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Sinead Waters

Research Officer - Animal Genomics Molecular Biology

Research Interests

My research programme is in the area of Animal Nutrition and focuses on the improvement of nutrient digestion and utilisation from feed (e.g., feed efficiency and compensatory growth), particularly on pasture based systems as occurs in Ireland.

Since 2018 Adjunct Professor at the Genetics and Biotechnology Laboratory, Plant and Agri-Biosciences Research Centre (PABC), Ryan Institute, National University of Ireland Galway. 

I am particularly interested on the role of the rumen microbiome in improving nutrient utilisation from feed and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., methane) from the host animal.

Leading a research programme in the application of genomics technologies to address key issues in agriculture, particularly in the role of the rumen microbiome in improving nutrient utilisation from feed and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ruminant (particularly enteric methane) and it’s manipulation via animal breeding and dietary supplementation. Ultimately data from the research will lead to a reduction in feed costs and reduce environmental footprint of agriculture enhancing both economic and environmental sustainability.

My interests in genomics and microbiome based research also led to a focus on understanding the genetic basis for bovine respiratory disease (a major cause of morbidity and mortality in young calves). Data will contribute to understanding and breeding for resistance to BRD in the Irish herd.  

Current Projects

  • Development of DNA-based biomarkers for compensatory growth in beef cattle (2015-2020: Funded by Science Foundation Ireland: Career Development Award 13/CDA/2182
  • RumenPredict: Predicting appropriate GHG mitigation strategies based on modelling variables that contribute to ruminant environmental impact (2017-2021; Funded by DAFM through the FACCE ERA-GAS; 16/RD/ERAGAS/1)
  • BRDC-SEQ: Application of next generation sequencing for the identification of DNA based biomarkers in regulatory regions of the genome for susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease complex (2017-2021; Funded by US-Ireland R&D Partnership Call in Agriculture SFI 16/RD/US-ROI/11).
  • MASTER: Microbiome application for sustainable food systems through technologies and enterprise (WP3: The Rumen Microbiome). 2019-2023. Funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (application number 818368).
  • METH-ABATE: Development and validation of novel technologies to reduce methane emissions from Irish pasture based systems (2019R479). Funded by DAFM Research Stimulus Fund. 2019-2023.


2008: Trinity College Dublin. Higher Diploma (Statistics). Distinction. 
2003: National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Ph.D. (Gut microbiology: Biotechnology).
1999: National University of Ireland, Galway. B.Sc. (First Class Honours, Biotechnology).

Professional Membership

  • Co-chair of the Livestock Research Group of the Global Research Alliance for Climate Change working with 65 countries with the agenda to grow more food without increasing GHG emissions.
  • Editorial boards of Scientific Reports and Frontiers in Microbiology.
  • Expert reviewer for Genome Canada funding agency.
  • British Society for Animal Science (Science and Technology and Events committee)
  • Steering committee member for DAFM funded project at GMIT
  • Teagasc GHG working group member
  • Rumen Microbial Genomics Network

Published over 100 peer reviewed research articles. A few are selected below.

McGovern E, McGee M, Byrne CJ, Kenny DA, Kelly AK, Waters SM. 2020. Investigation into the effect of divergent feed efficiency phenotype on the bovine rumen microbiota across diet and breed. Sci Rep. 10(1):15317.

Smith PE, Enriquez-Hidalgo D, Hennessy D, McCabe MS, Kenny DA, Kelly AK, Waters SM. 2020. Sward type alters the relative abundance of members of the rumen microbial ecosystem in dairy cows. Sci Rep. 10(1):9317.

McLoughlin S, Spillane C, Claffey N, Smith PE, O'Rourke T, Diskin MG, Waters SM. Rumen Microbiome Composition Is Altered in Sheep Divergent in Feed Efficiency. Front Microbiol.;11:1981.

O'Hara E, Kenny DA, McGovern E, Byrne CJ, McCabe MS, Guan LL, Waters SM. 2020. Investigating temporal microbial dynamics in the rumen of beef calves raised on two farms during early life. 2020. FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 96(2):fiz203.

Mullins Y, Keogh K, Kenny DA, Kelly A, O' Boyle P, Waters SM. Label-free quantitative proteomic analysis of M. longissimus dorsi from cattle during dietary restriction and subsequent compensatory growth. 2020. Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 13;10(1):2613. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-59412-6.

Keogh K, Kenny DA, Waters SM. 2019. Gene co-expression networks contributing to the expression of compensatory growth in metabolically active tissues in cattle. Sci Rep. 9(1):6093.

Johnston D, Earley B, McCabe MS, Lemon K, Duffy C, McMenamy M, Cosby SL, Kim J, Blackshields G, Taylor JF, Waters SM. 2019. Experimental challenge with bovine respiratory syncytial virus in dairy calves: bronchial lymph node transcriptome response. Sci Rep 9(1):14736.

Higgins MG, Fitzsimons C, McClure MC, McKenna C, Conroy S, Kenny DA, McGee M, *Waters SM, *Morris DW. 2018. GWAS and eQTL analysis identifies a SNP associated with both residual feed intake and GFRA2 expression in beef cattle. Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 24;8(1):14301. (*shared senior authorship).

Surlis C, Earley B, McGee M, Keogh K, Cormican P, Blackshields G, Tiernan K, Dunn A, Morrison S, Arguello A, Waters SM. 2018. Blood immune transcriptome analysis of artificially fed dairy calves and naturally suckled beef calves from birth to 7 days of age. Sci Rep.;8(1):15461.

McGovern E, Kenny DA, McCabe MS, Fitzsimons C, McGee M, Kelly AK, Waters SM. 2018. 16S rRNA Sequencing Reveals Relationship Between Potent Cellulolytic Genera and Feed Efficiency in the Rumen of Bulls. Front Microbiol. 9:1842.

Popova M, McGovern E, McCabe MS, Martin C, Doreau M, Arbre M, Meale SJ, Morgavi DP, Waters SM. 2017. The Structural and Functional Capacity of Ruminal and Cecal Microbiota in Growing Cattle Was Unaffected by Dietary Supplementation of Linseed Oil and Nitrate. Front Microbiol. 24;8:937.

Book Chapters/Reviews:

David A. Kenny, Claire Fitzsimons, Sinead M. Waters and Mark McGee. 2017. Improving feed efficiency of beef cattle; current state of the art and future challenges. Animal. Invited Review, 12(9) 1815-1826.

Fitzsimons C, McGee M, Keogh K, Waters SM and Kenny DA. 2017. Molecular Physiology of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle (Chapter 6). In: The Biology of Domestic Animals. C.G. Scanes and R.A. Hill (Eds). CRC Press. Boca Raton.

Waters, SM, Kenny DA, Smith PE. 2020. Role of the rumen microbiome in pasture-fed ruminant production systems. In: Improving rumen function. Eds: McSweeney CS and Mackie RI. Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing. Pp 591-634.

Yvonne Mullins

Paul Smith

Emily Roskam

Steven McLoughlin

Stephanie O’Donoghue