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The Burren. Photograph by John Kelly.

Lectures examine changing landscape

WHILE recent storms have demonstrated how the weather and power of the Atlantic Ocean can have a devastating impact on Ireland’s coastline, a new series of lectures will examine how the landscape of the Burren region has changed over millions of years, due to floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and ice ages.

The Stone Water and Ice: Understanding the Burren Landscape evening courses, hosted by the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and the Burren Outdoor Education Centre, take place between February 13 and March 13.

Among the keynote speakers will be Dr John Murray of NUI Galway’s Earth and Ocean Science Department; geologist, Dr Eamon Doyle, and the Burren Outdoor Education Centre’s head of field studies, Colin Bunce.

“The geology of the Burren and the dramatic changes experienced by the landscape of the region down through the millennia form the basis for the introductory geology course for adults,” explained Dr Doyle.

“The underlying geology of the Burren holds many fascinating clues to conditions on earth more than 300 million years ago. More recently, the last Ice Age, which ended only around 12,000 years ago, has sculpted those rocks and largely given the Burren its current shape. Research is active and scientists and students come from all over the world to see what we have here.

“Our upcoming courses are designed to give people a taste of the geology of the Burren and provide them with a greater appreciation of this historic karst region,” he added.

According to Dr Doyle, the courses continue the Burren’s tradition of being a place of learning for many hundreds of years.

“The O’Davoren Law School at Cahermacnaghten from 1500 onwards and the earlier Ó Dálaigh Bardic School at Finavarra are well documented examples of places of learning. More recently, third-level students from all over the world have used the Burren as a place to learn in many diverse disciplines.

“Maintaining the link and tradition of the older Burren Law and Bardic schools, Caherconnell Fort is now the site of a growing archaeology and geology summer field school, while the Burren Outdoor Education Centre has been providing secondary schools with field-based geography courses for many years, as well as collaborating with the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark in providing the upcoming evening course,” he outlined.

To coincide with the announcement of the course and in an effort to promote interest in the archaeology and geology of the region, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark has also partnered with the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) to produce a free online archive of hundreds of research publications, abstracts, maps and reference lists relating to the Burren.

The archive, available at www.burrengeopark.ie, features the work of researchers who have been exploring the Burren and County Clare since the 1850s.
“Some of the topics covered in the publications will be introduced in the evening course at a level suitable for those with no prior geological education,” stated Dr Doyle.

The Stone Water and Ice: Understanding the Burren Landscape introductory evening course takes place each Thursday evening from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the Burren Outdoor Education Centre, Turlough, Belharbour.

The course also includes a field trip on Saturday, March 8. No experience is necessary but booking is essential. Contact cbunce@clarevec.ie or edoyle@burren.ie for further information.

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