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Everyone, it is time to meet our Dark Sky Partners! First up we have Tony Johnston…

My role is Director of Research Development for the Faculty of Business and Hospitality at TUS Midlands Midwest, a regional university based in Ireland. I work on the Athlone campus of our university, focusing on research mentoring, quality frameworks, and external funding applications and management. My main research interests are in tourism geographies and development, particularly how tourism interests with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

I am also interested in dark tourism, a form of tourism to sites with strong associations with death or disaster. I have presented my research at the Wellcome Collection, the Royal Anthropology Library of the British Museum, and the Prince's Teaching Institute. I regularly contribute to articles in tourism media, including CNN Travel. Our university is a founding member of the Regional University Network (RUN-EU), a partnership of European universities with similar interests in teaching, research, and community, society, and environmental impact.

I am fascinated by the Dark Skies Ecotourism project. It’s fantastic to work on a project that can benefit the economy, environment, and society simultaneously. Like much of Europe, Ireland has marvellous potential for preserving the beauty of the night sky. The Midlands has excellent potential for capitalising on this form of tourism. There are both public and private sites that have already demonstrated recent and historical potential. Many readers, for example, will have encountered on social media some of the excellent photography of the Milky Way taken over the Sky Train sculpture in Lough Boora Discovery Park in County Offaly. Other readers may be familiar with the astronomy heritage at Birr Castle. The lakes, forests, and heritage properties in the Midlands, alongside iconic geographical features such as the River Shannon and Slieve Bloom Mountains, offer enormous potential for innovation in this field. Initiatives from TUS Athlone, the tourism authorities, local councils, authorities, and others will surely support further opportunities.

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