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Our Team

Nichola Hughes

Nichola Hughes is the Executive Director of Sustainable Northern Ireland. She is a climate scientist, policy advisor and science communicator. She uses her position at Sustainable Northern Ireland to inspire and empower government and the private sector to help create and realise a positive vision for the future based on sustainability and equity.

Previously, Nichola worked for the Climate Change Advisory Council, the independent scientific body that provides climate change policy advice to the Government of Ireland. Her early career was in local government, where she led the delivery of the Mayor’s low-carbon domestic retrofit programme in London. Nichola holds an MSc in Climate Change from the University of East Anglia and a First Class Honours Degree in Biochemistry from Queen's University Belfast.

Francesca Di Palo

Francesca Di Palo is the Head of Public Sector Services at Sustainable NI. She joined SNI in September 2021 as Sustainability Officer. She is the policy lead and manages the NI Sustainable Development Forum, a network of public sector officers working together to drive forward the sustainable development agenda in Northern Ireland.

Francesca worked for 3 years as Eco-Schools Project Officer at KNIB, coordinating international programmes like the Young Reporters for the Environment. She collaborated with the Foundation for Environmental Education to grow the understanding of SDGs among young people and communities in NI and worldwide through the Education for Sustainable Development Network (ESD).

Previously she worked as Biodiversity Officer for Ulster Wildlife, implementing the AES UK&Ireland Biodiversity Action Plan. Her background in Ecosystem Functioning and Services comes from conservation work taken up for the charity sector and from completing a PhD in Plant and Soil Ecology at Ulster University.

Aiden Stephens

Aiden joined Sustainable Northern Ireland in May 2024 as a Sustainability Project Support Officer. Aiden has experience working for several environmental nonprofits with a focus on environmental education. Previously she was the Support Centre Coordinator at the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC, working to rehabilitate wildlife. She has an MSc in Spatial Planning with Sustainable Urban Design from the University of Dundee, and a BA in Geography and Environmental Science from the University of British Columbia. Aiden’s academic research concentrated on nature-based solutions, examining wildlife-inclusive urban design.