A quiet corner of the National Botanic Gardens on a mild autumnal morning isn't the first place you might expect to hear the word 'doomsday' crop up in conversation.

Nevertheless, it is mentioned as Colin Kelleher studiously goes about his work in the red-brick National Herbarium building.

Dr Kelleher is leading the National Seed Bank project.

The seed bank is aiming to hold and conserve Ireland's native seeds into the future, and the lengthy task of collecting and processing seed from all 1,200 native Irish plant species is under way.

Today, seed is being cleaned, sorted and dried in a room which looks out on to Glasnevin Cemetery.

Dr Colin Kelleher counting seed at the National Seed Bank in Dublin.

"What we are doing is collecting seed from all across Ireland," Dr Kelleher explains. "We are aiming to get at least a couple of sites for each species in each province.

"So that's about 8,000 collections, across Ireland, with about 10,000 seed per collection. You are trying to capture the genetic diversity in a species, so you aim for around 10,000."

The Office of Public Works committed to setting up the National Seed Bank at the National Biodiversity Conference in 2019.

So far, 88 unique species have been collected, representing about 7% of Ireland's flora.

After being processed and databased, seed is stored in low humidity freezers to maintain its viability for years to come.

"There are a couple of different reasons as to why it's important to have a National Seed Bank," Dr Kelleher says. "One of them is the doomsday version of events where we basically destroy our habitats, and we need to go back to a seed bank to get seed.

"There is an example of this in Svalbard, Norway in the Arctic Circle, called 'the doomsday vault'.

"It is an international collaboration and stores crop varieties from across the world, including Irish varieties of oat and barley.

"And there's also an example in Kew in the UK - the Millennium Seed Bank. They're not collecting from crops there, but from all wild species. Effectively, we are doing a mini-version of that for Ireland, with the ambition of collecting a representative set of seed for all plant species in Ireland."

The National Herbarium at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin

There are approximately 1,700 seed banks around the world - creating a global network which collects, preserves and shares seeds.

"Seedbanks are all about collaboration. In Ireland, there's the Threatened Plant Seedbank in Trinity College, the Crop Wild Relatives seed bank at Backweston, and the Irish Seed Savers Association. All of these seed banks are trying to build up collections of seed.

"This seedbank here will be a natural history collection, taking everything from weeds to threatened species. We should have 60-70% of our seed within ten years, depending on the resources that are put into it."

The National Herbarium holds a collection collection of more than half a million dried and documented plant specimens from Ireland and the rest of the world.

Work on what the OPW calls 'a living arc' for plants is taking place in rooms adjacent to the National Herbarium's collection of more than half a million dried and documented plant specimens from Ireland and the rest of the world.

The herbarium is a reference centre, a documentation facility, a data storehouse and a research institution.

"It is also one of the most biodiverse areas in Ireland. However, all of the material is dead," Dr Kelleher explains.

"With the seed bank, the collections are potentially living. A seed is essentially a dormant embryo with a nice coat and a packed lunch. It is ready to go when it gets moisture.

"We don't know when, or why, the seed will be needed, but there must be loads of potential in this. It's not just about collecting genetic diversity, or storing for possible doomsday. I'm sure there are going to be lots more uses.

"We are currently extracting DNA from 200-year-old herbarium specimens. They didn't even know about DNA 200 years ago. They weren't collecting them for us to do that now. I'm sure it will be the same with seed banks. They'll be used in other ways in the future."

In our 'Climate Heroes' series of reports, we shine a light on the people who are stepping up to protect the environment and tackle climate change. While these people come from all walks of life, they share a common purpose to improve the world around us.