International Mother Earth Day – Working in partnership to encourage a deeper understanding and protection of our special landscapes
Today, Thursday 22 April 2021, is International Mother Earth Day. The world’s first Earth Day started in 1970 and since then earthday.org works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for our planet across climate action, science and education, people and communities, conservation and restoration, and plastic and pollution.
To mark this day, here in the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark we wanted to take this opportunity to pay tribute by mentioning a few of the important people we work with to encourage a deeper understanding and protection of our special landscapes. From scientists that help us understand this fascinating part of the world we call home to enable protection, through to those that educate both locals and visitors to the area about our unique heritage.
Firstly, for those of you who do not know, the Geopark covers a vast area of land from west County Fermanagh to west County Cavan. Although our key sites are the Marble Arch Caves in County Fermanagh, Cavan Burren Park in County Cavan, and Cuilcagh Mountain where its summit straddles both counties, we actually have over 50 sites to maintain, conserve and educate visitors about.
Image: Gortmaconnell Viewpoint
One of the benefits of working over two jurisdictions (Northern Ireland and Ireland) is that we get to work with and gain knowledge from not only one but two Geologists. Dr Kirstin Lemon who works for the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland and Dr Siobhán Power who works for Geological Survey Ireland.
Image: Dr Kirstin Lemon
Image: Dr Siobhán Power
Dr Kirstin Lemon recently described her role as a Geologist, “As a Geologist it’s my role to help people understand the rocks and landscape beneath our feet. That may mean helping to interpret the environment in which they formed, how old they are, or what they’re made of. It’s just like using the rocks as a book so that they can tell us the story of the Earth!”.
Dr Siobhán Power explained to us, “I grew up in rural west of Ireland and I’ve always loved the outdoors. I became interested in science when I was at school and when it was time for me to go to university, a degree in Earth Science seemed like an interesting option. Geology has allowed me to do fieldwork in lots of interesting and beautiful places including Greenland, Norway, Montana in USA, and Mexico, and it has shown me the most beautiful parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland”.
The work we have carried out with these ladies over the years has been interesting and varied. One of the most recent projects we have worked on includes our Rockin’ Around the Geopark book.
If you would like to be taken on a journey through time, through various time periods, environments and earth processes that have helped shaped the area then our Rockin’ Around the Geopark book is a must read. If you would like a hard copy posted to you then get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Currently, we have received funding from the Geological Survey Ireland to create a digital Geopark Poetry Map, inspired by the geoheritage of the Geopark. This project encompasses our Geopark Guide and Project Curator, Bee Smith working with 5 commissioned poets as well as seeking new and emerging poets and contacting local schools to get involved too.
We are also assisting ProjectBelturbet, who have also received funding from the Geological Survey Ireland to hopefully install a Woolly Mammoth sculpture on Turbet Island given that in 1715 a number of what we now believe to be Woolly Mammoth teeth were found during the excavation for a mill near Belturbet.
If you would like to find out more about either of these projects or be involved, then email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Another great scientist that the Geopark is fortunate to work with is Dr Les Brown a Hydrogeologist. Les along with his colleague, John Kelly, and others, have been conducting dye tracing experiments at a number of locations in the Geopark to help us understand more about where and how the water flows through the many complex underground caves and passageways within the Geopark. You may have been lucky enough to have already watched the short film, Exploring the Shannon Cave System, Dr Les Brown created in partnership with ourselves for the Northern Ireland Science Festival back in February this year. This was part of a Citizen Science Project in conjunction with CatchmentCARE.eu.
Image: Dr Les Brown
Photo credit: John Kelly
For those of you that missed it, Dr Les Brown explains how caves are formed and focuses on the water tracing aspect of cave science, which involves dye tracing stream sinks and cave streams to work out which springs they drain to in order to prove the extent of the Shannon Cave system. It is not too late to watch and can still be viewed here.
Lastly, we wanted to mention Lisa Doyle, who is the Arney Catchment Community Liaison Officer for CatchmentCARE. This is a project supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Lisa Doyle recently described her role as a Community Liaison Officer, “I have the privilege of working with farmers and community groups across Cavan, Fermanagh and Leitrim. Measures to improve water quality include fencing along riverbanks to keep livestock, and their associated pollution, out of the water as well as providing alternative water sources for them. This allows the river to re-wild itself and helps create essential habitat for the wildlife that depend on it”.
We hope that when people visit the sites within the Geopark that they not only enjoy the natural environment and connect with the landscape but also learn something from their visit too. We help do this via our cohort of 30 Geopark Guides (Ambassadors and Heritage Champions).
Our Geopark Ambassadors have now been in place since 2011 and are a crucial link to our local Geopark communities and the delivery of our engagement programme within west Cavan. With their on-going support, assistance, and enthusiasm, we can deliver a diverse programme of activities to engage with locals and visitors to the Geopark.
Image: Geopark Ambassadors Meeting
We have recently completed our Heritage Champions Training Programme which was supported by the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership through funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This programme enabled the creation of a network of 20 Heritage Champions.
Image: Heritage Champion, Ian Sturdee
Image: Heritage Champion, Ciaran Nolan
Image: Heritage Champion, Barry Flanagan
Image: Heritage Champion, Stephen McQuaid
We are very excited to bring on board and work with these keen, motivated, and enthusiastic group of people to ensure our engagement programme can also run throughout the Geopark area in west Fermanagh.
All our Geopark Guides are very knowledgeable on a range of sites within the Geopark and are passionate about their topic areas, including but not limited to biodiversity, bogs, wildflowers, rock art, bee keeping, and kayaking, etc.
Our Guides deliver walking tours, workshops, and a range of activities to the public, on behalf of the Geopark throughout the year and we could not thank them enough for their continuous support.
Unfortunately, the delivery of face-to-face activities has been slowed down this last year due to Covid-19, however for any up and coming activities keep a wee eye out on our Events section on our website throughout the year.
Alternatively, if you are interested in a specific tour that is not in the Events section, and you have a particular topic you would like to learn about or a certain site within the Geopark that you would like to know more about through a tour then please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we will be happy to assist in organising this.
So, hopefully by now you have learnt a little bit more about the important people we work with on a daily basis (unfortunately we could not list everyone here) and that when you do visit any of the sites within the Geopark you learn something about the unique heritage from your visit.