€250,000 environmental research call for geoscientists

18 Apr 2012

Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin City

Ireland’s Minister for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd has announced a €250,000 environmental research call that will allow for contracts for up to 10 researchers in the geosciences area over the next year.

O’Dowd is this morning opening a two-day conference in Dublin Castle that will look at the contribution geoscience makes in Ireland.

Today’s programme will be focusing on safe cities and the contribution of geoscience in the urban environment. It is being hosted by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland.

The programme itself will examines flooding, subsidence, landslides, the challenges of tunnelling, contaminated land and 3D modelling of subsurface geology in case studies of cities in Ireland, the UK and across Europe.

“Geoscientists contribute to a better understanding of city environments, where wise use of human and natural resources is vital to reduce risk, protect and enhance quality of life,” O’Dowd said ahead of the launch of the conference. 

He said a €250,000 environmental research call will support contracts for up to 10 researchers over the next year.

On Thursday, the conference programme will focus on the creation of jobs from geoscience research. The conference will showcase GSI’s collaborative projects, Tellus Border and INFOMAR. It will also look at how GSI is creating jobs through its geoscience initiatives programme.

Studying Dublin’s soil

Today’s conference programme sees the publication of the GSI’s Dublin SURGE (Soil Urban Geochemistry) project. Apparently, it’s the first ever in-depth study on the chemistry of Dublin’s soil.

According to GSI, the results of the project show that the soils of inner city Dublin have higher levels of potentially harmful elements and persistent organic pollutants than outer city areas. The same chemical pattern is seen in cities around the world and the GSI said the results are consistent with an industrial heritage, burning of fossil fuels, the use of leaded paint and petrol over the past 1,000 years of human habitation in Dublin.

“This study provides a snapshot of the chemical status of Dublin soil today which is directly relevant to the protection of its citizens’ health, compliance with environmental legislation, land-use planning and urban regeneration,” said Koen Verbruggen, acting director of GSI.

Verbruggen said that through the collaboration of environmental experts, health authorities and regulators, further deterioration of Ireland’s soil resource can be prevented, especially in urban public areas where people can come into contact with soil.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

The conference itself will feature a keynote public lecture by Prof John McCloskey from University of Ulster, who is a newly elected member of the RIA. His talk will cover ‘Understanding Earthquakes and Tsunamis’. It which looks at how geoscience is applied to earthquakes and tsunamis in the urban setting on an international scale.

“Geoscientists have a vital role to play in providing knowledge to those who maintain, design and develop our cities, with a view to making them safer places for people to live and work,” said Prof Pat Shannon, chairman of the Geosciences Committee of the RIA.

Attendance at the conference and public lecture is free, but people must register online.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic