UCD is set to be at the forefront in new climate change research following the launch of a partnership with Aberystwyth University in Wales, to promote Acclimatize. The project is designed to help detect pollution streams in, both urban and rural settings, and how they impact on coastal waters.

By locating and tracking the causes of coastal water pollution, it is hoped the project will improve water quality, thus boosting local tourism and marine activities. The science behind the project will see the development of real-time data models, which will track factors affecting the quality of coastal waters, including ‘altered weather patterns, including rainfall, temperature and tides.’

Seán Kyne TD, Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, attended the project’s launch in UCD this month. He stated that as part of Budget 2018, the Department has ‘secured a 43% increase in funding for energy and climate action initiatives to help us on our journey to a low carbon economy.’

Kyne stated that ‘research initiatives such as Acclimatize are very important in assisting Government and other stakeholders in making informing decisions which maximise the effectiveness of the funding available. Acclimatize is also a very positive example of how EU funds are being are being used to support local economies to address pollution in our coastlines and mitigate the impacts of climate change.’ The Ireland Wales Programme 2014-2020, as part of the European Regional Development Fund, will cover part of the overall cost.

Acclimatize will initially focus on ‘at-risk’ bathing waters in two main environments. Large scale urban environments are to be represented in the project by parts of Dublin Bay, including Sandymount, Merrion and Dollymount Strands, whereas rural agricultural environments will be assessed in Wales.

The project was first trialled at Cemaes Bay, in Anglesey, at the start of 2017. The results obtained are being used as the basis for the predictive models. The data has already been used in a report sent to the World Health Organisation and EU for their upcoming review of bathing water quality standards in 2018.

Acclimatize is being led by Professor Wim Meijer, Head of the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. He explained how ‘climate change is predicted to produce more weather extremes and, in particular, storminess in North West Europe including the Irish Sea. This will have negative impacts on coastal water quality in the period to 2100 which will threaten the sustainable use of coastal waters which form the economic basis of coastal tourism and shellfish harvesting industries.’

Professor David Kay, Centre for Research into Environment and Health, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, at Aberystwyth University, is leading the project in Wales. He worked on the trial at Cemaes Bay. The UCD Schools of Civil Engineering and Computer Science are also both involved in the project.

Cian Carton – Editor