UCC Geoinformatics Research Cluster

UCC Geoinformatics research cluster

Digital spatial data for exploring and communicating our changing world:

The UCC Geoinformatics research cluster has three key foci; environmental time series analysis using satellite Earth Observation, GIS for coastal environments, and cartographic atlas outputs for diverse audiences, with a number of current projects in all three areas.

Staff members – Fiona Cawkwell, Paul Holloway, Mike Murphy

Other UCC partners – MaREI Applied Remote Sensing and GIS group; Environmental Research Institute; Department of Archaeology

Researchers – 4 PhD students (Iftikhar Ali, Preethi Balaji, Stuart Green, Sarah Kandrot), three postdocs to be appointed

Research Themes

The satellite Earth Observation group centres on the development of tools‌
that allow more effective analysis of time series satellite image datasets for better
understanding and management of our changing environment, on time scales from
days to decades and spatial scales from local to national. Many of the projects are
nationally funded by, amongst others, the Environmental Protection Agency,
Teagasc and the Marine Institute.

Areas of current interest include -

  • data integration for national land cover mapping
  • carbon stocks estimated from vegetation biomass
  • marine circulation patterns from ocean colour
  • peatland ecology status and condition monitoring


The GIS group has a particular interest in the use of GIS tools and methods for
mapping, managing and protecting the coastal zone. The current focus is centred
on the second edition of GIS for Integrated Coastal Zone Management, due for
publication later in 2016.


The Cartographic group has an internationally acclaimed expertise in producing
thematic atlases which have a rich mapping content. Previous publications include
the Atlas of Cork City, the Iveragh Peninsula, and the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine
with the current focus on the Atlas of the Irish Revolution, also due for publication
later in 2016.

Recent Publications

To be updated

 ‌ ‌ ‌

Networks and Engagements

Funded research-related projects which cluster members have been involved with in recent years include:

  • Irish land Mapping Observatory (EPA funded).

  • Mapping Peatlands of Ireland at a hierarchy of scales (Friends of the Irish Environment funded).

  • The Use of Earth Observation in Monitoring the Dynamics of Saltmarsh Distribution and Extent (British National Space Centre funded).

  • Mining and analysis of telemetry data obtained from bio-tagged seals on the West Coast of Ireland, to investigate their use for oceanographic studies (HEA funded).

  • Spatial Data Infrastructures for Thai Provinces – Applications of Geographic Information Systems in Local Governments (EU Asia IT&C Programme funded).

Non-funded projects, and work at early stages of development, include:

  • Scoping, selection and procurement of the Scoilnet Online Map Viewer /digital map browser for Irish Secondary Schools (project coordinated by the National Centre for Technology in Education, DCU, Dublin).

  • Cartography for the Atlas of Cork City (2005), and the Atlas of the Iveragh Peninsula (2009) (both Cork University Press).

  • The conceptual and operational development of Spatialised Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping as a technique to support decision-making and policy formulation (in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Victoria, British Colombia, and University of Hawaii, USA).

  • Investigations into the role of Terrestrial Laser Scanning in various geoinformatics research applications, notably in a new project, currently at the initial stages, on Spike Island (the focus being on the role of TLS and geoinformatics to support heritage management and development).

Cluster members are also very active in disseminating their work through conferences and other media, as well as in generally supporting and expanding the development and outreach activities of their profession. Recent examples of this include the Irish Earth Observation Symposium, which was held in Cork in 2008 with the theme of “Opportunities for Earth Observation in Ireland” and attracted nearly 70 delegates; the UK Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society annual conference, held at UCC in 2010, which brought nearly 200 people together to discuss “Visualising the World: From the Sea-bed to the Cloud-tops”; and a joint meeting, presented by representatives from Ordnance Survey Ireland and Twelvehorses Ltd, and hosted by the cluster on behalf of IRLOGI, on the decisionmap.ie project.

The work done by the Geography Department cluster is augmented by close relationships with other researchers within UCC, one of the strongest ties being to the MaREI Applied Remote Sensing and GIS group with several joint projects over the years, including PhD student supervision and research partnerships.

The Geography Department at UCC was a founding member of AGILE, the Association of Geographic Information Laboratories in Europe; and is also a Sponsor Member of IRLOGI, the Irish Organisation for Geographic Information.

Find out more about the activities of the Geoinformatics cluster by emailing Fiona Cawkwell or Paul Holloway.


Graduate Students

Current and recent-past postgraduate students include:

  • Dinah Birnbaum (PhD, 2005-2011). Implementing the Water Framework Directive in Ireland: Technical and Social Aspects of Co-operation for River Basin Management at Local Government Level.

  • Maria Garriga Alonso (M.Phil, 2010). The Role of Spatial Data Infrastructures for the Sustainable Development of Coastal Areas; Shoreline Representation Issues as illustration of the challenges involved at the local level of SDI implementation: the Case Study of Cadiz Province, Spain.

  • Brian O’Connor (PhD, 2007-2011) Satellite Monitoring of Seasonal Vegetation Change in Ireland.

  • Diego del Villar (M.Sc, 2009-2010). Using Telemetry Derived Temperature Data for Instrumented Seals in the Southwest of Ireland.

  • Haibo Huang (PhD , 2009-present) Exploring Usability-Focused Approaches to Geovisualization – the Application of 3D to flood risk mapping.

  • Sarah Kandrot (PhD , 2011-present) High spatio-temporal resolution monitoring of post-storm dune recovery.

  • Stuart Green (PhD , 2011-present) Biophysical constraints on farmer herd turn-out-date decisions with satellite image technology and meteorological data.

Department of Geography


University College Cork, Cork