Organise a speaker!
Read the information below to find out more about our Get into Geoscience speakers!
There are speakers from many different areas all across the island of Ireland who are happy to talk to you and your school.
If you see a speaker/ speakers that you'd like to speak at your school, get in touch with us and we will set this up with you.
Aileen Doran - Dublin/Wexford
Aileen’s Specialist Area
Aileen’s background is in economic geology and geochemistry. Economic geology is the study of the earth materials that our society needs to build infrastructure, technologies and more, whereas geochemistry is the study of rocks through a chemical lens. Aileen recently finished her PhD, which focused on the occurrence of Irish zinc-lead minerals, and she is now a post-doctoral researcher looking at rocks that contain copper-cobalt minerals in Zambia, Africa.
During her PhD, Aileen used geochemical techniques to study metal deposits in the south of Ireland to help our understanding of how these world class deposits formed and to use this information to help develop new ways of finding similar mineral occurrences. Aileen is now applying what she learned during her PhD to rocks from Zambia, where she is also deciphering the depositional environment of the rocks which contain these minerals and the processes that impacted these rocks after they formed, including the movement of the metal bearing fluids that led to cobalt-copper mineralisation.
Aileen’s Career Journey
Aileen accidentally stumbled into geoscience. At secondary school, Aileen did not have any real interest in anything geology related, and when it was time to pick courses for the CAO and head to college, all of Aileen’s top choices were related to psychology. However, a little bit before the CAO deadline, her geography teacher started talking about volcanoes and touched on the type of things they teach you at college about earth processes. And so, Aileen put down a random course about Earth System Sciences at UCC, and that’s the one she got! After giving the course a go, Aileen realised that she loved geoscience, so, she completed her undergraduate degree in Cork, where she specialised in geology after her first year.
After college, Aileen moved to Dublin, where she worked as a graduate geologist at the Geological Survey Ireland (GSI). Soon after, Aileen began her PhD at UCD and iCRAG, where she is now working as a postdoctoral researcher.
Aileen’s research during her PhD and post-doctoral positions link in closely with the world’s goal of moving to a greener, more sustainable one, as the ‘clean’ energy infrastructure (e.g., wind turbines, solar panels) and vehicles (e.g., electric vehicles) require a lot of metals and other materials.
Aileen has also become very involved with science communication and equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives in geoscience over her time at UCD and iCRAG and she continues to bring these elements into her own work.
Aileen’s key piece of advice:
Geoscience is connected to everything around you, and it is continuously evolving and changing as the world does. No matter what your background or experience, there is a place in geoscience for you.
Maria McNamara - Cork
Maria McNamara – Professor of Palaeontology, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC & iCRAG
Maria’s specialist area
Maria works on fossils – she is a palaeontologist. In particular, she is interested in the evolution of coloration in animals, the evolution of skin and feathers, and in how fossils form. She works on many different types of fossils, mostly vertebrate animals such as fish, amphibians, reptiles (including pterosaurs, dinosaurs and birds!), but also invertebrate fossils such as insects and squid. She spends a lot of time in the lab using powerful beams of electrons, light, and X-rays to study fossils, and she also explores how fossilization happens by designing and running fossilization experiments.
Maria’s career journey
Maria never wanted to be a palaeontologist until she was in the second year of her degree in Earth Sciences at NUIG. She had lots of interests across the arts, humanities and sciences (and still does!) and only really discovered palaeontology in her fossil lectures. After her degree she travelled around Europe before settling down to do a PhD, and then some post-doctoral research, in UCD. She then spent some time working in public outreach of science, as the Geopark Geologist involved in laying the groundwork for the Burren-Cliffs of Moher Geopark. After that she worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Yale University in Connecticut, USA for three years, then at the University of Bristol for almost a year. She started working as a lecturer in geology at UCC in 2013, and is now a full professor. She teaches classes in palaeontology, evolution, fieldwork, and communication skills.
Maria’s key piece of advice
Do what you think you’ll enjoy for five years. Don’t try to think beyond that. Your life, your career goals and dreams, and the world will have changed by then! You don’t need to make a lifetime commitment now.
Tiernan Henry - Galway
Tiernan’s Specialist Area
Tiernan works in water: water in rivers, lakes, the sky, and water in and under the ground. He’s a hydrogeologist, which means he spends a lot of time trying to figure out the connections between water and the ground: how does water get underground, and how the water is changed by the rocks, and how the rocks are changed by the water. He’s particularly interested in how water and rocks interact in places like the Burren, and in using clues from rocks formed 300-400 million years ago to work out the routes water now takes as it works its way underground.
