PhD in Astrophysics
Current position: Visiting Researcher at University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Research focus: light pollution and dark skies
In her research, Hannah explores the relationship between dark skies and society. Light pollution negatively impacts all living beings and significantly contributes to climate change, but is an often-overlooked topic in policy. Artificial light at night is rapidly increasing, and ubiquitous use of LEDs has led to higher emissions of blue light. This blue light is especially harmful at night because it interferes with the natural world, that is accustomed to the cycles of night and day.
In her role as an OPEN Fellow, Hannah engaged with the Armagh City, Banbridge, and Craigavon Borough Council in Northern Ireland to create awareness on the harms of light pollution and the benefits of darker skies, while finding out how policies are developed and implemented. The city of Armagh has a long history of astronomy, with the construction of an observatory in 1790, as well as a dark sky heritage going back to a Neolithic ceremonial monument. Through bringing together policymakers and the astronomy community in Armagh, she worked to determine how local councils can best implement some of the needed policies on local levels. With the experience gained here she aims to support light pollution policy nationwide, especially in urban contexts.
Hannah’s work is highly interdisciplinary and related to several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Her research especially aligns with SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) – better lighting is critical in order to make cities and communities more sustainable for humans and the environment (see also SDG 3, 14 and 15). Light usage at night is excessive and research shows that higher levels of exposure is increasing risks for some illnesses and disorders. Other research has shown that streetlights have a negligible effect on crime and safety. Environmental impacts include relevant reductions of nocturnal pollinator visits to plants. Moreover, further reductions of unnecessary lighting will decrease carbon emissions and thus contribute to SDG 13 (Climate Action). Electric lighting accounts for over 5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions – figures which continue to rise.
The jury was impressed by Hannah’s work on this often-overlooked topic light pollution, her interdisciplinary approach, and her commitment to improving public policy. She also founded the “Dark Skies and Society Network” and organised its meetings.
The research of Hannah mainly contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 9, 11, 13:
Take a look at this video that briefly introduces Hannah and her research: