Friday, March 8, 2024

International Women's Day - Spotlight on Dr. Helen Shaw - Mud and microscopes.

It is International Women’s Day, time to celebrate our achievements and consider the past and the future. A lot has changed since I was at school, careers advice was very divided into male and female roles. Science was not always encouraged for women. I learned science later in life. 

I always had an interest in plants, but it was only when I started an Open University degree, after several years of work in museums and arts, that I realised my fascination for science and how nature works. My Open University experience shifted my focus from arts to science. This fascination developed in a second degree in Biology at Southampton University. After time working in science administration for international science programmes, I undertook a PhD studying palaeoecology in the stunning environment of Glen Affric in Highland Scotland where ancient pine woods still survive and thrive in part of the Glen. This is where I started to specialise in my research area. My interests spanned geology, environment and ecology, so it was a natural progression to focus on palaeoecology.

Palaeoecology is the study of ecology through time. Most of the time use pollen from peat accumulations or lake sediments to infer what vegetation was there in the past. We can take cores from peat bogs, and ponds and all sorts of muddy little basins and look to see what pollen grains are in each layer. Because the layers of sediment or peat in a basin are laid down through time, each layer down core is a little older than the layer above. We can ‘see’ environmental change through time by examining the types of pollen trapped in samples from a sequence of depths in the peat core. 

I have spent many happy hours in muddy hollows collecting data on plant presence and peat cores for analysis. And many more contented hours staring down a microscope and counting the pollen grains that I find in each sample. It is a painstaking task, but very rewarding. Pollen grains come in all sorts of shapes from teddy bears ears (pine) to golf balls (grass), with some that have surface structures that look like giraffe skin (ash), and some that look like brains (elm): each is a new discovery. Counting the pollen is like a forensic investigation of the past, each new grain a new clue to the presence of a long-forgotten plant. 

My work helped to discover that some places in Glen Affric, where we thought there were lost and degenerating pinewoods, these were actually a more recent expansion; and I was able to provide evidence that the pine woods had much more diversity, with pine sharing space with other broadleaved tree species. 

The work in Glen Affric was highly applied to ideas of rewilding and reforestation. These are two other topics that really fascinate me. Ecological restoration is essential in a world where so much change has been wrought by humans, but we need to make space for restoration and rewilding to be dynamic. Ecology is always in a state of change and ecological balance might be a bit of an illusion. 

As a palaeoecologist I can provide evidence about past change over thousands of years in the life of a forest, and therefore I can help us to understand our ecological options for the future. We can also look at more recent change, to see how, for example, agriculture has changed ecology—we know surprisingly little about ecological change over the last few hundred years. I have investigated ecological change in cultural upland landscapes as well as woodlands. To do this work it is important to cross disciplines into agricultural history, and mapping, and archaeology… this just makes the subject even more fascinating!

Currently I am reexploring some of my old Glen Affric samples to investigate the other microscopic remains such as fungal spores found in the samples—spores from fungi that live on animal dung can help us infer past grazing for example. I am also working on some histories of vegetation change in the Irish midlands. These studies have involved the help of some wonderful students in the MU SPUR scheme. After years of perseverance in my subject area, a range of new conservation objectives, including the newly adopted EU Nature Restoration Law and EU Forest Strategy and guidelines for conservation of Old Growth Forest have led to an exciting new collaborative project which I am just about to start with several colleagues. Ancient Woodland Ireland, funded by Department for Agriculture Forestry and the Marine and National Parks and Wildlife Service, will map fragments of ancient woodland across the island of Ireland and will use palaeoecology alongside the mapping to explore the history of the most important woodland fragments in more detail. I am excited to be back in the woods doing palaeoecology!

Of course, supporting the learning of others is also an important part of my job. I love sharing my subject area through teaching. I am a great proponent of the joy of fieldwork, and of practical learning. The outdoors is a great learning environment and I hope to take students to the woods and involve them in the ancient woodlands work in future years. As a female geographer there are sometimes additional challenges to fieldwork, but getting muddy in a peat bog, or examining plants in a pasture, are some of life’s joys, and nothing should put us off! 

This year's IWD highlights the “crucial role of inclusion in achieving gender equality. It calls for action to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected”. Reflecting on my experiences as a woman in STEM, what would I tell my younger self? Don’t underestimate yourself, be determined, continue to support others and enjoy the wonderful friendships created by common interests. We should also be brave, call out poor behaviour. And what would I tell a few colleagues I have met along the way--don’t underestimate us, and don’t sideline us into the work that you do not want to do! Many women advocate that we must learn to say “No”, but in doing so we must recognise that someone else will get that work and it might well be another woman, or other undervalued person. I hope we can strive better for a fair, kind and collaborative academia full of fascinating research, great students, and opportunity for all who want it.


