Wednesday, 15 November 2017

NUI Galway Launches Community-led Sustainability Strategy

Building on its existing reputation as an environmentally-friendly and societally responsive university, NUI Galway has launched a wide-reaching Sustainability Strategy. The strategy illustrates an ambitious vision for the campus to become a role model for the transition to a more sustainable future. The document was officially launched by Senator Alice Mary Higgins at an event held on campus on 15 November 2017 and attended by staff, students and the wider Galway community. The strategy sets out a vision to establish NUI Galway as a leading green, smart and healthy campus. Its successful implementation will ensure that NUI Galway’s reputation around the world is enhanced, that graduates are valued for their world-readiness, that research tackles societal challenges, and that the campus will be a role model for sustainability. The university already has a groundswell of research, events, activities, societies and building initiatives which are related to sustainability. The university offers almost 200 courses covering environmental and/or sustainability issues, and has won the top award for most biodiverse campus at Ireland’s Intervarsity BioBlitz competition. Earlier this year it announced plans to divest from fossil fuel shares. Building on this momentum, the strategy identifies 20 measures for success, under six themes, which serve as indicators for much more extensive work under each theme. An example from each, to be implemented by 2020, include: Research and learning: A 15% increase in sustainability research Energy and greenhouse gas emissions: A 33% reduction in total energy consumption Nature and ecosystems: Compile and implement a biodiversity management plan Health and wellbeing: Strengthen mental health and resilience Built Environment: Reduce water consumption by 20% Governance and leadership: Flagship project with Saolta University Healthcare Group, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation 2, and Galway City Council Attending the launch, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins from Seanad Éireann, said: “It is wonderful to see NUI Galway recognising the crucial role that they and other third level institutions can and should play in shaping a sustainable future on our shared planet. This strategy demonstrates more of the positive joined up thinking seen in the University’s recent commitment to divestment from fossil fuels following a successful campaign by staff and students. While the proposals in this plan are well-grounded in Galway and the campus community, they are also a commitment to partnership with the wider world. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have set out an important blueprint for Ireland and many countries and remind us that sustainability is not only about the environment, it is also about social sustainability. It is therefore great to see holistic proposals in this strategy that range from crucial climate change research to new mental health initiatives with space for new and innovative ideas to emerge.” Speaking at the launch the University’s Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, said: “We live in times of extreme pressure on the resources of our planet, as well as the increased pressures of society which permeate through to each individual. Today, from this campus which is more than 170 years old, we are putting in place a strategy that addresses today’s reality and puts down our ideas for a more sustainable future. This is, and has been, a collaborative, community effort, and it is only by coming together and working together that we can achieve our desired future.” NUI Galway has already instigated demonstrator projects to inspire sustainable behaviour change and to pilot elements of the Sustainability Strategy. For example, the Battle of the Buildings Project aimed to make students and staff more aware of the energy use of campus buildings and to encourage energy-efficient behaviour through collegial competition. Community effort The strategy is the culmination of a long process of consultation with thousands of members of the NUI Galway staff and students, as well as partners such as the Saolta University Healthcare Group. “Through the consultation process, we spoke with people about sustainability in its broadest sense. We looked across the spectrum, from the built environment to wellbeing, from what we teach in the lecture halls to student engagement in our local communities, from research on energy and ecosystems to governance and leadership. This strategy is the culmination of all of that, and our Learn, Live, Lead approach to Sustainability hopefully gives us the foundation to build an even longer-term strategy and become an exemplar in this space”, explains Dr Frances Fahy, Senior Lecturer in Geography at NUI Galway, and member of the Community and University Sustainability Project (CUSP), which led the strategy creation. The NUI Galway Strategic Plan, Vision 2020, outlines a vision of ‘creating a sustainable campus where all resources are used efficiently and where facilities are managed and services consolidated as efficiently as possible’. To develop and realise this vision, the Community and University Sustainability Project (CUSP) was established in 2015 under the direction of the Registrar and Deputy President. CUSP is supported by the University, Students’ Union, Saolta University Healthcare Group, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 2 and Galway City Council, and is funded through the Students’ Projects Fund. The CUSP team is composed of more than 20 students and staff, from across the campus community and Galway University Hospitals. To mark the launch of the strategy and to recognise the community aspect of the initiative, a special event called ‘Galway City’s Sustainability Stories’ was held on campus. With Galway City having been awarded the title European Green Leaf 2017 this year, the event featured short presentations from organisations involved in sustainability throughout Galway City, in different ways and at different scales. Read the report here -Ends-

