Research and learning to grow in the Burren through new partnership between University of Galway and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)

Date Released: Friday, October 27, 2023

Minister for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan T.D. and President of University of Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh have today (Friday October 27th) signed a partnership agreement between the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the University to enhance opportunities for research and learning in the Burren region in Co. Clare.

The partnership will support programmes for academic research and study, participation in events which promote nature conservation, research and study in the Burren, and learning activities for students in local schools and University of Galway.

The partnership underpins shared management and access to two facilities in the Burren region – the Carron Field Research Facility and the Finavarra Research Station, for education, research and outreach.

The Carron Field Research Facility was originally established by the University in 1975 as a base for research in the Burren. It was named in honour of Professor Máirín de Valéra, who was appointed the first Professor of Botany at the University in 1962 and was solely responsible for teaching Plant Science at the University for many years. Finavarra Research Centre was set up by the University to support marine and coastal research.

In signing this agreement, Minister for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan T.D said:

“This partnership will promote greater appreciation of the immense, intrinsic value of our rich natural heritage, reflected in the internationally renowned landscape here in the Burren.

“For over twenty years now the Burren National Park has been a place for nature conservation and enjoyment of visitors locally and from around the world. It will now also be a place for learning. It will allow the University of Galway and the NPWS to cultivate a love of learning about nature in these magnificent surroundings which are home to so many rare and precious species and habitats. It will attract students from local schools, the University of Galway and further afield to explore their research and learning in nature conservation, ecology, geology and archaeology.” 

President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said:

“University of Galway has a long tradition of connections with the Burren - from JR Tolkien, it is said, taking inspiration from the mystical landscape while an external examiner at the University; and Professor Máirín de Valera’s field work; and more recently our own students using the region as a living lab for learning. We are delighted to see new opportunities for teaching and learning, research and outreach for the University, in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service in an area of such importance for biodiversity.”

Niall Ó Donnchú, Director General with NPWS said

“It has often been said that ‘nature is the best tutor’, and this partnership will facilitate a greater understanding of our natural heritage by bringing teaching and learning out into nature itself. Research, learning and outreach in the Burren will add to the growing educational offer and potential of our National Parks.”

The Burren region extends over some 450 sq. km in North West Clare. The region is internationally renowned, due to its unique karst landscape, its abundance of plants, species and habitats, and its rich archaeological remains. The Burren National Park, based within the region was established in 1991 to manage nature conservation and public access. The site is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and of major conservation value due to the many rare plants, animals and habitats. The Burren National Park was established in 1991 and makes up 2 to 3% of the area of the Burren region. The Park includes examples of all of the major habitats in the region, including limestone habitats, calcareous grasslands and heath, scrub and woodland, and a network of calcareous lakes and turloughs.