Science Foundation Ireland announces €43m investment in marine and terrestrial research projects

Published by Dan Connell on

22nd September 2017 

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is set to invest a total of €43m across 26 research projects over the next five years.

The funding, which will go through the SFI’s Investigators Programme, was announced at SFI’s Award Ceremony held earlier this week at Trinity College Dublin.

Six of the research projects received co-funding worth a total of €3m from Teagasc, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A €2.65m collaboration between the GSI, MI, and SFI will co-fund two research projects designed to study the deep seabed, including tsunami threat and climate change impacts on Irish cold-water corals.

Professor Andy Wheeler, University College Cork (UCC), was awarded over €850,000 to explore and monitor cold water corals in submarine canyons in the deep ocean and determine their sensitivity to climate change and fisheries and oil industry impacts.

Using the advanced robotic technology of the MI’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Holland I, Professor Wheeler will study Ireland’s cold-water corals, including how they may be affected by climate change.

“The aim is to make recommendations for sustainable responsible fisheries and hydrocarbon activity and for effective management during climate change,” said Prof Wheeler.

A second €1.25m project led by Professor Sergei Lebedev of Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) will use Ocean Bottom Seismometers (OBS) sensors to investigate Ireland’s offshore geology and monitor ocean processes, including potential tsunami-generating landslides.

“The Irish underwater territory contains vast natural resources but also hazards. Ireland’s offshore earthquakes are its largest and can trigger undersea landslides, causing tsunamis,” explained Prof Lebedev.

This will be the first time OBS sensors have been deployed in waters offshore Ireland. With 90 per cent of Ireland’s territory offshore, combined with existing onshore seismometers, this means that the entire Irish territory can now be monitored.

“The new data gained will provide further insights into the origins of the volcanism that formed the Giant’s Causeway and other geological landmarks, the offshore-seismicity distribution and hazard, and the development of conventional and geothermal energy resources,” Prof Lebedev said.

Both projects will avail of data already collected by the GSI and the Marine Institute as part of the Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Marine Resources (INFOMAR) programme, funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE).

“These new research projects will help us further understand the continental crust and seafloor and how they form and influence our natural resources, habitats and ocean dynamics” said Koen Verbruggen, Director, GSI.


The EPA’s current Research Programme 2014–2020 is built around three pillars – Climate, Sustainability, and Water.  The Programme aims to identify pressures, inform policy, and develop solutions.

SFI funding was awarded to Dr Frank Wellmer, Associate Professor of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), for a project focused on furthering crop protection, and to Professor Michael Zaworotko, Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering & Science Foundation of Ireland Research Professor, University of Limerick, currently investigating clean energy.

“These two projects have the potential to yield significant environmental, economic and societal benefits for Ireland and will add to the range of EPA research that provides pathways to a low-carbon, sustainable future,” said Alice Wemaere, EPA Research Manager.

SFI is the largest funder of competitive research in Ireland and supports the development of world-class research capability and human capital in areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

For further information on the SFI Investigators Programme see here.

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Dan Connell

Daniel is a journalist and contributor to Green News, whose focus is on marine conservation and environmental issues. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Marine Science from NUI Galway.