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Clonbur, Galway, Ireland

Program Description

This course is an intensive, field-based experience with 3 credit hours in either Geology or Biology, lasting a little over two weeks in western Ireland. Working with faculty experienced in the varied environments of Connemara, you will have the chance to integrate Earth and Life Science inquiry experiences with a focus on not just field learning, but also how people influence and are influenced by these environments across the last 8,000 years. You will also have the opportunity to contribute to an international project, namely the Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark, a UNESCO designation anticipated early in 2024, an experience that is directly transferrable to environmental education in both the US and abroad.

The proposed course will embody Earth and environmental science content, where students will examine first-hand the geology, flora, and fauna of Connemara, as well as the interactions of these elements with each other and the relative impacts of humans. Specific themes to be pursued in the course design include:
a. The Bedrock – Igneous & metamorphic rock, sediments & sedimentary rock, and fossils;
b. Shaping the Land – Geomorphology of glacial, fluvial, and karst environments;
c. Where the Land meets Sea – Coastal environments;
d. The Veneer of Life – Flora and fauna of bog, lacustrine, and stream environments;
e. Impact of Humans – The impact of development, pollution, and overall global changes;
f. Design of Field-Based Scientific Investigations – how to design, conduct, and report the results of a field-based inquiry, translatable to a classroom or home setting;
g. Biological communities and commercial utilization of natural resources;
h. Cultural Similarities and Differences – Tour of Galway, Neolithic, Bronze-age, and Medieval sites.

Location Description

The primary sites for the course will be in Counties Galway, Mayo, and Claire in Western Ireland. Based at the Petersburg Outdoor Education and Training Center (POETC), a restored 1715 manor house, students will be surrounded by formidable mountains and picturesque lakes. Carved by ancient glaciers and modern rivers, the local environment offers a range of evidence of human occupation from the Neolithic age to the present, yet is also on the edge of wild and untamed. It has served as a film site for generations, including movies such as The Quiet Man, The Field, The Guard, Calvary, Leap Year, and in part the Banshees of Inisherin. Savage beauty, yet strangely familiar.


Eric Pyle | | Geology and Environmental Science

Katrina Gobetz | | Biology & Biochemistry


Housing: Students will be housed in a manor house with dining facilities and a full kitchen, classroom and sitting room. Bedrooms are en-suite and accommodate 2-4 students per room. The last few days of the course, students will be accommodated in self-catered apartments on the University of Galway campus, with 3-4 students per apartment with separate bedrooms.

Meals: With the exception of days-off, students will be provided with food for a self-catered breakfast and materials for a packed lunch in the field. A hot dinner is prepared for students on-site each working day. A full kitchen is available for students to cook breakfast as desired. Where off-site from POETC, students will be provided with a per diem of €15-20 while staying in apartments on the University of Galway campus. 

Additional Items to Consider

  • This course will support several different sets of learning needs, especially if you seek to teach science across the K-12 spectrum. The course can accommodate a total of 16 students, and includes transportation from Galway, Ireland, internal transportation to field study sites.

  • The program fee and summer tuition covers meals (except for days off), admissions fees, accommodations, and consumable materials. Airfare to/from Ireland, and to/from Galway is not provided.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0


  • GEOL 102, 110, or 115, plus lab (or equivalent) AND
  • BIO 103 or 140, plus lab (or equivalent); OR
  • ISCI 171 and 173, OR
  • Permission of instructor

Open to Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors, and Graduate Students

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short Essay 
  • List of academic references
  • Attend a Program Information Session
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students; unoffical for JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


GEOL 398: Topics in Geology (3 credits)

BIO 426: Topics in Biology (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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