The PRISM project (Preservation by Record of Ireland’s Shell Middens) is a citizen science participatory mapping scheme initiated by researchers from University College Dublin and University College Cork. The project receives funding from the Irish Research Council (IRC) and launched in summer 2022.
Coastal shell middens are rapidly being lost due to both natural — sea-level rise, coastal erosion, increased storm surges, and isostatic shift — and anthropogenic factors — increasing visitor footfall, removal of shells and other archaeological material, certain agricultural practices, and encroaching development. The project aims to raise awareness about these impacts and take tangible steps build a more complete record of these vulnerable sites.
To this end, PRISM is developing web-based digital mapping tools which will help volunteer citizen scientists to record observations about the impacts of climate change and human activities on coastal shell middens in their community.
Understanding past human-coastal interactions can assist researchers, policy makers, and community leaders in developing new approaches and building resilience along the coast today.
Rory Connolly is an archaeologist who specialises in the application of soil micromorphology, lipid biomarker characterisation, and compound-specific isotope analysis for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. During his doctoral research at Universidad de La Laguna in Spain Rory combined these geoarchaeological and organic geochemistry techniques to explore the role of climate in Neanderthal social and cultural evolution in Eastern Iberia. He joined the School of Archaeology at University College Dublin as an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in October 2021. His current research focuses on coastal shell middens and aims to shed new light on how Neolithic farming communities adapted to the marginal coastal environments of NW Europe. He also aims to promote citizens’ active participation in research through public archaeology and community-driven citizen science.
Carolyn Howle Outlaw is a PhD candidate and Excellence Scholar in the Archaeology Department at University College Cork. She is working to compile the first full catalogue of all known Irish shell middens which will be used for a diachronic study of these sites. This project began with her Master’s thesis entitled ‘A proposed methodology for the rescue excavation of coastal shell middens in the face of Climate Change.’ The work has also included the survey of approximately 100 sites along the southern and western coast of Ireland with funding from the Royal Irish Academy Archaeological Research Grant and the College of Arts, Celtic Studies, and Social Science, UCC. Carolyn has a background which includes many seasons of excavation including the supervision of a trench through a shell midden with the Achill Island Archaeological Field School. She hopes to spread her passion for these often overlooked sites with the public.
Alan is a licence eligible archaeologist based in the northwest of Ireland. He currently works with Archaeological Management Solutions (AMS) on their excavation team. Alan has a wealth of experience in the excavation of sites, conducting monitoring visits and assisting on site remediation. He has worked on numerous small and large-scale infrastructural projects throughout Ireland, including the N61 Ranelagh Realignment Road Project, Co. Roscommon, N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin Road Development, Co. Sligo, the N60 Oran Realignment Road Project, Co. Roscommon, the N69 Listowel Bypass, Co. Kerry and the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge, Co. Roscommon. Alan has a wide range of research interests, including how past peoples used their surrounding landscape and the flora and fauna within, whether for food or making tools or personal items. In addition to working as a field archaeologist he has also been involved in running a number of public archaeology related events designed for children