International Women’s Day 2024 – Spotlight on the research scientists in the ICARUS team


In the last 12 months the ICARUS has been going from strength to strength from a female perspective and International Women’s day is an ideal time for a spotlight on some of the research scientists in the team.


Marine Biology

Dr. Kirsty Morris – Post-doctoral Researcher, Marine Biology

As a child I always had a love for marine animals and ecology and longed to be a marine biologist. With the support of my family to work for what I wanted I began my formal marine education at Aberdeen University, where I completed my under graduate degree in Marine Biology. During this time I dipped into the world of deep sea biology with my final year project, which investigated bioluminescence within an Eddie in the deep Atlantic, this work along with that of others lead to my first named author publication in 2008 (Hedger et al, 2008). Following on from this I spent a year at Glasgow University completing my MRes in Marine and Freshwater Biology and Environmental Ecology. During this I completed two research projects one on the evolution of colour and pattern in tropical fish and a second on the impact of reef walkers on fish behaviour in Sharm el Sheik which involved 3 months field work and multiple hours of snorkelling. I completed my formal education with a PhD at the University of Southampton- working on deep sea coral distribution and genetics and resulting in multiple publications. Following from this I spent 4 years working as a postdoctoral researcher at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton, working on image analysis techniques for the deep sea resulting in multiple publications. I left this position in 2016 following the birth of my first daughter Ava to care for her full time. My second daughter Lily was born in 2019. 

In January 2024 I began working within the ICARUS Oceans Group in the Geography department Maynooth University. My first science role in almost 8 years!! I am working on a project investigating the impacts of climate change on shellfish growth in Irish waters using data supplied by the Marine Institute.  To be able to get back into the field of marine biology for which I have always been passionate after such a long time is hugely exciting. This is a part time position, which allows me to continue caring for my two daughters, working during school hours and caring for the girls after school. This is of great importance to me.

The project is in the early days, with my current work focussing on data validation. It is hoped in the near future I will begin to investigate if there are any relationships between shellfish shell and tissue growth with physical variables such as temperature, Ph and salinity. I will also be investigating if any relationships that are uncovered hold true across a range of culture types including natural bed and rope grown mussels. It is also hoped there will be the opportunity to investigate these relationships with oyster data at a later date.


International women’s day is all about shining light on women and their achievements. My two greatest achievements are my daughters. Another achievement is gaining a PhD in a field for which I have always held love. My biggest achievement in 2024 is to be able to combine these loves successfully. This is something I hope is possible to continue in the future. Happy International Women’s day 2024!!


Heger, A., Ieno, E.N., King, N.J., Morris, K.J., Bagley, P.M. Priede, IG. (2008) Deep sea pelagic bioluminescence over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Deep sea research II: tropical studies in Oceanography.




Air-Sea interaction 

Dr. Samantha  Hallam – Post-doctoral Researcher, ICARUS oceanography


Since February 2021, I have been a post-doctoral researcher in the ICARUS team at Maynooth University working on the EU funded ROADMAP project investigating the impact of ocean circulation variability (western boundary currents and AMOC) on atmospheric and climate dynamics in the North Atlantic and North Pacific. It has been a fantastic experience working in the ICARUS oceanography team. Opportunities have included undertaking research at sea along Goban Spur and the Rockall Trough, together with presenting my research in Chicago, Japan and New Orleans which has led to further collaborations.

At the end of March I will be taking up a new role as senior post-doctoral researcher in the ICARUS team, where I will be Co-PI on the TOPIM (Tropical cyclone ocean-coupled potential intensity model) project, rolling out a new tropical cyclone potential intensity model for the Caribbean Small island developing states, a very exciting opportunity. 

Here is the link to my publications



Climate Change 

Shirley Howe, PhD Researcher and Assistant Lecturer


Climate change drivers are rooted in culture and potential climate futures are dependent on human behaviour. For these reasons, my research focus is the interlinkedness of physical processes and human systems. My PhD research examines the influence of socio-ecological dynamics, culture, identities and place in shaping constructions of climate change, resilience, vulnerability and adaptive capacity. This research, for which I was awarded the Eda Segarra Medal of Excellence in 2019, is funded by the Irish Research Council and the Environmental Protection Agency. It offers a longitudinal analysis of societal perspectives and experiences of climate change on Inishbofin Island, County Galway, Ireland through periods of ethnographic residency. On an existing imprint of marginalisation manifested through insidious population decline, Ireland’s island populations face into higher climate change risk compared to the mainland. Simultaneously, their primary livelihoods—fishing, farming and tourism—are weather dependent. This study analyses the characteristics of islands, natureculture, the weather world including experience of extreme events, historical and contemporary identity making, and colonial and postcolonial governance in Inishbofin to further understandings of climate change response. By thus extending insight into the meaning of climate change and how this meaning forms, it contains implications for strategic and transformative climate action across scales. I am currently preparing to submit my PhD thesis and lecturing with the Geography Department. Additionally, I am passionate about science communication, outreach and public engagement, and with colleagues in ICARUS and the Geography Department including Michelle and Samantha, produce and present an interactive educational experience entitled ‘The Circus of Climate Horrors’ at events in Ireland and the UK.




