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Department of Earth Sciences

Earth Sciences News

News

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


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.

(28 Feb 2018) » More about Man-made earthquake risk reduced if fracking is 895m from faults


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.

(15 Feb 2018) » More about UK fracking industry would need strict controls to minimise spill risk


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.

(29 Nov 2017) » More about Researchers explore global ocean dead zones and hot greenhouse climate during the age of dinosaurs


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!

https://www.dur.ac.uk/earth.sciences/staff/academic/?id=2205

(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


Charles Henry Emeleus

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Emeritus Professor Henry Emeleus on November 11th, 2017. Henry joined the department in 1957, retired in 1994 and continued active research until just a few weeks ago. He is a huge loss and will be greatly missed by very many staff and students, past and present. More information on his long and remarkable career can be found below

(17 Nov 2017) » More about Charles Henry Emeleus


Experiments On Sublimating Carbon Dioxide Ice And Implications For Contemporary Surface Processes On Mars

CO2 ice sublimation mechanisms have been proposed for a host of features that form in the contemporary Martian climate. However, there has been very little experimental work or quantitative modelling to test the validity of these hypotheses. Here we present the results of the first laboratory experiments undertaken to investigate if the interaction between sublimating CO2 ice blocks and a warm, porous, mobile regolith can generate features similar in morphology to those forming on Martian dunes today.

(10 Nov 2017) » More about Experiments On Sublimating Carbon Dioxide Ice And Implications For Contemporary Surface Processes On Mars


How do stars mix chemicals in their interiors

Two scientists, Tamara Rogers (Newcastle University, UK) and Jim McElwaine (Durham University, UK), have investigated the role that internal gravity waves have in chemical mixing in stellar interiors.

The paper was published in AAS Nova, can be found here and featured on the ASS Nova web site

(19 Oct 2017)


Clues Found That Earth May Have a Thermostat Set to “Habitable”. Weathering of rocks can control Earth’s temperature over geologic timescales, new geochemical data suggest.

Scientists have long speculated on the possibility of a planetary thermostat keeping climate change in check. A new study published in the journal Geochemical Perspectives Letters provides the first-ever evidence of its existence.

(6 Sep 2017) » More about Clues Found That Earth May Have a Thermostat Set to “Habitable”. Weathering of rocks can control Earth’s temperature over geologic timescales, new geochemical data suggest.