My Internship
Geology Matters No. 14
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My Internship in the Groundwater Section, GSI
Axel Keeß, intern from Germany

Axel Kees - intern from Germany   

"It was great for me to see an Irish family from the inside and I fell straight in love with baked beans and potatoes"

When I got off the plane at Dublin Airport on Friday the 23rd November 2012, I could not imagine that my first week in Ireland would be as overwhelming as it turned out to be. At this point I want to say many thanks to Taly Hunter-Williams and her husband Tom for letting me stay with their family in my first two weeks in Dublin! It was great for me to see an Irish family from the inside [Taly, UK and husband Tom, Italy. Ed] and I fell straight in love with baked beans and potatoes. On the first evening I went to a Pub with Taly and Tom. We saw an amazing gig by the band "Normal, Bar the Sword" featuring Oisín Ó’Briain of the GSI on the drums. I also drank my first Guinness in Ireland, not love at the first glimpse but I definitely love it by now.

The next day Taly and I got up early to drive to Galway where we met other hydrogeologists and were introduced to the geothermal heating system of the GMIT main building by some engineers. In the afternoon we drove to Athlone where we got an insight into the huge geothermal-powered heating system of Athlone Town centre, the midlands largest shopping centre. I spent the following Sunday getting my first impression of Dublin City, which I enjoyed a lot. The Irish weather welcomed me with loads of rain, but I was well prepared for that.

During the first few days in the office I was introduced to most of the GSI staff, too many names to remember instantly. Everybody I met was very friendly and gave me a really nice welcome. After work I started looking for accommodation and also had the time to hear a very interesting lecture about "Managing the risks of Fracking" in the impressive Royal Irish Academy.

My first days in the office were soon about to end. On Wednesday I met Michał Śmietanka from the Environmental Engineering consultant CDM Smith. I spent the following two days in Co. Mayo, conducting two groundwater tracing experiments with optical brightener. The first trace took place near Kilmaine and the second near Swinford. It was amazing for me to see the beautiful and wild landscape in Mayo and also very beneficial to learn about flow measurements, conductivity and pH measurements of stream water. The full Irish Breakfast in the hotel in Swinford filled me up for the whole day. I’ve never had so much meat for breakfast in my life. When we arrived back in Dublin on Friday evening, a very eventful but beautiful first week drew to an end.

The weeks before Christmas I learned a lot about the groundwater vulnerability mapping programme in Ireland. I improved my ArcGIS skills by creating maps for a project in Co. Louth for the National Federation of Group Water Schemes. It was great to start playing the GSI-lunchtime-football on Wednesdays. The GSI Christmas Party was the perfect finish for my first month in Ireland, and I was looking forward to continue my internship in 2013.

After spending Christmas back in Germany and one week together with my girlfriend in Ireland, the first event in 2013 was the BT Young Scientists & Technology Exhibition. I supported the groundwater section at the GSI stand demonstrating the Karst model and of course the interactive groundwater model. In those days I learned that talking constantly for hours can be quite exhausting! A couple of times I had to try very hard to understand the different types of Irish accents, a good exercise for my English. But it was good fun to bring groundwater closer to the mostly very interested children and their parents. After that, the time had come for some more fieldwork.

Luckily for me, a groundwater tracing project on behalf of Galway Co. Council was about to take place in Ballymoe, Co. Galway. Initially I spent a whole day in the field organising the trace with Caoimhe Hickey from the GSI and the two commissioned consultants, Pamela Bartley and Suzanne Tynan. After having everything set for the trace, I would spend three days taking water samples in Ballymoe. Thanks to Pam, who let me stay in her house in Galway for the two nights, I had the chance to get to know Galway a bit better. I really liked the cosy town centre, a nice contrast to the much busier Dublin. The field work was great for me as well. I got used to driving in Ireland and soon had a pretty good orientation on the sites. Even a fall into a small river was included, no problem thanks to a spare pair of trousers. That reminded me to be more careful, as all of the streams were swollen with water due to constant rainfall and the embankments got less stable.

The conclusion of the whole project will be the analysing of the water samples. Slowly three highly interesting months came to an end, and I want to thank all of the GSI staff for making this internship so extremely interesting for me! Special thanks go to Monica Lee, who agreed on my internship and to Caoimhe, who helped me with many projects and answered all my questions!