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Galway, Ireland

Program Description

For students interested in the natural environment around them, and how it has changed over time, this summer experience provides a unique opportunity to examine it closely in the field and gain insight on how to share this knowledge with others. In providing an inquiry-based experience for science teachers, the program will engage students in understanding the complex relationships between the bedrock geology, the veneer of life, and the impact of humans over the last 9000+ years on a variety of beach, bog, and mountainous environments in western Ireland. Just search for images of “Connemara” to see how unique and rich this area is for study. Students engage with the community, adding a service-learning component to the program

This program is designed to fulfill science content course needs of IDLS Science concentration candidates, as well as those who will become middle/high school Earth Science and/or Biology teachers. It is an intensive, field-based, upper-division course of 3 credit hours each in Earth Science and Biology, with two full weeks of study in Ireland. Four preliminary sessions are required during the Spring 2023 semester, along with a two-day, one-night overnight camping trip to Dolly Sods in May 2023.

Additional credit-bearing tasks include the development of instructional materials for classroom use and information for local geo-trails, part of the Joyce Country GeoPark. Participants will also gain basic, teachable field skills in geology and biology, such as rock and mineral identification, mapping, diversity estimates, and animal monitoring

The program can accommodate up to 16 students, including 12 students and 4 in-service teachers, led by two JMU instructors. Once the course starts and until it ends, all internal to Ireland transportation is provided. All meals (except for days off), admissions fees, accommodations, and consumable materials are included in the program costs. Airfare to/from Ireland is not provided.

Location Description

The field course takes place in the west of Ireland, brushing against but separate from the main tourist track in the Republic of Ireland. Students with a connection to Ireland, either through family, culture, or art, will feel a special affinity to this location.

The basecamp is at the Petersburg Outdoor Education and Training Center (, which is located in the centre of Connemara, the beating heart of the Gaeltacht, the place where Irish culture is best preserved. A rebuilt 17th Century manor house serves as both lodging and basecamp, overlooking Lough Mask in Counties Galway and Mayo. Field exercises start here, and instructional facilities support the completion of exercises. Surrounded by ancient archaeological features and an even more ancient landscape, the range of environments visited includes beaches, forests, bogs, hillsides, glacial terrains, and small Irish villages.


Eric Pyle | | Geology and Environmental Science


Housing: At the POETC, students will be housed in rooms of 4, with two double bunk beds with an ensuite bath and shower. The accommodations include a common living room with sofas and chairs, a study room in addition to the dining room which is available for use after hours, and access to Lough Mask and various trails on the grounds of the POETC as well. The town of Clonbur is a ~25 minute walk from POETC, and students may opt to walk into the town some evenings for dinner at a local establishment on days off.

Meals: Once the course begins, almost all meals are provided, except on the days off. A hot dinner is served in the dining hall, with food provided for continental breakfast, and for self-made packed lunches for the field. Access to a kitchen is also provided if a hot breakfast is desired. Access to local grocery stores is also provided on request.

Additional Items to Consider

Students will be responsible for their airfare to and from Ireland, with Dublin being the suggested point of arrival and departure. Students will be met by the faculty at rail or bus station in Galway City. Students are responsible for procuring rail or bus fare from Dublin or arrival location to Galway, where they will meet at a time and date to be determined. It is therefore recommended that students arrive in Ireland at least a day before the course is to begin.

Cell coverage in Ireland is generally fair to good, and students are responsible for procuring their own cellular data plan.

At this time, we do not know what might be required by the Republic of Ireland in terms of proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Students are given a detailed code of conduct, which must be signed. Students are also provided with a detailed narrative of details, including location addresses, cell phone network accessibility, and equipment required.

COVID-19 Location Information:

Each country has different requirements upon entry with regard to COVID-19. Please check this website for the most up-to-date information on what is required for the country (or countries) that are part of this program. Please note that this changes often, so we encourage you to check back frequently.

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 
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-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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