2022 Short Call Projects

Lead Applicant: Dr Gordon Bromley  |  Host: National University of Ireland, Galway

Project Title: A multi-proxy geology approach to resolving critical uncertainties in Irish cosmogenic nuclide geochronology.

Project Description: Anthropogenic climate change is the defining socio-economic force of the 21st Century, posing a direct threat to economic vitality, human well-being, and environmental integrity in Ireland and globally. Principal challenges include (1) minimising knowledge gaps surrounding climate's capacity for rapid shifts, thereby boosting our ability to predict future change, and (2) improving our understanding of climate's role in landscape evolution, which is fundamental to geohazard risk assessment under warming conditions. Concurrently, novel technologies are key to accessing the resources to fuel Ireland's transition to a low-carbon economy. These challenges draw heavily from geoscience, in which cosmogenic nuclide geochronology plays an increasingly vital role.

Despite its growing reputation, the efficacy of the cosmogenic toolset is undercut by persistent uncertainty surrounding nuclide production rates, particularly at boreal mid latitudes (i.e., Ireland). Employing a coupled geologic–geochemical (U-Th/14C/10Be) approach, we will [1] quantify the beryllium-10 production rate in Ireland, [2] establish whether this rate has fluctuated temporally (e.g., due to geomagnetic variability), and [3] appraise how well current scaling models account for these fluctuations. Reflecting the diverse application of cosmogenic nuclides, this work impacts the fields of palaeo/climatology, coastal vulnerability/geohazards, sediment tracing, and rare-earth element prospecting, with ramifications for archaeologic and geoheritage interests.

Lead Applicant: Dr Niamh Cullen  |  Host: Dublin City Universtity

Project Title: A Roadmap for Landslide Risk Mapping in Ireland

Project Description: Coastal landslides triggered by waves and rainfall drive rates of coastal erosion. Climate predictions for Ireland include an increase in wave energy and an increase in the frequency of intense precipitation and storm events. Theoretically, this suggests that an  increase in the frequency of rainfall triggered coastal slope failures is also likely. With 40% of people in Ireland living within 5km of the coastline and 40, 000 living within 100m of the coastline, coastline landslides represent a significant hazard to coastal communities and visitors to the coast. The accuracy of landslides susceptibility maps is dependent on the inventory being representative of all past failures. However, <1% of landslides in the National Landslides Database are coastal slope failures. This is primarily due to difficulties associated with large scale monitoring of Irelands extensive coastline.

The proposed project will employ a novel Citizen Science approach to increase the temporal resolution and geographic distribution of coastal landslide reports, directly addressing the issue of underrepresentation of coastal slope failures in the National Landslides Database. The project will also collect and analyse rainfall data to identify rainfall thresholds for reported coastal slope failures, providing important data for effective future planning and management of coastal assets.

Lead Applicant: Dr Eve Daly  |  Host: National University of Ireland, Galway

Project Title: Mapping peatlands on a national scale using airborne geophysical data

Project Description: Peatlands are recognized as important carbon sequestration centres. Through restoration projects peatlands may become carbon neutral or carbon negative. National restoration plans require a knowledge of peatland extent and spatial distribution across large geographic areas. 

Current peatland maps are created using combination of optical satellite remote sensing and legacy soil maps. Optical remote sensing cannot detect peatlands under landcover such as forest or grassland. Legacy maps are often created from sparse augur points. These types of measurements do not allow for accurate measurement of boundaries or intra-peat variation.

Modern airborne geophysical datasets offer a potential means to update national and local scale peatlands maps. Radiometrics, a geophysical method that measures naturally occurring radiation, is particularly suited to peatland studies. Peat is a mostly organic material and so is, generally, not a source of radiation. Peat is also very saturated and water acts to scatter the emitted gamma rays. These effects combined means that peatlands act as a blanket to any source of radiation from below and show as “low” radiometric signal in the landscape. 

This study aims to use Airborne Radiometric data combined with modern machine learning classification techniques to examine the current spatial distribution of peat in Ireland.

