Geoscience 2010 Conference
 Geology Matters Issue No 11
Introduction Director's Discourse Irish Geoscience Graduate Programme IRETHERM Dublin on the Rocks GSI Awards 2010 USGS visit GSI TELLUS Border Geoscience 2010 Conference Geoscience Initiatives Programme Staff News New Products

Geoscience 2010 Conference at Dublin Castle
Koen Verbruggen & INFOMAR Project Team

Minister Conor Lenihan

 The Geoscience 2010 Conference covered Geoscience Research Awards and Initiatives, INFOMAR, Ireland’s participation in international projects and new Geoscience developments.

On November 3rd and 4th at Dublin Castle a large crowd attended the Geoscience 2010 meeting, hosted by GSI. The meeting combined the long standing Annual GSI/MI Seabed/INFOMAR Seminar with updates on the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources NDP/SSTI Funded and GSI-managed Griffiths Research Awards and Geoscience Initiatives infrastructure projects, in a packed agenda of over 40 talks and a similar number of posters.

Ministerial Support
The attendees were welcomed by Dr. Peadar McArdle, Director of GSI, who stressed the need for those attending to realise they are part of an active "Geoscience Sector", which they must both promote and develop. The meeting was formally opened by Minister Conor Lenihan T.D., who also emphasised the importance of this growing sector, the key role envisaged for research in the recovery of the Irish economy and how this can be seen in actions such as the SSTI support of the majority of activities being discussed at the conference, the commitment to overall R&D spend and the securing of the EC Research Commissioner portfolio by Ireland. The Minister also formally launched two new publications that GSI had an involvement in - the "Deepwater Atlas of the Irish Seabed" and "One Europe One Geology" – as well as the upcoming IGGP postgraduate programme. See items on all of these in this newsletter.



Day 1 focussed on marine and geoscience, with updates on the 2010 INFOMAR Programme. This included the first full year of activity of the newest Irish Research Vessel KEARY, which has probably justified its existence already by the discovery of an uncharted shoal just north of Slyne Head, coming to 12m below surface in an area charted at over 30m and considered both a transit route and potential shelter area. 2010 also saw another extensive programme of mapping by the Celtic Voyager in both the Irish and Celtic Seas and an Aerial Bathymetric Lidar campaign on the west and north coasts.

This was followed by the first keynote address, given by Senior French Researcher Gilbert Camoin, outlining the development of the new Science Plan for the next phase of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme. This deep sea drilling initiative is one of the world’s largest international scientific endeavours and the largest in the field of Geoscience.

Seabed Mapping and Research Projects
In the session on Seabed Mapping, one of the conference highlig was reviewed: the Atlas of the Deepwater Irish Seabed, a new publication resulting from collaborative research between University College Cork and GSI based on Irish National Seabed Survey (INSS) data. This was followed by talks explaining how this same dataset is contributing to discovery and designation of new reef areas to be protected as SACs and how researchers at NUI Maynooth are taking novel statistical approaches to producing new seabed geology maps of the deeper seabed, including the utilisation of data not previously processed.

The seabed geology of the Porcupine Bank, down to the 500m contour and covering an area in excess of 70,000 km2, was presented by researchers from GSI led by Xavier Monteys. Seabed type information has been derived from high resolution sonar data, mapping the seabed in distinct classes ranging from gravels and rock outcrops on the top of the bank down to fine silt on the deepest parts. Results from this classification process have already been used in fisheries research where generally seabed type is an important factor in habitat mapping, such as Nephrops (prawn) distribution in the area based on their seabed type.

The session on marine research highlights gave quick snapshots of a diverse range of ongoing work, from ground-breaking investigations using new isotopic equipment at UCD, to study the origins of offshore sedimentary basins, to an initiative to link this and other new equipment to create a virtual core lab among a group of Irish universities. Griffiths-funded postdoctoral research at NUIG outlined how additional seabed information could be extracted from existing research vessel equipment, while TCD-based researchers explained how environmentally significant submarine groundwater discharge could be detected by satellite imagery and confirmed by novel ship-based radon gas detection. University of Limerick researchers updated the audience on their ROV Latis, which has now been used successfully in areas including the Shannon estuary, while returning again to INSS datasets Coleraine University revealed exciting new results derived from reprocessing of data in the Rockall Trough. In the final talk of the session, work carried out in the Celtic Sea last year was showcased by Italian based researchers at OGS of Trieste.

Adding Value to Large Marine Datasets
The final session of the first day focussed on adding value to the datasets, with   talks looking at applied work being carried out in EU funded projects, how seabed data is being incorporated into Ocean Energy projects and MI fisheries research. An overview from MI of Irish marine research in the wider context was followed by another of the conference highlights, showing the latest results of work in 3D visualisation being carried out by Galway-based RealSIM and UK-based Geovisionary.