From "the Earth's surface" to the "Earth from space"

Sandra Cristina Deodoro, PhD Researcher

I would like to start by saying I am fascinated by Geography and maps! 


My research interests mainly focus on Earth Observation satellites applied to environmental monitoring, namely soil and water. I am also interested in topics related to geology and (fluvial)geomorphology and environmental education.


My (formal)Geography journey commenced at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil), where I completed a B.Sc. in Geography and Postgraduate Diplomas in Water Resources Management and Geoprocessing (GIS). After that, I undertook a M.Sc. in Environmental Systems Analysis and Modelling at the same university. In my master´s dissertation, I explored spectral reflectance data from an optical-based remote sensor (Sentinel 2) for soil particle size analysis and employed Discriminant Analysis as a statistical method to classify soil texture patterns in a meandering stretch of the Uruguay River located between the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). Currently, I am collaborating on the project Geomorphodynamics of Chapecó River Basin’s Landscape (Santa Catarina State) carried out by researchers from the Federal University of Chapecó and Italian researchers from Roma Tre University and Padova University.

In 2021, I commenced my journey at Maynooth University by pursuing a PhD in Geography. In my research, I am delving more into Earth Observation satellites by assessing the use of microwave-based remote sensors (C-band SAR Sentinel 1) to estimate topsoil particle-size fractions and predict soil texture, with application to Ireland. Thus, moving from tropical-sub-tropical climate soils to temperate-climate soils. I am also testing a radar polarimetry-based technique to retrieve soil information under vegetated soil conditions, which is a common characteristic in Ireland. The method employed is also relevant to locations where optical remotely sensed data is limited and/or where vegetation cover is present throughout the year (Deodoro et al., 2023; 2024). The primary goal of my PhD thesis is to provide a methodological framework to inform the design of in situ soil surveys as well as to provide a means to estimate soil properties over large spatial areas to generate new data products for use in hydrological, land surface, climate, and other model-based approaches that currently employ coarse global scale soil texture products.


Outside of research, I enjoy exploring nature, playing with my four-legged friends, and of course, drinking coffee! 

Earth´s surface signatures from EO satellites (Sentinel 1 and 2). Microwave remote sensing signatures of soil, vegetation, and urban area (Sentinel 1; plot on left); spectral signatures of different types of soil and vegetation from Sentinel 2 (plot on right). Figures: Deodoro et al.(2024).





Deodoro, S.C., Moral, R. de A.; Fealy, R.; McCarthy, T., & Fealy, R. (2024). Using the surface scattering mechanism from dual-pol SAR data to estimate topsoil particle-size fractions. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 128, e10374,


Deodoro, S.C., Moral, R. de A.; Fealy, R.; McCarthy, T., & Fealy, R. (2023). An assessment of Sentinel 1 SAR, geophysical and topographical covariates for estimating topsoil particle size fractions. European Journal of Soil Science, 74(5), e13414, DOI: 10.1111/ejss.13414,


Bertolini, W. Z., Deodoro, S. C., Zambot, N. (2023). Morphometric analysis of Chapecó river basin: Searching for vestigial trace of neotectonic on a basaltic landscape at southern Brazil. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 124, e104271,


Historical instrumental series to assess climate change

Dr Carla Mateus, Assistant Professor


In May 2023, I joined the ICARUS and the Geography Department at Maynooth University as an Assistant Professor ( My research interests mainly focus on climate science, namely historical climatology, assessment of past extreme weather events and environmental history. I am also interested in climate action, climate adaptation, climate mitigation, environment and sustainability research topics. Historical long-term meteorological observations are crucial to analyse extreme events and trends and to examine modern climate warming within a historical context (e.g. Mateus and Potito, 2022). 


I am passionate about teaching, outreach, public engagement and science communication. I have experience developing outreach programmes in climate and geography for primary and transition year students. Additionally, I enjoy communicating my research to the public.


From 2021 to 2023, I worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Met Éireann – the Irish Meteorological Service – on the project ‘Climate maps and data to support building design standards in Ireland’.


In 2021, I obtained my PhD in Geography at the University of Galway after successfully defending the thesis ‘Development of long-term daily maximum and minimum air temperature series and assessment of past extreme air temperature events in Ireland’. 


I carried out placements as a Technician at the Portuguese Environment Agency and as a Meteorological Observer at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Coimbra in Portugal.


I completed a Bachelor’s in Geography with a pre-specialisation in Physical Geography in 2012 and a Master’s in Physical Geography, Environment and Spatial Planning in 2014 at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In 2014, I completed an Erasmus Placement at the University of Galway and fell in love with Ireland. Therefore, I decided to move to Ireland to conduct my PhD research and to advance my professional career.