News Archive

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

NUI Galway has announced the appointment of a leading expert in environmental biotechnology, Professor Piet Lens, Established Professor of New Energy Technologies at the University’s College of Science. Professor Lens will spearhead a €5 million research project, through an investment under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship Programme, to develop novel bioreactor concepts that will recover energy from waste and wastewater. The project will add new biofuels generated from waste products to Ireland’s energy mix, and in turn support the Government’s strategy for an energy self-sufficient Irish bioeconomy. Biotechnology harnesses organisms from natural environments to provide foods and medicines and for tasks such as cleaning toxic waste or detecting harmful substances. New technologies have enabled modern biotechnology to become an important part of the ‘smart economy’ in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, the food industry and the environment. Speaking about Professor Lens’ appointment, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Lens as he joins our vibrant research community here in Galway. Professor Lens is recognised as a world-leader in the area of environmental engineering and his appointment is an invaluable addition to the ongoing energy research at NUI Galway. His research will develop new technologies to generate energy which will positively impact sustainable food production, environmental protection and climate change.’ There is much media debate about methane emissions from Ireland’s agricultural industry. Cutting-edge technologies can take waste products and use them to produce fuel and other valuable products, while reducing pathogen levels and greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable, biomethane is an important energy source in countries like France, Germany and the UK, while in Ireland preparations are at an advanced stage for State-support incentives for energy production in this way. Within the NUI Galway Ryan Institute, Professor Lens’ programme of work will focus on four components of biotechnology; Research into new bacteria from marine and deep sea sediments for potential energy generation; Demonstrating how bioenergy production processes work using novel analytical techniques and innovative mathematical models; Developing new bioreactor configurations and process trains to make the energy production processes work; Application at pilot and full-scale industrial sites to translate the research findings into marketable bioenergy production technologies, including patenting and licencing. This work is very much aligned with the environmental dimension of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on the sustainable management of natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change. Commenting on his appointment, Professor Piet Lens, said: “Receipt of such a significant grant provides an important opportunity to create an enormous impact in the field of bioenergy production. I’m extremely delighted to be awarded this Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship at NUI Galway, which has a long standing reputation as a world-class research hub in the field of anaerobic digestion and environmental microbiology. I’m committed to contributing to further developments in this area and to supporting a strong national and international network of academic and industrial partners linked to this university.” Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Professor Piet Lens to NUI Galway through the SFI Research Professorship Programme. Professor Lens is a world-leading researcher dedicated to developing novel bioprocesses for the recovery of resources such as energy, metals and nutrients from waste. His work will contribute to the greening of our economy and Ireland’s energy sector, and will support the implementation of a circular economy in Ireland through the invention and application of new technologies. His appointment epitomises Science Foundation Ireland’s commitment to fund world-class research with impact in the energy and environment sectors.” Professor Lens will collaborate nationally with research teams in NUI Galway, the MaREI and BEACON Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres, and the Energy and Dairy Processing Technology Centres. Professor Lens will lead a Seminar entitled ‘Trends in Environmental Biotechnology’ on Thursday 23 November at NUI Galway. To hear Professor Lens speak about his project, visit: -Ends-

