International Cooperation and Agreements
 Geology Matters No 8
Introduction Director's Discourse The Role of Geoscience in Society World Geoscience Conference International Co-operation and Agreements Griffith Geoscience Research Awards 2008 - International Year of Planet Earth GeoUrban Dublin Project New Burren Map IYPE/Du Noyer Competition Launch of INFOMAR Website and Product Range Mapping Potential Landslide Hazards Groundwater Vulnerability Mapping An Intern's Life

International Co-operation and Agreements


Eibhlín Doyle

On the 1st November 2007 the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI), and the British Geological Survey (BGS) signed a Framework Agreement for Increased Scientific Cooperation. Minister Eamonn Ryan TD and Minister Nigel Dodds MLA witnessed the signing of the agreement. The agreement formalises and recognises the cooperation that has existed between the Geological Surveys but it also provides the structure and support to grow and shape a beneficial and productive long-term relationship between the organisations.

To ensure effective scientific cooperation a Science Review Team consisting of representatives from the two Surveys was set up to support the implementation of the framework at both the programme and corporate levels. The work was facilitated by external consultants (CSA now SLR Consulting) who completed a comprehensive Comparative Report of both Surveys. This report identified common and potential new areas for focused cooperation. Short (2008), medium (2011) and longer term goals were outlined for each of the programme areas identified.

Progress to date has been steady, beneficial and productive. The closer relationship was signalled early on with the respective Consultative Committees meeting jointly on 17th April of this year. The planned increased cooperation was approved by the two committees. The following are some of the highlights to watch for in the coming months as the relationship develops.

With climate change such an important topic at present, a ‘Climate through time’ map is being prepared which should be ready by March 2009. This map will show how the climate of Ireland and the UK has changed through geological time. It is intended to distribute the map widely, such as via an insert in newspapers.

A "Building Stones of Ireland" map is being finalised showing important historical buildings linked to the stone used in their construction. Knowledge of the stone used in construction is important for future restoration of our heritage buildings.

‘The Classic Geology of the North of Ireland’ field guide will be a joint GSNI/GSI publication. Sites such as the Giant’s Causeway and the granites of Donegal are world renowned and much described in the geological literature and will feature in the publication along with other classic sites. Much of the material has already been assembled and publication is intended early in 2009.

Geological sections are the traditional means by which geologists look at the third dimension of geology. Deep cross–sections (15km depth) across Ireland and the UK are being compiled. These interpretations will contribute to a new, deep geological modeling project which will commence in 2009. This project will visualize the island of Ireland in 3 dimensions through the use of innovative computer modeling.

GSI and GSNI have jointly established the ‘Geoparks Ireland Forum’. The Committee met for the first time in February 2008 at GSI and again in October at the Marble Arch Caves in Co. Fermanagh. A highlight for the whole Geoparks initiative is the approval by the European Geoparks Network of the extension of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark into west Cavan, making the enlarged Geopark the first transnational geopark in the world.

Workshops/meeting have taken place or are planned before the end of 2008 in a number of work areas common to both Surveys, including Quaternary Geology, Groundwater, Geohazards, Minerals and Information Management. The workshops compare current methodologies and aim to develop compatible approaches/methodologies or correlations between methodologies, where possible. The workshops/meetings also serve to develop personal contacts between Survey counterparts. Discussions also include areas for increased future cooperation and new joint projects, as well as data exchange and skills transfer.

As already mentioned, a successful one day conference entitled ‘Geoscience, the Foundation of our Future’ was jointly organized with the RIA and held in Stormont on 19 June 2008. The conference was attended by leading Geoscientists from Ireland, Northern Ireland & Scotland and considered the future of geoscience in Ireland and Northern Ireland, examining the value of the geosciences, important areas of research and perceptions of geosciences within the wider community.

The United Nations designation of 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) has increased the profile of geoscience globally and there has been a large number of events across Ireland and Northern Ireland. It also has provided an opportunity for GSI and GSNI to work together within a global programme that links, and benefits, communities both north and south. This programme is reported on further here.