Geoscience Research

Day 2 had a more terrestrial approach, but with several obvious linkages to the work showcased already. The morning opened with a second keynote address, this time from Professor Stewart Fotheringham of NUI Maynooth, on "The National Centre for Geocomputation and the Strategic Research Cluster in Advanced Technologies (StratAG): Role models for Geoscience Research" . In a thought-provoking address, he outlined how the collaborative SFI-funded group are structured, funded and assessed, how they are tackling some of the "Grand Challenges for Society" and illustrated some of the novel approaches being taken across the areas of research from sensor technology, to algorithms, visualisation and location-based services. While successful linkages have been established with groups including the INFOMAR team at GSI, there is clear scope for collaboration based on complimentary skill sets with many other groups active in the Geoscience Sector.

Groundwater Protection
The first morning session focussed on Groundwater Protection, with a talk on Ireland’s National Groundwater Vulnerability Mapping Programme, followed by well linked presentations from Queen’s University Belfast on research on poorly productive aquifers and NUIG on their Coastal Aquifer Project, the latter two both funded under the Griffiths Awards. This session gave a really good example of how practical applied geoscience infrastructural support, in this case developing planning tools for use by EPA and Local Authorities, can feed into and benefit from research targeted on particular aspects of the work.

Basin Studies
The next session dealt with the Basin Studies of UCD under the Griffiths Research programme, with a series of linked talks all seeking to address very clear research goals and leveraging additional opportunities such as industry interest, equipment grants and ship time availability. The Clare drilling initiative is seeking to develop a world class field visit locality for understanding petroleum basins, based on the spectacular coastal exposures of South West Clare. Deep water sedimentary research is another project building on INSS data and multiple other information sources to gain a greater understanding of processes off our western seaboard, while the Sand Provenance Centre is a facility built around a new paradigm in micro-analytical equipment and its smart research application to understanding the source of sediments that are now found in offshore basins.

Carbon Capture & Storage
Carbon Capture & Storage is recognised as a "transition technology" that can help deal with emissions from fossil fuels as we move towards a greater deployment of renewable energy. The third session focussed on CCS with an outline of initiatives GSI is engaged with and hope to develop further, as well as summaries from two research projects focussed on modelling behaviours in this area at UCD and University of Ulster.

Later sessions at the conference dealt with Geohazards, specifically; Landslide Susceptibility Mapping being carried out in response to the GSI led Landslide Working Group and focussed on the areas of greatest economic activity in East Leinster and the greater Cork area. One presentation focused on an Urban Geochemistry Project carried out in the Greater Dublin area, the SURGE Project, where geochemical soil mapping is being used to evaluate soil quality and potentially feeding into decision-making on planning and public health. Another presentation fed into the Infrastructure & Planning theme, specifically the Dublin GeoUrban Project, which is developing an integrated 3D model of the Geology of Ireland’s capital. Another focused on Aggregate Potential Mapping, producing planning and development tools for sand and gravel and potential crushed rock and there was also an update on the successful TELLUS Project in Northern Ireland, which carried out airborne geophysical and soil/stream sediment geochemical mapping over all of Northern Ireland. See page 12 article for details about TELLUS Border, a follow-on project.

Education and Communication
The final session of the conference consisted of three presentations dealing with the critical area of GeoEducation and Communication. Talks covered the benefits of properly organising and cataloguing your data by the CMRC group at UCC, who have now developed a "geoportal" for showcasing available research datasets. The GeoSchol initiative is a consortium led by TCD which has developed Geology-based teaching aids and a website targeted at primary school students. At the opposite end of the spectrum DIAS have led the development of a 4th level training programme of modules for post graduates under the Irish Geology Graduate Programme.


Minister launches two publications
The Minister also formally launched two new publications that GSI had an involvement in - the "Deepwater Atlas of the Irish Seabed" and "One Europe One Geology", pictured here with Dr Peadar McArdle, GSI and Dr Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive Officer of the Marine Institute

In conclusion the busy and well attended conference showcased the best of current Geoscience and related marine infrastructural initiatives as well as the highlights of latest research and development in these areas. The book of abstracts is available to download from and and pdf copies of most talks are also now available on GSI’s website at

  Diary Date Announcement
– Geoscience 2011

Because of the success of Geoscience 2010, GSI is hoping that the conference will become an annual event. Please note that the dates November 24-25 have been provisionally scheduled in Dublin Castle for Geoscience 2011.

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