Tiernan’s Career Journey
Tiernan blames David Attenborough.
He went to Trinity College Dublin fully intending to become a zoologist and be the next David Attenborough, where he discovered geology and geography, and that changed everything. He graduated with a degree in physical geography (sorry Sir David). He went to the United States and worked in the upper Midwest for several years (writing music reviews, and working in bookshops) and then he did an MSc in Hydrogeology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He returned to Ireland, and worked in a groundwater consultancy for a number of years, doing everything from designing underground mine drainage networks to managing quarry water to assessing flood risk to working with community groups on water projects. He started working as a lecturer in environmental geology in EOS in 2003, and he teaches hydrology and hydrogeology, field skills, geological mapping. He did his PhD in hydrogeology in NUIG.
Tiernan’s key piece of advice:
Give yourself time to figure out what you want to do; you might know right away, or you might need time to work it out. Enjoy the journey too.
Haleh Karbala Ali - Dublin
Haleh’s Specialist Area
Haleh’s career started off in petroleum engineering, though she now researches groundwater. Before joining DIAS in 2019, Haleh was a seismic data interpreter at the National Iranian Oil Company for three years. Driven by her passion for the environment, she then changed her field of study to become more ‘Green’. Haleh is currently developing novel algorithms (like computer programmes) to locate and monitor how groundwater moves in karst based on the passive seismic approach. Seismic monitoring uses tiny earthquake waves to build up a picture of the earth beneath our feet!
Haleh’s Career Journey
Haleh’s passion for geoscience began during her undergraduate courses in petroleum engineering. She was fascinated by the geophysical methods that can describe the subsurface properties and structures indirectly (i.e. without going underground). She worked on active reflection seismic data which is a routine approach in the petroleum industry to determine the depth to the reservoir and differentiate lithofacies (types of rock) in a hydrocarbon field in her Master's thesis. In her Ph.D. dissertation, Haleh developed a new methodology to automatically detect paleochannels in 3D seismic data inspired by image processing algorithms in electrical engineering. Upon increasing her awareness of the adverse effect of the petroleum industry in global warming Haleh realized that her job wasn’t making her happy anymore. She decided to look into a career where she could link her knowledge of geology and geophysics to solve near-surface problems that can have positive societal impacts. She then started her research at DIAS regarding locating and tracking groundwater flow using indirect and non-invasive passive seismic.
Haleh’s key piece of advice:
Whether it be geoscience-related or not, don’t be afraid of change. Try until you find what fulfills YOU.
Lucy Blennerhassett - Dublin
Lucy’s Specialist Area:
Lucy’s research specialty is ‘environmental geochemistry’. This subject examines the chemical composition of materials on Earth to better understand environmental processes. Her PhD is focused on climate change and volcanic activity over the last 10,000 years, which includes the end of the last major ice age up until current time. She examines peat bogs in Ireland for traces of volcanic activity in Iceland. These traces can include volcanic ash invisible to the naked eye but also high concentrations of elements like mercury and sulphur! Using a new a methodology she is hoping to find traces of volcanic activity in a Northern Irish peat bog and understand how this volcanic activity might be related to climate change over the last 10,000 years.
Lucy’s Career Journey:
Lucy’s interest in geoscience started when she was in secondary school after realising how much she loved physical geography. However, she had always been a lover of the outdoors and would often going hiking and exploring with her family. During her school years, she became fascinated by how the Earth works and wanted to know more about our planet, how it functions and how landscapes had formed over time. Lucy then pursued her interest in the natural world by studying hard and entering Earth Science in Trinity College Dublin. It was here that she truly discovered her passion for understanding all the different systems that work together to keep our planet functioning and fostering life. She became passionate about understanding climate change and volcanic activity. Through learning more about Earth’s history and climate change she realised her passion for science communication and loved to talk to non-specialists to help them understand how human beings were changing our climate system. After taking a year break and travelling to New Zealand once she had graduated, she eventually came back to Trinity College Dublin to start her PhD research and is currently completing her final two years. She is very active in science communication outside her PhD research and loves engaging with the public. Lucy is open about the future and knows that whatever feels right for her once she has completed her degree, she will pursue it.
Lucy’s Key Piece of Advice:
Career’s should be you following a curiosity. So be curious about the world around you, because it’s amazing, especially when you look closely!
Jean O'Dwyer - Cork/Limerick
Jean’s Specialist Area
Jean is an Environmental Scientist and is interested in how the natural environment impacts human health and wellbeing. She divides her time between field work, lab work, analysing data, writing and of course, teaching the next generation of Environmental Scientists!
Jean focuses on global issues like climate change, but also local issues like drinking water quality in Ireland. She looks at how increasing temperatures may impact people’s health through increases in diseases, loss of livelihood and even mental health. More locally, Jean has done a lot of work looking at bacteria in water and trying to see which parts of the country are more likely to have poor water quality and why. She works with the HSE to look at waterborne infectious diseases and help policy makers protect people from unsafe drinking water.
Jean’s Career Journey
Since Jean was a small child, she was fascinated with science and engineering, with a keen interest in space! As she got older and environmental issues began to become more obvious, she stopped looking up so much and started looking around - the world was changing for the worse and she wanted to help make things better! Jean went to study Environmental Science in the University of Limerick and fell even more in love with science, research and the natural world. After her degree, she went on to do a PhD in Environmental Health Science where she looked at how water quality in Ireland impacted people’s health and how we could fix it. Afterwards, she worked on several projects which brought her all over Europe- she spent time in Finland (in -26°C temperatures!), Sweden, Denmark and France. In 2018, she joined the staff of UCC where she still works as a lecturer and researcher. Now, she has students of her own and gets to share her views with the next generation of scientists in the hope that they too want to help create a better world.
Jean’s key piece of advice:
For me, the ingredients of a happy life are love, laughter and learning. So, do something you’re passionate about, where you can interact with loads of people and never stop learning new things!
Francesca Martini - Dublin
Francesca’s Specialist Area
Francesca’s background is in geology and geophysics. She first studied geology in college and then specialised in geophysics, which is that part of science that manages to “see” in the underground. Think of a X-ray to check the shape of your bones, or a CAT scan doctors do to check inside our body- geophysics does the same with the earth. Francesca found it absolutely fascinating that you can use some machine on the ground or on a plane that is flying a few hundred meters above ground, and manage to “see” what is happening deep down in the earth. She used these methods to study volcanoes, earthquakes, to see the rocks under the ice in Antarctica and to look for structures in the underground that could be worth investigating further for things like oil and gas. Her favourite methods to do that are the ones called “passive” which get those images from things like the noise created by the waves in the ocean.
Francesca’s Career Journey
Francesca’s passion for geoscience began during her geology and biology lessons in secondary school. She realised she could actually become a geologist while watching a movie starring Liam Neeson whose character was a geologist (life is funny like that sometimes!). After studying geology at the University of Trieste in Italy, she moved to Ireland to do a PhD in geophysics. She then worked as a researcher in the university, to study how volcano works and how to monitor their activity using geophysics. She was also teaching and absolutely loved that. She then had an opportunity to work in the oil and gas industry, researching and using those non-invasive non-impact exploration methods (they had never heard of them before so that was very interesting!). Her work brought her to amazing places, like Antarctica, on volcanoes in Europe and Central America, and to very remote areas of Africa (in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia) where she met people who did not even know what a camera was and had never seen their image reflected on the mirror.
When it became clear that we need to move away from fossil fuels, she started working in clean energy and helping the businesses become more sustainable, which means having less impact on the climate, and the environment, while also being fair to people too. That is what brought her to work in iCRAG, where she helps the researchers to get funding and set up their big projects to do their research in this very important area. Her new career is bringing together all her experience in research and industry and her knowledge of geology, geophysics, business and sustainability .
Francesca’s key piece of advice:
Never say no to any opportunity you are given, and volunteer for anything you can- as any opportunity brings you to something or somebody you did not know existed and could have a very important role in shaping your future.
Anna Bidgood - Dublin
Anna’s Specialist Area
Anna’s specialist area is how mountains are built and how to find metals needed to decarbonise our planet. Anna spent her PhD wandering around the Indian Himalaya with a Tibetan yak herder, looking at rocks which were buried 100 km beneath the surface of the earth before being pushed up to 5 km above sea level. Anna’s love of these extreme conditions also led her to the Arctic, an incredible place for geology, people, flora and fauna. When Anna isn’t off exploring far-flung places, you can find her in the lab trying to find a mountain down a microscope. She is particularly interested in why minerals grow in unusual places, especially when related to the metals that we need to build renewable-energy technology such as wind turbines and electric cars.
Anna’s Carer Journey
Anna’s passion for geology began when she was sat (in the rain) in the middle of a huge volcanic crater in central Iceland. She was fascinated by how this spectacular landscape formed and wanted an excuse to spend as much time in the natural environment as possible. After working as an outdoor instructor in the North York Moors, Anna went on to study Earth Sciences at Oxford University. Following a brief helicopter-assisted field season with the Geological Survey of British Columbia, Anna started a PhD working in the Himalayas, trying to understand large scale plate tectonic processes that occurred deep beneath the earth’s surface 50 million years ago. During her PhD, she realised that while she found all of the academic work fascinating, it was difficult to explain to someone asking “why do we care” and so she applied to do an internship with a mining company in the Peruvian Andes looking for copper, a much needed commodity. Anna’s love of the environment combined with her interest in geological processes and mineral growth led her to her current research position based at the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geology. Here she has found a project linking her interests in minerals with her love of the environment, in a region of the world (Central Africa) that is host to a huge endowment of metals required to make low carbon technology.
Anna’s key piece of advice:
If you find something you’re interested in, chase it! You’d be surprise what opportunities present themselves to you if you just ask.
Jess Franklin - Cork
Jess’ Specialist Area
Jess’s background is in geoscience, though she now specialises in science engagement. Jess completed her PhD in geology at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). During her PhD she carried out chemical analysis of rocks to figure out the origins of ancient sandstones in Ireland. She is now the science engagement officer for Ireland’s Fossil Heritage project. Her job is to design and organise different types of public events and activities including school workshops, a travelling exhibit, science and art collaborations and lots of interactive web content for all ages and backgrounds to increase interest in Irish fossils.
Jess’ Career Journey
Jess discovered geology during her first year at University College Cork. She was always fascinated with the natural world but it wasn’t until her very first geology lecture that she knew she wanted to focus on it for her undergraduate degree. After completing her degree, she travelled to Canada to work as an exploration geologist. She spent one year in rural Ontario working for a gold exploration company before returning to Ireland. While deciding what to do next Jess completed a course in Irish culture and heritage studies and worked in a market selling olives. In 2015 she moved to Galway to carry out her PhD work on sandstones. During her PhD she got the opportunity to volunteer for lots of different public engagement events and activities such as Girls into Geoscience. These experiences helped her to realised that her true passion was communicating science and sharing her love for geoscience with other people. Jess spent a year researching the public perception of geoscience in Ireland before starting her role as science engagement officer with Ireland’s Fossil Heritage in UCC.
Jess’ key piece of advice
Try lots of different things and take every opportunity so you can figure out what you love and what your best skills are.
Emer Caslin - Belfast
Emer’s Specialist Area
Emer spent most of her career building and interpreting computerised models of parts of the earth’s crust to understand the characteristics of rocks in the subsurface, the relationships between these rocks and fluids to understand energy resources and groundwater aquifers. The best models are derived from maps, seismic, well data and a top-notch geo-imagination!
Emer has a keen interest in understanding how geoscientists can help shape and influence sustainability in our evolving world and is focused on areas such as solutions for the energy transition, risk and social acceptance of the extractive industry & how geoscience can positively influence the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Emer’s Career Journey
It was a secondary school field trip in the Wicklow Mountains that first stirred an interest in Geology for Emer. She went on to study Geology at the Queens University Belfast and then completed an MSc in Geochemistry and an MSc in Reservoir Geoscience and Engineering from the University of Newcastle and the IFP-School, Paris respectively.
Emer worked as a reservoir geoscientist with Schlumberger building maps and models of reservoirs from all over the world. The job allowed her to travel extensively and live in a variety of European cities and form a great international network of friends.
Emer’s passion for sustainable geoscience brought her to her current position with iCRAG where she supports a large network of geoscientists engaged in research for a sustainable society.
Emer’s key piece of advice:
Follow your passion and if you’re not sure what that is yet, don’t worry – you will in time.
Elspeth Sinclair - Dublin/most locations
Elspeth is the chief coordinator of Girls into Geoscience Ireland. As well as organising talks from others on this list, she is happy to travel to most areas on the island of Ireland to talk about her career and geoscience in general.
Elspeth’s Specialist Area
Elspeth’s background is in palaeontology, though she is now an expert in science communication. Before becoming a full-time science communicator, Elspeth’s research focused on understanding the ecology of past ecosystems (ones that existed over 150 million years ago!). She studied dinosaurs from the Jurassic Period of North America to understand how their ecosystems changed through space and time. More recently, Elspeth’s focus is on Science Communication. Elspeth works with all the researchers in iCRAG to find the best way to make their work accessible to different groups of people, for example through talks, workshops and other educational programmes. She manages a series of programmes, alongside iCRAG’s public engagement manager, Fergus McAuliffe, all of which can be found on the iCRAG website.
