Environment, Marine and Energy http://sitemanager.nuigalway.ie:8080/terminalfour/SiteManager

Sub-themes in this priority research area:

  • Built Environment & Smart Cities
  • Energy
  • Marine & Coastal Processes
  • Climate Change
  • Environment Health
  • Biodiversity & Bioresources

This research area covers environmental change and modelling, atmospheric studies, biodiversity and bioinformatics, marine science and law, and sustainable energy. At NUI Galway, researchers in the Ryan Institute work to assess the harmful environmental impacts associated with global and regional climate change. 

Here are some highlights in this area


The Ryan Institute 

seaweed The Ryan Institute is the National University of Ireland, Galway’s hub for Environmental, Marine and Energy research. It is home to over 300 researchers across all five Colleges within the University. Its location, near the North Atlantic Ocean, is a strong driver of its research priorities which include understanding and predicting changes in climate, ecological and marine systems, innovation in energy-efficient technologies and bio-energy, research and development in aquaculture and fisheries, offshore renewable energy resources, biodiscovery and bioresources, development of technologies for monitoring, modelling and mitigation of environmental pressures and the provision of scientific and technical information to guide socioeconomic and policy decision.

Climate change, over-dependence on imported energy and access to natural resources such as clean water and food, all require imaginative solutions from scientists, engineers and socio-economic researchers. If you are interested in and recognise the environmental and energy challenges that we face in the next few decades, then the Ryan Institute is the right place to study and make your contribution.


The Ryan Institute is involved in a wide variety of inter-disciplinary research projects and collaborates extensively with national and international partners. The agenda of the Institute is to provide significant contributions to research in some of the pressing issues of the 21st century around the areas of environment, energy, food security, economic resilience and social cohesion.

Ryan Institute leads the way in research in the SmartBay project

SmartBay Galwayis a national project that is putting Galway Bay at the forefront as a testbed for emerging ocean technologies. Using a network of surface, submerged and seabed instrumentation, researchers will be able to gather important data and test devices for a variety of applications including: marine renewable energy, climate change modelling, and monitoring and management of our marine resources. The Ryan Institute leads NUI Galway’s research and development programme in the SmartBay project along with academic partners from DCU, UCD and NUIM, and the Marine Institute, IBM and Intel. 

researcher at workLeft: Researcher at work









Turning waste into power

Soaring oil prices and the threat of climate change highlights the need to source sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. Researchers in the Biomolecular Electronics Research Laboratory in the Ryan Institute are developing microbial fuel cells (MFCs) which have the ability to literally turn waste into power. MFCs contain films of special ‘electric’ microbes (bacteria) that feed on waste, and in the process move electrons between the solution and an electrode, thereby providing electrical power. These fuel cells can work on a variety of waste sources such as slaughterhouse wastewater and grass silage effluent. This research, whilst still at an early stage, shows promise as a technology for dealing with problematic and potentially toxic waste, whilst producing energy through electrical power generation.

A new discovery 3,000m deep in the middle of the Atlantic

orange blooded shrimp

Left: Image of orange-bodied shrimp discovered during the ‘VENTuRE” expedition to the mid-Atlantic ridge.


A field of hydrothermal vents were recently discovered by a team of marine scientists on the Irish-led “VENTuRE” expedition to the mid-Atlantic ridge. These vents—sometimes called black smokers because of the plumes of precipitated metal sulphides erupting from chimneys up to 10m tall—are important because they replenish the ocean with fresh minerals and support on array of unique life forms. The lead marine biologist on the expedition, who is normally based in the Ryan Institute, directed the collection and documentation of several unusual species that are suspected to be brand-new discoveries. The mission carried geochemists, marine biologists, marine geologists, marine geneticists and technicians from Ireland and the UK, as well as a TV crew from National Geographic who filmed the entire expedition for an upcoming series. 


Left: image of the field of hydrothermal vents, which were recently discovered by NUI Galway scientists on the ‘VENTuRE’ expedition to the mid-Atlantic ridge.











World-leading facilities and teaching to support Environment, Marine, and Energy

Our facilities provide an essential platform for effective terrestrial, marine, and atmospheric studies:

• Orbsen Building

The Orbsen building is the location for three of the Ryan Institute’s research laboratories and the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Centre, as well as housing some of its core staff. The GIS Centre has the capability to process, manipulate, analyse, and display spatial information. Using the latest software, researchers can manipulate geographical information to obtain results in new and exciting ways.

• Martin Ryan Building

The Martin Ryan Building was established by the University in 1992 by means of matching funds from a generous private donation by the late Dr. Tony Ryan. It is home to some of the Institute’s core staff and also houses the

• Chemical Monitoring Facility

which enables access to a state-of-the-art clean room and instrumentation. Through it, researchers have the capability to analyse a diverse range of materials from the environment (e.g., soils, terrestrial and marine sediments, rocks, waters and biological tissue), to determine elemental abundances (including rare earth elements), elemental speciation and isotopic compositions.

• Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station:

The internationally important Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station recently celebrated its 50th birthday. The location is unique in Europe, offering westerly exposure to the North Atlantic and the opportunity to study atmospheric composition under Northern Hemispheric background conditions.

• Carna Research Station:

This is Ireland’s leading facility for research on diversification of marine fish, shellfish, and seaweed species. It is a base for large scale, exploratory aquatic investigations, and both applied and basic research, on existing and novel species for aquaculture.

• Carron Field Research Facility:

The Máirín de Valéra Carron Field Research Facility enables groups to carry out intensive, residential field research activities. It was established by University College Galway in 1975 as a base for groups involved in research on the unique ecosystem of the Burren.

• Finavarra Field Research Station:

This is a coastal facility on the rocky shore between Kinvarra and Ballyvaughan and is used by researchers for seaweed, coastal,  and tidal research.      

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