Lead Applicant: DUna Farrell  |  Host: Trinity College Dublin

Project Title: Digitization of Trinity Geological Museum Collection

Project Description: Natural History Museum Collections represent a valuable source of data about the history of our planet. Digitization is necessary in order to make collection data as accessible as possible, and to increase scientific and educational utilisation at various levels from high impact scientific research to use for third, secondary and primary level teaching, as well as for outreach to the general public. Digitization allows for unique or delicate materials to be accessed by a wide range and number of users. This project will target four significant scientific and historic collections in the Geological Museum, Trinity College Dublin that range from mineral specimens collected globally to Palaeozoic and Mesozoic fossils from Ireland. Digitization will draw on archival as well as specimen documentation to provide as comprehensive digital records as possible. Specimen collection localities will be georeferenced, to produce a mappable digital dataset. Data will be openly available through local and global search portals, thus raising the profile of Irish geoscience collections and bringing Trinity Geological Museum data to as broad an audience as possible.

Lead Applicant: Dr Brian Kelleher  |  Host: Dublin City University

Project Title: Quantification of blue carbon in core samples along an elevation gradient transect from intertidal through vegetated salt marsh sediments in Bull Island.

Project Description: Ireland’s expansive coastal wetlands have the potential to sequester and store significant amounts of carbon in sediments and the habitats they support. However, there is a paucity of data and information on the past and present stock of carbon in these environments. Moreover, coastal areas are under increased pressure through anthropogenic impacts in addition to climate change. Knowledge of underlying biogeochemical, physical and hydrological interactions occurring in functioning Blue carbon habitats is essential in developing long term strategies to mitigate threats, and promote conditions to optimise C sequestration/storage. For this project, we will quantify carbon and investigate how sediment geochemistry responds to elevation, which is a consequence of different long-term hydrological regimes i.e. tidal inundation and variable rainfall. The study will be performed in an anthropogenically impacted blue carbon habitat along a coastal ecotone encompassing an elevation gradient transect from intertidal sediments (un-vegetated and covered daily by tidal water), through vegetated salt marsh sediments (periodically covered by spring tides and flooding events), on Bull Island, Dublin Bay. We will determine the quantity and distributions of carbon and bulk geochemical characteristics in sediments through the elevation gradient.

Lead Applicant: DSamuel Kelly  |  Host: University College Dublin

Project Title: TOPDOWN: Examining the vertical expression of the last glaciation of Ireland

Project Description: Studies examining the most recent glaciation have largely focused on documenting changes in the location of ice sheet margins through time. However, ice sheets are three-dimensional features; thus, understanding changes in both lateral extent and thickness is essential to fully characterising their response to a warming climate. Ireland affords a natural laboratory for examining the thickness of a former ice sheet. Through the novel use of paired cosmogenic nuclides 14C and 10Be, TOP-DOWN will address an outstanding question in Irish Quaternary Geology: Irish Quaternary geology: Were mountain summits in Ireland exposed during the last glaciation as nunataks?

The goal of TOP-DOWN is to test potential palaeo-nunataks within Ireland. The rationale for this work is two-fold: 1) create a dataset that can assess the ability of state-of-the-art numerical ice sheet models to reconstruct former ice sheet thickness and refine our understanding of ice sheet loading in Northwest Europe and thus inform our understanding of the modern isostatic uplift component of relative sea-level change. 2) Examine the role of former ice sheets in modifying the Irish landscape in three dimensions, providing quantitative constraints on the spatial pattern of landscape modification during the last glaciation.

Lead Applicant: Dr Dyugu Kiyan  |  Host: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Project Title: HI-RES (Hibernian Regional GeoElectrical Structure)

Project Description: In recent years, large geophysical datasets have yielded insights into the seismic, thermal and compositional structure of Ireland’s geology, and are complemented by an airborne and groundbased geochemical surveys managed by Geological Survey Ireland (GSI). HI-RES aims to complete an all island dataset of magnetotelluric (MT) soundings by acquiring an additional 22 sites across Ireland, expanding on previous MT campaigns, harnessing newly acquired, cutting-edge, MT instrumentation. The complete dataset will facilitate high resolution geoelectrical images of Ireland’s geology, allowing geoscientists to a) help constrain the locations of mineral and geothermal resources b) help answer remaining questions to its geological history and c) allow space-weather scientists to quantify geomagnetically induced currents (GICs), that impact societal infrastructure. The MT method exploits storms on the Sun to image the Earth’s geoelectrical characteristics, and with the onset of the latest solar cycle (No. 25), the timing is perfect to acquire high quality data for improved resolution. Not only will the data be used for research in two disciplines, but also the data will help identify new site locations for the expansion of The Magnetometer Network of Ireland (www.magie.ie), and also be used for software development to complement the latest MT instrumentation.

