Ground Survey FAQs

Ground Survey FAQs

​What is the ground survey?

The Tellus ground survey programme maps the trace elements from soils and streams of regions of Ireland. Using modern scientific methods we are able to create a regional scale map of the geochemistry of the near surface.

Where is the survey underway?

Sampling has resumed for 2017. From mid-April until late autumn the teams will be working across counties Galway, Roscommon, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, north Wicklow and county Dublin.

Why do we need to do this survey?

The survey will give a comprehensive picture of the environment in the region today. This will help us sustainably manage the environment, natural resources and protect public health in the future. Previous Tellus surveys have:

  • Improved our understanding of how trace elements, essential for animal or crop health, are distributed in the environment.
  • Provided improved data for the GSI to update geological maps for planning and research purposes
  • Provided new data to improve radon risk mapping
  • Assisted mineral exploration companies to invest locally
  • Facilitated new third-level research on environmental pollution, agricultural productivity, peat and wetlands.

Where does the name "Tellus" come from?

​In Roman mythology, Tellus was the goddess of the Earth.

Is Tellus anything to do with...

i. Mineral exploration?
Tellus is not engaged in commercial mineral exploration. The data collected will be impartial and freely available to all, including mineral exploration companies who may use the data to assist their exploration programmes and regulators responsible for permitting such activities. The data are likely to highlight areas which would be of interest to mineral exploration companies for further investigation, but the data alone cannot indicate where economic mineral deposits are present. Previous Tellus surveys have stimulated considerable investment into local economies from mineral exploration companies who use the data as part of their exploration programmes.

ii. Fracking?
All shale gas or unconventional hydrocarbons hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) licensing or exploration in Ireland is now suspended under moratorium. Ireland has now passed a bill banning onshore fracking as of July 6th.

Tellus data is not being acquired to assist fracking.

The data collected will be impartial and freely available to all, including petroleum and mineral companies who may use the data to better understand the geology and assist their exploration programmes, researchers studying the possible effects of shale gas extraction on the environment, environmental groups, and regulators responsible for permitting.

iii. Radon gas?
The rocks and soils across Ireland do naturally contain minerals which are radioactive and are a source of radon gas. The airborne and ground survey together will measure and map a range of radiogenic elements at a high resolution, and the data are used to map areas of potential radon gas risk. Research into this is being carried out in conjunction with the Office of Radiological Protection, part of the Environmental Protection Agency.

iv. Bog conservation/turf cutting?
Tellus collects data on the land and surface environment including areas covered by peat; however the project is not involved with the selection of bogs for conservation or the cessation of turf cutting. Previously research has been carried out using Tellus data in the border region on peat bogs to assess how much carbon is stored in peat and variation in peat deposit thickness.

v. Wind turbines?
Tellus is not involved with wind turbines.

vi. Pylons?
Tellus is not involved with electricity pylons.

vii. Sepctic tank inspection
Tellus is not involved with septic tank inspections.

viii. Water meters?
Tellus is not involved with installing or inspecting water meters or pipes.

Soil samples. What and how?

Soil samples will be taken by teams of trained samplers, normally working in teams of two. Samples are collected using a hand tool only called an auger. They will collect two samples, one at 20 cm deep and one at 50 cm deep, with approximately 1 kg of soil collected from each depth — a similar weight and volume to that of a bag of sugar.

One soil site will typically be sampled every 4 km² which is about 1 sample per 400 hectares or approximately 1000 acres. Across Ireland, there will eventually be over 25,000 soil sample sites visited. The soil samples are taken from land that best represents the 4 km² and in rural areas this tends to be farmland, open areas and woodland. The locations are quite randomly distributed to ensure we collect a representative sample of the general area, so no individual landowners are targeted.


The samples will be analysed to find the concentrations of a range of chemical elements, please also refer to our technical specifications page. The results will be useful for assessing the health of the environment, agricultural nutrients and trace elements, and signatures of the underlying rock chemistry. The results are not intended to provide information on individual landholdings however we are happy to provide results that have been requested on the day of sampling.