Monday, 13 November 2017

Researchers from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway have published their latest research findings based on the experiences of children, young people and their families involved in Meitheal*, the Tusla-led early intervention national practice model. The research is part of a comprehensive programme of early intervention and preventative work undertaken by Tusla as part of the Prevention, Partnership and Family Support (PPFS) Programme. This research provides an overview of the interim findings of the report entitled, ‘Meitheal Process and Outcomes Study’, for which data collection is ongoing. This is a longitudinal study with three waves of data collection that focuses on gathering data at a pre, post and follow-up stage. This report focuses specifically on data gathered on the implementation and impact of Meitheal. The NUI Galway study shows that families benefit most when there is a trusting relationship with the practitioners supporting them, when they are asked their views about what is causing the difficulties and what would help resolve these when agencies work together. It is important to understand the strengths and needs of the wider family and not to concentrate solely on the child or young person in question experiencing difficulties. The research also shows that the mothers’ well-being has a big impact on the well-being of children and young people.  This research was carried out by Dr Carmel Devaney, lecturer and principal investigator on a number of research and evaluation projects under the Prevention, Partnership and Family Support Programme, and postdoctoral researchers Dr Leonor Rodriguez and Dr Anne Cassidy at NUI Galway. Speaking about the study, Dr Carmel Devaney said: “The findings highlight the importance of the supportive empathetic relationship between practitioners and families. Family members also reported their appreciation of being included in the process of identifying their needs and deciding on a helpful response to these. Children and young people highlighted that they felt listened to, with some noting definite improvements in their lives as a result of taking part in Meitheal. “While it is too early to determine the impact of Meitheal on the system of help provision in the Irish context, its introduction has heightened the visibility of the work that Tusla carries out with families who do not meet the threshold for an intervention by Child Protection and Welfare services.” This report is part of the wider programme of research and evaluation that the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway are involved with, in relation to Tusla’s Programme of Prevention, Partnership and Family Support. Further research on the impact of Meitheal and its outcomes will be published in mid-2018. To read the report in full, visit: -Ends-

Monday, 13 November 2017

Recent measurements in homes in the West of Ireland have found radon levels equivalent to receiving in excess of 20 chest x-rays per day Researchers at the School of Physics in NUI Galway have found that radon gas levels in houses and buildings in certain parts of Ireland are in excess of levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Radon Control Strategy for Ireland has identified knowledge gaps, including the optimum specifications for passive soil depressurisation systems that take account of Irish building practices. The NUI Galway research project, OptiSDS is investigating several of these knowledge gaps. The World Health Organisation has categorised radon as a carcinogen, in the same group as asbestos and tobacco smoke. In Ireland, up to 250 cases of lung cancer each year are linked to exposure to radon. There is a synergistic effect between radon and tobacco smoke. This means that smokers are at much greater risk of developing radon related lung cancer than non-smokers. There is no scientific evidence linking radon with any other types of respiratory illnesses or other cancers. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It has no taste, colour or smell. It is formed in the ground by the radioactive decay of uranium which is present in all rocks and soils. You cannot see it, smell it or taste it. It can only be measured with special detectors. Outside radon is diluted to very low levels. Radon can enter a home from the ground through small cracks in floors and through gaps around pipes or cables. Indoor radon levels can vary across the country from low levels to tens of times in excess of the reference level set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Recent measurements in homes in the West of Ireland have found radon levels equivalent to receiving in excess of 20 chest x-rays per day. Dr Mark Foley Academic Director of the Masters in Medical Physics at NUI Galway, said: “This Environmental Protection Agency funded OptiSDS project is a good example of collaborations between engineers and scientists in NUI Galway and also with collaborators across Europe to address knowledge gaps in radon research. Through outreach events we are also promoting public awareness of radon risk, radon measurement, radon mitigation and radon preventative techniques.” Dr Jamie Goggins, Principal Investigator in the Centre for Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) at NUI Galway, said: “One of the main aims of the project is to determine the effectiveness of soil depressurisation systems at extracting radon from under buildings. We are doing this through controlled laboratory tests at NUI Galway, in the development of robust numerical simulations and using a specially designed pilot house in a high radon area in Spain, in collaboration with Professor Luis Quindos in the University of Cantabria. It is imperative that we design and construct safe, healthy, comfortable and energy efficient buildings.” The OptiSDS research project will feature on the RTÉ One show, ‘10 Things to Know About’ series opener today, Monday 13 November at 8.30pm, a week after European Radon Day. This research project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. For more information about the OptiSDS project, visit: / -Ends-

Events Calendar

Upcoming Events Time / Date Location
Marina Carr and Mary O'Malley: The Playwright and the Poet 18:00 Friday,
17 November 2017
O'Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance

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