Four Irish projects to share €10m of EU research funding

Money will support work on topics such as farm animal genetics, extreme trauma, Victorian-era books

Dan Bradley, professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, is to evaluate ancient genetic characteristics of farm animals to help write new chapters on ancient human history.

Dan Bradley, professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, is to evaluate ancient genetic characteristics of farm animals to help write new chapters on ancient human history.

 

Four Irish researchers are to benefit from a total of €10 million in grants to study the ancient genetic make-up of farm animals, complete a data analysis of 36,000 Victorian-era books, examine the impact of extreme trauma and investigate novel substances that could reduce energy and carbon footprints.

The European Research Council (ERC), an EU institution, has allocated €2.5 million to each of the projects under its “advanced grant” programme, which seeks to facilitate exploration of the most daring and creative ideas.

Dan Bradley, professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, is to evaluate ancient genetic characteristics of farm animals to help write new chapters on ancient human history. The AncestralWeave study will see him lead an investigation into the ancient genomes of cattle, sheep and goats, to better understand when and where selective breeding, agricultural practices and periods of ancient human innovation shaped the breeds.

Mutations

The work will seek to explain how and why problematic mutations threatening livestock today built up over generations.

Two University of Limerick researchers have been successful in securing funding from the council.

Prof Orla Muldoon, director for the Centre for Social Issues Research, will examine “how shared experience and the social relationships they generate, impact on post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive functioning and biological responses to stress”.

Prof Michael Zaworotko, of UL’s Bernal Institute, will explore the high energy footprint of gas and vapour purification processes using a new generation of materials called sorbents”, which capture impurities.

“Water vapour is everywhere in the atmosphere, even in the most arid regions, but harvesting pure water from water vapour using existing desiccants uses so much energy that it is not commercially viable despite the water stresses faced by much of humanity,” he said.

“Our goal is to develop new sorbents that reduce the energy footprint of these processes by 50 to 90 per cent, thereby significantly reducing the energy and carbon footprint of these processes.”

Culture

Prof Gerardine Meaney, an expert on the application of new digital methodologies to humanities research at UCD, is to embark on a study of migration and culture in Victorian Britain. It will involve analysis of nearly 36,000 books.

“Victorian Britain was much more diverse than we assume today. It was the target destination for large numbers of migrants from across Europe fleeing war, political turmoil and economic deprivation,” she said.

Dr Derek Greene of UCD School of Computer Science, an expert in machine learning, will collaborate with her on this study. The grants will result in additional research positions in each institution.