Other initiatives which have encouraged closer north-south cooperation have been the Griffith Geoscience Research Awards, managed by the GSI. The Awards were initiated to fund geological research on the island of Ireland and are open to third level institutions across the island. Following a competitive tendering process, and judged by an international panel of experts, nine projects were selected for a total funding of approximately €9m. Again, see details here.

It is commonly acknowledged that geological boundaries know no political boundaries and so it is with the cooperation between GSI and GSNI. We look forward to the future with our continued and growing cooperation and collaboration.

2. USA

John O’Donoghue

While in Oslo at the International Geological Congress the Director of GSI, Dr. Peadar McArdle, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dr. Mark Myers, Director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS is one of the biggest and most respected Geological Surveys in the world. Compared to GSI the resources available to the USGS are considerable indeed. This MoU is a great opportunity for GSI to interact with a Geological Survey which is at the cutting edge of many current and important topical issues such as climate change, protecting groundwater supplies etc. One area where synergies might be developed and expertise exchanged is in airborne surveys, looking at depth-to-bedrock information, as well as an indication as to the type of overburden and its thickness. Such information will be useful in preparing Groundwater Protection Schemes. Other areas of possible cooperation are landslides, geo-urban and marine issues.

There have been contacts in the past between GSI and USGS personnel at meetings of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, which is attended by representatives of Geological Surveys worldwide. New contacts are already underway between the two organisations, which hopefully will come to fruition in cooperative efforts in the months and years ahead. We are aware that MoUs in themselves are fine but there must be practical benefits arising from them for the organisations themselves if they are to be considered of value. We will strive to ensure this MoU delivers many practical benefits over time.


John O’ Donoghue

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning scientific and technical cooperation was signed early in 2008 between the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Instituto Geologico y Minero de Espana (IGME).

The purpose of the Agreement is to provide a framework for the exchange of scientific and technical skills, to encourage staff exchanges between both parties, to develop a programme of continual professional development for their scientific staff and to carry out joint projects.

Forms of cooperation may consist of training, visits and cooperative research, consistent with the ongoing programmes of both organisations. Specific areas of cooperation may include such areas of mutual interest as mineral and water resources, geohazards, environmental protection, geographic information systems and information management.

A subsequent meeting in June, 2008 was held with a high-ranking member of IGME, Professor Manuel Regueiro y Gonzalez–Barros, to consider in more detail the forms of cooperation which should be followed up. At the time of printing matters are still under consideration.


Historical Map recalls Irish role in Australian Goldfields.

Victoria Map
The gold rushes of the 1840s, leading to subsequent rapid population growth and economic development of the State of Victoria, Australia, were recalled when the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Anne Plunkett, was presented with an historical map by Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Séan Power, T.D..

The very large map showed the extent of gold workings and their geological context as understood in the middle of the nineteenth century, when Victoria’s gold mines were thriving. It was prepared by the State Geological Survey and formed part of Australia’s display at the International Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures in Dublin during 1865. Subsequently it was stored at the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) where it was only re-discovered this year.

"Irish people have played a critical role in Australia’s mining industry", according to the Ambassador, who pointed out that an Irishman was credited with the Kalgoorlie discoveries in Western Australia. She referred to the role of Peter Lalor, a brother of the Young Irelander, Fintan Lalor, in the goldmines at Ballarat. He became a leader of the celebrated Eureka Stockade Rebellion in 1852, which led to miners gaining important civil rights. Subsequently he became Speaker of the Victorian Legislature.

Minister Power, in handing the map to the Ambassador, emphasised that there had been a long tradition of links between Ireland and Australia in the whole area of geoscience. One of the authors of the maps became a doyen of Australian science – Sir Frederick McCoy – but before emigrating he had actually worked at GSI. Those international links have been sustained since, with the Minister noting that companies and geologists from each country had invested and explored in the other. Mr Power stated that in recent years two Australian technology companies had provided high-quality support to the INFOMAR Programme, a joint venture between GSI and the Marine Institute designed to map Ireland’s near shore seabed.

In thanking the Minister for this wonderful heritage, the Ambassador stated that it would be well cared for at the State Library of Victoria, one of Australia’s most important map repositories. The map has survived its lengthy journey and is now available for viewing at the library

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