Trinity ecologist Prof Yvonne Buckley named IRC Researcher of the Year

3 Dec 2021

Prof Yvonne Buckley of Trinity College Dublin. Image: Jason Clarke

Buckley took the top award, while Dr Kathy Ruddy was named Early Career Researcher of the Year and Prof Michelle Norris won the Impact Award.

Prof Yvonne Buckley has received the Irish Research Council (IRC) Researcher of the Year award for 2021.

This annual award recognises IRC-funded researchers who have made significant contributions to innovation or society.

Buckley is an ecologist and professor of zoology at Trinity College Dublin. Her work focuses on the growth, reproduction and survival of plant and animal species.

At Trinity, she leads a team of postdoc researchers, PhD and undergraduate students, and explores how biodiversity can persist through global changes such as the climate crisis.

This research informs policy in Ireland. Buckley has advised the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action and was formerly chair of the National Biodiversity Forum.

She is currently co-chair of the All-Island Climate and Biodiversity Research Network, a recently launched initiative to bring researchers across the island of Ireland together to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.

Buckley was selected for the IRC award by an independent panel chaired by Luke Drury, professor emeritus at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Other researchers who were highly commended by the panel were Prof Alistair Nichol of University College Dublin and Prof Poul Holm of Trinity.

From brain hacking to housing policy

In addition to the top prize, Dr Kathy Ruddy of Trinity College Dublin was awarded Early Career Researcher of the Year.

Ruddy is a postdoc researcher in Trinity’s School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience. Her research involves using brain-computer interfaces to better understand how the brain works and ultimately improve brain function.

Meanwhile, Prof Michelle Norris of University College Dublin received this year’s Impact Award. This prize is given to a current or former IRC researcher who is now making a significant impact outside of academia.

Norris is director the Geary Institute for Public Policy and her research focuses on housing policy and urban regeneration. She is an adviser on housing policies in Ireland and internationally, and is currently a member of the National Economic and Social Council and chair of the Housing Finance Agency.

A man stands in a library with three women, each of whom are holding an award.

IRC director Peter Brown with Prof Yvonne Buckley, Prof Michelle Norris and Dr Kathy Ruddy. Image: Jason Clarke

Peter Brown, director of the IRC, said the standard of nominations for this year’s awards was extremely high.

“It is great to see this year’s winners representing 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.”

As well as the main awards, four early-career researchers received medals of excellence from the IRC, and the work of 72 mentors, supervisors, research officers and support staff was recognised with Research Ally prizes.

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Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic