Conference Speakers

Gerard_Murphy2Gerard Murphy, Managing Director, Coillte Forest

Gerard has worked in a variety of positions in forestry including research, inventory, sales and marketing, harvesting and overseas consulting, before taking on his current role as Managing Director of Coillte Forest. He is responsible for the performance of the Group’s forestry businesses which have a turnover of approximately €100m. The provision of social and environmental values from the estate is also a key responsibility. Gerard has a B.Ag.Sci. (Forestry) and an MBA from University College Dublin as well as a Grad Dip. from Australia National University.

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Niall_ODonnchu2Niall O’Donnchu, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Niall O’Donnchu, MPhil, BScEcon, CDipAF, is Head of Heritage Policy at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Formerly, he was Head of Arts, Culture and Film Policy at the Department of Arts and Heritage. Prior to that he was Head of E-Commerce and Telecommunications’ Policy at the Department of Communications and is also a former Head of Alternative and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy.

Niall is a Board Member of the Governance Board of Science Gallery Ireland and of the energy poverty charity, Energy Action . He is also a member of the external advisory board of the College of Art and Celtic Studies at University College Cork. Previously Niall has been a board member of Culture Ireland and of the National Concert Hall.


Joao_Pedro_Silva2João Pedro Silva, EU LIFE Communications Team

João is a reference person for LIFE-Nature projects in the external communications team for the LIFE programme, with an overall responsibility for the identification and dissemination of successful LIFE-Nature and Biodiversity projects, and technical supervision of LIFE communication deliverables. Tasks also include identifying opportunities for bringing projects and other stakeholders together, organising and facilitating thematic events, and facilitating networking of ongoing LIFE projects. João also works as an ecology consultant, focusing on environmental impact assessment (EIA and SEA) evaluation for Natura 2000 sites.  He also worked on Evaluation Criteria for Biodiversity to the Portuguese Standard of Sustainable Forestry Management PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Previously, he coordinated a LIFE-Nature project on the conservation of  endemic plant species.  João has a background in Plant Biology and Ecology from Lisbon University and Barcelona University. He speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and French.

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John_feehan2John Feehan, Geologist and Author

John Feehan was for over twenty years a Senior Lecturer in UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science, from which he has recently retired. He is well known for his award-winning television work on the natural and cultural heritage of the Irish landscape, for which he received a Jacobs’ Award, and in connection with which he has been described by Kevin Myers as ‘one of life’s great communicators’. His many books include the definitive textbook on Ireland’s peatlands, the widely acclaimed Farming in Ireland: History, Heritage and Environment, The Wildflowers of Offaly (described by Michael Viney as ‘a landmark in books about our countryside’), and (with colleagues in UCD) a popular book on Ireland’s grasslands: as well as several books on the geology, environmental heritage and history of the Midlands. He has been described by Michael Viney as ‘one of Ireland’s top ecologists and communicators of nature.’

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Russell_Anderson2Russell Anderson, Forest Research UK.

Russell Anderson is a research ecologist for the Forestry Commission in Britain and is based at Roslin in Scotland. He has an MSc in Forest Science from the University of Edinburgh. He has been been researching peat soils in relation to forestry since 1992 and started working on restoration of afforested peatland in 1996. He has also published research on the impacts of forests on peat, edge effects of forest on adjacent unplanted peatland and the age structure of bog woodland. He is lead author of a forthcoming book chapter on afforested peatland restoration and ecosystem services.

In recent years, besides doing research, Russell has acted as an adviser to the Forestry policy teams in Wales, England and Scotland on issues relating to forests on peatland and has contributed to guidance in support of policy. In 2002, Russell had the pleasure of working with Coillte, assessing the proposed sites for the LIFE 2002-07 blanket bog restoration project. He returned for the end-of-project conference in 2007.

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john_derwin2John Derwin, BSc. Botany, MSc. Ag, Environmental Resource Management

John Derwin is 45 years old and lives in Stoneybatter, Dublin.

He has extensive ecological survey experience of raised bog habitats. He worked on the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Natural Heritage Area (NHA) survey 1994, surveying raised bogs in east Galway. He was involved in the NPWS Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) survey of 1999/ 2000 and was the team leader for the NPWS Raised Bog NHA Project of 2002.