For the list of my publications, see:



Mateus, C. and Potito, A., 2022. Long-term trends in daily extreme air temperature indices in Ireland from 1885 to 2018. Weather and Climate Extremes, 36, p.100464.



Predicting waves: Where science meets nature

by Ashly Kalayil Uthaman, PhD Researcher




Ever wondered what drives the waves break against our shores? Or how we      can predict their behavior not just for tomorrow, but for years? DeWaPIC – Decadal Wave prediction of Irish Coast uncover the secrets of ocean waves around Ireland and explore how numerical models to can be used to predict waves.

Ocean waves are not only mesmerizing to watch; they also play a crucial role in shaping our coastlines and influencing marine ecosystems. From providing habitats for countless species to driving coastal erosion and creating surf breaks, waves are dynamic forces of nature.

Predicting ocean waves comes with its challenges. Uncertainties abound, from the complex interactions between atmospheric and oceanic processes to the inherent limitations of numerical models.

Waves formed by wind travel long distances before reaching the coastline. Upon reaching shallower waters, they interact with the seafloor, causing the stored energy to be released through breaking waves in the surf zone. Different models rely on varying assumptions. In this study, numerical models such as WAM and SWAN are used to simulate waves from deep to shallow waters. These wave models are driven by atmospheric conditions obtained from climate models. This provides insight into how changes in wind patterns due to climate change may affect wave characteristics such as height, period, and direction. Such information is essential for coastal planning and marine resource management.





North Atlantic decadal predictability

Catherine O’Beirne, PhD Researcher


After completing a B.A. in Environmental Science at Trinity College Dublin in 2016 and an M.Sc. in Climate Change at Maynooth University in 2018. I am 4th year PhD candidate at Maynooth University and have submitted my thesis. The area of focus is on understanding Atlantic variability and its connection to the Irish shelf advancing knowledge of Irish sea-level change in an Atlantic context; development of predictive capacity on decadal timescales for the North Atlantic; and how these predictions can be applied for stakeholder needs. 

I am currently in the process of finalising a paper based on the prediction skill around the western coast of Ireland. To write two further papers based on the improvement of skill and how to tailor predictions for the fishery industry. Having the ability to predict changes in the future stock will support adaptation and fish stock management. In decadal climate prediction, initialized predictions have demonstrated improved prediction skill for the North Atlantic. The different stages of fish development are dependent on oceanic variables like temperature and variability and investigating decadal prediction skill for those variables will allow me to make statements on potential changes in fish stock. 











Friday, December 15, 2023

COP28. United Nations Climate Change Conference.

 COP28. By Prof. John Sweeney, Day 1.

Holding COP28 in a major oil and gas producing country was always going to be fraught with controversy. This is particularly so since the host President, Sultan al Jaber, is also the CEO of the United Arab Emirates national Oil Company, a company which is responsible for more emissions that Exon Mobil or BP. However, at the end of the first week, the events have not played out according to plan for either the hosts or most of the 197 countries hoping for a breakthrough to tackle the dire climate situation laid out by the scientists of the IPCC or the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres.

The Presidency needed an early win to provide some momentum. And so it seemed this had occurred with the surprising announcement that the long running dispute on Loss and Damage was settled on day 1. This took everyone by surprise and was swiftly followed by the pledging of $100M by the host country and several substantial commitments to the Loss and Damage Fund by other countries, including €25M from Ireland (claimed to be the second highest per capita contribution after the UAE). While the figures adding up to date to around €720M sound impressive, in reality, the expressed need is measured in trillions. Of course the likely beneficiaries are not the primary drivers of global heating. That responsibilities falls to the developed countries. G20 countries emit 7.9 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capita while the corresponding figure for the least developed countries is 2.2t per capita. Ireland’s figure is 11.9t per capita, so maybe it should be among the highest contributors to the Loss and Damage fund.

Shortly after day 1, however, the drip feed of information questioning the real intentions of the President began to emerge. First was the publication of leaked documents by the BBC indicating that the President was intending to do ‘side deals’ with various countries to facilitate the expansion of their fossil fuel infrastructure. This was generally condemned as not something the COP President should be doing during a COP and could be interpreted as a misuse of his position as well as demonstrating a serious conflict of interest. His defence was rather unconvincing to this author.

A few days later, a recording emerged of a feisty interchange between Sultan Al Jaber and former Irish President Mary Robinson. In the heat of this debate Al Jaber stated there is ‘no science’ behind calls for a fossil fuel phase out’. Although this was recorded from an event that predated COP28, its revelation was devastating. Here was someone tasked with achieving the one thing that could save the planet from what Guterres had described as ‘opening the gates to hell’ denying that fossil fuel cessation would provide a way of avoiding the catastrophic tipping points being breached.

