The Griffith Geoscience Research Awards aim to develop Irish research capacity to support energy, environment, marine and infrastructural aspects of the Government's National Development Plan (NDP). The largest of the 8 awards was given to a mixture of teaching and research staff in the newly-formed Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and the Environmental Change Institute in NUI Galway.
Dr. Colin Brown, Project Manager, commented that: "The Griffith Award will provide us with 3 additional research staff, 6 post-graduate students and funding for 16 undergraduate projects that we need so we can get to grips with the NDP priorities which affect us on the west coast of Ireland. We're delighted because the award will strengthen our links with the Geological Survey of Ireland who are managing the Griffith scheme and because it's a vote of confidence in the way our research and under-graduate teaching has been re-aligned to 21st century national priorities".
Dr Brown explained: "4 or 5 years ago we recruited staff whose expertise is in the science of marine and terrestrial environments, necessary to understand, for example, how to protect surface and ground-water quality, develop strategies to cope with climate-driven sea-level rise, secure indigenous sources of energy and manage offshore seabed mineral and biological resources". He added, 'One project in the research programme will establish the chemistry and pathways connecting water flows, particularly those underground, between limestone areas in Galway and Clare with coastal waters. The outcome will help to understand the effects on sensitive coastal ecosystems and provide the basis for sustainable management of the coastal zone.
"Another project will use data collected by the Geological Survey of Ireland and others to understand the composition and transport of seabed sediments. This is important for offshore engineering, dredging, locating routes for telecom cables or oil and gas pipelines and construction of wind farms. Surprisingly, it's even important for estimating marine biodiversity and establishing protected areas for fisheries management".
Professor S. Gerard Jennings, Director of the Environmental Change Institute, NUI Galway, which is managing the research programme said, "This is exactly the type of investment we need to enhance facilities and infrastructure in environmental science in the West of Ireland. It should be a significant impetus in attracting students and researchers to the field of Geoscience in the region".