Stream samples. What and how?

Stream samples are collected by a pair of samplers wearing high visibility vests. They carry sampling equipment on their backs, which consists of two circular sieves that slot together on a back pack and a shovel. Steam samples are mainly collected from low order streams, the purpose of this is to give an indication of what trace elements are present in the stream catchment area. Steam sample sites are chosen depending on a variety of factors such as density of streams, geology of the local area and relief of terrain.
A typical stream sample consists of the following four components:
Stream sediment sample
>150microns and <2mm pan sample
Water samples
Vegetation sample


1.Stream sediment sample
The stream sediment sample are collected by sieving sediment from the active channel of the stream bed through two sieves. The sediment is dug up using a small shovel. The top sieve uses >2mm sieve mesh and the bottom sieve is 150 micron sieve mesh. Sediment material is left for at least 20 minutes in the cream coloured carbon fibre collection dish underneath, this time allows the fine fraction of sediment to sink to the bottom leaving the stream water to settle out on top. Once separated the stream water is decanted and the sediment is bagged. The paper sample bag is approximately the size of an iPhone. The majority of the material we sieve goes back into the stream and very little is removed.

2. The <2mm pan sample
The stream sediment that passes through the <2mm sieve and is too big to pass through the 150 micron sieve is used to collect the pan sample. The aim of panning is to collect heavy minerals present in the sediment. The water from the stream is used to swirl the sediment around the pan in a special technique called 'panning,' whereby the moving water seperates and remove light material, allowing us to collect only heavy minerals. As the name 'heavy minerals' suggests, were able to separate them out because their weight makes them sink to the bottom. The pan sample collected is very small, and is about the same volume as a teaspoon.

3. Water samples
Stream water samples are split into three separate parts: filtered waters, alkalinity and pH. The water is collected in order to measure things like the acidity and metals dissolved in the stream water. For more information about water analysis look at geochemistry technical specifications


Filtered waters are filtered through a 45 micrometer filter and are analysed in a laboratory.

Total alkalinity. A sample bottle is filled with stream water and is measured for total alkalinity back in the field base.

pH. A small sample bottle is collected to measure the stream pH and is measured back in the field base.

4. Vegetation sample
A vegetation sample is collected at stream sites where live wooded vegetation is present. Secateurs are used to trim approximately 10 pencil thick branches to fill a small sample collection bag.

Analysis of samples
The samples will be analysed to find the concentrations of a range of chemical elements, please also refer to our technical specifications page. The results will be useful for assessing the health of the environment, agricultural nutrients and trace elements, and signatures of the underlying rock chemistry. The results aren’t intended to provide information on individual landholdings however we are happy to provide results that have been requested on the day of sampling.

Will my land be visited during the survey?

​Your land may be visited if you are situated in our survey area. Steams sample sites are chosen depending on a variety of factors such as density of streams, geology of the local area and relief of terrain. Sampling teams always endeavor to seek permission from the landowner to access private land and will have high visibility clothing, branded vehicles, and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment ID cards. The sampling is currently conducted by OCAE Consultants Ltd on behalf of the Tellus project. If you are still concerned about the identity of the teams you can call the free information line on 1800 303 516 for verification. 

Where can I get more information?

The project is funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE). The project is being managed by the Geological Survey Ireland which is the state geological agency. The survey work will be undertaken by qualified, highly specialised and experienced contractors on behalf of the Geological Survey Ireland.
You can contact us by email, phone or through our website to get more information on Tellus.


Freephone: 1800 303 516


Postal mail may be addressed to:
Project Manager
Tellus Project
Geological Survey of Ireland
Beggar’s Bush
Haddington Road
Dublin
D04 K7X4
Ireland


Also, visit our contact us page to submit a message via our enquiry form.