Visiting PhD students bowled over by ‘kindness’ of Larne people

Lasse D�ssing, Mike Babechuk, Joan D'Arcy and Dr Mark Cooper at Port Moon on the Causeway Coast. INLT 45-600-CON
Lasse D�ssing, Mike Babechuk, Joan D'Arcy and Dr Mark Cooper at Port Moon on the Causeway Coast. INLT 45-600-CON

A TRIO of international university students have visited the Larne borough as part of a collaborative research project.

Joan D’Arcy from Co Kildare, Lasse Døssing from Copenhagen, Denmark and Mike Babechuk from Ontario, Canada, chose the borough as one of the locations for their geological study.

And the group told the Larne Times they were taken aback by the beauty of the Antrim Glens and Coast Road, as well as the kindness and hospitality shown to them by local people during their stay.

Joan, who along with Lasse studies at the University of Copenhagen, said: “This research is a collaborative effort between my university and Trinity College Dublin, where Mike studies.

“Each of us shares a common research interest - we want to understand the behaviour of metals during the processes of weathering and soil formation on the most common rock type on the planet, basalt.

“During these processes, some metals stay in the soil, while others are dissolved and released into streams where they are carried into the ocean.

“The research entails the sampling of basaltic bedrock, soils, and river water for the purpose of chemical analysis of the metal concentrations in each. Specifically, we sampled soils forming on the basalt in the Dungonnell and Cargan areas, as well as the streams flowing over the basaltic Garron plateau, which flow into the Glenariff river and ultimately the Irish Sea at Waterfoot.

“The samples collected in the field will be analysed in laboratories at Trinity College Dublin and the University of Copenhagen using state-of-the-art equipment.

“Understanding these processes has environmental implications and can also help us understand how rocks weathered deep into the geological past, where we may be able to reconstruct aspects of the ancient climate.”

Northern Ireland was selected as the group’s field area since much of the exposed bedrock in Co Antrim is basalt, the particular rock they are interested in.

The local geology was well suited to the aims of their project, and the trio focused on the Glenariff valley as it provided the most suitable natural laboratory for them to study the cycling of different metals between the land and water.

Joan added: “Prior to starting my PhD, I worked for an exploration company in Northern Ireland and I am familiar with the geology of the area and have several local contacts. We were assisted by Dr Mark Cooper and Geoff Warke from the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, who donated their time to show us exposures of ancient basaltic weathering profiles at Port Moon and McCullagh’s Quarry, Broughshane.

“Our field work was made easier by the beautiful surroundings of the east coast of Antrim and by the kindness of all the people we met on our way. We would especially like to thank the owners of Londonderry Arms Hotel, Carnlough for their great hospitality,” Joan concluded.