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Name: Eoin McAleer

Eoin McAleer

Contact Details

Tel: +353 (0)53 917 1268

Title of Project

Nitrogen Attenuation along Delivery Pathways in Agricultural Catchments

Project details

Nitrate is regarded as one of the dominant contaminants affecting freshwater quality worldwide. Increased awareness over the detrimental effects to both human health and environmental quality has resulted in the implementation of the E.U. Nitrates Directive into Irish law. The directive introduces measures to reduce the effect of agriculturally derived nitrogen on the environment. The nitrate ion is both highly mobile and dynamic within a groundwater system. In order to evaluate the success of these measures therefore, it is essential to understand the evolution of nitrogen as it passes through subsurface pathways from source to receptor.

This PhD research project is being undertaken from 2012 to 2016 in two intensively managed catchments in Co. Wexford and Co. Cork. Both catchments are dominated by well drained soils and relatively permeable geology but have contrasting prevailing land-use.

The focus of this work is to investigate nitrogen attenuation processes within the saturated aquifer and stream hyporheic zones of four instrumented hill slopes. Each hillslope contains three multilevel monitoring wells, penetrating various geological horizons and spanning the entire length of the hillslope. The specific aims of the project are to:

  • Calculate the discharge of groundwater from the top of the hill slope to its base where it insects with the stream hyporheic zone (Year 1).
  • Describe the nitrogen loads within each hillslope.
  • Investigate the capacity for denitrification within the saturated zone.
  • Identify the degree to which hyporheic processes act to attenuate nitrogen.

Name of supervisor

T.C.D. supervisor:  Dr. Catherine Coxon
Teagasc supervisor:  Dr. Per-Erik Mellander

Postgraduate personal details

I graduated from the National University of Ireland Galway in 2009 with a B.Sc in Earth & Ocean Science. During my time in Galway my research focused on the predicted effect of climate change on evaporation rates, stream flow and flood magnitudes. Following graduation, I was employed by the university as a field technician. My role involved working within the Griffiths Groundwater Group team, while also participating in several research expeditions on-board the Marine Institute of Ireland’s RV Celtic Explorer. After a year working for the college I moved to Queens University Belfast, where I completed an M.Sc in Environmental Engineering. While at Queens my studies included the measurement of temporal stream and groundwater nitrogen fluxes, the creation of a GIS based nitrate leaching vulnerability map and the development of a site specific conceptual model for a large agricultural watershed.

Project Start Date

September 2012


This project is funded by a Teagasc Walsh Fellowship and is being carried out in association with the Agricultural Catchments Programme.




Last updated 8 October 2014