Both the Tanaiste and Minister Ryan have been generous with their time and have met with the Irish civil society group to provide updates. For the most part the negotiating position of the Irish government is progressive and Minister Ryan in particular is heading up, together with France, the EU negotiations on climate finance. But the world outside Europe is a very different collection of countries with often widely differing priorities. President Putin has been visiting those countries in the region over the past few days which do not risk his arrest for war crimes. These countries, like Russia, are major fossil fuel producers and one can imagine that ceasing fossil fuel production was not a priority in their meetings. Indeed one of the young Ukrainian climate activists condemned the way energy production has become weaponized as a result of the war.

What is now emerging as the sticking point for the wording of the final communique is the extent to which it will embody a commitment to phase out all fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil, before 2050. A new global plan with strict milestones is necessary for this. At this stage in a COP the President assumes

control over deadlocked negotiating committees and seeks to drum out compromise texts. How successful he will be in doing this is not at all clear given the misgivings in his neutrality emerging over recent days. Various draft texts already in circulation repeat the mantra of previous COPS: “phasing down”, “phasing out unabated fossil fuel emissions”, or even omitting any reference to fossil fuel reductions entirely! We won’t know until the final gavel comes down if India, China, Saudi Arabia or Russia will veto the final wording as happened in Glasgow. On this rests the verdict as to whether this will be a COP for change or not.

Fossils and Fossil Fuels. By Prof. John Sweeney, Day 2.

It is customary for civil society groups to nominate a country that they feel has done least to tackle climate change as ‘Fossil of the Day’. These nominated are subsequently entered into ‘Fossil of the Week’ etc. to hopefully embarrass countries into upping their game. It’s a bit of a stunt, but has been a feature of COPs for many years. Friday was Youth and Children’s day and the nominated country was Israel, narrowly pipping Russia and Australia. The nomination of Israel was emphasising that there can be no climate justice without social justice, and reflected on the tragic loss of young life presently occurring in the region. In the case of Russia, the fact that Mr. Putin landed in the UAE the day before and didn’t even come to COP was pointed out, together with the long standing opposition of Russia to emissions reductions. His potential motive in going from one petrostate, the UAE to another, Saudi Arabia, was also commented on by the nominators. The contribution of fossil fuels to the Russian economy is as high as 40% and new markets are needed following the EU boycott. This of course raises doubt as to what Russia will agree to in the final communique.

In the case of Australia, the fact that they have made no contribution as yet to the Loss and Damage Fund despite being one of the world’s leading exporters of fossil fuel was pointed out. The very limited contribution they have made to ameliorating climate change impacts in their neighbouring countries was also a factor. Of course the awards are purely symbolic, but do tend to show up the real ‘laggards’ in the negotiations.

Also produced at each COP is the country ‘league table’ which positions 59 countries and the EU in terms of their climate performance. Rankings are decided by a panel of experts with inputs also provided at a national level. After improving briefly in 2022 to reach 37th place, largely as a result of the passage of climate legislation, Ireland has now slipped to 43rd place in 2023. Not quite in the relegation zone yet, but clearly being overtaken by other countries. The reasons given primarily relate to implementation failure, namely Ireland’s failure to convince the evaluators that the carbon budget agreed for 2021-2025 will be achieved. Indeed the EPA have also projected recently that the subsequent budget period 2026-2030 will also not be achieved. So despite ‘talking the talk’, Ireland is not ‘walking the walk’!

There is a striking presence of ‘Big Agriculture’ lobbyists at this COP. While the omni present oil lobbyists tend to get the greatest attention, industrial agriculture lobbyists are very active. Emissions associated with food production amount to about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions with over half of this due to livestock farming. Methane is particularly problematic, trapping 80 times more heat than the same amount of CO2 over a 20 year period. Yet the focus in this COP seems to be largely restricted to reducing methane from oil and gas flaring, rather than from livestock. Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture has arrived and will meet civil society groups tomorrow where the COP theme focus will be on agriculture and food. It should be interesting given that Ireland emits 3.7 times as much methane per capita as the average EU citizen.

Today there was a lot more activism inside the COP venue with noisy marches and demonstrations to rightly remind negotiators what is at stake. However there are growing concerns that the final decision will not signal an end to fossil fuels. Presently the negotiators have a number of alternative texts to argue over. These range from ‘an orderly and just phase-out of fossil fuels’ to no text at all being offered. Somewhere between the two there will be compromises suggested involving ‘unabated emissions’ and ‘phase down’ of fossil fuel emissions. The planet however can’t wait for compromises in this area. Nonetheless the requirement for unanimity which has bedevilled progress in this area for 28 years means that it will only take one country to veto what over 190 countries want to do. The next few days will tell the tale.

COP28; See Through the Spin. By Prof. John Sweeney, Day 3.

