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Major Irish honour for BGS geoscientist

Dr Marie Cowan

British Geological Survey’s Dr Marie Cowan honoured by Royal Irish Academy for contribution to society

DR Marie Cowan, director of the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland at the British Geological Survey (BGS), has been elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy 2020.

The Academy has been honouring Ireland’s leading contributors to the world of learning since its establishment in 1785. Recognized internationally, it is a major national honour.


Past members of the Royal Irish Academy include Seamus Heaney, Dame Nuala O’Loan and former presidents of Ireland Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson. Those elected are entitled to use the designation ‘MRIA’ after their name.

Dr Marie Cowan (pictured) received the accolade for her contribution to society on the island of Ireland, including her creation of a multi-lingual communications campaign for OneGeology, a flagship BGS project for UNESCO’s International Year of Planet Earth.

The project, which reached a global audience of 107 million, aimed to improve the accessibility of global geoscience data to address societal issues including climate change.

‘I am absolutely honoured and privileged to be elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy,’ said Dr Cowan. ‘Geoscience impacts on all our lives, accounting for 34,000 jobs and 6,150 businesses in Northern Ireland alone, putting it on a par with agriculture.

‘Looking ahead, geoscientists will play an integral part in society as we work towards a zero-carbon economy and greater environmental protections. I look forward to progressing the Academy’s mission to champion academic research and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society.’

Among Dr Cowan’s other achievements is cross-border collaboration on the multi-award-winning Tellus geoscience programmes, working together with the Geological Survey of Ireland to benefit the island’s economy and research ecosystem.

Dr Cowan also initiated the MLA-Geoscientist Pairing Scheme in Northern Ireland and introduced the Scientist and Oireachtas Member Pairing Scheme in Ireland to enrich evidence-based policymaking.

Dr Karen Hanghøj, director of the British Geological Survey, said: ‘We are thrilled to see Marie honoured in such a way. She is a role model for geoscience and her work has made a huge impact in Ireland and beyond.’


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