Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

Coastal TALES (Telling Adaptations; Living Environmental Stories for Coastal Resilience) is a 3-year project under the umbrella of the Belmont Forum call for Cultural Heritage and Climate and nationally funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Research Fellow Dr Cordula Scherer

Principal Investigator Prof Poul Holm

  • Photo credit Cordula Scherer

  • The project investigates the question of how stories of past practices can help people discover more sustainable ways of living in their rapidly changing coastal environments. Three case studies one in Dublin (Ireland), one on Kodiak Island (Alaska, USA) and one in southwest Wales follow a transdisciplinary approach to answer this question and build on the knowledge and agency of local communities in dialogue with academic expertise across the spectrum of humanities and sciences. The Irish case study focuses on the wider Dublin Bay area and is carried out by researchers of the Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities in Trinity College Dublin


    The project’s aim is to show how heritage stories can generate tangible local action that diverse communities can draw on and be inspired by to adapt to a changing climate sustainably. In Dublin, where coastal erosion is increasingly rectified by laying concrete, oral histories and intergenerational dialogue will provide mechanisms to understand how local and traditional knowledge (LTK) can be applied to co-produce a plan that enables local action to re-introduce a natural defence system.


    The research will concentration on the inshore coastline of Dublin Bay from the Skerries to Greystone. People in the coastal communities along the Bay as well as inhabitants of the city use the inshore on a regular basis and know of the scale of the change to the natural and cultural heritage. The area ranges from traditional working-class communities in the port area to affluent commuter belts and from heavily contaminated to pure waters. We will tap into historical knowledge to develop a plan for the reintroduction of a natural coastal defence to protect coastal zones whilst boosting biodiversity and acting as a carbon sink to mitigate a climate crisis. In line with the overarching goal of Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency to protect, improve and restore our environment, we take a three-pronged approach to help identify tangible, local priority issues that can be addressed by the community through heritage stories. Our engagement with local communities, developing strategies to ensure the protection of the Dublin Bay shoreline by drawing on coastal cultural heritage and community action, aligns with the EPA strategy to build climate resilience.


    Our approach consists of: Community engagement through intergenerational knowledge exchange; active youth involvement through our Societal Partner (SP) ECO-UNESCO Ireland; local historical research; public engagement and knowledge exchange. This requires documentary analysis, and intergenerational dialogue with stakeholders. Consequently, using cartography, folklore archives and oral histories mainly, we will map the changes of the eastern Irish inshore landscape from the Skerries to Greystones with the UNESCO biosphere Dublin Bay at its heart. Working closely with our SP, we will overlay historical and archival maps and maps that are being created through storytelling with modern/technical maps and use them for teaching and outreach purposes. Selected communities along the Dublin shoreline, will be recruited to take part in a series of interactive, intergenerational and bespoke workshops in which participants map through storytelling what used to be there, how it looked before, what changed and how much it changed.


    Utilising the outputs of the workshop series carried out by ECO-UNESCO’s young environmentalists and our research findings, we propose to build a managerial toolkit for baselines providing a historical background and a pedagogical toolkit for schools at national level. Together with the local communities we will uncover and identify opportunities to plan the reintroduction of natural coastal defences such as eelgrass meadows and native oyster reefs seeking a dialogue with local authorities and policymakers.