- There are currently 14 research students and 35 taught MSc students based in the Centre, although approximately 40 other students use the laboratory facilities.
- Details of current research students can be accessed here.
- For recent postgraduate news please click this link.
- Jennifer Brady (PhD) Analysis of residential water consumption in Ireland and assessment of public attitudes and behaviour towards water conservation
- Eileen Burke Diskin (PhD) The Greater Flamingo as a reservoir of antibiotic resistance.
- Louise Esmonde (PhD) Sustainable nutrient and metal removal from domestic and industrial wastewaters using submerged macrophytes in temperate zones.
- Lisa Egan (PhD) The potential of the duckweed Lemna minor in acid mine drainage impact assessment and treatment
- Laura Foley (PhD) Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD); ecological impacts and application of Stable Isotope Analysis (SIA).
- Martin Fryer (PhD) Foaming control in the activated sludge process using metabolic control
- Juan Severino Ibanhez (PhD) Nitrogen reduction in marine systems: in-situ study of alternative metabolic pathways linked to Coastal Groundwater Discharge
- Shan Jiang (PhD) Evaluation of basin scale fluxes of nutrients through groundwater pathways into coastal systems in Southern Portugal and Ireland
- Eoin McAleer (PhD) Nitrogen attenuation along delivery pathways in agricultural catchments
- Sarah McManus (PhD) Pesticide leaching to groundwater in Ireland
- Eoghan O'Flaherty (PhD) Effect of wastewater characteristics on activated sludge treatment systems
- Alexandra Oppelt (PhD) Advance warning indicators for the vulnerability of Cold Water Coral ecosystems to environmental change: A basis for sustainable resource management
- Helder Pereira (PhD) Dynamics of nutrients and algae in Irish turloughs (Completed 2012)
- Alina Premrov (PhD) Evaluation of measures to reduce nitrate loss to groundwater from tillage farming (Completed 2012)
- Hazel Proctor (MSc) Impacts of climate change on the phenology of pollen release of Birch Betula pubescens and other species in Ireland and the consequences for human health
Foaming control in the activated sludge process using metabolic control
Activated sludge is the name given to the widely used wastewater treatment process whereby sewage is broken down by oxidation and the resulting solids are captured in a clarification step. This process of handling waste streams dates back from 1914 and has now become a favourable option in the process of secondary wastewater treatment. Whilst the activated sludge process is very robust, it is not without operational issues. One of the biggest problems experienced is due to a phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘foaming’ which has been strongly linked to a group of bacteria known as filamentous bacteria. In the worst cases, foaming can result in the loss of treatment capacity, resulting ultimately in an unstable process. The aim of this project is to attempt to isolate the key factors that trigger foaming to occur in activated sludge plants and then to propose a way as to how the running of plants can be improved to reduce the risk of treatment failure. The project is focusing in three key stages. Firstly, in-situ fieldwork is being carried out comparing foaming and non-foaming sites. On- site testing involves foam characterisation, settlement testing, foam potential tests and process review. This is being followed by extensive microscopic analysis and fundamental laboratory tests such as COD/BOD measurements, and total suspended solids measurement. Stage two is the utilisation of a pilot plant (Bio-Simulator®) which mimics the processes occurring within an activated sludge plant. The reactor is being fed using OCED synthetic sewage and operating using activated sludge samples taken from different sites. Parameters such as mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS), pH, influent loading and rate of return sludge are being monitored. The third stage of the work will bring together all the data collected from site testing and laboratory studies to develop a foaming control algorithm using fuzzy reasoning techniques. From this a better understanding will be obtained as to how to prevent the on-set of foaming within the activated process by controlling metabolic pathways through kinetic factors.
The potential of the duckweed Lemna minor in acid mine drainage impact assessment and treatment
Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a major pollutant of surface waters. Although the effects are either local or regional in significance this is a global problem resulting in the uncontrolled discharge of heavy metals and acidity into the hydrological cycle. This results in the contamination of both surface and ground waters with the effects causing significant impacts to both estuarine and coastal waters.
