Good quality land, healthy soils, and safe food production methods are essential for good human health and well-being. Our CHE researchers are working on how changing land use through urbanisation, and soil loss due to erosion and degradtion, all impact on the status of human health.


Sub-theme Leader:


Dr. Chaosheng Zhang teaches Geographic Information System (GIS) and statistics courses at School of Geography and Archaeology of the University. Dr. Zhang’s academic background covers both GIS and environmental geochemistry. His research interest focuses on spatial analyses of environmental variables, especially heavy metals in soils and soil organic carbon, using GIS, geostatistics and other spatial statistical techniques. One of the current research directions of Dr. Zhang is spatial analyses of environment and health. Dr. Zhang has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers. Current projects include:

  • Interactions of soil hydrology, land use & climate change, and impacts on soil quality
  • Characterising spatial variation of heavy metal pollution in urban soils
  • Spatial variation of phosphorus in grassland soil
  • Historic global atmospheric


Dr. Mark G. Healy is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of Engineers Ireland, and is a lecturer (above the bar) in Civil Engineering at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Dr. Healy’s research work is primarily in the area of experimental environmental engineering and soil erosion. He has published 2 book chapters and 45 peer-reviewed, national and international journal papers. To date, with collaborators, he has successfully competed for research funding awards in excess of €3.4 million. Recent and on-going research projects on which Dr. Healy is PI include projects funded by EPA/COFORD, Teagasc , DAFF and IRCSET. His research interests include: surface and subsurface processes with a particular interest in erosion and surface runoff of nutrients, solids and metals, and leaching of nutrients through soil; greenhouse gas emissions; soil fertility; constructed wetlands; sand filtration; sequencing batch reactors; biosolids; composting; and the effects of forestry activities, such as clearfelling, on the environment (nutrient loss, use of buffer zones, greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere).

Dr. Conor O’Byrne is a lecturer in Microbiology in the School of Natural Sciences. He is director of the Bacterial Stress Response Group, whose research focuses on the molecular responses of bacterial food-borne pathogens to environmental stresses (eg. limited water activity, reduced temperatures, low pH). The group has attracted more than €5 M in research funding since its inception in 2000 and has published extensively on food-borne pathogens. Dr O’Byrne worked as a post-doctoral researcher with a multinational food company in the UK for 4 years and so has strong appreciation for the potential damage that food-borne pathogens can cause to a food business. Much of the group’s recent research has focussed on Listeria monocytogenes, with an emphasis on understanding the regulatory mechanisms that underpin the responses to food-related stress. Dr O’Byrne was elected onto the Prokaryotic Division of the Society for General Microbiology in 2010.

Some Current Projects

Project title: Development of a web-based, real-time digital nutrient management system based on agronomy modelling and GIS for land management practitioners – FarmEye

Duration of award: 2014.12 – 2016.5

Abstract: FarmEye has been funded by Enterprise Ireland, with an aim to improve nutrient management for farmers. This is a joined collaboration initiate between the Discipline of Geography and the Discipline of IT at NUI Galway, with the umbrella of Ryan Institute GIS Centre. It involves the concept of precision agriculture and domain experts from a wide range of areas including geospatial statistics, GIS, farm management and ICT. The FarmEye project has a strong commercial focus and it is envisaged that it will result in a start-up company to provide nutrient management services for farmers in Ireland and elsewhere.