriate use of non-renewable sources in the industry, and analysis and comparison of the extractive industry in different counties. GIS technology is also used in projects concerned with the implication of afforestation for biodiversity, and the movement of phosphorus from soil to surface and groundwater. The CER also offers expertise in groundwater modelling, which is widely used in the design of quarry de-watering processes and the utilisation of pumped water.