The Burren in County Clare. Photo by AirSwing Media

This Just In: Geopark Academy Puts Focus on Unique Burren Landscape

Edited by John O’Brien 

The Burren in County Clare. Photo by AirSwing Media
The Burren in County Clare. Photo by AirSwing Media

The geology, history, ecology and future tourism development of the Burren in County Clare are the focus of a major two-day event announced for May 25th and 26th.

Organised by the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark as part of European Geoparks Network Week, the Geopark Academy 2024 features expert talks and a field trip to some of the Burren’s best known built heritage sites.   

The Academy is being held at the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, the world-famous independent college specialising in undergraduate and graduate Fine Art education, which is this year marking the 30th anniversary of its foundation.

Topics being covered include how the Burren has changed over 330 million years, the impact of the last Ice Age on the landscape, the history of human settlement in the region, and how visitor studies are guiding efforts to establish Clare as the first county-wide certified sustainable tourism destination in Ireland.

Speakers include representatives from University of Galway, ATU Sligo, Trinity College Dublin, Geological Survey Ireland (GSI) and Mary Immaculate College / University of Limerick.

Fanore Beach, the Burren, County Clare. Photo by AirSwing Media
Fanore Beach, the Burren, County Clare. Photo by AirSwing Media

One of the primary objectives of The Geopark Academy is to further increase engagement between the public, researchers, geologists and members of academia on how the Burren was formed and has evolved over millions of years, and how this unique landscape presents future opportunities for the communities that live there,” explained Carol Gleeson, Manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.

She continued, “The Burren is a remarkable limestone area. Its geology, flora, caves, archaeology, history and farming traditions set it apart as a place of great mystery and beauty. Arctic and Alpine flowers grow alongside Mediterranean species and there are over 2,700 recorded monuments, some dating back over 6,000 years.”

“By hosting the Geopark Academy, we hope to create a greater sense of awareness and appreciation of the geology and history of one of Ireland’s most unique landscapes and how it is generating opportunities for tourism development in the region,” added Ms. Gleeson.

Mullaghmore, Burren, Co. Clare. Pic Dr. Eamon Doyle
Mullaghmore, Burren, Co. Clare. Pic Dr. Eamon Doyle

Dr. Eamon Doyle, Geologist with the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark described the Geopark Academy as a multi-disciplinary event connecting research and the local community. 

He continued, “This event will examine and promote the ancient geological history of the Geopark, and its evolution through time from its formation through the retreat of the ice sheets some 12,000 years ago to the vibrant region we know of today.”

Dr. Doyle said the underlying geology of the Burren holds many fascinating clues to conditions on Earth more than 300 million years ago.  

“The oldest rocks visible on the Burren’s surface were formed during the Carboniferous period, approximately 330 million years ago,” he added. “These limestone rocks formed in shallow, warm, tropical seas 10 degrees south of the equator. More recently, the last ice Age 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. The Academy will hear from some of those who have invested significant time and resources examining this intriguing landscape.” 

The Geopark Academy 2024 will be opened on Saturday May 25th by Dr. Doyle who will speak about his fossil discoveries including an extraordinary new species of fossil sponge and abandoned fossil burrows dating back 330 million years which he found in limestone rock at Doolin.

Colin Bunce (Researcher, School of Geography, University of Galway) will host a talk on the impacts of the last Glacial Maximum on the Burren landscape, Fiona McKenna (PhD student, ATU Sligo) will speak about how measuring and monitoring tourism activity in Clare is helping to  inform sustainable destination planning, Dr. Catherine Dalton (Mary Immaculate College / UL) will reflect on “Ireland’s Lakes: Past, Present, and Future”, archaeologist Michael Lynch will provide an update on the ongoing Excavation of the Mesolithic Stone Axe Manufacturing Site at Doolin, and Felim O’Toole (Geological Survey Ireland) will discuss INFOMAR 2023, a groundbreaking mapping project of the seabed off the Burren and Cliffs of Moher.

Other speakers include Tejasvi Shah, Maia Shelby Hay and Matilda Krulder (MA students, Burren College of Art) on “Postgraduate Research in Art & Ecology/ Reading Ecology in The Burren,” Dr. Lara Cassidy (Trinity College Dublin) on “Tales from a Small Island: Ancient Genomics on the Atlantic Edge”, Enda Gallery (artist developer/artist/producer) on “Layers of sound; behind the scenes of modern music production”, and Dr. John Murray (University of Galway) on “An unusual and enigmatic discoidal fossil from the Cliffs of Moher.”

 On Sunday, May 26th, there will be a guided mini-bus history tour of Kilfenora Church, Leamaneh Castle, Kilnaboy Church, Corofin and Dysert O’Dea Castle with local experts Edel Barry, Frank O’Grady, Tom Keating and Risteárd Ua Cróinín.

Due to limited spaces, booking is essential for The Geopark Academy 2024.

Visit  or email [email protected]for more information.

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