LSU undergraduate and graduate students travel the world every year, helping to collect fish specimens for museum research in Tanzania, exploring ecological changes in Alaska, studying the geology of Ireland, looking at deep sea sediments in the South China Sea, and more. This past May, six graduate students and six undergraduate students in the LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics embarked on a field trip to Ireland led by Peter Clift, Charles T. McCord Endowed Professor of Geology & Geophysics, and Dr. Amy Luther, Assistant Professor of Geology & Geophysics and Director of Geology Field Camp, to learn about the multiphase geological history of the island.
Graduate students on the trip included Patrick Baudoin, Nicki Button, Brittney Gregory, Mitchell Gregory, Juan Carlos Guerrero and Sam Shrull. Undergraduate students included Allison Barbato, Brianna Crenshaw, Jeff Duxbury, Nikki Neubeck, Sophie Vincent and Madison Wayt.
"I think the best thing about being a geologist is the fieldwork," Mitch Gregory said. "My favorite part of the trip to Ireland was being able to work with the other students and instructors outside of a classroom setting. Working in the field presents a much different group dynamic than working on projects in class or in the lab, and it is always an exciting and rewarding experience. This trip allowed us to experience all that Ireland has to offer, but to also explore the landscape and think about its history in a way that we likely would not have if we were just visiting as tourists."
Follow geology graduate researcher and College of Science communications graduate assistant Nicki Button through her experience on the island below!
By Nicki Button
Ireland - Day 1
The trip started off with a cultural stop at the Knowth Neolithic Passage Tomb, part of Brú na Bóinne in central eastern Ireland. Knowth is the largest passage tomb at this complex, a passage made of large stones and one or multiple burial chambers covered in stone, and is one of the largest in Europe. It dates to around 3200 B.C., similar to the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt.
The first geological stop of the trip was the Slieve Gullion Ring Complex in the Mountains of Mourne. You can see the intrusion of dark igneous material (formed by the cooling of magma or lava) into lighter material in the image below.
The group spent the night in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Ireland - Day 2
The second stop of the day was a quarry near Carrickmore. Almost everything we saw here was diabase, a fine-grained igneous rock. We also observed Dykes, with red material indicting the presence of iron.
The day ended with a cultural experience at Beaghmore Stone Circles, dated to the Bronze Age (approximately ~3,500 years old). These stone circles are most likely associated with burial cairns, but they could have also been used for religious or social gatherings.
The group spent the night in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Ireland - Day 3
Giant’s Causeway is a geologic feature located on the northern coast of Ireland. It is made up of about 40,000 basalt (igneous rock) columns, formed by a volcanic eruption that slowly cooled as a lava lake. As the lava cooled, fractures formed, similar to the formation of cracks in drying mud, creating the hexagonal (or nearly hexagonal shapes) observed in the pictures. According to myths, though, the feature was built by a giant who wanted to visit his relatives in western Scotland.
Between Bushmills and Portrush, our group stopped to observe white cliffs made up of chalk with embedded chert, a type of sedimentary rock. Sedimentary rocks are formed from the deposition of sediments, usually in water.
In Portrush, we observed shale and mudstone (sedimentary rocks), which provide evidence for a marine setting during the Late Jurassic (Jurassic Period occurred 199.6 – 145.5 million years ago).
The group spent the night in Westport, County Mayo, Ireland.
Ireland - Day 4
Throughout the trip, memorials and famine beds, areas that were cultivated in an effort to grow crops such as potatoes, served as reminders of the Great Famine of 1845-1852. In 1849, people walked more than 10 miles through Doolough Valley to reach the next town in hopes of receiving food. Sadly, many people died along the way.
In Doolough Valley, visitors can see mountains, despite erosion at sea level, because of uplift. Low grade metamorphism of sedimentary rocks also occurred in this region.
At the Clew Bay Complex, schist (metamorphic rock) was the prevalent rock type. Metamorphic rocks are formed when an existing rock is subjected to very high heat and pressure, creating a new rock. A stone wall at the site also contained igneous rocks, such as gabbro and peridotite.
The group spent the night in Rosroe, Connemara, Ireland.
Ireland - Day 5
The first geological stop of the day was south of Claddaghduff. We observed a progression of metamorphic rocks in the outcrops along the beach.
Our group also stopped at the Deeryveeny Conglomerate, a deposit formed approximately 460-443 million years ago.
"Going to Ireland with the LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics was the opportunity of a lifetime," Sam Shrull said. Sam is the President of AAPG [American Association of Petroleum Geologists] Student Chapter at LSU, which helped fund the trip. "We were able to see many world class examples of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock in such a small area. In geology, it's important to go see what you are studying out in the field. The trip to Ireland provided a great opportunity for all of us to do just that, in a way we can't in Louisiana."
The group spent the night in Cong, County Galway, Ireland.
Ireland - Day 6
The Cliffs of Moher are composed of shale and sandstone (sedimentary rocks). Visitors can see the oldest rocks at the bottom of the cliffs.
The last geology stop of the trip was at the Bridges of Ross. The clastic sedimentary rocks exposed at the Bridges of Ross were deposited from a submarine fan or an underwater delta. A delta forms when sediment from a river is deposited at the river mouth. The sediments were supplied from the southwest and were deposited rapidly presumably reflecting fast erosion in the source regions.
The group spent the night in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland.
Ready to travel to Ireland?! If you would like to be considered for a place on the May 2018 Ireland Geology Field Trip and you are in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, please email Dr. Peter Clift (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name, type of student (graduate or undergraduate and year), and a brief paragraph (focusing on geological reasons) concerning your motivation for attending the trip! Those who applied last year and were not selected for the May 2017 trip are more than welcome to reapply.