2006 Achievements

Preface | 2006 Achievements | Serving a Changing Society | Supporting the Knowledge Economy | Protecting our Environment | Mapping our Earth Resources | Engaging with Society | Co-operating Abroad | Providing a Stimulating Work Environment | Using GSI Services

Rockey shore on Blasket Sound

  • The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) mission is to support national and regional objectives with suitable information and advice. The core values, which it brings to bear in achieving this mission, are summarised in the Annual Report.
  • The contribution of GSI and the geoscience sector to important aspects of national life was recognised when geoscience was explicitly included in the Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation. This strategy is designed to make Ireland an outstanding knowledge economy and GSI is set to play its role in this.
  • The National Geoscience Programme (2007-2013), prepared jointly with the Royal Irish Academy and based on extensive consultation with the geoscience sector, was close to completion at the end of the year. It will set out the priorities, established on an all-island basis, for sectoral research, education, services and outreach and will support sectoral participation in the new National Development Plan (2007 – 2013).
  • GSI seeks to have its data used to the maximum extent possible in order to contribute to socio-economic development and environmental protection. In pursuit of this, its policy on data release was clarified in 2006, with data now provided free of charge for research and educational purposes. During 2006 GSI in cooperation with various partners improved its information service by providing quicker access to its Document Management System, further engineering its databases so they can be queried, and creating a multi-partner website for shared metadata.
  • GSI seeks to develop greater use of its data for research purposes, with the results in many instances being employed to validate the technologies and methodologies of GSI services. During 2006 research on GSI datasets, including seabed datasets, was supported by several third level institutes. In addition the development of digital links with institutes was studied with the ultimate aim of creating an all-island Virtual Geoscience Centre.
  • GSI provides strategic training services to ensure appropriate skills are available to drive Ireland’s knowledge economy. For example during 2006 GSI ran a seminar on seabed classification techniques and provided in-service training to secondary teachers on the Leaving Certificate Geography syllabus. Furthermore GSI and partners supported better environmental standards through a FAS-led course where 180 staff from local authorities, health boards and consultancies were trained in on-site waste water management techniques.
  • GSI supported the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities in implementing the provisions of the EU Water Framework Directive as well as the newly enacted Groundwater Directive. GSI provided advice to various for a on groundwater as well as making our datasets available. In addition, effective collaboration with the UK on groundwater has been a notable feature.
  • Groundwater Protection Schemes for Counties Cavan and Galway were started during 2006, schemes for Counties Donegal and Monaghan were completed or updated, and interim schemes for Counties Sligo and Westmeath were provided. These schemes are important planning tools for the protection of groundwater.
  • The GSI Aquifer Classification clarifies the significance of groundwater resources across the country. Media attention was focused on it when it was used by parties to a public hearing by An Bord Pleanala on a proposed landfill.
  • GSI databases, such as Water Wells and Geotechnical, continued to grow by as much as 20% during 2006. However the extent to which new data were input digitally was limited.
  • GSI continued to provide inputs to the planning process, particularly in response to environmental impact statements and planning applications. Ninety seven such requests were processed in 2006, a significant increase over the previous year when 60 were processed.
  • A nation-wide mine wastes project, designed to characterize all historic mine sites, was implemented in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Exploration and Mining Division (DCMNR) and contracted consultants. Data and sample acquisitions were undertaken in 2006. In addition the process was completed to appoint consultants to produce a conceptual management plan for the Avoca mine site, where environmental and heritage aspects are already under examination in a separate multi-partner study led by the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board.
  • In support of the Government’s climate change strategy, GSI partnered with a consortium of State bodies to formulate a specification for the preliminary assessment in 2007 of the storage potential for CO2 underground. This form of carbon sequestration, which has yet to be commercially implemented anywhere, would focus on deep geological formations, such as depleted oil and gas fields, unworked coal deposits, saline aquifers and mafic and ultramafic rocks.
GPSA report on landslides in Ireland was published by GSI on behalf of an All-island multidisciplinary working group of state agencies and universities. The report found that landslides were a significant hazard in upland areas (especially those with peat or recent development) and it considered that there had been a considerable underestimation of their incidence. In view of evolving climate change and intensive development, the report recommended a programme of research to determine areas and materials that are most susceptible.

