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Volcanic Margins Research Consortium

VMRC Academic Staff

The Volcanic Margins Research Consortium (VMRC) provides the petroleum industry with training and research expertise in volcanology, sedimentology and structural geology of volcanic margins. The consortium comprises academic staff at the universities of Durham, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leicester and CASP, and industry partners involved in the development of hydrocarbon prospects in the North Atlantic Igneous Province and the Faroes-Shetland Basin.

Training takes place during workshops, in the laboratory and on field courses and each industrial partner has the opportunity to fund PhD projects through the member universities.

Dr Richard Brown (Durham University)

Richard Brown is a volcanologist with research interests in physical volcanology and the 3D architecture of volcanic deposits. He has expertise in the pyroclastic sedimentology, the volcanic and magmatic evolution of volcanic islands and caldera volcanoes; volcanic conduits, dykes and the feeding systems of flood basalt lavas. He has held research positions at the Vesuvius Volcano Observatory, Naples, the University of Bristol and the Open University and is currently Associate Professor in Earth Sciences at Durham University.

Academic Partners

Dr. Brian Bell (University of Glasgow)


The natural laboratory for the Earth Sciences is in the field, where you find rocks. This is where most of my research starts. Much of my research has involved the Palaeogene lava fields on the North Atlantic Igneous Province, for example, in NW Scotland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Here, I am attempting to understand the complex interplay between volcanism, sedimentation and tectonism. At present, more money is spent exploring the volcanic prone NE Atlantic Margin for oil and gas than anywhere else in the UK. My main reserach interests are: 1.The evolution of continental flood lava sequences and their temporal and spatial relationships with rift basins; 2. Mechanisms of emplacement of minor intrusions and subvolcanic central complexes; 3. The thermal influence of minor intrusions on host strata.

Dr. David Brown (University of Glasgow)


My research is concerned with the complex interaction of volcanology and sedimentology, their links to magmatic and tectonic processes, and their effect on and response to geomorphology. My work uses quantitative fieldwork methods, together with petrological, geochemical and modelling studies, to investigate volcanoes and ultimately predict their behaviour. I am particularly interested in caldera and sector collapse processes and their associated volcaniclastic deposits (e.g. breccias, ignimbrites), and the evolution of rift basins/volcanic rifted margins. I also retain interests in the quantification of weathering processes using high-resolution electron microscopy and mathematical modelling, and the application of FIB-TEM to a range of mineralogical problems.

Dr. Nick Schofield (University of Aberdeen)


Nick Schofield is a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen specialising in the seismic and field interpretation of intrusive and extrusive sequences in volcanic terranes and their interaction with hydrocarbon systems. His PhD dealt with the emplacement and structure of sill complexes and ‘volcanic plumbing’ using 3D seismic data WoS and extensive fieldwork on analogous complexes in South Africa, Scotland and the USA. The combination of seismic and field studies has allowed him to make key links between seismic to sub-seismic scale issues, in particular dealing with aspects of igneous compartmentalization in a basin setting. For the last two years he has been working on drainage system development within intra-basaltic sequences in and around the Corona ridge, to understand sediment routing in such intervals.


Dr Simon Passey (Cambridge Arctic Shelf Programme - CASP) 

Simon Passey received his Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow in 2004. His Ph.D. focused on the volcanic and sedimentary evolution of the Faroe Islands and Faroe-Shetland Basin that involved extensive fieldwork and examination of offshore borehole material. The project was supervised by Brian Bell and funded by a NERC case studentship with Statoil UK Ltd. Following his Ph.D. Simon spent seven years with the Faroese Earth and Energy Directorate (formerly the Faroese Geological Survey) as a geologist, where his main role was revising the lithostratigraphy of the volcanic succession and examining the potential of intra-volcanic hydrocarbon plays. In January 2008, he was appointed the Head of the Geology Department that also involved overseeing geological investigations on civil engineering projects. Simon joined CASP in March 2011 as part of the East Greenland Project.


Dr Richard Walker (University of Leicester)

Richard’s research has focused on (A) the structural evolution of the Faroe Islands as an indicator of tectonic events related to continental break-up and the formation of the NE Atlantic; (B) the development of upper crustal brittle deformation in mechanically strong rocks, including experimental permeability measurement and network connectivity and distribution. Richard uses a combination of remote-sensing techniques, field data, microstructural analysis and experimental work in order to address a range of research areas.

Prof. Richard Hobbs (Durham University)

Richard Hobbs is a research scientist working in controlled source seismology: in particular, the acquisition and processing of seismic reflection and refraction data and the development of software to investigate the propagation of seismic waves in three dimensional heterogenious media.

Volcanic Margins Research Consortium
Department of Earth Sciences
Durham University,
Science Labs,
Durham DH1 3LE
Tel: +44 (0)191 334 1592
Fax: +44 (0)191 334 2301
  • In Partnership with:
  • Eni
  • CASP
  • Statoil
  • University of Aberdeen