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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Dr Philip Heron

Personal web page

Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences

Contact Dr Philip Heron (email at

Research Overview

I use numerical models to test theories on the dynamics of plate tectonics. I explore the evolution of our planet from large-scale processes of mantle convection to smaller-scale problems such as orogenesis. The work I will be doing while at Durham will look at what role the lower mantle has on the early evolution of our young planet. The numerical models, incorporating available data from the thermal state of the Precambrian mantle, will add to the conversation of how the earliest movements of our surface began.


I am a Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences studying the evolution of early Earth lower mantle.

Previously, I've studied supercontinent formation and dispersal, the dynamics of the mantle lithosphere, the stress evolution of volcanos, and the evolution of the Earth's magnetic field.

I've studied at the University of Toronto (PhD 2014, MSc 2010), University of Alberta (Exhange Year 2004), and Leeds University (MGeoph 2006). However, I've spent time working outside of academia in Newcastle, London, and Paris.

Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow (Geodynamics), Durham University, 2018-2020

COFUND Junior Research Fellow (Geodynamics) Durham University, 2017

Post-doctoral fellow (Geodynamics)University of Toronto, 2014-2016

PhD (Physics), University of Toronto, 2010-2014

MSc (Physics), University of Toronto, 2009-2010

MGeophys (Earth Sciences), University of Leeds, 2002-2006

Visiting student (Physics), University of Alberta, 2004-2005


  • Heron, P. J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson R., (2018), Exploring the theory of plate tectonics: the role of mantle lithosphere structure, Geological Society Special Publication: Tectonic Evolution: 50 Years of the Wilson Cycle Concept. 
  • Heron, P. J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson R., (2016), Identifying mantle lithosphere in heritance in controlling intraplate orogenesis, J. Geophys. Res. (Solid Earth), 6966–6987, doi:10.1002/2016JB013460. 
  • Heron, P.J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson, R., (2016), Lasting mantle scars lead to perennial plate tectonics, Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms11834.
  • Heron, P.J. and Pysklywec R. N., (2016), Inherited structure and coupled crust-mantle lithosphere evolution: Numerical models of Central Australia, Geophysical Research Letters, 10.1002/2016GL068562.
  • Heron, P.J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson, R., (2015), Intraplate orogenesis within accreted and scarred lithosphere: Example of the Eurekan Orogeny, Ellesmere Island, Tectonophysics, 664, 28, 202-213 (invited manuscript).
  • Heron, P.J., Lowman, J.P., and Stein, C., (2015), Influences on the position of large igneous provinces following supercontinent formation, J. Geophys. Res. (Solid Earth), Vol. 120, 3628-3648, doi:10.1002/2014JB011727.
  • Trim, S.J., Heron, P.J., Stein, C., and J. P. Lowman, (2014), The feedback between surface mobility and mantle compositional heterogeneity: implications for the Earth and other terrestrial planets, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., Vol. 405, 1-14.
  • Heron, P.J., and Lowman, J.P., (2014), The impact of Rayleigh number on assessing the influence of supercontinent insulation, J. Geophys. Res. (Solid Earth), Vol. 119, doi:10.1002/2013JB010484.
  • Heron, P.J., Mantle dynamics following supercontinent formation, PhD thesis, University of Toronto.
  • Heron, P.J., and Lowman, J.P., (2011), The role of supercontinent thermal insulation and area in the formation of mantle plumes, Tectonophysics, 510, 28-38.
  • Heron, P.J., and Lowman, J.P., (2010), The influence of continental thermal properties on mantle flow, Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L22302.
  • Roman, D.C., and Heron P, (2007), Effect of regional tectonic setting on local fault response to episodes of volcanic activity, Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L13310, doi:10.1029/2007GL030222.

Science Outreach and Writing

I have visited primary and high schools talking to students about geophysics, as well as writing science articles for the general public – I would love the opportunity to this more, and will be looking to hold more public talks and discussions in the future. If you are interested, please contact me.

Recently, I wrote a piece discussing the theory of plate tectonics at 50 years old, touching on the role of previous plate boundaries, the origin of plate tectonics, the role of large chemical blobs at the core-mantle boundary… and what the future might hold.

The Conversation: Plate tectonics: new findings fill out the 50-year-old theory that explains Earth’s landmasses

Grant and Award Information

2018: Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow

2017: ComputeCanada Allocation Grant

2017: COFUND Research Fellowship

2016: ComputeCanada Allocation Grant

2011: van Kranendonk Teaching Assistant Award

2009-2014: University of Toronto Graduate Grant

2005: Nuffield Research Bursary

2004: ConocoPhillps Undergraduate Bursary

Indicators of Esteem

Research Groups

Research Interests

  • Plate tectonics
  • Supercontinent cycle
  • Mantle lithosphere dynamics
  • Science outreach
  • Numerical modelling
  • Volcano-tectonics

Teaching Areas

  • Think Like A Scientist (prison science course)

    (30 hours/year.)

Selected Publications

Journal Article

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