The project explores two fundamental problems. The first is to identify a reliable indicator of both AMD strength and impact, and secondly to find a reliable method to detoxify AMD prior to discharge to surface waters.
Duckweed (Lemna minor) has been widely used as a toxicity assessment tool for wastewaters, with an ISO assay method available, while duckweed treatment ponds have been widely employed to treat domestic wastewaters. Under ideal conditions, Lemna minor can double in number in just over two days and has the ability to adsorb heavy metals. It is these traits that allow duckweed to be considered not only as a potentially ideal indicator but also as a detoxifier of AMD.
Objectives: (i) Quantify the sensitivity of duckweed to AMD and explore the relative effects of some of its key components (e.g. Cu, Zn, acidity, sulphate). This includes measuring the effectiveness of duckweed as a bioindicator of AMD impact in the field. (ii) Determine the optimal conditions for growth of duckweed on AMD. (iii) Evaluate a variety of high nutrient wastewaters to find an alternative nutrient source. Quantify metal uptake and removal rates.
Dynamics of nutrients and algae in Irish turloughs
Turloughs can be defined as depressions in karstic areas that inundate seasonally (mostly by groundwater), and that support soils and ecological communities characteristic of wetlands. These ecosystems are virtually unique to Ireland, spread predominantly across the West. Because turloughs are potentially threatened wetland habitats (i.e. by drainage, eutrophication and management grazing - changes), their management requires the full inventory of their biodiversity and the factors affecting it. Furthermore, the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) establishes the achievement of good ecological status for all European water bodies until 2015, including turloughs. This Directive specifically focuses on biological data as indicator of water quality, rather than solely relying on chemical analysis. Turloughs are also protected under the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).
The present project will describe the seasonal and spatial dynamics of plant nutrients (focusing predominantly in phosphate and nitrogen) and of planktonic and benthic algae in Turloughs. In the first year a description of the algae and nutrient contents of a selection of different types of turloughs will be done. The data gathered - that for the first time quantifies these parameters in a wide range of turloughs - will allow for more detailed analysis to be done in fewer sites on the second year, where we hope to better understand the spatial dynamics of turloughs (e.g. inputs, outputs) and possibly model ecosystem functioning.The project is part of an overall project involving hydrological, plant, invertebrate, algae and soil and water chemistry studies on a same set of turloughs, titled Assessing the Conservation Status of Turloughs. The data from the different topics will be integrated to better understand turlough ecosystem functioning and to help make sound management decisions for conservation purposes.
The Greater Flamingo as a reservoir of antibiotic resistance.
Eileen is a third year IRCSET-funded PhD student working on a project that unites human, wildlife, and environmental health. Using a combination of fieldwork, lab work, and desk-based research, she aims to establish the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in wild birds on regional and global scales. Much of her research is focused on investigating the extent to which Greater Flamingos in Mediterranean wetlands serve as reservoirs of antibiotic resistance, through an analysis of samples she collected on fieldwork at five of the Greater Flamingo’s breeding sites. She has also conducted a meta-analysis of recent literature to evaluate patterns of antibiotic resistance in a number of bird species on a global scale. This work contributes knowledge to the growing body of research on antibiotic resistance in natural environments, the results of which can be used in the development of policies aimed at reducing the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, a phenomenon described by the World Heath Organization as one of the greatest threats to human health. Aside from her research, she is interested in the communication of scientific research, and is a founding member of an initiative to spread awareness of biodiversity with the general public in progressive and engaging ways. She recently completed a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the TCD-UCD Innovation Academy. Eileen graduated from Trinity College with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science in 2005, and with a Masters Degree in Biodiversity and Conservation in 2008.
Nitrogen reduction in marine systems: in-situ study of alternative metabolic pathways linked to Coastal Groundwater Discharge.
