Dr Aoibheann Gaughran
I am an SFI-funded postdoctoral research fellow and ecologist working on Nature+Energy, a partnership between TCD’s Nature+ Centre, Maynooth University, Wind Energy Ireland and eight Irish renewable energy companies with the aim of maximising the benefits of biodiversity on windfarms.
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology (2013) and a PhD (2018) from Trinity College Dublin. My research has centred on the intersection between the natural world and human activity, with a more recent focus on finding practical solutions to addressing the interlinked biodiversity and climate crises.
My postgraduate research examined the response of badgers to a major road improvement scheme. Badgers are particularly interesting because they act as a wildlife reservoir of tuberculosis, which can be transmitted to cattle and are therefore of agro-economic concern. They are consequently subject to control measures. However, badgers are also one of our most iconic native species, and are legally projected. This research project (a collaboration between DAFM and NPWS) greatly improved our understanding of badger ecology in Ireland, and its findings can be used to inform more effective TB management strategies, such as the badger vaccine programme, as well as improved mitigation measures on road construction schemes.
More recently, I worked as project manager and ecologist on the Áras an Uachtaráin Biodiversity Audit, commissioned by President Michael D Higgins through the OPW. This year-long study (2019-2020) quantified both habitat and species diversity on the 130-acre site which contains formal gardens, organic kitchen gardens, woodland, parkland and grasslands. The project culminated in management recommendations for the enhancement of biodiversity at Áras an Uachtaráin, many of which are already being implemented, such as a low-intensity grazing regime to enhance grassland species diversity.
The Nature+Energy project (2021-2025) will develop new ways of accounting for the value of nature on onshore wind farms. Onshore wind farms have the potential to provide much more than renewable energy. If managed properly, the natural capital within onshore wind farms can not only enhance climate change mitigation, but improve the resilience of ecosystems to climate change, and enhance the provision of ecosystem services throughout the wider countryside. My research will focus on quantifying the biodiversity at a selection of representative onshore wind farms and on developing sector-specific natural capital accounting methodologies that will be used to inform a decision support tool for land-use planning and biodiversity enhancement. Further, we will develop evidence-based biodiversity action plans for the onshore wind energy sector, and for specific wind farm study sites, tailored to their particular landscape contexts.
In addition to my research, I have also lectured on the Senior Sophister modules Statistics and Plant-Animal Interactions.
Gaughran A, Mullen E, MacWhite T, Maher P, Kelly DJ, Kelly R, Good M and Marples NM (2021) Badger territoriality maintained despite disturbance of major road construction bioRxiv 11.06.370957; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.11.06.370957 (not peer reviewed), currently undergoing peer review.
Gaughran A and Stout J (2020), Biodiversity Audit at Áras an Uachtaráin, Final Report, Prepared by Trinity College Dublin on Behalf of The Office of Public Works, Available at https://bit.ly/arasanuachtarainbiodiversity
Kelly DJ, Gaughran A, MacWhite T, Mullen EM, Maher P, Good M and Marples NM (2020) Extra Territorial Excursions by European badgers are not limited by age, sex or season. Scientific Reports, 10, 9665 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-66809-w
Gaughran A, MacWhite T, Mullen EM, Maher M, Kelly DJ, Good M and Marples NM (2019) Dispersal patterns in a medium‐density Irish badger population: Implications for understanding the dynamics of tuberculosis transmission, Ecology and Evolution 9 (23), 13142-13152 https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5753
Gaughran A (2018) The impact of roadworks on the ranging behaviour of European badgers (Meles meles), PhD thesis, Trinity College Dublin, http://hdl.handle.net/2262/84998
Gaughran A, Kelly DJ, MacWhite T, Mullen EM, Maher P, Good M and Marples NM (2018) Super-ranging. A new ranging strategy in European badgers. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0191818 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191818
Mullen, EM, MacWhite, T, Maher, P, Kelly DJ, Marples, NM & Good M. (2015) The avoidance of farmyards by European badgers Meles meles in a medium density population. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 171, 170–176 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2015.08.021
Mullen, E.M., MacWhite, T., Maher, P.K., Kelly, D.J., Marples, N.M. & Good, M. (2013) Foraging Eurasian badgers Meles meles and the presence of cattle in pastures. Do badgers avoid cattle? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 144, 130–137 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.01.013
MacWhite T, Maher P, Mullen EM, Marples NM and Good M (2013) Satellite tracking study of badgers (Meles meles) to establish normal ranging behaviour prior to a road realignment. The Irish Naturalists Journal, 32, 99–105 www.jstor.org/stable/24394425