From 2004 to 2008 he was the Project Ecologist for the Coillte LIFE Nature Project – Raised Bog Restoration in Ireland. From 2011, he has been involved with the second raised bog Coillte LIFE Nature Project – “Demonstrating Best Practice in Raised Bog Restoration in Ireland, 2011-2015”. This involves advising on appropriate restoration techniques and monitoring habitat, vegetation and hydrological restoration. This project also has an educational function, with field visits and a promotional DVD. John has experience in leading field trips on Raised Bogs and has given talks on Raised Bog restoration techniques.

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Donall_mac_an_bheatha2Donall Mac An Bheatha, Senior Planner, Longford County Council

Donall is a qualified Town Planner with over 30 years professional experience.  He began his professional career in Dublin County Council, then the London Borough of Waltham Forrest, Dublin City Council, South Dublin and Fingal County Councils.  Donall then moved to County Clare to work in a Community Development Company, Obair Newmarket on Fergus before being promoted to Senior Planner, Longford County Council in 1998.

In his 16 years in Longford Donall has worked at a senior level in Longford promoting the development of the County while at the same time striving to protect its scenic landscape and environment.  An important recent project has been the Mid Shannon Wilderness Park which is a long term proposal to work with various state agencies such as Waterways Ireland and Bord na Mona to develop Lough Ree, the Royal Canal and the cut away bogs as potential nature reserve and park.

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Gearoid_O_Foighil2Gearoid O Foighil

Gearoid O Foighil is the Chairman of the Cloughjordan Community Development Committee and the community co-ordinator for the Scohaboy LIFE project.  The CCDC is a registered charity and the ‘umbrella committee’ for a number of local voluntary community groups, Tidy Towns, Heritage Group, Street Market Group, Business Network, Playground Group, Walks Development Group etc.

The CCDC is actively involved in developing services and amenities in the village.  Since 2009, the CCDC has overseen the development of a number of significant local projects.  A community crèche, a Heritage Centre and Public Library, looped trail walks, community involvement in the Scohaboy LIFE Project, festival and community events. The CCDC is also involved in developing it’s section of the Beara-Breifne Greenway, a national way-marked walking and cycling route.

A CLAR designate area, Cloughjordan village had suffered significant rural decline in past decades.  Cloughjordan is today seen as a vibrant ‘green’ community.  An award winning village on the international stage, winning a ‘Green Oscar’ at the 2013 International Awards for Liveable Communities. Cloughjordan were Pride Of Place Award winners in 2014 and National Green Community Award winners in 2011, 2012 & 2013.

The Scohaboy project is one of two local project the CCDC have been ‘community partners’ in with Coillte, the other being the Looped Walking Trail development programme at Knockanacree Woodlands. This project was ‘Runners up’ in the Community Woodlands category in the 2014 RDS Irish Forestry Awards.

The Cloughjordan Tidy Towns group were National Biodiversity Award winners in 2014 for their involvement with the Scohaboy LIFE Project.

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Alex_Copland2Dr. Alex Copland

Dr. Alex Copland is Senior Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, with responsibility for the delivery of a strategic conservation programme for farmland and peatland birds, including identifying research, conservation and monitoring priorities, and developing and delivering related policies nationally and internationally. Locally, he is a non-executive Director of the Offaly Local Development Company and sits on the Offaly Heritage Forum. At a national level, he is a member of the RDP Monitoring Committee 2007-2013, and the CAP post-2013 Consultative Committee. He participates in Birdlife International’s Agriculture Task Force, that deals with CAP (and other EU policies) impacting upon farmland biodiversity, sits on various EU Commission Civil Dialogue Groups (including Rural Development) and is the chair of the International Whinchat Working Group. He is a collaborating researcher with UCC and UCD, sits on the editorial panel of the journal Irish Birds and has published widely on farmland and peatland birds.

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Anita_Donaghy2Dr Anita Donaghy

Dr Anita Donaghy joined BirdWatch Ireland  as a Senior Conservation Officer in 2007, following the completion of her PhD study of Corncrakes in the Shannon Callows from NUI Cork.  Previous to that she worked for a number of years for the RSPB in Northern Ireland.  Her main area of work at present is conservation of farmland birds, particularly breeding waders and Corncrakes and in recent years she has been particularly involved developing conservation measures for breeding Curlew.    She is also working  a results based agri-environment pilot scheme (RBAPS), an EU funded project led by the European Forum for Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP), which is trialling the development of results based schemes in Ireland and Spain.

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Hugh_Cushnan2Hugh Cushnan

Hugh Cushnan (Meng) is a 2nd year PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, investigating the restoration potential of raised bogs through the use of hydrogeological and geophysical methods. He has worked on environmental issues in academic and commercial settings since 2012.

