Ireland’s Fossil Heritage

In 2019 we developed the SFI-funded “Ireland’s Fossil Heritage” initiative.

What’s it about? This public education project uses fossils to make STEM accessible to children and adults from all walks of life and background, especially schoolchildren from DEIS and rural schools.

Why fossils? Fossils have a remarkable broad public appeal and allow accessible exploration of concepts from geology, biology, chemistry and physics that might otherwise be difficult to grasp by the non-scientist.

Why Irish fossils? The project focuses on Ireland’s remarkable fossil record. Our fossil heritage, which spans over 500 million years, includes fossils of some of the earliest animals (Oldhamia; Bray), terrestrial plants (Cooksonia; Tipperary), tetrapod trackways (Valentia), amphibians (Kilkenny) and arthropod trackways (Dingle). Other common fossils include corals, crinoids, and brachiopods. There are even Irish dinosaurs!

We aim to inspire curiosity in our ancient past as our fossil heritage has an extremely low profile in Irish society. Irish people have been deprived a unique connection to the natural heritage of our beautiful landscape through deep time.

The project will help instill a sense of pride and a deeper connection with our natural environment, influencing future behaviours and helping to protect our landscape.

Our Fossil CSI exhibit includes a range of hands-on activities and educational games that allow the public to handle and learn about Irish fossils. These activities are designed to promote the participants’ confidence in their own observational and problem-solving abilities – natural skills which we all have!

Our experts talk about what the fossils tell us about the past and environment of today.

Do you want us to visit your school?

Our interactive curriculum-linked lessons are suitable for classes from second class through to sixth class, and for secondary school students up to transition years. We can also do interactive hands-on sessions with schoolchildren in infants and first class. 

Our lessons are really fun. From the “Fossil Crime Scene” to “Ping Pong Chemistry”, and in-school lab analyses with our portable X-ray analyser, and real-time 3-D printing with our portable 3D printer, the activities help to teach Irish schoolchildren about maths, physics, chemistry, biology and give them a glimpse of what a future career in STEM could be like.

As of 2021 we are expanding the programme to the whole country and with exciting new activities! We are looking for project partners so please get in touch by contacting Maria (maria.mcnamara@ucc.ie) or Naomi (naomi.oreilly@ucc.ie).