Three academics at NUI Galway have been awarded funding for projects investigating societal challenges.
The three projects are aimed at tackling issues surrounding climate change in Africa, how digitalisation impacts older people and the de-extinction of species respectively.
The awards were handed out through the Irish Research Council’s COALESCE programme in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Dr Una Murray of the school of Geography, Archaeology and Celtic Studies and the Ryan Institute has been awarded €338,000 for research on the link between climate change and migration on Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Land degradation, water scarcity and declines in agriculture production, driven by an increasing intensity and frequency of environmental disasters induced by climate change, are key triggers for people to move from rural to urban areas for employment opportunities,” said Dr Murray.
“Social protection, social insurance, and cash transfers, although present in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and in the climate loss and damage debate, could play a stronger role in human migration and other forms of climate adaptation.”
Professor Kieran Walsh of the Centre for Social Gerontology received €192,161 for combating digital exclusion experienced by older people in society through Virtual-EngAge, a project focused on adapting the development of technology for the needs of older people.
“The COALESCE funding will enable us to pursue a really critical research area, within the Virtual-EngAge research programme, identifying how we can harness everyday technologies to enhance older people’s social connectivity and civic voices while also recognising and capitalising on the innate skills of many older people for adaptation and learning,” explained Professor Walsh
“This funding is really important as it not only helps us respond to the gaps exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but to do so using a much needed interdisciplinary approach with our Co-Investigator on this programme, Professor Carl Vogel from Trinity College Dublin, and through a valuable collaboration with Active Retirement Ireland,” he added.
Lecturer in Zoology and researcher at the Ryan Institute Dr Kevin Healy and his project on de-extinction will enjoy an award of €190,803.
This will see an investigation into what species could be “brought back” from extinction and determine if such species could be legally owned and patented by their creators.
“For example, how do ecological considerations, such as the impact a de-extinct species would have on the environment, or the level of interest from the general public affect these decisions?,” Dr Healy asked.
“Will the species we bring back from extinction simply reflect technological and ecological limitations or will financial factors be the main de-extinction selection criteria?”
The Vice President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway Professor Jim Livesey congratulated each recipient of the award and looked forward to the results of their projects.
“Investigating these societal challenges is a wonderful example of how our research aims to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues through the Global Challenges Programme in our new Research and Innovation Strategy.
“I would also like to thank the Irish Research Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs for their continued support of our public research mission,” he concluded.