  • Initial research results from 2005 offshore drilling provided an enhanced understanding of the coldwater coral ecosystems on the Porcupine area of our continental shelf. Developed during the interval 1.95-0.46 million years ago, and preferentially during interglacial phases, these coral mounds have been impacted by fishing activity and climate change. While there is no evidence that hydrocarbon seepage influenced their formation, a number of other potential controls are still being evaluated.
  • Using both ships and aircraft the first surveying season of the INFOMAR Programme, undertaken jointly with the Marine Institute, has focused on data acquisition in and around Bantry, Dunmanus and Galway Bays. A review of seabed data management infrastructure was undertaken and significant capital equipment was ordered, with delivery expected in 2007.
  • Another new programme commenced in 2006, the Resource and Environmental Survey of Ireland (RESI), focused on airborne geophysical surveys of targeted landward areas and the initial results for three areas were released at the end of the year. It is hoped that these results will assist in assessing areas for landfill and quarries inall three areas (Cavan-Monaghan-Leitrim, Silvermines, Castleisland-Tralee), in indicating the distribution of groundwater and potentially polluted zones in the case of the first two areas and the distribution of potentially high indoor radon in the case of the third.

Core samples

  • A key achievement in 2006 was the publication of the 1:500,000 Bedrock Geological Map of Ireland, published jointly with the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI). This is the first such map published since 1928 and the first ever produced on an agreed North-South basis. GSNI is a strategic partner and a variety of collaborative work is ongoing, including on landslides, groundwater, geotourism and regional surveys.~
  • The programme of 1:50,000 scale land-based mapping continued during 2006, with Bedrock Sheet 77 published and Sheet 51 completed in draft. A combined Bedrock/Subsoils map of Sheet 50 (Dublin) is in progress. Subsoils mapping in the Midlands, supported by shallow geophysical surveys, is being undertaken in cooperation with NUI Maynooth. In addition, GSI was pleased to receive two sets of bedrock geological maps belonging to eminent professional geologists (from western and southeastern Ireland respectively).
  • During 2006 a total of 422 boreholes were completed for an aggregate total depth of 3444m in support of a variety of programmes. All except four were drilled using flight augers and were relatively shallow overburden boreholes with an average depth of less than 6 m.
  • With the impending start of the new National Development Plan (2007 – 2013) renewed attention was focused on the need for nationwide coverage of Aggregate Potential Mapping (APM) in order to identify areas with significant resources and ensure they are not inadvertently sterilised through competing land uses.
  • GSI activities continued to receive significant media attention during 2006, especially those relating to natural hazards, seabed and airborne studies and tourism. These featured on many TV and radio programmes, as well as maintaining the same level of print media attention as in 2005. The number of visitors to GSI websites increased in 2006 by 64% compared to 2005. GSI experienced a drop of 10% in the number of public queries received – not unexpected in view of the higher website activity.
  • The Irish Geological Heritage Programme, while devoting considerable attention to planning issues, advanced the list of indicative sites for the final two themes – Mineralogy and Quaternary. Geological Heritage now features in the development or heritage plans of six counties. The Irelithos project, part-funded by the Office of Public Works, seeks to match building stones in State buildings with appropriate quarry sources, in order to support future conservation actions.
  • Planning was underway to ensure Ireland has an effective programme of activities to celebrate the UN International Year of Planet Earth 2008. A national committee has been formed on an all-island basis and many exciting suggestions have been made.
  • Landscape tourism remained an important area of activity in 2006 and GSI was pleased to sponsor the Second International Conference on Geoparks, hosted by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland in Belfast. GSI is a partner in the Copper Coast Geopark, County Waterford, and in the Cross-Border Breifne Project. Each achieved considerable outputs during 2006 and Interreg funding for both has been extended to 2008.
  • Cooperation overseas provides valuable experience for staff and ensures GSI employs best practice, thus providing high quality services for customers. GSI maintains bilateral links with overseas geological surveys, including the British Geological Survey and US Geological Survey. GSI, with the support of the Royal Irish Academy, became the adhering body for international geoscience organisations in Ireland.
  • GSI was an active member of Eurogeosurveys, which in 2006 published its Strategic Plan for delivering services to European Institutions. The second volume of the Geochemical Atlas of Europe was published, completing the production of a publication which has key baseline information on the geochemical environment of Europe.

Investment in staff development supports GSI in responding effectively to customer needs. An average of 5.8 days was spent by each member of staff on such activities, 40% on management and personal development, 25% on professional and technical themes, 20% on IT and corporate governance, and 15% on health and safety.

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