Lead Applicant: Florian Le Pape |  Host: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Project Title: MANGO project - Marine Acoustic Noise and signals location, a test experiment in Galway bay Observatory

Project Description: In contrast with most land experiments, marine surveys involve complex logistics where approximative instrumentation designs can affect surveys' outcomes at a great cost. The SmartBay facility located in Galway Bay brings a unique opportunity for ocean researchers to test instrumentation and validate new methodologies. In addition, the iMARL (www.imarl.ie) national infrastructure for marine sensing, offers a broad range of acoustic sensors, with great potential for further developments in new acoustic sensing schemes in Ireland. Here, the proposed project aims to promote a new design for acoustic noise and signals localisation with broad frequency coverage. To do so, a pilot deployment will be carried out at the SmartBay facility by combining iMARL's hydrophones in multiple array configurations on a single lander. In order to validate the proposed design, the project will attempt to not only detect but also localise "sound events" in the bay associated with ship traffic and local marine life. In the context of anthorpogenic acoustic noise pollution as an increasing concern for the health of our ocean, any steps towards a better understanding of the complex acoustic noise field of the Irish offshore is key.

Lead Applicant: Karlo Martinovic  |  Host: Cundall Ireland Ltd

Project Title: A Roadmap for Landslide Risk Mapping in Ireland

Project Description: Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) is leading a phased development of a national landslide risk assessment/mapping for over a decade, with valuable inputs from academia and consultancies. The current status includes the completed susceptibility mapping and ongoing pilot studies in hazard assessment, with consequence and risk assessments planned for the near future. A number of other separate landslide studies are also associated with GSI.

The aim of this project is to interrogate the gaps and obstacles present in current stage of development (hazard) and identify where the synergies from the existing research can be obtained to optimise and proceed with the national landslide hazard assessment. The project will also tackle a typical "bottleneck" in risk assessment process, where some crucial decisions need to be made by stakeholders in the consequence analysis stage, in order to select the most appropriate assets- at risk and risk definitions for which the assessment will take place. This will be carried out by research into the applied state-of-the-practice schemes and a series of engagements with stakeholders.

The final output will provide a complete roadmap for optimal landslide risk assessment process in light of local Irish conditions, obstacles, available data, and understanding of risk from the national stakeholders.

Lead Applicant: Patrick Meere  |  Host: University College Cork

Project Title: A structural comparison of the southern Irish Variscan with the South Portuguese Zone.

Project Description: The paleogeography of our planet has been dominated by cycles of continent assembly and breakup. Tectonic and paleogeographic reconstructions are critical for understanding mountain building processes, the associated development of topographic relief as well as the genesis of natural resources and geohazards. The Late Palaeozoic (370-280 Ma) Variscan mountain building event in Europe and North America was a large-scale collisional event that involved the amalgamation of multiple continents. Available geological data indicate large-scale bending of an originally linear mountain belt, to produce a feature known as the Cantabrian Orocline, during the last stages of Variscan deformation. Previous to this both southern Ireland and southern Iberia (Spain and Portugal) were part of the Avalonian tectonic plate that was positioned in the northern foreland of the developing Variscan mountain belt. This study will, for the first time, compare the deformational histories of both areas to develop an understanding of the key processes related to the formation of the Variscan mountain belt and its subsequent continent scale bending into the Cantabrian Orocline. It will also allow for a comparison of fault-controlled fluid flow and mineralising events in both regions.

Lead Applicant: Dr Aline Melo  |  Host: University College Dublin

Project Title: Petrophysical characterization of the Zn – Pb mineralisation of the Lisheen deposit in Ireland

Project Description: The project proposes to investigate the petrophysical response, mainly electrical conductivity of the mineralization of the Lisheen deposit. While the distribution of minerals suggests that the feeder zones should be conductive because they have higher concentrations of Cu and Ni sulphides, the EM data from Lisheen deposit is used as a textbook example for a conductivity anomaly associated with the Zn-Pb mineralization, which is not composed of high conductive sulphides. One possibility is that the anomaly is associated with the pyrite cap around the Zn-Pb ore. However, the pyrite in this cap is described as mainly disseminated and in veins, which contradict the main premisses of the application of EM data, the requirement for massive sulphide. Given this puzzle and lack of clear understanding of the origin of the association between mineralogy and geophysical data, this project proposes to conduct a detailed petrophysical characterization of the different mineralization types in Lisheen. This data will be further compared to other Zn-Pb deposits around the world to understand the association with the mineralization and attempt to define exploration vectors. The main expected outputs are a database of petrophysical measurements for Lisheen mineralization and an analysis of the potential for defining geophysical anomalies.