Juan is funded by the EU (FEDER), National Science & Technology Foundation (FCT) and the Portuguese Government.The objectives of this proposal are to identify, quantify and parameterize key biogeochemical processes of Nitrogen inside permeable sediments under laboratory controlled conditions and correlate these processes with in-situ flux measurements in the Ria formosa lagoon, where heavily contaminated groundwater discharges into a productive coastal lagoon, while using selected representative N molecules as proxies.
Analysis of residential water consumption in Ireland and assessment of public attitudes and behaviour towards water conservation.
Many parts of Ireland are currently and will increasingly be subject to the problem of dwindling water supplies and escalating water demand, an issue exacerbated by rapid changes in demographic structure and climate change. Knowledge of domestic consumption patterns is well established particularly in developed nations following implementation of domestic metering and charging over the last few decades. However, there is a paucity of baseline information relating to water consumption patterns in Ireland particularly with regard to residential consumption as the vast majority of households are neither metered nor charged for water. Furthermore, information regarding domestic water usage behaviour and individuals attitudes towards water conservation is negligible yet it is fundamental in establishing sustainable future water management policies as household usage accounts for 60% of total water demand. This information is also vital in order to actively assess and target areas where considerable savings can be achieved.
Objectives: (1) Through the use of surveys and meter reading on a daily, fortnightly and seasonal basis establish baseline data relating to residential water consumption patterns within Ireland and also the factors which influence water demand. (2) Obtain a detailed behavioural understanding of how water is used in the home, perceptions of water usage and also assess the drivers and barriers to water conservation across metered and non-metered households. (3) Establish quantitative information regarding variances in water pricing and operational structures across group water schemes and local authorities with a view to making recommendations towards effective operation and pricing in light of proposed government plans to establish a national water authority.
Project: Assessment of variations in residential water consumption was undertaken through analysis of daily, fortnightly and seasonal water usage patterns of metered group water scheme (GWS) households across Ireland. Surveys of both GWS members and members of the general public were carried out to determine water usage behaviour and attitudes towards water conservation. Additionally local authorities and group water schemes across Ireland were surveyed so as to gain a detailed insight into the variation in operation and pricing structures employed. Utilising usage patterns and attitudinal and behavioural results, assessments will be made as to where substantialwater savings can be achieved within the domestic sector. Following the establishment of key drivers of waterdemand and barriers to water conservation, this study will provide valuable information to assist in making informed decisions about water management within the Irish residential sector with the aim of achieving sustainability of futurewater supplies which is an imperative goal as required by the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC.
Pesticide leaching to groundwater in Ireland
Sarah is carrying out a Ph.D. project on pesticide leaching to groundwater in Ireland under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Coxon (TCD) and Dr. Karl Richards (Teagasc), funded by the Department of Agriculture & Food Research Stimulus Fund Programme. This project forms part of a larger interdisciplinary project on Assessment of the vulnerability of groundwater to pesticide inputs from Irish agriculture (led by Dr. E. Cummins, University College Dublin). This component of the project involves field investigations of pesticide leaching to groundwater under a range of land uses, soil types and geological / hydrogeological conditions, on selected farms in eastern and southern Ireland. The research also involves analysis of existing Irish groundwater pesticide monitoring data.
Evaluation of measures to reduce nitrate loss to groundwater from tillage farming
Alina is carrying out a Ph.D. project on an evaluation of measures to reduce nitrate loss to groundwater from tillage farming. This project is supervised by Dr. Catherine Coxon (TCD), Dr. Karl Richards (Teagasc) & Dr. Richard Hackett (Teagasc), and was funded by a Teagasc Walsh Fellowship. The project aims to evaluate different management strategies to minimise nitrate leaching to groundwater from spring barley production systems. This involves an investigation of the unsaturated zone (using ceramic cups) below replicate small plots with different treatments (mustard cover crop, natural regeneration, and no vegetation cover) and an investigation of both unsaturated and saturated zones below three larger field plots. Travel times through the unsaturated and saturated zones are being investigated. The work aims to contribute to the research base for formulating policy relating to the EU Nitrates Directive (1991/676/EC) and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).
