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Ffion Butler Interview

Ffion visited UCD’s School of Earth Sciences as an Erasmus student in 2019. We caught up with Ffion in this interview

 Ffion Butler in caves

What are working on at the moment?

In 2020, I graduated in geology from the University of Birmingham. As part of my third undergraduate year, I came to UCD’s School of Earth Sciences on an Erasmus year. At the moment, I’m working in my local high school in Wales as an admin and pastoral assistant, which I really like. I'm in the well-being department speaking to the kids.

What made you decide to come to UCD for your Erasmus year?

I remember I could choose between Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and I've always loved Ireland. My last name is Butler, so I've got Irish heritage, and I had been to Ireland on holidays. The culture, the friendly nature of the people, the large families, it all reminded me of Wales. Coming to Dublin was an easy decision, and one of my lecturers recommended UCD’s School of Earth Sciences. He assured me that the department was well respected, and I wouldn’t miss out academically which was very important to me. 

What was your experience of the School of Earth Sciences?

I loved it. I liked that the class was quite small and that there was a personal, informal atmosphere. I enjoyed the fact that the lecturers also told us about their personal research. It was this personal atmosphere in UCD that struck up a love of geology inside me. The School is close-knit and everyone gets to know one another well. 

How did you find the process of moving to Dublin and finding accommodation near UCD?

I looked for accommodation on site at UCD and got into Glenomina Residences. I remember that prior to moving I was so excited and nervous and terrified at the same time. But when I got there, it was easy to find my way around. It's easy to get from the airport to the accommodation by bus, and the accommodation is a 5-minute walk from the campus. The geology class and the department were very friendly, and that made it easy to fit in. I also found some people from Birmingham on a Facebook page for international students in Dublin. We created a friendship group and explored Dublin together. I loved Dublin - there's so much to do there from a student’s perspective and it’s easy to navigate once you get your bearings. I also really liked that it was so easy to get into the city centre from my accommodation by bus.


What is your favourite aspect of geology?

Structural geology is my favorite, and, in particular, seismic interpretation. During my mapping project, I had an inkling that structural geology was my favorite part of geology because we went to the Ross of Mull in Scotland, and I got really excited about all the folding and faulting there. Then, when I went to UCD and learned about the work of the Fault Analysis group, it really became clear that it’s what I wanted to specialize in. For my fourth-year thesis, I studied the Galician margin off the coast of Spain using seismic interpretation, and I really liked that. It’s like a puzzle you are trying to piece together. I'm a visual person and like to see patterns in images. I think it's quite rewarding when you're picking seismic or you're looking at a fault and you don’t understand what's happening, and then suddenly something clicks! Structural geology and faults explain so much about a system and have important real-world applications in ore mineralization, for example. Natural resources are becoming deeper and harder to find, and we're going to have to become better and more efficient at finding them. In this respect, structural geology is essential!

Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about coming to UCD’s School of Earth Sciences for an exchange?

Moving somewhere and having to find accommodation is daunting. You need to be brave and bold. I'd recommend looking for and deciding on accommodation early, because, after that, everything falls into place. And you don't want to be too far from the UCD campus. Once you arrive, I would suggest joining groups of international students online and finding people to do things with, whether it’s from the department or other clubs or groups. A year goes by pretty fast, so make the most of it! 

What modules did you enjoy most in UCD?

I loved the seminars, and learning about mapping, as well as mining and mineralization. Being from Wales, I was well aware of the Welsh mining history, but was fascinated to learn about Ireland’s mining history. We went on a fieldtrip to Tara Mines and got to go hundreds of metres underground. I also went on a fieldtrip to the southwest of Ireland, which was great fun, and to Co. Clare, which was really cool because the Cliffs of Moher are famous, and it was nice to study them and actually understand the geology of the area. 

What’s so great about geology?

I think most people are introduced to geology quite late. I did it as part of my A levels and went on a trip to Iceland as part of that. That's when I decided to do geology as a degree. I love it because I like being outdoors, and I like looking out my window and actually understanding what I see. Thanks to my geology degree, I can understand the structure and the history of my country. In addition, geology is a science that can be applied to the real world and I love that about it. I really want to do things that will make a change. Geology is the science and history of the Earth and allows you to make a change. I would heavily, heavily, heavily advertise it and tell people that they should do it! So, do geology - it will blow your mind! I love UCD as well and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.