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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Earth Sciences News

News

Stephen Thomas Receives Freedom of City of London

Dr Stephen Thomas, an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences, was recently honoured as an Engineer by receiving the Freedom of the City of London in a ceremony at the London Guild Hall in February.

(5 Mar 2019) » More about Stephen Thomas Receives Freedom of City of London


New PhD Opportunities Created by Funding Boost

Smart surfaces, offshore wind energy and unmanned electric transportation are some of the subjects students will be able to study and research, thanks to new funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Applications are now open for students to start PhDs in September this year within four Centres for Doctoral Training involving Durham University.

(8 Feb 2019) » More about New PhD Opportunities Created by Funding Boost


2018 AAPG ACE Top 10 Oral Presentations

Congratulations to Dr. Jonny Imber, Stuart Clarke (who presented) and the team on their presentation “The Influence of “Cimmerian” Exhumation on the Hydrocarbon Potential of the Southwest Approaches, Offshore NW Europe which was judged as a “Top 10 Oral Presentations” during the 2018 Annual Convention and Exhibition in Salt Lake City, Utah.

(28 Jan 2019) » More about 2018 AAPG ACE Top 10 Oral Presentations


Outstanding Student Presentation Award

Congratulations to Giacomo Pozzi who has been awarded an outstanding presentation award at AGU2018.

This is a very prestigious award, which is only granted to the top 5% of student participants, and AGU is one the largest conference in our field, with more than 20000 attendees, from all parts of the world.

(25 Jan 2019)


Angela Bentley is awarded the Patrick Moore Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for Education.

(14 Jan 2019) » More about Angela Bentley is awarded the Patrick Moore Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for Education.


GSA Fellowship 2018

David Selby elected by Geological Society of America Council (2018) in recognition of distinguished contributions to the geosciences.

GSA Fellowship web site

(3 Dec 2018)


Italian earthquake data hint at possibility of forecasting one type of quake

Study suggests how ‘sequence’ quakes are constrained by their geology, which could allow scientists to forecast the large follow-up shakes. More information can be found on the Nature News website

(26 Nov 2018)


Research could boost UK’s energy potential.

Durham University research that led to the discovery of new energy supplies in the UK has been shortlisted for a 2018 NERC Impact Award.

A team of researchers led by Professor Bob Holdsworth, Department of Earth Sciences, is shortlisted in the ‘Economic Impact’ category for uncovering the potential of a new type of oil reserve off the west coast of Shetland and the development of a spin-off company, boosting the industry in Scotland.

(5 Nov 2018) » More about Research could boost UK’s energy potential.


Professor Martin H.P. Bott, MA (Cantab), PhD (Cantab), FRS

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Professor Martin Bott on the 20th October; a highly regarded and much-loved member of the Department of Earth Sciences until his retirement, in 1988, to an emeritus but still research active role that lasted a further 30 years up until his death at the age of 92.

(29 Oct 2018) » More about Professor Martin H.P. Bott, MA (Cantab), PhD (Cantab), FRS


Defining the formation of strategic metals

The Central African metallogenic belt, which straddles the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a critical province not only for copper (Cu) but also cobalt (Co). The latter, which enables batteries to stock energy without overheating, is a global strategic metal for the technological revolution which is mandatory to face and remediate the challenges of climate change.

A critical aspect of mineral exploration is based on the possibility to rely on a robust genetic model which explains how those Cu-Co deposits formed in the Earth history.

(26 Oct 2018) » More about Defining the formation of strategic metals


Avalanche – making a deadly snowstorm

Explosives, snow and a car were used to trigger an avalanche in an episode of BBC2’s Horizon Programme to reveal more about the mystery behind this natural rollercoaster. The experiment was led by avalanche expert, Professor Jim McElwaine, from Durham University’s Earth Sciences department.

(18 Oct 2018) » More about Avalanche – making a deadly snowstorm


Excellence in Doctoral Supervision Award

Congratulations to Dr Stuart Jones who has won an Excellence in Doctoral Supervision Award from Durham University. The award recognises Stuart’s outstanding supervision of doctoral researchers (> 40 students) to completion of their studies and his significant contribution to their welfare and academic progress. The award was supported by nominations from many of his previous and current doctoral students. Stuart will be presented with the award at the Winter Graduation Ceremony in January 2019.

(25 Sep 2018)


Most Cited 2017 Bulletin of Volcanology paper

Congratulations to Antonio Capponi, who has won the Bulletin of Volcanology most cited paper 2017 award, for an early Career Reseacher. Antonio recieved his award at the conference Cities on Volcanoes 10 in Naples on 7 September, for his paper "Recycled ejecta modulating Strombolian explosions".

