The Geological Survey Ireland Celebrates its 175th Birthday

July 31st 2020 marks the 175th anniversary of the Act of Parliament that created a Geological Survey in Ireland. The Act was to facilitate the Completion of a Geological Survey of Great Britain and Ireland, under the Direction of the First Commissioner for the time being of Her Majesty’s Woods and Works. The original need for a Geological Survey was to map the bedrock and overlying sediments to look for coal and other economic minerals on the island of Ireland. Time, history, and world affairs have shaped the Geological Survey since its inception and have altered its work focus.

Cliffs Dunmore East, Waterford (Credit Coast Monkey)

Geological Survey Ireland is now a division of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and has evolved into a world-standard national Earth science centre with a staff of over 100 scientists, cartographers and support staff working on national and international projects. Its work supports the economic, social, and environmental development of Ireland as we face challenges due to climate change, increased pressure on land use, and the need for secure renewable energy sources.

Geological mapping in the 1800s was carried out by a small group of surveyors walking the land and recording information on the then ‘new’ Ordnance Survey 6 inch maps. Today, Geological Survey Ireland’s work includes mapping and understanding our soils, marine territory, geological heritage, groundwater systems, underground minerals resources, and aspects of climate change. It uses a range of modern and innovative technologies including a fleet of research vessels, geophysical equipment mounted on a plane, drones, satellites and drill rigs to carry out its work. These tools support modern field and laboratory work and modeling methods to refine the geological maps and data. Its largest projects are INFOMAR, the national marine mapping programme carried out in conjunction with Marine Institute; and Tellus, Ireland’s airborne and ground sampling environmental baseline mapping project, both of which are internationally renowned.

HMS Guide Me II wrecked surveyed by the INFOMAR programme

To support Ireland’s climate change policies, Geological Survey Ireland is developing a roadmap for using Ireland’s geothermal potential, monitoring the coasts with respect to sea-level change, using soil geochemistry data to assist with improving farming methods, supporting the Just Transition in the midlands for our move away from peat, gaining a better understanding of groundwater systems and looking at sustainable processes for the extraction and management of economic mineral resources.

The geoscience sector was worth €3.28 billion to the Irish economy in 2017. Geological Survey Ireland supports economic development through high quality, free data for all stakeholders. It promotes the Irish geoscience sector through the Geoscience Ireland business cluster and provides financial and technical assistance to the Irish UNESCO Global Geoparks. It contributes to Ireland’s geoscience research and education through funding and through national and international research projects.

Minister Eamon Ryan TD, Minister with responsibility for Geological Survey Ireland congratulated it on the anniversary. He said: “It is my pleasure to mark this special occasion of the 175th anniversary of a Geological Survey in Ireland. A robust understanding of our rocks, soil, water, and onshore and offshore physical features is the basis of planning for a sustainable future. We need to continue to build on the good work of the Geological Survey and use their data, maps, science and expertise to make informed decisions on energy sources, smart farming, water protection, planning, and resource management. Ireland has been, and can continue to be, a world leader in geoscience data acquisition and I look forward to seeing the future work of Geological Survey Ireland.”

Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland, said:“I’m proud to be part of such a dedicated team of people who are working hard to further our understanding of our natural systems for the benefit of all aspects of society. As we face the challenges of climate change, the need for the transition from fossil fuel to more sustainable sources such as geothermal and offshore renewables, and the need for protected sources of water, the staff at Geological Survey Ireland is ready to meet these challenges through our expertise, high quality data collection, national and international collaborations, and innovative solutions.”

To mark 175 years of the Geological Survey in Ireland, a joint Geological Survey Ireland and National Museum of Ireland exhibition is due to open in Collins Barracks, Dublin, at the end of 2020, and a series of events including a television series celebrating Ireland’s rich geology being planned.

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22