Ecologist Yvonne Buckley named Irish Research Council researcher of the year

Prof Buckley’s work focuses on growth, reproduction and survival of plants and animals

Ecologist Prof Yvonne Buckley of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has won the Irish Research Council researcher of the year award for 2021.

Prof Buckley’s work is focused on the growth, reproduction and survival of plant and animal species. She develops models of plant and animal populations which help determine conditions that may lead to a change in population size over time.

Leading a team of post-doctoral researchers, PhD and undergraduate students at Trinity, her work explores solutions that will enable biodiversity to persist in spite of global disruption including the threat of climate change.

She is co-chair of the All-Island Climate and Biodiversity Research Network, previously chaired the National Biodiversity Forum (2015-2021) and contributes a monthly column to The Irish Times science page.


The awards recognise significant contributions to knowledge, society, culture or innovation by IRC-funded researchers. Winners were selected by an independent expert panel chaired by Prof Luke Drury of Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Dr Kathy Ruddy won the early career researcher of the year award. A postdoctoral researcher at TCD School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, her research involves using brain-computer interfaces to "hack the brain" – to understand better how it works and, ultimately, work towards improving brain function.

She is coordinating a clinical trial testing a new form of interface involving magnetic brain stimulation for upper limb stroke rehabilitation. Dr Ruddy is also working on making brain-computer interfaces more widely accessible and user-friendly by developing prototype wireless and wearable versions that could be more easily used outside of hospital or research settings.

Prof Michelle Norris of University College Dublin was awarded the award which recognises significant impact outside of academia. She is the director of the Geary Institute for Public Policy. Her research interests focus on housing policy and urban regeneration She has led over 20 research projects on housing policy since 2000 and produced more than 170 papers.

Prof Norris is a member of the National Economic and Social Council, and chairwoman of the Housing Finance Agency. In 2020, she was appointed to #Housing2030 – an international initiative which aims to improve the capacity of national and local governments to formulate policies that improve housing affordability and sustainability.

IRC director Peter Brown congratulated this year's winners who, he said, represented "a diverse range of research interests, which reflects the creativity and dynamism of the research community here in Ireland".

He added: “This year’s winners demonstrate how research helps society answer some of the big questions of our time and can make a significant and lasting impact. We look forward to continuing to cultivate a vibrant research community in which there are world-class researchers across disciplines.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times