Mary Dobbs


  • Room 07.025 - Main Site Tower

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I would be particularly interested in supervising PhD projects in (but not limited to) the areas of:
- environmental governance
- environmental principles
- EU environmental law (or national environmental law within EU Member States)
- agri-environmental issues
- agri-sustainability
- genetically modified crops
- Brexit in conjunction with any of the above
- all-island environmental governance


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Interests

My main research interests lie in the areas of environmental law & governance, agriculture and genetically modified crops - in particular in an EU context, but also more broadly. These areas are crucial to society and complex due to their interdisciplinary, multifunctional and multilevel natures.

When it comes to GMOs, I have written on the development of the EU regime to encompass the potential for Member States to 'opt-out', the viability of coexistence and freedom of choice between GM and non-GM crops, and multi-level governance. My research has also taken me across the 'public-private divide' through most recently considering the impact of 'enclosure' of plant genetic resources through patenting upon agricultural sustainability. This research was facilitated in part by a British Academy/Leverhulme grant.

Regarding environmental law more generally, I engage in particular with the precautionary principle (building upon my thesis) and currently am considering the impact of Brexit on environmental and agri-environmental issues within Northern Ireland and the UK. I have provided written submissions to various Brexit Inquiries on trade/agriculture/food/the environment, engaged with ENGOs on environmental governance post Brexit, and in June 2018 provided oral evidence on agriculture in NI post Brexit to the NI Affairs Committee in Westminster: . I have since also provided oral evidence before a Welsh Assembly Committee.

My ongoing research is drawing these strands together and looking at issues relating to agri-sustainabilty. I hosted a workshop on ecological sustainability in May 2017, a workshop on agri-sustinability in Cardiff in May 2018, and a workshop on sustainable food production in Belfast in November 2018. I am now building upon this with colleagues within QUB and beyond in order to develop a long-term project. I am co-authoring a book on Brexit and Agriculture for Routledge with Dr. Ludivine Petetin in Cardiff Law School.

I am a Co-Investigator in JMCE: Tensions at the Fringes of Europe (, which funded the ecological sustainability workshop in 2017, and a member of the executive committee of the Centre for European and Transnational Studies in QUB:

I am also engaged in the Jean Monnet SoLaR Network, looking at the role of EU soft law in the Member States:

I am interested in supervising students in any of the above areas and also the overlapping area of food security.


My current teaching roles include coordinating and co-teaching JD Equity and Trusts, and Law of the Home (Family Law - Level 3 LLB). I coordinate and run the Level 3 Environmental Law module. I also co-teach the LLB Equity module (Level 2 and 3 - comprising c. 320 students).

Whilst in Queen's, I have previously coordinated and delivered the LLB Equity modules (Level 2 and 3 - coordinated for 3 years and co-taught for 6 years), LLB Research Projects (Level 3 - for 2 years) and LLM Methods of Legislation and Law-Making (LLM - for 3 years). I have also taught on a range of other modules in Queen's, including JD Research Methodologies.

I have previously taught in subjects such as EU, Company and Contract Law.

I am also an External Examiner for Contract Law.

My main teaching interests lie in the fields of Environmental Law, Equity/Trusts, Contract Law and EU Law.



I am currently the Programme Director for the MLaw Programme in Queen's. Previously I have undertaken roles such as Advisor of Studies and (co)Director of External Affairs.

I am a member of the working group, Future Earth Ireland, in the Royal Irish Academy.


I completed my BCL (Law with French Law) in UCD, Dublin, having spent my third year in Université Paris II (Panthéon-Assas). I completed a PhD under the supervision of Professor Colin Scott at UCD that examined the question of whether the precautionary principle is viable as a legal principle. In particular, the thesis focused upon issues of legitimacy and justiciability, with a case study on the precautionary principle's role in relation to genetically modified organisms in the European Union. 

During my time in Queen's, I have co-organised events such as the UK IVR Conference in 2015 upon the public-private divide, the Early Academics' Essential Skills Conferences for Phd students in 2014 and 2017, and an ecological sustainability workshop under the remit of the TREUP project. 

I am a member of a range of external organisations such as the European Environmental Law Forum, the UK Environmental Law Association and the Society of Legal Scholars.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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