John Anthony Feehan, M.I.L.I., (born 12 May 1946) is an Irish geologist, botanist, author and broadcaster. He was born in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland. Feehan received his early education with the Presentation Brothers in Birr and the Salesian Fathers at Heywood. Following a number of years as a member of the Salesian Congregation including working as a teacher in England and Ireland, he studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. After a year of voluntary teaching service in South Africa, he returned to Trinity College to study geology under Charles Hepworth Holland, receiving his PhD on the geology of the Slieve Bloom and Devilsbit Mountains in 1980. He was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Agriculture and Food Science at University College Dublin, where he taught for twenty years up to his retirement in 2012. Feehan married Róisín Gilmore in 1975 and they have two children: Jane and Christiaan.
Commitment to public understanding of natural and cultural heritage
John Feehan is an award-winning environmental communicator whose work is driven by a deep commitment to the maintenance of rural biodiversity and cultural heritage, and the sustaining of rural community. He has written extensively on the natural and cultural heritage of the Irish landscape and on many broader aspects of environmental science. In 1986 and 1990 he wrote and presented the television series Exploring the Landscape and Tar Amach Faoin Aer / Exploring the Celtic Lands, produced by Éamon de Buitléar and directed by Paddy Breathnach, for which he received a Jacob's Television Award in 1988. He has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management from whom he has received their Environmental Merit Award for involvement in environmental issues and his role in bringing to the attention of the public the importance of environmental heritage. He has also received a special award from Bord na Móna for his work in communicating environmental values.
Conservation and restoration of the Irish landscape
Feehan is particularly well known as an interpreter of the Irish landscape (Feehan, 1979; 1984). He actively engages with agriculture and industry to build appreciation and understanding of biodiversity, and to develop conservation and restoration strategies. He is a strong advocate for community supported agriculture and integrated mixed farming as a means of maximising natural capital of land and sustaining rural community. His major work on Irish agriculture, "Farming in Ireland: History, Heritage and Environment" (2003) takes stock of the impacts of agricultural intensification of the last 50 years, evaluates the principal challenges facing Irish farming today, and presents a vision for the future.
Between 1992 and 2008 he collaborated with Bord na Móna on Ireland's peatland heritage. He has developed principles for the restoration of the country's post-extraction peatlands, emphasising their potential for biodiversity and as a rich amenity resource for local communities. This theme is developed in his authoritative The Bogs of Ireland: an introduction to the natural, cultural and industrial heritage of Irish peatlands (Feehan and O'Donovan, 1996, revised and reprinted in 2008).
Building on his work on restoration and management of peatland landscapes, Feehan has worked with mining and quarrying interests. His contribution has helped the extractive industries to comply with European best environmental practice.
The remarkable role of the potato in Irish agriculture – before, during, and since the Famine – is a particular interest of Feehan's. This is the subject of his contribution to the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (2012), which was named Best Irish Published Book of the Year. In 2010, at a special ceremony, Feehan was awarded Honorary Membership of the Irish Landscape Institute www.irishlandscapeinsitute.com[permanent dead link], the officially recognised professional body representing Landscape Architects and parks professionals in Ireland. He is also ife Member of the Cork Geological Association and the County Kildare Archaeological Society.
Geology and botany
During his research on the stratigraphy and palaeontology of the Irish Lower Palaeozoic in the 1970s, Feehan discovered what are still amongst the oldest known vascular plant fossils (Feehan and Edwards, 1980). These fossils indicated that higher plants colonised land at least 415 million years ago. The discovery extended the history of vascular plants back to the mid-Silurian period, far earlier than had previously been thought, a discovery that received international recognition.
His research interests later diversified to include pollination biology of tropical mistletoes (Loranthaceae) which he studied over a three-year period in Malawi (Feehan, 1985). More recently, his Grasses of Ireland (2012), produced in collaboration with Teagasc – 'an unexpectedly lovely and absorbing new book' – seeks both to inspire and to inform the reader about the most important plant family in agriculture which produces 70% of the crops we grow and is the principal food of many of our farm animals.