Impacts of climate change on the phenology of pollen release of Birch Betula pubescens and other species in Ireland and the consequences for human health.
In 2007 I completed a BSc in Horticulture at IT Blanchardstown in conjunction with the National Botanic Gardens. I went on to work on a restoration project of the walled garden at Luttrelstown Castle in Castleknock, Dublin. Through this experience I broadened my interest in natural sciences which led me to work as a research assistant on a project entitled climate change impacts on phenology: impacts on terrestrial ecosystems currently underway at the botany department. As part of my role I expanded the existing International Phenology Network (IPG) in Ireland and established a native phenology network. These networks will become active in spring 2010. I am currently carrying out a masters through research on the impact of climate change on the phenology of birch pollen release and its consequences for human health.
Advance warning indicators for the vulnerability of Cold Water Coral ecosystems to environmental change: A basis for sustainable resource management
I finished my Diploma in Geology/Palaeontology with focus on geochemistry and invertebrate palaeontology at Freie Universitat Berlin in 2010. For several years during my studies I worked as a student assistant for teaching, and on different research projects in the sector of environmental studies. A large proportion of my field work was conducted in high altitude environments in the Indian Himalayans and on the Tibetan Plateau. Most of the lab work consisted of stable isotope analysis in connection with high resolution sampling. In September 2011 I commenced research on a 4 year PhD project at Trinity College Dublin within the Biogeochemistry Research Group investigating the impacts of environmental changes on cold-water corals with emphasis on biomineralization. The project will be carried out as part of the Earth and Natural Sciences (ENS) Doctoral Studies Programme, funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) through the Programme for Research at Third Level Institutions, Cycle 5 (PRTLI-5), co-funded by the European Regional development Fund (ERDF). My research interests include environmental studies based on stable isotope analysis on skeletal materials, aspects of biomineralization, population connectivity and invertebrate biology. I am especially interested in comparing different sampling methods and resolutions to improve the understanding of biomineralization and to detect impacts of environmental change.
Effect of wastewater characteristics on activated sludge treatment systems
The treatment of wastewater using activated sludge systems is one of the most common secondary treatment processes across the world. Fully understanding the biological and chemical characteristics and composition of the influent wastewater is critical to ensuring optimal operation and efficiency of the microbial biomass within the treatment process. The project examines the treatability and biodegradability of a wide range of wastewaters and determines the impact of these characteristics on the treatment process. The variation of wastewater treatability is examined on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to identify the factors that cause variation and to determine their effect on the treatment processes. The effectiveness of different sludges treating different wastewaters is evaluated. The value of using respirometry as an effective tool in determining and managing the treatability and biodegradability of wastewaters for the activated sludge treatment process is assessed.
Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD); ecological impacts and application of Stable Isotope Analysis (SIA).
After graduating from UCD with a BSc. ZooIogy (Hons) in 2006, I returned to academia in 2010 to pursue a Ph.D. in Trinity College Dublin as part of the Biogeochemistry Research Group, Department of Geography. Research of the ecological impacts of SGD at intertidal sites in Ireland (Kinvara bay, Co. Galway) and Portugal (The Ria Formosa, Faro and Olhos de Agua, Albufeira) is the focus of my Ph.D.. A central part of this is assessing the applicability of stable isotope analysis (SIA) in determining the source(s) of nitrogenous pollutants conveyed via SGD.
Submarine groundwater discharge, defined as any and all water that moves from benthic marine sediments into the marine environment regardless of composition or driving forcecontributes significant fluxes of both freshwater (2,400 km3/annum comprising 6-10% of surface water discharge to the ocean), nutrients (particularly N and P) and other dissolved constituents to the marine environment. These features confer onto SGD the potential to alter the ecology, biodiversity, functioning, and provision of ecosystem goods and services in receiving marine environments. Significant resources have been directed toward quantifying the fluxes of freshwater and other dissolved constituents delivered via SGD. Relatively little work however has been invested into determining the ecological effects of this process, and the relative contribution and significance of the different causal agents (salinity, nutrient loading, etc.) associated with SGD in bringing about any ecological alterations. Numerous parallels can be drawn between SGD and riverine inputs. SGD however has some unique complexities mainly associated with its aquifer transit pathway. These complexities set it apart from riverine processes and establish the requirement for research into the ecological impacts of the process of SGD.