Hugh’s research involves evaluation of hydrological conditions on raised bogs and their influence on ecosystem health, with a particular emphasis on ecological restoration on formerly afforested areas. A focus on generating high resolution monitoring datasets in areas of intact uncut bog and then comparing these to conditions in areas that are currently afforested and areas that have been clear-felled for restoration provides the basis for defining target hydrological conditions needed to restore these peatlands. Comparison with ecological conditions provides for a more holistic understanding of the effectiveness of restoration measures for restoring hydrological supporting conditions. Geophysical investigations complement hydrogeological monitoring programmes by providing a means of better understanding subsurface processes.  Hugh is currently reconciling these diverse data sets to inform conceptual models and provide a physical basis for water-table modelling. Research findings to date have shown considerable promise for managing peatland restoration programmes.

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Maurice_Eakin2Dr Maurice Eakin

Dr Maurice Eakin was born and reared in the Glens of the Antrim (where he spent many summers hand-harvesting ‘peat’ from the Antrim hills).  He graduated in Geology from Queens University Belfast and then transferred to the University of Ulster at Coleraine to complete a PhD. in ‘The Ecology, Conservation and Management of Species-Rich Hay Meadows in County Fermanagh’. Subsequently, he worked as a self-employed ecological consultant including farm assessments under the REPS scheme.

He joined the staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1999 and spent five years working in the Burren, County Clare and then in County Cavan as a Conservation Ranger. In 2004 he became a District Conservation Officer (DCO) covering Meath, Louth and Dublin. During this latter period he was instrumental in developing the amenity and conservation value of Girley Bog, Kells, County Meath.

In May 2015, he commenced a new post as Senior Wetland Ecologist with the Science and Biodiversity Unit of National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) within the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. He has retained his primary academic interest in habitats and plants (specialising in bryophytes) and a core part of the new role is to provide scientific expertise on the ecological and conservation requirements of Irish wetlands. This includes responsibilities in relation to the National Peatlands Strategy and the National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan.

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Seamus_Boland2Seamus Boland

Seamus Boland is currently CEO of Irish Rural Link.  He is also Chairperson of Pobal and represents the Community and Voluntary Pillar on the European Economic Social Council.

In 1998 he was elected by the Clara and Island communities as Chairperson of the Clara bog tenants group.

In 2012 Seamus was appointed Chair of the Peatlands Council.  Through Irish Rural Link there is now the beginnings of a new Community Wetlands Forum whose members are actively promoting wetland sites using community development principles.

Seamus was appointed to the Regional Operational Programme Monitoring Committee in 2007

He was appointed a member of the Carnegie Rural Commission in 2004, which is charged with the examination rural issues in Great Britain and Ireland.

Formerly manager of Tullamore Traveller Workshop and Shannon Banks Traveller workshop in Athlone, Seamus was appointed Regional Director of the Midland Regional Youth Service in 1995.  He was Vice President of Macra Na Feirme and has served on a number of boards including the Youth-work Ireland, National Association of Traveller Training Centres and currently is Chairperson of The Wheel.

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Aileen_osullivan2Dr Aileen O’Sullivan

Dr Aileen O’Sullivan holds a BA (Mod) and PhD in Botany, both from Trinity College, Dublin. Her PhD research illustrated the post-glacial vegetation history and development of Irish sessile oak woodlands located in Killarney, Co. Kerry.

During the 1990s, Aileen was self-employed as a freelance ecologist, conducting habitat surveys and assessments (including bogs, woodlands and coastal habitats) and rare plant surveys. She was a member of the team which completed the national survey of NHAs in the 1990s.

In 1996, she was employed as Wildlife Inspector in the Research Branch of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, where she was chiefly involved in the conservation of native woodlands, and in the selection and designation of Special Areas of Conservation.

She joined Coillte as Forest Ecologist in November 1999, as the company was preparing for FSC Certification. Her chief responsibilities were to lead the development of the company’s nature conservation programme, and to develop the biodiversity requirements of Sustainable Forest Management. She played a guiding role in securing Coillte’s LIFE projects, identifying project themes and habitat types suited to the Coillte estate, and co-ordinating the ecological assessment and selection of project sites.

In recent years, she has been involved in developing an Environmental Risk Assessment framework for forest management operations; and in developing a BioClassification system which is a practical tool for assessing the habitat and biodiversity value of plantation forests.

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