Currently, Feehan is building on his postgraduate research, interpreting new findings on the geology of the Irish midlands and relating this to broader cultural heritage. Aiming to inform and inspire the non-expert, his current work with Offaly County Council and the Heritage Council provides new insights, showing how geology is expressed in the landscapes and local life of counties Laois and Offaly. The resulting book 'The Geology of Laois and Offaly' (Feehan, 2013) has been described as 'one of the best books to be published in Ireland on geology or the Irish landscape'.
Environmental philosophy: Creation and the interface between religion and science
In recent years he has devoted his attention more particularly to the interface between religion and science, on which he now lectures at All Hallows College and the Columban Ecological Institute at Dalgan Park. Retrieved 4 April 2013 His book on creation spirituality, The Singing Heart of the World (Feehan, 2010), was published in Dublin by Columba Press and in New York by Orbis Books in 2012. The book won a Nautilus Book Award in 2013 (category 'Science/Cosmology').
- Feehan, J., 1979. The Landscape of Slieve Bloom: a study of its natural and human heritage. Blackwater Press, Dublin, 284pp.
- Feehan, J., 1980. Alluvial fan sediments from the old red sandstone of Devilsbit Mountain, County Tipperary. J. Earth. Sci. R. Dubl. Soc. 3 1980, 179–194  Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- Feehan, J. with Edwards, D., 1980. Records of Cooksonia-type sporangia from late Wenlock strata in Ireland. Nature 287, 41–2  Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- Feehan, J., 1982. The Old Red Sandstone rocks of the Slieve Bloom and north-eastern Slieve Bloom. Jl. Earth Sci. R. Dubl. Soc. 5, 11–30  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J. with Edwards, D. and Smith, D.G., 1983. A late Wenlock flora from County Tipperary. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 86, 19–36  Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- Feehan, J., 1984. Laois: an environmental history. Ballykilcavan Press, Stradbally, 552pp.
- Feehan, J., 1984. The Loranths of Malawi. Nyala, Journal of the National Fauna Preservation Society of Malawi. 10(1), 5–24.
- Feehan, J., 1985. Explosive flower opening in ornithophily: a study of pollination mechanisms in some Central African Loranthaceae. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 90, 129–44  Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- Feehan, J., 2000. Fraoch Mór Mháigh Rechet: The Great Heath of Maryborough 26pp.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J. with Rowlands, R.G., 2000. The ecological future of industrially milled cutaway peatlands in Ireland. In N.D. Boatman et al. (Eds.), Vegetation Management in Changing Landscapes, 263–270. The Association of Applied Biologists, Aspects of Applied Biology 58.
- Feehan J., 2003. Farming in Ireland: History, Heritage and Environment. UCD Faculty of Agriculture, 606 pp.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J. with Dunne, L., 2003. Ireland's Mushroom Stones: Relics of a Vanished Lakeland. UCD, Department of Environmental Resource Management, 29pp.
- Feehan J., 2003. Divine earth. A Christian perspective on nature. Resurgence, 221, 6–9  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2003. Creation as Revelation: a new ethic towards the living world. In “A Just Society? Ethics and Values in Contemporary Ireland” edited by J. Scally. Dublin, The Liffey Press, pp. 93–102.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J. with Collier, M., 2003. Developing a field boundary evaluation and grading system in Ireland. Tearmann 3, 27–46.
- Feehan, J., 2004. A Long-Lived Wilderness. The Future of the North Midland Peatlands. ERM in collaboration with the National Wetlands Park Committee, 45pp.
- Feehan, J. and Rosse, A., 2005. An Atlas of Birr. Department of ERM at UCD in association with Offaly County Council.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2005. Ireland's Environment. In C. Mollan (Ed.), Science and Ireland – Value for Society, 101–119.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2005. Biodiversity Action Strategy for Offaly (Tullamore Declaration). Offaly County Council.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2005. The Woodland Vegetation of Ireland, Past, Present and Future. Forest Perspectives: Irish Forestry 62 (1&2), 73–87 . Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2007. The State of the Wild in Offaly. Offaly County Council.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2007. Cuirrech Lifè. The Curragh of Kildare, Ireland. School of Biology and Environmental Science UCD in association with the Department of Defence.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2007. The local environment as a resource in Community Tourism. Proceedings of the International Conference on Environmental Management and Rural Development, Samuel Tessedik College, Szarvas, Hungary.
