An initiative aiming to protect Ireland’s vulnerable coastal heritage from climate change and damaging winter storms will recruit “citizen” archaeologists for a new pilot project.

A conference on “weather-beaten archaeology” was held at the Institute of Technology (IT)  Sligo and was attended by archaeologists, geologists, meteorologists, government policymakers, botanists, historians, and commentators from Ireland, and other countries, to discuss the new initiative.

Artifacts are being exposed at an alarming rate due to last winter’s battering of the west coast and this winter’s tides. Also the government’s resources for recording and responding are scarce, according to archaeology lecturer Dr James Bonsall of IT Sligo.

Speaking to the Irish Times, he said that recent discoveries of Spanish Armada timbers off Streedagh, County Sligo, and ancient drowned forests in Connemara, County Galway show the importance of community action.

His colleague Dr Fiona Beglane, has been monitoring the erosion rate at Staad medieval church, at Agharow, Sligo, where the sea has taken more than 10 meters of land. She says that archaeology is “being washed into the sea with every tide” and she predicts the church itself will be lost within a decade.

IT Sligo aims to initiate a new project to save these endangered sites by involving the community.

The “Monitoring Archaeology on Sligo’s Coastline” (MASC) initiative plans to recruit community birdwatchers, dog walkers, beach combers and coastal surveyors to help map vulnerable sites and record artifacts.

“People are often not sure of what they’ve found, and the idea is to raise awareness and to ensure that anything valuable is recorded and is preserved as quickly as possible,” said Dr Bonsall.

“We want to think that we have freak weather, but these ‘extreme’ events are becoming more common and will continue to do so with climate change,” Dr Bonsall said.

“Gathering information is the key and then National Monuments Service does react quickly,” he said. “If our pilot project is successful, it could be rolled out across the State.”