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Scope Series 4 RTÉ Two, Thursday, 7.00pm

Profile: John Savage

John SavageJohn Savage is a 24-year-old geologist who is just mad about rocks and is studying cave formations in the Cork area.

Cork is a limestone and sandstone area and thanks to repeat glaciation periods there are extensive cave systems along certain fault lines. John’s job is to map and understand the age of these caves better.

It is crucial that these caves are mapped to avoid serious issues with subsidence. A large section of motorway - the Ballincollig bypass - was recently constructed over a set of caves and a number of caves had to be filled with concrete prior to construction.

A farmer in Cloyne recently lost a tractor because of a cave system running under his land. Due to the high rate of development in the area it is crucial to have an accurate picture of what is going on under the ground.

To help him get an accurate picture of the area John uses geophysics and electrical resistivity. This means laying electrodes across a site and sending an electrical signal down through the ground. The signal can penetrate up to 60m and can give an excellent picture of what is going on under the soil.

After John has identified a cave system he goes down into the cave where possible and correlates what he has learned from the surface with what he learns from inside the cave. He takes rock samples and fossilised snails to help date when the cave was formed. He uses an amino acid dating system and all samples are sent to Australia for classification.

John loves potholing and does most of his fieldwork during the weekend with his friends – he brings them along to help drag rock samples out of the caves.

When John is not out in the field up to his ankles in water he is sorting and analysing through his samples. Part of his working week also involves lecturing first year geology students which he loves because every class has one or two very enthusiastic students.

John is in the enviable position of being able to combine his work and hobby and seems to really enjoy both.


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