(25 Sep 2018)


Protecting against volcanic ash

A first of its kind study, led by Dr Claire Horwell of the Department of Earth Sciences and Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, has found that industry-certified particle masks are most effective at protecting people from volcanic ash, whilst commonly used surgical masks offer less protection.

The study was undertaken in partnership with the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), Edinburgh and the team hopes that their findings will inform responses to future volcanic eruptions.

(17 Sep 2018) » More about Protecting against volcanic ash


Earthquake research could improve seismic forecasts

The timing and size of three deadly earthquakes that struck Italy in 2016 may have been pre-determined, according to new research that could improve future earthquake forecasts.

A joint British-Italian team of geologists and seismologists have shown that the clustering of the three quakes might have been caused by the arrangement of a cross-cutting network of underground faults.

The findings show that although all three earthquakes occurred on the same major fault, several smaller faults prevented a single massive earthquake from occurring instead and also acted as pathways for naturally occurring fluids that triggered later earthquakes.

The cluster of three earthquakes, termed a “seismic sequence” by seismologists, each had magnitudes greater than six and killed more than 300 people in Italy’s Apennine mountains between 24 August and 30 October 2016.

(10 Aug 2018) » More about Earthquake research could improve seismic forecasts


Claire Horwell Wins Faculty of Science Inaugural Impact and Engagement Award

The remarkable impact of Claire’s work on advising the public on the health implications of volcanic emissions (“vog”) has been recognised by her receipt of the Faculty of Science’s Impact and Engagement Award. Claire directs the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN), an umbrella organisation for all research and dissemination of information on volcanic health hazards and impacts (https://www.ivhhn.org/home). This includes the Vog Dashboard through which information is disseminated (https://vog.ivhhn.org/). Over two weeks during the recent eruptions of Kilauea volcano on Hawaii, more than 50,000 people accessed the site, which Forbes.com highlighted as the primary source of information for communities in Hawaii. Congratulations!

(30 Jul 2018)


Structural Geology Research Group Wins University Inaugural Impact and Engagement Award

Bob Holdsworth, Jonny Imber, Ken McCaffrey and Richard Jones (Geospatial Research Ltd) have won the University’s Inaugural Impact and Engagement Award for their work on Fractured Basement Reservoirs. Their fundamental research over many years has led to the development of the UK’s first ever basement-hosted oil fields and has opened up entirely new reservoirs for potential exploitation in offshore areas to the northwest of the UK. A particular success is the Lancaster Field, which will begin production in 2019 and is the largest new field in the UKCS this century. The research has been done in collaboration with Geospatial Research Ltd (https://geospatial-research.com/), a company spun out of the department. Congratulations!

(30 Jul 2018)


Collapse of civilizations worldwide defines youngest unit of the Geologic Time Scale

The Late Holocene Meghalayan Age, newly-ratified as the most recent unit of the Geologic Time Scale, began at the time when agricultural societies around the world experienced an abrupt and critical mega-drought and cooling 4,200 years ago. This key decision follows many years of research by Quaternary scientists, scrutinized and tested by the subcommissions of the International Commission on Stratigraphy under the chairmanship of Professor David Harper, Durham University, UK.

(6 Jul 2018) » More about Collapse of civilizations worldwide defines youngest unit of the Geologic Time Scale


Earth Sciences Research Debated in Westminster

Research being undertaken by Dr Charlotte Adams and Prof Jon Gluyas was the subject of a debate held in Westminster recently. This research considers the potential of abandoned coal mines in the UK for decarbonising heat demand.

(6 Jul 2018) » More about Earth Sciences Research Debated in Westminster


Richard Swarbrick Awarded the Geological Society's Petroleum Group Medal

Congratulations to Richard Swarbrick, who received the Geological Society of London’s 2018 Petroleum Group Medal at a ceremony at the Natural History Museum on June 21st. The award recognised Richard's fundamental research into overpressure mechanisms and development of predictive technology leading to safer drilling of wells.

Richard was a member of the department's academic staff for 13 years, during which time he led the GeoPOP (GEOsciences Project into OverPressure) research consortium and set up the spinout company GeoPressure Technology, which became part of the Ikon Science Group in 2006. Richard now has his own consultancy and is Chairman of the Department's External Advisory Board.

(25 Jun 2018)


AAPG outstanding oral presentation award

Final year PhD student Sean O’Neill has won the outstanding oral presentation award at the recent AAPG Geoscience Technical Workshop- Pore Pressure and Geomechanics: From Exploration to Abandonment in Perth, Australia. Sean presented his research findings on McKee-13 hydrocarbon well blowout in the Taranaki Basin, New Zealand. His research assesses the causal mechanisms behind the incident and highlights key lessons to be learned. Sean is currently in New Zealand presenting his final PhD research findings on the evolution and distribution pore pressure across the Taranaki Basin at various universities and operating oil companies.

