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Karl Richards

Research Officer - Water Quality

Research Interests

Dr Karl Richards interests are on contaminant fate and transport to water and air. His focus previously has been on nitrate leaching to groundwater in grazed grassland/tillage systems and mitigation options to reduce losses. His research interests can be divided into:

Groundwater Contaminant Fate and Transport. In this area he leads a project investigating the fate and transport of nitrate through the quantification of subsoil and groundwater denitrification in a monitoring network across a range of hydrogeological and land-use settings. He is also a partner in a project investigating the occurrence of agriculturally derived pesticides in Irish groundwaters.

Measures to Improve N Efficiency and Reduce N loss to the Environment. Improving the efficient use of nutrients in agricultural systems reduces environmental emissions. He is involved in 3 projects in this area which are evaluating a.  the benefit of nitrification and urease inhibitors on reducing emissions from slurry and urine application to soil; b. the role of various cover crops on N and C loss to groundwater; and c. the manipulation of animal diets to reduce N excretion and the associate effect on N leaching and N2O emissions..

Environmental Microbiology/Molecular Biology. Understanding the role of environmental microbiology in a. influencing pathogen transport and occurrence in groundwater and b. to understand microbiologically mediated contaminant remediation such as denitrification. 

He has successfully supervised 3 PhD and 2 MSc. students . His research team currently consists of 2 post-doc researchers, 7 PhD students and co-supervising 4 PhD students. He is a participant on the National Groundwater Protection Working Group led by the Geological Survey of Ireland. He has published 14 papers since 2005.


Current Projects

Principle investigator on the following projects

Subsoil and groundwater denitrification
Maximising  the efficiency of  slurry–N and urea-N utilisation by grassland using nitrification and urease inhibitors as a strategy for environmental protection
Measures for the reduction of nitrate and pathogen leaching from agriculture to groundwater

Project partner on the following projects

Assessment of the vulnerability of groundwater to pesticide inputs from Irish Agriculture.
New Biodegradable Hydrogel Materials for the Delivery of Nitrification and Urease Inhibitors.
Nutritional and Management Strategies to Reduce Nitrogen Excretion, Ammonia and Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Dairy, Beef and Pig Farms.
Soil Processes: Walsh Fellowship Cluster
The effects of stocking rate on nitrate leaching and grazing season length on nitrate leaching from a vulnerable soil type 

View on Google Scholar


PhD Students – Primary Supervisor

M.M.R. Jahangir, “Denitrification capacity in Irish subsoil and groundwater bodies”, University Supervisor P Johnston, Trinity College Dublin.
Ms Sarah McManus, “Pesticide occurrence in Irish groundwater bodies”, University Supervisor Dr C. Coxon, Trinity College Dublin.
Ms Diana Selbie, “Environmental emissions from varying cow urine load amended with DCD to soil”, University Supervisors Prof. K. Cameron, Dr H. Di and Dr J. Moir Lincoln University, New Zealand
Mr Enda Cahalan, “Maximising  the efficiency of  slurry–N and urea-N utilisation by grassland using nitrification and urease inhibitors as a strategy for environmental protection”  University Supervisor Prof. Christoph Mueller, University College Dublin.
Ms Emma Moynihan “Interactions between biodiversity and survival of microbial pathogens in soil”, University Supervisors Prof. Karl Ritz & Dr Sean Tyrrel, Cranfield University, U.K.
Ms Alina Premrov, “An evaluation of the role of different management practices in minimising nitrate leaching losses from spring barley production systems”, University Supervisor Dr C. Coxon, Trinity College Dublin.
Ms Niamh Bhreatnach, “The microbiological status of Irish groundwater in relation to human health”, EPA doctoral fellowship co-supervisor Dr V. O’Flaherty, NUI Galway


PhD Students – Co-Supervisor

Ms Niamh Rogers, “Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in animal slurries: Impact of slurry pre-treatment and soil conditions” University Supervisors Prof. Jim Harris & Dr Mark Pawlett, Cranfield University, U.K.
To Be Recruited “NOFLUX – Spatial and temporal nitrate fluxes of dairy farms into carbonate aquifers in Ireland” University Supervisor Dr Philipp Blum, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Ms Sinead Murphy “Bacterical pathogen sources and transfer hydrodynamics in rural catchments” University Supervisors  Prof. Vincent O’Flaherty, NUI Galway and Prof. Stefan Wuertz, University of California, Davis, USA.
Mr Thomas Herbin “Effects of different management systems on soil structure and soil nitrogen content” University Supervisor Prof. Nick Holden, University College Dublin.