Earth Sciences News
Energy supply research shortlisted for NERC 2018 Impact Award
Durham University research, which has helped open up potential new petroleum reserves to be used as part of the UK energy mix, has been shortlisted for a national impact award.
Professors Bob Holdsworth and Ken McCaffrey, Department of Earth Sciences, noticed unexplained mineral and sediment fills in geological cores taken many years ago off the west coast of Shetland.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
Man-made earthquake risk reduced if fracking is 895m from faults
The risk of man-made earthquakes due to fracking is greatly reduced if high-pressure fluid injection used to crack underground rocks is 895m away from faults in the Earth’s crust, according to new research.
Clough Medal 2017-2018
The Edinburgh Geological Society presenting Prof Robert Holdsworth with the Clough Medal before his lecture to the Society on Wednesday 21 February. This is the Society’s premier award, presented annually to a geologist whose original work has materially increased the knowledge of the geology of Scotland and/or the north of England, or who is Scottish by birth or by adoption and residence and has significantly advanced the knowledge of any aspect of geology. Bob Holdsworth has been awarded the Clough Medal for 2017-2018 in recognition of his exceptional contribution to research in structural geology and, in particular, in establishing the tectonic framework of the Moine rocks of Sutherland, together with many other notable achievements.
(26 Feb 2018)
UK fracking industry would need strict controls to minimise spill risk
Strict controls would be “a necessity” to minimise the risk of spills and leaks from any future UK shale gas industry, according to new research.
The recommendation comes from scientists who have investigated the possible risk of spills from well sites and tankers used to transport chemicals and contaminated fluids to and from fracking sites.
The research, by the ReFINE (Researching Fracking in Europe) consortium, jointly led by Durham and Newcastle universities, estimated the potential for spills from any future UK shale gas industry by examining data related to the UK’s milk and fuel transportation industries and from the oil and gas industry in parts of the USA.
Dr Charlotte Adams Awarded Geological Society Aberconway Medal.
Assistant Professor Dr Charlotte Adams has been awarded the Aberconway Medal by the Geological Society. This prestigious medal is awarded for excellence in applied geoscience and reflects Charlotte's ground breaking work in ultra-low enthalpy geothermal energy. Heat can be extracted from the 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. Translation of theory to practise is underway!
(2 Feb 2018)
Dr George Cooper Awarded Geological Society Murchison Fund
Congratulations to George Cooper who has been awarded the The Murchison Fund of the Geological Society of London. 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. George will receive the award at a ceremony in London in June.
(2 Feb 2018)
Durham Earth Scientist wins two awards for research
Congratulations to Professor Bob Holdsworth (Earth Sciences) who has been awarded two medals in recognition of his contribution to geological sciences within the UK and internationally. The Coke Medal of the Geological Society of London (the chartered UK professional body for the science) has been awarded in recognition of Bob’s contribution to the science and for significant service to geoscience, for example through administrative, organisational or promotional activities resulting in benefits to the community. The Clough Medal, from the Edinburgh Geological Society, has been awarded based on Bob’s research into structural geology, with particular emphasis on his contribution to work carried out in Scotland over three decades. The medals will be presented to Bob in February (Clough) and June (Coke).
(1 Feb 2018)
Durham Earth Sciences PhD Student wins international award
Chris Harbord, of the Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Durham University, was recently awarded the Ramsay Medal at the annual UK Tectonic Studies Group meeting in Plymouth in early January. The medal is awarded to the postgraduate or recent postgraduate who has been judged to have produced the best publication arising directly from a PhD project in the field of tectonics and structural geology during the previous year. The paper, published in the journal Geology with his supervisors as co-authors, summarises the results of a series of laboratory experiments investigating the effects of fault geometry on the nucleation of earthquakes. Significantly, the results of the paper challenge current models of earthquake initiation, highlighting that variations in the structural complexity of faults may be a key control on the timescales and location of earthquake nucleation processes.
Harbord, C.W.A., Nielsen, S.B., De Paola, N. & Holdsworth, R.E. 2017. Earthquake nucleation on rough faults. Geology, 45, doi:10.1130/G39181.1
(30 Jan 2018)
Did Life Originate on Layered Minerals?
One of the biggest unanswered questions in science is how life first originated. Prof Chris Greenwell, in collaboration with Dr Valentina Erastova and Dr Matteo Degiacomi from Durham’s Chemistry department, and Prof Don Fraser from the University of Oxford, have just published an article in Nature Communications which sheds light on a potential mechanism leading to the spontaneous formation of proteins, one of life’s fundamental building blocks.
(18 Dec 2017) » More about Did Life Originate on Layered Minerals?
Dr Claire Horwell appointed President-elect of new AGU GeoHealth Section
Congratulations to Dr Claire Horwell who has been appointed President-elect of the GeoHealth Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). This is AGU’s first new Section in over fifteen years and Claire has been appointed to help launch GeoHealth as a major initiative within AGU’s remit.
GeoHealth is a rapidly-emerging transdisciplinary field that supports the intersection of Earth and environmental sciences with human, environmental and ecosystem health. Within her role, Claire will be responsible for attracting health-facing researchers, agencies and national/international associations to collaborate with AGU scientists, both within the AGU conferences and at a strategic level, to ensure that GeoHealth research impacts on policy and society.
(18 Dec 2017)
Researchers explore global ocean dead zones and hot greenhouse climate during the age of dinosaurs
An international team of scientists aboard research vessel JOIDES Resolution have just completed an eight-week voyage studying Australia’s climate and tectonics during the Cretaceous Period (the last age of the dinosaurs). 30 scientists from 15 countries, collected samples from deep beneath the ocean floor at five sites in water depths of 860-3850 metres mainlyin the Mentelle Basin off south-west Australia.
Yaoling Niu: UK's Most Highly Cited Geoscientist?
Yaoling has been honoured as a 2017 Highly Cited Researcher by the Web of Science (see: https://clarivate.com/hcr/2017-researchers-list/). He is one of just 141 geoscientists, including atmospheric scientists, worldwide, to achieve this award, of which 14 are UK-based. The other 13 work in the areas of climate and atmospheric science, so that we reckon that Yaoling is the most highly-cited geoscientist in the UK. Many congratulations Yaoling!
(28 Nov 2017)
Mars might be drier than previously thought
Dark features previously proposed as evidence for significant liquid water flowing on Mars have now been identified as granular flows, where sand and dust move rather than liquid water, according to a new study.
The new findings, involving scientists at Durham University, the US Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Arizona, and the Planetary Science Institute indicate that present-day Mars may not have a significant volume of liquid water.
The water-restricted conditions that exist on Mars would make it difficult for Earth-like life to exist near the surface of the planet.
The research is published in Nature Geoscience
(21 Nov 2017) » More about Mars might be drier than previously thought