(22 Jun 2018)


Professor Neil Goulty, MA (Oxon), PhD (Cantab)

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Professor Neil Goulty on the 6th June; a highly regarded and much-admired member of the Department of Earth Sciences for 36 years until his retirement in 2016, to an emeritus but still research active role.

(18 Jun 2018) » More about Professor Neil Goulty, MA (Oxon), PhD (Cantab)


Research In Progress Day 2018 -BP Conference Bursaries

Many thanks to all the speakers at the Research In Progress Day 2018, the judging panel commented on the high quality of all the talks.

First prize (£300):
- Natalia Wasielka
, Diagenetic controls on reservoir quality in carboniferous tight gas sandstones
Joint second prize (£100 each):
- Miles Wilson, Basin compartmentalisation: interpretation and importance in the long-term migration of hydraulic fracturing fluids
- Pavlos Farangitakis, An analogue modelling approach to plate motion variations in rift-transform margin intersections.

Congratulations to Natalia, Miles and Pavlos.

(14 Jun 2018)


Charlotte Adams Awarded the Geological Society’s Aberconway Medal

Congratulations to Charlotte Adams, who received the Geological Society of London’s Aberconway Medal at a ceremony in London on June 7th. The Geological Society of London is the chartered UK professional body for Earth Science and the Aberconway Medal is awarded for excellence in applied geoscience. The award recognises Charlotte's ground-breaking work in extracting heat from water-flooded coal mines. The legacy of mines in the UK, their abundance and their distribution is such that most of the major population centres in the UK could have heat supplied from such mines allowing the UK to improve its energy security while simultaneously decarbonising heat.

(13 Jun 2018)


George Cooper Awarded the Geological Society’s Murchison Fund

Congratulations to George Cooper, who received the Geological Society of London’s Murchison Fund at a ceremony in London on June 7th. The Geological Society of London is the chartered UK professional body for Earth Science and the Murchison Fund is awarded to early career geoscientists who have made excellent contributions to the research of ‘hard' rock geology and its application. George is part of the Volcanology Group and has been recognised for his research into magmatic plumbing systems.

(13 Jun 2018)


Bob Holdsworth Awarded the Geological Society’s Coke Medal

Congratulations to Bob Holdsworth, who received the Geological Society of London’s Coke Medal at a ceremony in London on June 7th. The Geological Society of London is the chartered UK professional body for Earth Science and the Coke Medal was awarded to Bob in recognition of his overall contribution and significant service to geoscience, through administrative, organisational and promotional activities resulting in benefits to the community.

(7 Jun 2018)


Departmental Research In Progress Day

As part of their annual progress review our second-year research postgraduate students will present their work at the Department’s Research In Progress Day. As well as the student presenters and their supervisors and review teams, all PGR students and Department staff are invited to attend.

The 2018 RIP Day will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday, 6 June, in ES230 (TR3), with the following talks scheduled:

(29 May 2018) » More about Departmental Research In Progress Day


The unique challenges of living at sea for 63 days

Richard Hobbs is the co-chief scientist on this cruise to sample Cretaceous rocks to study climate and tectonics off south-west Australia. Vivien Cumming (the writer and producer) did her PhD here in the department.

The unique challenges of living at sea for 63 days

International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 369

(23 May 2018)


EGU Outstanding Student Poster and PICO Award 2018

Final year PhD student Sarah Clancy has won the highly competitive Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) Award contest at the EGU General Assembly in Vienna. Sarah presented her recent research on the optimisation of technically recoverable reserves from shale gas production. Her research assessed how to maximise shale gas extraction through optimal horizontal length whilst minimising the potential surface disruption. Sarah will receive her award at the General Assembly in Vienna next year.

(22 May 2018)


National Ocean-Bottom Instrumentation Facility Recommissioned by NERC

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.

(22 May 2018) » More about National Ocean-Bottom Instrumentation Facility Recommissioned by NERC


New members of staff

It is a great pleasure to welcome our newest members of staff to the Department -

Dr Fabian Wadsworth has joined us from the Department for Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. Fabian's research is on the physics of magma and the microphysical origin of volcanic processes.

Dr Julie Prytulak has joined us from Imperial College where she was co-leader of the MAGIC Isotope Geochemistry Group. Julie’s research is focussed on the use of mainly heavy stable isotopes to explore a wide range of earth processes in and around the subjects of magmatism, subduction and mantle geochemistry.

(10 Apr 2018)


Peering Beneath the Powder: Using Radar to Understand Avalanches

High-resolution radar images from Switzerland’s experimental test site show that snow temperature is a key factor in classifying avalanche behavior.

(9 Apr 2018) » More about Peering Beneath the Powder: Using Radar to Understand Avalanches