Skip to main content

Fulbright Scholar works to resolve ammonia emissions and its negative effects

Dr. Richard Gates and Dr. David Kelleghan
Dr. Richard Gates, Director of the Egg Industry Center and Endowed Professor in the Departments of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, and Animal Science (left) and Dr. David Kelleghan, Fulbright Scholar (right)

By Nicole Hurlburt

The growing demand for food worldwide aligned with the increasing drive to reduce emissions and associated impacts has driven David Kelleghan’s interest in resolving the longstanding problems related to ammonia emissions and its negative effects. Dr. Kelleghan, a Fulbright Scholar visiting Iowa State University from Dublin, Ireland is working under the guidance of Dr. Richard Gates, Director of the Egg Industry Center and Endowed Professor in the Departments of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, and Animal Science. “The Fulbright program has offered me the opportunity to travel to the US to work with one of the leading international researchers in ammonia emissions, Dr. Richard Gates. Since I started my PhD, I have been reading Dr. Gates’ work on Portable Monitoring Units (PMUs) which are open-sourced sensors designed to monitor ammonia emissions, it has been a huge honor to work with Dr. Gates.”

Dr. Kelleghan received his Bachelor of Science from University College Dublin in Environmental Biology, a Master’s of Science in University College Cork in Ecological Impact Assessment and his PhD from the University College Dublin, School of Biosystems and Food Engineering. Through his academic career, Dr. Kelleghan’s main focus has been on ammonia emissions from poultry, swine and the land spreading of cattle slurry. In addition to identifying and monitoring associated ecological and environmental impacts from atmospheric ammonia. Being the nation’s leader in poultry, swine, corn and soybean production, the state of Iowa along with the prior connection to Dr. Gates, Iowa State University was the perfect fit for Dr. Kelleghan’s Fulbright program.

Left, Natural epiphytic lichens on clean site © Ian Leith; right, algal slimes on polluted site © Mark Sutton
Left, Natural epiphytic lichens on clean site ©Ian Leith; right, algal slimes on polluted site ©Mark Sutton (4)

Through his research, Dr. Kelleghan has provided evidence that protected nature reserves are impacted by atmospheric ammonia in the Republic of Ireland1 and has modelled the extent of such impacts nationally2. He has also monitored emissions from pig and poultry farms, modelling the dispersion of which into the atmosphere in order to gauge contribution to local ecological effects3 He has worked in Teagasc (Ireland’s agriculture and food development authority) assessing the effect of cattle slurry amendments on emissions, and also emissions from its application on land. He is currently coordinating the design of the “National Ecosystem Monitoring Network” on behalf of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, which pairs ecological and air pollution monitoring; while also working on the team modelling national exceedance of critical loads of eutrophication and acidification.

During his time at Iowa State, Dr. Kelleghan has been fostering relationships with university faculty and staff specifically in the poultry, swine and cattle industry. He has been able to compare and contrast emission testing and management procedures to determine methods that may be altered and applied within Ireland and Europe. Currently, Ireland has exceeded the legal limit of ammonia emissions allowed under the National Emissions Celling Directive (2016/2284) since 2016. Under this directive, Ireland is required to reduce their ammonia emissions 5% by 2030, while these are continually increasing. Additionally, his work has shown further action is required to reduce concentration and deposition of ammonia and nitrogen on sensitive sites in Ireland, in order to comply with the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). Dr. Kelleghan hopes his research and collaboration with Iowa State University can help contribute to the reduction of ammonia emissions and associated ecological impacts in Ireland and the US.

In addition to his work in the fields of science and the environment, Dr. Kelleghan is also an artist. As part of his Fulbright scholarship, Dr. Kelleghan presented a painting to Prof. Richard Gates intended to highlight the long running connection between Ireland and the United States. The colors of this painting were selected to represent the flags of both countries.

Dr. Kelleghan’s program at Iowa State University will end on August 20, 2021. David Kelleghan is participating on behalf of Fulbright Tech Impact Scholar Award Program. The program is intended to support candidates across all disciplines with a focus on advancing technology and contributing culturally in the host country. Founded in 1946, The Fulbright Scholar Program provides awards to approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals each year from the United States and 160 countries.

Faculty interested in collaborating with Kelleghan can email him at or through twitter @davidkelleghan.




Hicks, W. K., Whitfield, C.P., Bealey, W.J., & Sutton M.A. (2011). Nitrogen Deposition and Natura 2000 Science and Practice in Determining Environmental Impacts. COST729/Nine/ESF/CCW/JNCC/SEI Workshop Proceedings, Published by COST. Available at:…