Lead Applicant: Dr Patrick Orr  |  Host: University College Dublin

Project Title: Testing the potential application of a novel geochronological technique to resolving Holocene stratigraphy offshore Ireland

Project Description: Amino Acid Racemization Dating (AAR-Dating) is a relative dating technique that exploits the shift that occurs post-mortem from the L isomer of an amino acid to its D counterpart; the D:L ratio of a fossil shell thus increases with time post mortem, and can be calibrated to absolute age via radiocarbon dating of the same shell. AAR-dating is a proven, relatively low cost, method by which to infer the age of Quaternary molluscs. Our pioneering research will establish AAR-dating profiles (age versus D/L ratio) for different amino acids for three common extant shallow marine taxa from offshore Ireland that are also common as Holocene fossils, thus making available for the first time a novel method to constrain better the chronostratigraphy and geochronology of the Quaternary succession offshore Ireland. We will use the method to offer a definitive interpretation of the origin of a distinctive set of near-monospecific Turritella-rich shellbeds from the Holocene of Galway Bay; based on our primary research we hypothesise that the shellbeds were a single, geographically widespread, short term, ecological response to some sort of environmental perturbation, and thus potentially indicative of how sensitive this marine ecosystem is likely to be to on-going anthropogenic change.

Lead Applicant: Dr John Weatherill |  Host: University College Cork

Project Title: CONceptualising SubsurfacE hydRogeochemical enVironmEnts of alluvial aquifer-hyporheic zone systems in headwater agricultural stream catchments (CONSERVE)

Project Description: Groundwater supplies just under one in four people in Ireland with drinking water with nearly two thirds of the country underlain by low permeability poorly productive aquifers (PPAs) such as the Devonian Old Red Sandstone in Munster. Groundwater baseflow discharge from these aquifers plays a vital role in maintaining stream flow during dry weather and drought conditions. The groundwater-surface water interface (known as the hyporheic zone) and alluvial aquifers along stream networks mediates baseflow discharge and may serve as a natural bioreactor for diffuse pollutant transformation as well as a source of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) to surface water ecosystems. The overall goal of the CONSERVE project is to develop an integrated conceptual understanding of the hydrostratigraphy and chemostratigraphy of alluvial aquifer-hyporheic zone systems at reach scale in low order agricultural streams draining PPA catchments, where geogenic PTEs may pose a hazard to human health and aquatic ecosystems. The project will also demonstrate and develop an optimised multi-scale 'toolkit' of intrusive and non-invasive site investigation and conceptualisation approaches aimed at building capacity in characterising contaminant transport processes in the hyporheic zone and risk-based management of contaminated land based at an instrumented catchment in Co. Cork.

Lead Applicant: Dr Budi Zhao |  Host: University College Dublin

Project Title: Impact of salt precipitation on hydro-mechanical properties of sedimentary rocks: an X-ray μCT study

Project Description: Salt crystals precipitate and grow within pores as salt water evaporates and dries in porous rocks. The precipitated salt crystals block pores and generate 'swelling' pressure on rock walls. This phenomenon is commonly encountered in coastal areas with an abundance of seawater and damages buildings, structures, and roads. It also occurs in the subsurface where brine was trapped by injecting CO2 for carbon geological storage projects and geothermal energy extraction with CO2. Our limited understanding of this hydro-chemo-mechanically coupled process has hindered our ability to predict the hydro-mechanical properties of rocks in relevant engineering practices. The proposed project will adopt an advanced pore-scale experimental approach to monitor the dynamics of brine drying and salt precipitation and its impact on the hydro-mechanical properties of sedimentary rocks, i.e., permeability and strength. We will develop a miniature triaxial loading apparatus compatible with X-ray microtomography (μCT). The three-dimensional pore-scale drying and precipitation dynamic will be non-destructively monitored with X-ray μCT and quantified using advanced image processing. The pore topology extracted from X-ray images will be incorporated into numerical simulations to evaluate the permeability change. The X-ray images collected during the triaxial loading process will clarify the relationship between salt precipitations and rock strength degradation.