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Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark Gears up for the Summer

by Misa Hay -

The Geopark Shetland app for Android was launched on Google Play this week .

The application "Geopark Shetland" introduces users to Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark through Google maps populated with information about geological sites throughout Shetland. It uses GPS triggering to alert users to sites of interest, helping both residents and visitors to get out and discover the natural and cultural heritage of Shetland for themselves. Sites can be explored by geological theme and the app also includes three walking trails. It will be launched on iPhone in June and will also be available online.

The project is a pilot that forms part of a wider transnational project funded by Leader, with partners from several Geoparks and aspiring Geoparks. The purpose of the cooperation project (known as the HINT project) is to explore the possibilities for Heritage Interpretation using New Technologies.

Geology project officer Robina Barton said "this project has been an interesting process and a steep learning curve! We have worked with developers ZolkC and Allen Fraser of Shetland Geotours to develop an app that gives people an insight into Shetland's 3 billion year geological journey. We experienced some technological challenges in the early part of the process that resulted in some delays but volunteers tested a prototype last autumn and we have adapted the app in line with the feedback we received. We are particularly happy to launch the app during Climate Week (4th – 10th March) as it is a perfect tool to help people get out and explore their natural environment on foot".

Other new developments for the Geopark this summer include welcome signs at Shetland's entry points, Sumburgh Airport and Northlink Ferry terminal, a Geoparks corner in the Shetland Museum and Archives where people can find out more about other members of the EGN, and area based information sheets to help all those working in Shetland's tourist industry to better inform visitors about what is on their doorstep. These will all be in place by early April.

Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark has now been a member of the European and Global Geoparks Networks for nearly four years. During this time much work has been done to raise the profile of Shetland's world class earth heritage and help visitors and residents alike to discover Shetland's 3 billion year geological story. There are displays at Shetland Museum and Archives, Unst Heritage Centre and the Old Haa in Yell, geowalls at Mavis Grind, Haroldswick and Funzie, displays and panels at Braewick and Stennes and self-guide trail packs exploring the floor of an ancient ocean in the North Isles and the remains of an extinct volcano in Eshaness.

In addition the Geopark has supported lifelong learning through primary school workshops, courses and fieldtrips for older pupils and night classes as part of the SIC Adult learning programme. Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark was commended in the HMI report on Anderson High School and helped pupils in Lerwick and Unst to gain John Muir Discovery awards. It also plays a major role in organising the annual Shetland Nature Festival and has developed an endorsement scheme for tourism businesses which currently supports Shetland Geotours and Seabirds-and-Seals.

This year the Geopark is preparing to be revalidated for membership of the European Geopark Network – a stringent process to assess the quality of Geopark activities and ensure that aspirations are being met. EGN officials visiting the islands later this summer should be impressed with what has been achieved to date.

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