|A small Clay-with-Flints exposure (centre) at Belshaw's Quarry |
near Lisburn, Co. Antrim. Taken on the wettest day in six months.
The sites were first identified as part of the Earth Science Conservation Review (ESCR) over a decade ago and since then the NIEA has been systematically awarding ASSI status to those deemed as being of national importance. However, not even half of those sites identified have been designated so to help achieve the full quota of ASSIs and to solve the problem of a the lack of in-house resources at NIEA, BGS scientists were brought in to help.
Under this new collaboration, a total of 15 sites will be designated annually, chosen from a key theme or a number of themes. For 2014, the sites included are all under the Caledonian Igneous Complex theme, or of the Clay-with-Flints Formation theme.
|Dr Mark Cooper examining the Clay-with-Flints |
Formation at Donald's Hill, Co. Londonderry.
Some of the sites surveyed have been very straightforward with many of them being quarries, both active and disused, or natural outcrops on farmland. Others haven't been quite so simple and have involved crossing mainline railway tracks, accessing a road-cutting on the main A1 road between Belfast and Dublin, avoiding bin lorries at a landfill site and even being denied access due to the filming of Game of Thrones (more on this in a later blog!).
This important collaboration between BGS and the NIEA is a great step forward in helping to protect some of our most vulnerable and significant geological sites. It also offers a wonderful opportunity to stimulate further research into Northern Ireland's diverse geological history to help provide an even greater understanding of our natural landscapes.
So in the words of the 1980s television series (sort of), the A(SSI)-Team is still wanted by the government, and they survive as scientists with the BGS. If you have a geological problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them (see below), maybe you can use the A(SSI)-Team.
If you want any more information on the ASSI programme being worked on by the BGS then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.