Cooperating abroad

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On the global stage, geoscience has reached a critical point. It has suffered serious decline in the past 20 years in terms of level of participation and funding. The focus of its work has changed from the extractive industries to environmental issues. Nevertheless, public reaction continues to associate geoscience only with exploitation of the Earth’s wealth and its image tends to be negative. A key decision at the end of 2005 is intended to have a positive and radical impact on this situation. This was the UN General Assembly resolution to designate 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth. This event will actually span the years 2007-2009 and will constitute a concerted global effort to attract strong international attention to the value of geoscience for society and its well-being. GSI will join with the Royal Irish Academy and other partners to ensure that Ireland is fully represented in this process.

GSI does not seek work overseas. With limited resources, it is seriously challenged to meet national objectives in the sectors it serves. Nevertheless international cooperation is important for GSI to ensure it is observing best practice and therefore providing the best possible services to its customers and stakeholders, given the extent of its resources.

“...international cooperation...(ensures GSI is) ...providing the best possible services...”

GSI continues to cooperate successfully with the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland. We have jointly managed a number of projects over the past decade, mainly in the areas of landscape tourism and mineral resources. At present we are partners in the Cross-Border Breifne Mountains project, which has been extended into 2006, as well as in River Basin District projects. Staff from Groundwater Section participated in EU Working Groups on the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Groundwater Daughter Directive. They also participated in North-South and UK fora related to WFD.

GSI is an active member of Eurogeosurveys, the association of European geological surveys. During 2005 it participated with the European institutions in the development of policies in areas such as the sustainable management of earth resources, the provision of real-time environmental monitoring (through GMES) and development cooperation. GSI was involved through regular meetings of Directors and Contact Points as well as a number of specialist events. These provided GSI with opportunities to organise joint projects and to share knowledge between staff.

The North Atlantic Minerals Symposium is a biennial meeting organised under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Ireland and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is designed to stimulate mining on both sides of the Atlantic and to create learning and investment opportunities in the minerals sector. In 2005 it was held in Nova Scotia where a GSI delegation participated fully in the proceedings. GSI is also cooperating with Newfoundland on the Atlantic Partners initiative (see “Supporting a knowledge-based economy”) and is represented on the Board of the Ireland Newfoundland Partnership. Another minerals sector event, the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention in Toronto, is key to promoting Ireland’s prospectivity and GSI cooperated with the Exploration and Mining Division of our parent Department and with GSNI.

GSI hosted visitors from a wide range of countries in 2005, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Lesotho, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. These are valuable occasions for exchanges of information and experience, and in some instances memoranda of understanding have either resulted or are being contemplated in order to formalise and deepen cooperation. A wide range of themes were explored. The FEMME Conference, a user forum for customers of Kongsberg Simrad, brought 250 participants to Dublin, attracted by the success of the Irish National Seabed Survey.

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The Environmental Pulse of Europe

It was the Chernobyl accident in 1986 that finally convinced Europeans that their continent was a single environmental entity just as truly as it consisted of a set of mutually independent jurisdictions. Of course the major rivers and coastlines of Europe traversed many national boundaries, so that environmental management in any one country could have impacts in several others. But there were no reliable data, especially on toxic elements, available across Europe to evaluate the current environment or detect the impact on it of future events.

Over the past decade the geological survey organisations of 26 European countries, including Ireland, have addressed this situation by co-coordinating a widely-spaced geochemical survey across Europe, sampling multiple media in a standardised manner. Under the auspices of Eurogeosurveys (and its predecessor organisations), a sampling programme was completed in 2001 and since then the analysis of samples and processing of results have been achieved. In June 2005 the first volume of the Geochemical Atlas of Europe* was published, comprising 354 geochemical maps, background information and methodology. It contains geochemical baseline data across Europe for more than 50 chemical elements, including all bio-essential and most toxic elements. The project will be completed in 2006 with the publication of Part 2 of the Atlas which will consist of data interpretation with additional maps, diagrams and tables. The Atlas can be visited at http://www.gsf.fi/publ/foregsatlas/ and hard copies of volume 1 can be obtained from the GSI Customer Centre.

The Geochemical Atlas of Europe will provide decision-makers at national and regional level, environmental agencies and the general public with important baseline information on the state of Europe’s environment. The experience gained in its preparation will be used for the efficient planning of global initiatives and also to promote the methodology for developing low-cost environmental baseline data in third world countries.

*Salminen, R. (Chief Editor) and others (including O’Connor, P.J) 2005. Geochemical Atlas of Europe. Part 1: Background information, methodology and maps. Geological Survey Finland. 526pp.

Geochemical

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Ireland’s Coral Treasures

Integrated Ocean Drilling Program
In May the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Mr Noel Dempsey TD, announced Ireland’s affiliation through GSI to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). This welcome development will provide access for scientists at Irish Institutions to world class geoscience. Not only are there opportunities to sail on specific drilling cruises, but access is facilitated to an enormous databank of samples and data, as well as to scientific networks with unrivalled knowledge.

The Minister’s announcement coincided with a port call to Dublin by the drill ship JOIDES Resolution, a spectacular sight in itself and capable of drilling significant depths beneath even the deepest ocean floor. The drill ship was on its way to the Porcupine Seabight, off Ireland’s west coast, to carry out a fascinating study. In the past decade a series of cold water coral mounds have been mapped at the edge of our continental margin. The task of the Resolution, sailing with a full complement of scientific skills (including one scientist each from University College Cork and GSI), was to drill through such mounds. It achieved its scientific objectives and the project team is now analysing the history of this wonderful heritage, and how and when it started to develop.* The results will shed new light on the course of our climate change over a period of thousands of years.

* Anon 2005. Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) scientific drilling of a modern carbonate mound in the Porcupine Seabight. Seminar Proceedings. Geological Survey of Ireland. 24pp.

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