As a veteran of 13 COPs I can confirm that I left disillusioned from 12,with only Paris being different. The pattern is ominously similar here in Dubai. The first week is dominated by world leaders arriving with their entourage and making lovely noises about how this particular COP is crucial, how the window for avoiding the tipping points is rapidly closing, and how much we should listen to the science. In the three minutes allocated to each world leader in the Plenary Hall, we hear noble statements of how much a particular country is doing to tackle the problem. Seldom do we hear figures of how much their emissions have increased since their last appearance or how structural changes in their economies and societies are underway to achieve a sustainable world for the next generation. Of course there are exceptions, but the first week is mainly designed for domestic consumption back home. If you can’t say our emissions are increasing, instead say we are reducing emissions intensity, or we are a rich country and are contributing finances to ease the plight of climate victims in poor countries or those facing submergence.

The second week is very different. The delegates are given a brief from their bosses and tortuous negotiations commence. Draft agreement texts are prepared, riddled with square brackets to be accepted or rejected in lengthy sometimes overnight negotiations. Around the conference venue activists march and young people demonstrate to keep the pressure up on negotiators to deliver. It makes for a colourful and noisy COP, especially with reference to the indigenous peoples groups. Amazonian indigenous people in full costume protesting their loss of habitat, Canadian First Nation people protesting their mistreatment by big oil etc. For most countries however their minorities are silent, protests by them would not be countenanced by their national governments. All the while, the men and women in dark suits ply their trade. 2,500 oil and gas lobbyists are active behind the scenes. Taking a lesson from the big oil playbook, Big Agriculture presents a greenwashed perspective loosely draped in what they believe passes for ’food security’.

And then the Saudis send in their lawyers.

Having seen these individuals in action in previous COPs I can only marvel at their skills. Often Harvard or Yale educated, they are expert at dismembering sentences. A comma here, a semi colon there and the whole meaning of a sentence is changed. Of course taking up speaking time with lengthy statements also is a good tactic, especially late at night.

The first draft text that emerged could have been written by OPEC. It contained little of substance and was crammed with aspirational language that promised little implementation certainty. The so-called North Star that the President emphasised as his compass to keep the planet heating up beyond the Paris 1.5oC threshold was certainly not in evidence. The phrase ‘rapidly phasing down unabated coal’ was especially scorned by the delegates. No mention of other fossil fuels being ‘phased down’ far less ‘phased out’. This immediately led to threats of a walkout from the EU. The final text that was agreed after a day of wrangling, was not that much better. When Sultan Al Jaber finally brought down the gavel on Wednesday morning the delegates hugged and cheered as usual. But in reality the concrete achievements of COP28 are not likely to avoid the planet warming above the 1.5oC threshold.

The key phrase in the final agreement called on countries to contribute to global efforts to ‘transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science’. But this contains

no timescale or quantification of what transition actually means. It is purely voluntary, reflecting the watering down of intentions that occurs in a system where unanimity is required. Unsurprisingly, after the deal was reached, an oil representative reportedly said the deal ‘does not affect our exports, does not affect our ability to sell’.

Maybe expectations were too high. Maybe the tactics of having an especially poor first draft made any improvement seem good. Maybe the COP did for the first time signal a transition to a fossil free world. But the question hanging over the event is will countries live up to their commitments this time, or will global climate change wait long enough for a sustainable future for the next generation? On both counts the prognosis is poor.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Circus continues…


The “Circus of Climate Horrors” is Ireland’s newest Climate Change outreach project. Our unique experience of fun games also provides a chance to chat with real climate scientists. Built and run by researchers at the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units (ICARUS) Institute within the Geography Department, the Circus engages audiences with relevant, contemporary issues surrounding rising greenhouse gases, sustainability, and future climate action through a series of interactive games and activities for all ages. Within weeks of debuting at Glastonbury in June 2023 (which was a resounding success!) the Circus had invitations from Science Foundation Ireland to attend the Mind Fields area at Electric Picnic 2023, and the International Geographical Conference in 2024.


To ensure the longevity of the Circus and to give postgraduate students hands on experience of participating in climate outreach, we ran a workshop for the Climate Change Masters class and PhD students from ICARUS. The students then expertly ran the exhibit during Research Week 2023. The ‘Great Wall of Atmospheres’, proved to be a particular draw with many returning to either get on the leader board, or trying to beat their previous time! On a more serious note, by highlighting some of the impacts of climate change, the circus provided our postgraduate students with an opportunity to engage with hundreds of Maynooth University students and staff over the busy four day period. Many of whom might rarely get to talk about climate change with scientists. It was fascinating to hear their understanding and awareness about these important issues. These insights were highlighted by their written contributions to our climate wishes/pledges board which contains hundreds of inspiring individual and collective actions to deal with climate change.