- Feehan, J., O'Donovan, G., Renou-Wilson, F. and Wilson, D., 2008. The Bogs of Ireland: An Introduction to the Natural, Cultural and Industrial Heritage of Irish Peatlands (Revised edition)]. UCD, School of Biology and Environmental Science.  Retrieved 4 April 2013. Original Edition (1996):  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2009. The Wildflowers of Offaly. Offaly County Council, 510 pp.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2010a. The Singing Heart of the World. Creation, Evolution and Faith. The Columba Press, 204 pp.  Retrieved 4 April 2013. Reprinted by Orbis Books (2012), 223 pp.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2010b. Farming and Food. In Susannah Kingston (ed.), Aspirations for Ireland – New Ways Forward, 160–169. Dublin, Columba Press.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., with E. Bannon, J. Gaffey, C. Keena, J. McAdam, A. Pedlow and H. Sheridan, 2011. Biodiversity as a Resource in Agriculture and Rural Development. A National Rural Network Report [www.nrn.ie].
- Feehan, J., 2011. Cruachán Éile in Uíbh Fhailí. Croghan, County Offaly, Ireland. Offaly County Council in association with the School of Agriculture and Food Science at UCD.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., with Helen Sheridan and Damian Egan, 2012. The Grasses of Ireland. Teagasc, in association with the School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine UCD.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2011. The garden God walked in: a meditation on the spirit of trees. A Carnival of Learning. Essays to honour George Cunningham. Mount Saint Joseph, Cistercian Press, 65–73.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2012. 'The failure of the potato and the Famine' and 'The Failure of the Potato: Baunreagh, Co. Laois,’ in J. Crowley, W.J. Smyth and M. Murphy (eds.), Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Cork University Press.  Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Feehan, J., 2013. 'The Geology of Laois and Offaly'. Offaly County Council, 400 pp.  Retrieved 27 April 2013
- John Feehan teaching during 'A Learning Landscape Symposium', October 2012, the Burren, Ireland Archived 16 June 2013 at Archive.today. Retrieved 21 April 2013
- John Feehan's publications with Offaly County Council. Retrieved 21 April 2013
- The Contribution of Offaly Writers to Irish Literature. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Mercier Press: John Feehan Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Fr. Séan McDonagh: "The Wonder of God’s Creation". Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Trinity College Dublin: Irish film archive. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Offaly Naturalists' Field Club. Retrieved 29 April 2013
- MA and PostGraduate Diploma in Ecology and Religion, Dalgan Park. Retrieved 29 April 2013
- Dalgan Park Burren Study Week. Retrieved 29 April 2013
- Amazon: Farming in Ireland: History, Heritage and Environment. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Kevin Myers, Irish Independent 6 July 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Michael Viney, Irish Times March 30 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- UCD: Bogland Publications. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- PublicPolicy.ie: "Bogs – When they're Gone, they're Gone. Retrieved 21 April 2013
- EU Business and Biodiversity Initiative: Extractive Industries Archived 19 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 23 April 2013
- Cork University Press: Atlas of the Great Irish Famine Archived 17 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- "Records of Cooksonia-type sporangia from late Wenlock strata in Ireland," Nature 4 September 1980. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- "Explosive flower opening in ornithophily: a study of pollination mechanisms in some Central African Loranthaceae," Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society February 1985. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Irish Times: Michael Viney's review of The Grasses of Ireland. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Science Spin, September 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013
- The Geology of Laois and Offaly (Feehan, 2013). Retrieved 22 May 2013
- Irish Times: Michael Viney's review of "The Geology of Laois and Offaly". Retrieved 22 May 2013
- Columban Ecological Institute, Dalgan Park: Exploring Creation with John Feehan. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- The Columba Press: Feehan, J. (2010) The Singing Heart of the World. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Orbis Books: The Singing Heart of the World. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Nautilus Book Awards 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013
- Dr John Feehan's Amazon Author Page. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Offaly County Council: Programme of Biodiversity Events. Retrieved 4 April 2013
- University College Dublin: Mushroom Stones. Retrieved 4 April 2013