Elspeth’s Career Journey
Elspeth’s passion for geoscience began during her geography and biology lessons at school. She was fascinated by the earth and understanding how the landscape and the plants and animals that live upon it had come into existence over such a hugely long timescale. After studying geography and geology at the University of Manchester, she moved on to study for an MPhil (like a year long research project) and a PhD in palaeoecology – the understanding of past ecosystems. During her postgraduate degrees, Elspeth became more and more involved in science communication activities. There became a point where she was leading and developing more science communication activities than she was actual research and she realised that academia wasn’t making her happy. She decided to look into a career where she could link her knowledge of geology and palaeontology with science communication, which is how she ended up as the education and public engagement officer for the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences.
Elspeth’s key piece of advice:
Whether it be geoscience related or not, study what makes you happy – if you’re happy, you will succeed.
Aoife Blowick - Dublin/Wexford
Aoife’s Specialist Area
Thanks to a great variety of opportunities, Aoife has explored different interests from researching the sands of large river systems across the world, to more recently working in research management as past of the large national research centre, iCRAG. Before transitioning in to research management, Aoife did some research herself exploring where grains of sands in rivers, both current and extinct, came from. This can help to tell us where rivers used to be, what the landscape and climate was like in the past, or even where continents use to be. Alongside her research and operations role, Aoife is also an award winning champion of Women in Earth Sciences and is passionate about promoting STEM education for everyone.
Aoife’s Career Journey
One thing about the geosciences that Aoife loves is the range of subjects it covers. In school, Aoife always loved science but it wasn’t until college where she learned how everything in the world is connected and just how much one small grain of sand can tell you! In the end, being out in the field and being able to explore the world – past, present and future, got Aoife interested in Geology. From there, she did an internship with a petroleum company before deciding to do a PhD and then some more research in sand tracing. After completing this research, Aoife wanted to see what other avenues a sand loving geologist outside of academia could do explore, and so transitioned into her operational roles which allows her to work a whole host of researchers and research groups. As for the future, who knows!
Aoife’s key piece of advice:
It’s okay not to know. Keep trying and you’ll get there. Remember, if a flower doesn’t bloom, you change the garden, not the flower.
If the path doesn’t exist, don’t be afraid to make a new one. You’re not like anyone else, so why would your path be?
Jennifer Craig - Dublin
Jennifer’s Specialist Area
Jennifer’s background is in Chemistry, though she now works adjacent to the geosciences as an expert in Operations and Research Management. Jennifer’s chemistry research focused on understanding the surface characteristics of the metal Platinum. Jennifer looked at how these characteristics worked in the development of Biosensors that could be implanted to study brain function! Currently, Jennifer manages iCRAG, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Applied Geosciences. She is proud to be supported by a team of brilliant people, all with really interesting roles, and all working together to deliver a world class Geosciences research Centre. You can learn more about this on the iCRAG website.
Jennifer’s Career Journey
Jennifer’s passion for science began when she was in school, in Biology and Physics class. Although she didn’t have the opportunity to study Chemistry in school, at university she managed to try out the subject, which sparked an interest that’s never gone away! Her keen interest in management began during her PhD when she took over the lab manager role in her research group. After studying Chemistry as a major and Biochemistry as a minor honours degree in University College Dublin, she went on to study for an a PhD in Bioelectrochemistry. Bioelectrochemistry is the study of the electrical and chemical processes that occur in biology, like the electrical signals in the brain. During her postgraduate degree and subsequent postdoctoral positions, Jennifer became more and more involved in research management and business development. There became a point where she realised that research wasn’t making her happy but manging groups of people and projects was. She took a decision to take a role as a project manager for a large funded project in Pharmacology where she could use her background knowledge in Chemistry as well as her management skills. Jennifer had a keen interest in business too and this role exposed her to many Pharmaceutical companies. She decided to undertake an MBA (Masters in business Administration) part time whilst working as a project manager. This opened up many opportunities for Jennifer and she moved for a few years into the private sector, working mainly with start-up companies. Following the birth of her first daughter, Jennifer was seeking some job security and took role to develop and manage the EU Research Office in UCD. This was a role Jennifer really enjoyed for a number of years. Following the birth of her second daughter in 2013, Jennifer jumped at the chance to become the Chief Operations Officer of iCRAG where she could apply the many skills learned and experience gained over her career to date. Jennifer has been on this role for 7 years and still enjoys each day. It’s a really diverse role and every day is different, challenging and interesting.
Jennifer’s key piece of advice:
Be sure to try out many things that might interest you. You don’t have to decide what you are going to do for the rest of your life right now! Do what you enjoy and what gives you energy and happiness and makes you jump out of bed in the morning. I’m a Chemist that worked in pharma, medical devices, European research, university administration and the Geosciences. Many Geoscientists also work across other diverse areas. Learning transferrable skills throughout your career whatever it may be is key.