Circus of Climate horrors at Research week in Maynooth University

The circus is taking a break for the rest of the year so we can update the stall… keep an eye out on socials @climate_circus , Circus for Climate Horrors for new and innovative designs coming soon!


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

ICARUS scientist represents the Organization of African Academic Doctors at UN Ocean Decade meeting in China

Dr Emmanuel Eresanya is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS (ICARUS), Department of Geography, Maynooth University. Emmanuel is also the Project lead in the Climate Research Group (CRG) of the Organization of African Academic Doctors (OAAD) . Recently, as the Project Lead of OAAD CRG, Emmanuel was selected as a Co-PI in the Ocean to Climate Seamless Forecasting in Africa (OSFiA)  a UN Decade Collaborative Centre on Ocean Climate Nexus and Coordination among Decade implementing Partners in P. R of China (DCC-OCC), hosted by the First Institute of Oceanography, Qingdao, China. He attended the 1st General Assembly of the Ocean to Climate Seamless Forecasting System (OSF) Programme that was held on 27-28th, September 2023 in Qingdao, China. 

Emmanuel was among the 300 Researchers from 100 UN Institutions chosen from 30 Countries across the globe present at Steigenberger Hotel Qingdao for the Ocean to Climate Seamless Forecasting System (OSF) Programme. As a Co-PI, he will be working with others to deploy and monitor the OSF's new technologically driven buoy to archive Ocean data across the Gulf of Guinea and the Mediterranean Sea in the next 10 years.

Emmanuel was also featured in the  Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) plenary meeting during the general assembly where he joined other early career Ocean Professionals in a discussion about the safety of the Ocean and bridging the gap between Ocean data and the end users.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Irish climate scientists from Maynooth University present the ‘Circus of Climate Horrors’ at Glastonbury!


This year a group of climate scientists from ICARUS, Maynooth University were thrilled to present a new climate change outreach stall in the Science Futures field at Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts, becoming the first Irish University to exhibit at the event! The aim of Science Futures is to bring the ‘science behind the headlines’ to almost 250,000 festival goers. Our brand new climate change outreach stall, called the ‘Circus of Climate Horrors’ highlights some of the impacts of climate change, including the increased likelihood of enhanced precipitation, sea-level rise and flooding events within a warming world, and provided us with an opportunity to engage with hundreds of people over the busy five day festival.

After months of preparation, planning and building we arrived at the festival, and set up our striking ‘Circus of Climate Horrors’ tent, decked out in the climate stripes, in anticipation of people arriving. Our interactive exhibits included the ‘Wheel of Global Warming’ aimed at informing people about different climate change scenarios, the ‘Great Wall of Atmospheres’, an interactive and competitive ball game that demonstrates how increased CO2 creates a warmer world, and a flood map of the UK and Ireland under a 2°C warming scenario. People absolutely loved the Climate Circus! Children and adults alike enjoyed the interactive games while learning about climate science, which gave festival-goers the chance to engage with concepts they may not have thought about before. It was a huge success!

Glastonbury attracts an incredibly varied demographic (background, age, lifestyle, location (UK and international), career level and sector), which provided a unique opportunity for us to chat and engage with numerous, diverse audiences, many of whom might rarely get to talk about climate change research with scientists. It was fascinating to hear their insights and thoughts too. This diversity and insight was highlighted by their written contributions to our climate wishes/pledges board which contains hundreds of inspiring individual and collective actions to deal with climate change. We plan in the future to present the Circus of Climate Horrors at more events that provide opportunities for effective and meaningful engagement with a broad group of people about the importance of climate change and its impact!  

Monday, November 21, 2022

Recovering German and Irish moorings Southwest of Ireland. A campaign on the new Irish Research Vessel (RV) Tom Crean.

Originally published at

The one-week long Aimsir/EirOOS survey ended a couple of weeks ago and was the first physical oceanography campaign of the new Irish Research Vessel (RV) Tom Crean. Our primary goal was to recover three moorings located southwest of Ireland, on an offshore underwater plateau known as Goban Spur. This campaign was carried out as a collaboration between three different ocean research institutions: 1) Maynooth University with scientists from the A4 project; 2) the Marine Institute; and 3) the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany (in German, Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie, or BSH).


Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté

Moorings are instrument arrays anchored on the sea floor which sample the water column for an extended amount of time (from months to years). In recent years, a network of moorings has been measuring water properties at the Goban Spur (13°E, 49°N). In 2016, German scientists of BSH (the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany) deployed three EB moorings on the deeper part of the Goban Spur, while in 2020, the Marine Institute filled in the gap between the German moorings and the Irish coastline with additional EBS moorings. The mooring geographical locations, reminding of the ‘OMEX’ mooring array deployed in the mid-90s, were chosen to close the eastern boundary of the NOAC line, a basinwide mooring array measuring the North Atlantic conveyor belt circulation.

