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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


National Ocean-Bottom Instrumentation Facility Recommissioned by NERC

(22 May 2018)

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has been reviewing all of its services and facilities. One of these - NERC's Geophysical Equipment Facility: Ocean-Bottom Instrumentation Facility (GEF-OBIF) - has been delivered by the Ocean-Bottom Instrumentation Group within the department for the last 15 years. We are delighted to report that the GEF has just been recommissioned by the NERC, who graded it amongst those of the highest calibre, capability and national need within NERC's portfolio. This is a huge achievement set in the context of a range of other facilities being retired or significantly changed in their mode and extent of delivery.

GEF-OBIF underpins all NERC-funded research that images the sub-surface to depths ranging from the seabed to the Moho and beyond, using seismic, electromagnetic and microseismicity approaches, and where the seabed can be any depth ranging from a few metres to up to 6 km.

The Facility is currently moving into the realm of magnetotellurics, which provides a means to image very deep into the Earth's mantle, and is globally unique in that is the only group capable of data recording at kHz sampling rates, using dataloggers designed and built in-house. Such capability enables the highest resolution imaging of, for example, the near sub-seabed sediment layers that reveal the consequences of climate change, and even on-going CO2 and methane release to the atmosphere.

Recently, a network of its instruments has recorded >300,000 local microseismic events at a mid-ocean ridge segment in the Atlantic, 1 event every 1-2 minutes over a period of 6 months, which has dramatically demonstrated the distribution, extent and rate of faulting and fracturing the oceanic crust experiences as part of accretion.

The Facility also frequently undertakes bespoke instrumentation design/builds to deliver the data necessary to address the quirkiest of scientific asks.

To see what the Facility does, and what instrumentation capabilities it has - take a look at its blog -

Well done to all concerned, and particularly to the technical staff in the Facility who are providing such an excellent service to the UK scientific community.