Secondary to characterising ecological impacts associated with SGD, I want to investigate the application of SIA to determining the source(s) of SGD-borne nitrogenous pollution. SIA is commonly and readily utilised to such ends in surface water systems. Due to the added complexities associated with SGD, research is required to investigate the suitability of SIA in SGD research and any potential alterations to the technique which might be required to allow its application in the context of SGD.
My Ph.D. is funded by The Irish Research Council (formerly IRCSET) and NITROLINKS (NITROgen loading into the Ria Formosa through Coastal Groundwater Discharge (CGD) - Pathways, turnover and LINKS between land and sea in the Coastal Zone). Supervision is given by Dr. Carlos Rocha (Biogeochemistry Research Group, Trinity College Dublin) and Dr. Tasman Crowe (Earth Sciences Institute, University College Dublin).
Sustainable nutrient and metal removal from domestic and industrial wastewaters using submerged macrophytes in temperate zones.
Louise graduated from Trinity College in 2010 with an honours degree in Environmental Science. She is now in the first year of her Ph. D. studies under the supervision of Professor Nick Gray and is funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) through the Programme for Research at Third Level Institutions, Cycle 5 (PRTLI-5), co-fundedby the European Regional development Fund(ERDF). The aim of her research is to investigate the feasibility of using submerged aquatic macrophytes to provide a low carbon and sustainable treatment solution for a range of conventional and problematic wastewaters in temperate conditions. The project will involve three stages. Firstly, a number of submerged macrophyte species will be screened under laboratory conditions to establish the best species for wastewater treatment. Secondly, laboratory scale pond trials will be carried out to determine the key operational requirements of a submerged vegetation treatment system. Finally, outdoor pond trials will be set up in order to monitor the long term capability of submerged vegetation wetland systems to treat wastewater. Louise's research is also part of the Earth and Natural sciences (ENS) Doctoral Studies programme which is a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary programme involving UCD, TCD, NUIG, UL, DIAS and QUB.
Evaluation of basin scale fluxes of nutrients through groundwater pathways into coastal systems in Southern Portugal and Ireland
Shan graduated from Xiamen University in the Fall of 2011 with a Master degree in Ecology. In the same year, he enrolled Trinity College Dublin as a Ph.D. student within the Biogeochemistry Research Group, focusing on the study of basin scale fluxes of nitrogen through groundwater pathways into coastal semi-enclosed systems under the supervision of Dr. Carlos Rocha (TCD). Shan is funded by Changfeng research funding (Chinese research funding, operated by Chinese corporations). Shan's program mainly aims to evaluate the importance of the role of sandy sediments at the interface of nitrate-contaminated SGD (Submarine Groundwater Discharge) and coastal-marine ecosystems, as well as the potential impacts of superfluous nitrogen to the oligotrophic costal area. The research also involves investigation of the biogeochemical behavior of iron and sulfur within the SGD seepage face.
Nitrogen attenuation along delivery pathways in agricultural catchments
Eoin is carrying out a Ph.D. project on nitrogen transport and transformations in groundwater and the hyporheic zone. This project is supervised by Dr. Catherine Coxon (TCD) and Dr. Per-Erik Mellander and other staff from Teagasc, in association with the Agricultural Catchments Programme, funded by a Teagasc Walsh Fellowship. The work is being undertaken in two intensively monitored agricultural catchments with contrasting land use. The primary focus of the research is the determination of nitrogen fluxes via groundwater to the stream and the transformation / attenuation processes within the saturated zone of the aquifer and the hyporheic zone of the stream.