(a) General bathymetry map of the region Southwest of Ireland, showing also the mooring locations as colour filled circle) as well as the planned and effective CTD stations displayed as light and dark crosses. The mobilisation and demobilisation ports, respectfully Cork and Galway, are also indicated. Despite being indicated here, EBS5 was not recovered. (b) Zoom in on the Goban Spur, where most of the action took place. Markers are the same as on (a), only planned CTD stations are not shown.  **Image credit: Gerard D. McCarthy**.
(a) General bathymetry map of the region Southwest of Ireland, showing also the mooring locations as colour filled circle) as well as the planned and effective CTD stations displayed as light and dark crosses. The mobilisation and demobilisation ports, respectfully Cork and Galway, are also indicated. Despite being indicated here, EBS5 was not recovered. (b) Zoom in on the Goban Spur, where most of the action took place. Markers are the same as on (a), only planned CTD stations are not shown. Image credit: Gerard D. McCarthy.

While moorings EB2 and EBS3 were lost, possibly due to trawling activity, three Goban Spur moorings (EB3, EB1 and EBS1) and one shallow mooring (EBS5) sampled the ocean for an extended period. Recovery of these moorings was the primary goal of our cruise. These mooring locations are shown on the map above. The campaign was conducted on the RV Tom Crean between September 24th and 30th, and the principal investigator was Dr. Gerard McCarthy, my PhD supervisor.

The Maynooth University team, which was composed of Dr. Gerard McCarthy, Dr. Levke Caesar, Dr. André Düsterhus, Dr. Samantha Hallam, Dr. Stephen Ogungbenro and myself, met up with Dr. Manuela Köllner and Tobias Svensson from BSH on the Friday 23/09. We embarked the RV Tom Crean on the following day, joining Dr. Eoghan Daly, Alan Berry and Conall O' Malley from the Marine Institute as well as the ship’s crew. We set sail on that day. Mooring EB3 was recovered on Monday 26/09. Rougher weather hindered mooring recovery until the Thursday 29/09, and the elapsed time was used as best as possible to conduct CTD profiles (Don’t know what CTD stations are? Find out more info here).

Dr. Gerard McCarthy and Dr. Eoghan Daly on a coffee break. **Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.**
Dr. Gerard McCarthy and Dr. Eoghan Daly on a coffee break. Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.

Mooring EBS1 and EB1 were recovered on the Thursday 29/09, and it was decided to sail towards land immediately after because of the sea condition worsening. We fled ahead of the storm and reached — not without trouble — Galway Bay on the evening of Friday 29/09. We disembarked on the following morning.

Together with Dr. Samantha Hallam, I cleaned up the moored instruments recovered from the mooring lines, downloaded the data from the MicroCATs, set up the instruments for calibration dips, and more broadly facilitated the smooth running of the mooring operations headed by Dr. Manuela Köllner (for EB1 and EB3) and Conall O' Malley (for EBS1).

I was also in charge of the Vessel Mounted Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (VmADCP), which is an instrument designed to measure the water velocity (currents) of the water column below the ship keel. The VmADCP aboard the RV Tom Crean is a Pinnacle 45 from Teledyne RDI, a particularly modern instrument which allows to perform a novel acquisition method referred to as ‘interleaved’. This new method comes with new processing challenges, which I was able to circumvent with help of Pr. Jules Hummon of University of Hawaii who was contacted by mail. Next month, Gerard and I will be taking part in a workshop organised by Dr. Eoghan Daly on VmADCP acquisition and data processing.

The RV Tom Crean in Galway harbour on demobilisation day. **Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.**
The RV Tom Crean in Galway harbour on demobilisation day. Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.

The RV Tom Crean is a very modern ship, with a range of new assets to help scientists conduct research at sea. I was in particular impressed by the features of the dry laboratory. Scientists can now operate the CTD winch from a designated desk in the dry lab, provided the bridge has granted us control. The different screens in the lab are all connected to a central PC unit, and everything is accessible from a server, allowing researchers to quickly work on different ongoing measurements at a time (VmADC Profiling, but also swath bathymetry measurements, underway systems, CTD monitoring, etc.). The ship design makes life aboard comfortable and easy, with a gym, a TV space, a very comfortable dining room facing the galley, and plenty of room to work.

As on previous cruises I took part in, pods of common dolphins and pilot whales were common encounters. A camera was installed on the hull and allowed to see dolphins having great fun right beneath us. Colleagues Dr. Samantha Hallam and Alan Berry shared some wonderful footages on their social media, some of which can be seen below. Dr. Eoghan Daly also put together a video of our campaign which was shown during the RV Tom Crean commissioning ceremony, and it can be found below too.


Sam Tiéfolo Diabaté
Sam Tiéfolo Diabaté
Doctoral researcher in Physical Oceanography

My research focuses on ocean currents and sea level.