Promoting Geoparks through engaging with science
a case study provided by The Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, Ireland
The geological heritage of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, like all UNESCO Global Geoparks, is of international importance. The Geopark geologist works with both national and international academic institutions to advance our knowledge about our Geopark and our Earth. The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UGGp geologist is supported by Geological Survey Ireland.
The geologist for the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UGGp has made several significant fossil discoveries in the Geopark in recent years. These discoveries have not only advanced our understanding of ancient life in the Geopark 325 million years ago but they have also captured the imagination of the public and the media.
Several of the Geopark geologist’s discoveries have been published in academic journals detailing their significance. Publishing research in journals alongside university academics has raised the profile of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher region as a Geopark among the academic community. With each discovery being published the Geopark office has issued press releases accompanied by images of the finds to maximise the story to a wider audience. Irish national media often picks up on the press releases with the Geopark geologist being sought after for interviews in which he always promotes Geoparks.
Our Geopark geologist has presented to national audiences at the Geological Survey Geoscience day in Dublin and also the Irish Geological research Meeting (IGRM), a national meeting for sharing and promoting the latest geological research across all Earth Science institutions in Ireland.
Benefits of a geologist
Having a geologist on the ground is incredibly important to making the landscape and the geology of the Geopark region more accessible not only to academic research groups but to the local community also. A geologist engaged in current research helps generate interest and keeps the Geopark and its work in the minds of the local community, the academic community and the wider national population.
The geologist in the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UGGp receives requests to meet with many of the visiting academic groups that come to the Geopark region. These meetings and talks are used not only to support the area of interest and study to the group but to promote Geoparks and their wider work programmes.
Through our ‘Ask Me About The Geopark’ programme, the Geopark geologist works with staff members of local tourism businesses, presenting geological information in a simplified and engaging manner, so they are able to accurately respond to visitors questions about our local geology.
The geologist is also available to identify rocks or fossils found by members of the public, either by site visits or photographs.
As part of an EU LIFE project, the Geopark geologist was involved with a national university supporting a master’s student project that looked at integrated catchment management of local water with a school in the Geopark region. The project (Uisce Aille) was named as joint winner of Senior Water Award at the ECO UNESCO Young Environmentalist Awards in 2017. In a follow-on project through the support of Geological Survey Ireland this project has been re-imagined and will target a new audience in a citizen science project in 2020.
Every Geopark is required to develop and operate an education programme. In the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UGGp the Geopark geologist core elements of the education programme include a geology handbook for the Geopark region titled ‘Stone, Water and Ice’ which was developed by the geologist and an introduction to geology evening class programme of the same title. The evening course has been particularly successful as it is designed for anybody with an interest in landscape but with no experience of geology and has benefitted from having guest lecturer speakers who have worked in the Burren to come from all over Ireland to present to the class.
Pride of place and promoting geotourism
New findings and current research are always a great hook for keeping the Geopark fresh in people minds; they also instil a pride of place and become talking points in day to day activities and among local people and the tourism community who often relay details to their visitors.
Main stream media has also picked up on the fossil discoveries. The local community takes great pride in seeing their region spoken about in the media and requests for him to give talks to local community groups, to staff at tourism centres, on community radio and visit schools have come into the Geopark office regularly. The Geopark Geologist always uses these opportunities to promote Geoparks as well as Earth science. Engaging with science and promoting the results can reap benefits in many areas.