Earth science

British Science Association Award

This autumn we have a visiting researcher, Dr Ernesto Brunetto, with us until then end of November. Ernesto is an earth scientist and holds a research position with CONICET (Argentinian government science organisation: www.cicyttp.org.ar). He is also affiliated with Santa Fe University (www.unl.edu.ar ) where he undertakes some undergraduate teaching. Ernesto will be undertaking some collaborative research with Dr Martin Stokes, Dr Sarah Boulton and some of the geography staff on Quaternary fluvial landscape development in the La Plateau region, an intra cratonic area of exhumed Cretaceous basalt.

British Science Association Award

Congratulations to PhD student Hazel Gibson on being awarded the Charles Lyell Award by the British Science Association (BSA). This prestigious national award is in recognition of her work to proactively generate interest in geology and the sciences as part of her PhD research on the public perception of geology.

2015

Girls Into Geosciences: 26 June 2015

We are holding our 2nd annual Girls into Goescience workshop this June. This will be an exciting one day workshop that aims to introduce female A level students to the earth sciences and demonstrate the world of careers open to graduates in today’s exciting geoscience workplace. In the morning, we will host a number of talks from female geoscientists about their careers. In the afternoon we will run hands-on workshops on palaeontology, volcanology and plate tectonics, to give a flavour of geology research. Open to girls only, as an underrepresented group within the earth sciences, we will show that geology isn’t just for the boys.

Grant success

Amongst this year’s recipients of the BSRG Gill Harwood Memorial Fund was Madeleine Vickers to support her research on 'Early Cretaceous high latitude climate'. Specifically the award will help towards fieldwork costs in Spitzbergen and in particular evaluate the palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic character of the sediments and improve age constraints.

Madeleine has had further grant success as she has been selected as a grant recipient for the 2015 American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation Grants-in-Aid Program. Madeleine has been selected to receive funds thanks to the William E. Gipson Named Grant to support her research in Svalbard. The competition level for these awards is very high. This year the Foundation received ~460 applications from across the world. A total of 121 grants were awarded, totalling $239,000 in geoscience grant funds.

Congratulations to Madeleine.

Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, 2015

This is the 10th year the festival has run, and there will be a wide range of earth, ocean and biological sciences and arts related interactive displays, exhibits and activities. Staff and students from earth sciences, Plymouth run the dinosaur runway exhibition – whereby you are requested to come and walk the dinosaur runway to find out how palaeontologists use fossils to determine the size and speed of dinosaurs living millions of years ago. Make your own dinosaur footprints to discover what dinosaur you might have been. You'll be invited to learn about how your dinosaur lived, what they ate and even what they may have looked like. We provide also university brochures, hand-outs and advice of university education. The development of a ‘dinosaur runway’ has been a major event at the Lyme Regis fossil festival (an annual event attended by over 600 school children and teachers) and other outreach events such as the BBCs Children in Need, the Cheltenham Science Festival, the BGS Open Day, and Plymouths annual National Science and Engineering Week. It is frequently highlighted as a ‘favourite activity’.

The festival will take place 1-3 May, 2015. The Friday (the 1st) is a dedicated schools day, whereby local schools (Devon and Dorset) will visit the Festival. The Saturday and Sunday are open to the general public. The Festival typically draws 10 – 15 thousand visitors over the weekend and as such attracts both regional and nation press coverage. There will also be local book dealers, educationalists, charities, fossil sellers, artists, street events, a world record attempt at fossil hunting, etc.This activity represents a cornerstone of the Festival (we have attended each year) and provides a window for prospective students who are interested in science at Plymouth University.

Support to the earth sciences team has been kindly provided by SoGEES, Outreach Events and Development & Alumni Relations

Geocareers Fair 2015

Once again we'll be holding our annual GeoCareers fair on the 2 March 2015 - a great opportunity to meet local and national geoscience employers. In the evening the focus shifts onto graduate geologists with a talk from Bill Gaskarth on chartered geologist status. All events in collaboration with the SW Regional Group if the Geological Society.

2014

REF 2014 results

The 18 December saw the publication of the REF2014 results – the official HEFCE review of UK University research over the period since the last research assessment exercise which was conducted in 2008 (RAE2008). CRES scientists composed part of the submission to the UoA 7 - Earth systems and Environmental sciences bid at Plymouth. Our results have significantly improved since 2008 with now 85 per cent of our research being graded 3 and 4 * (research of international or world class significance) and 100 per cent of our 'environment' corresponding to 3 and 4 * research placing us as the highest achievers in the University.

The head of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences - Mark Anderson states that "This is a remarkable achievement and testament to the hard-work, dedication and quality of all staff, most directly those submitted to a UoA, but also those who contribute indirectly in other essential ways, such as technical and administrative support, or delivering higher-levels of excellent teaching."

Nationally, our results place usat joint 26th place based upon our grade point average (GPA), which is almost 0.5 points higher than in 2008. More significantly is the measurement of research power that places us joint 10th in the country.

Well done to everyone who made this possible and to our colleagues in environmental chemistry and marine sciences, who composed the other scientist's in this unit of assessment, for all their hard work and dedication. Onwards and upwards.

PhD success

Congratulations to Michael Whitworth who has successfully defend his PhD thesis on ‘Utilising probabilistic techniques in the assessment of extreme coastal flooding frequency-magnitude relationships using a case study from south-west England on the 4 December 2014. Congratulations also to Nikita Jacobsen ('Biodiversity crisis and recovery during the Triassic-Jurassic greenhouse interval: testing ocean acidification hypotheses’) and Chinwendu Elenwa who also have successfully defended their PhD theses recently.

Girls Into Geosciences: 16 July 2014

We are holding an exciting one day workshop that aims to introduce female A level students to the earth sciences and demonstrate the world of careers open to graduates in today’s exciting geoscience workplace. In the morning, we will host a number of talks from female geoscientists about their careers, including a talk from BP. In the afternoon we will run hands-on workshops on palaeontology, geological time and plate tectonics, to give a flavour of geology research. Open to girls only, as an underrepresented group within the Earth sciences, we will show that geology isn’t just for the boys.

PhD success

Congratulations to Ahmed Omer who has successfully defend his PhD thesis on the palaeomagnetism and geochemistry of the Mersin Ophiolite (Turkey) on the 22 May.

Funding news March 2014

Plymouth University awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant on ‘Shelled heteropods: morphology, molecular taxonomy and global distributions’ (£164,585 over three years). Project directed by Dr Christopher Smart (Principal Applicant), Dr Richard Kirby (Marine Institute) (Co-applicant) and Dr Debbie Wall-Palmer (Research Assistant).

The shelled heteropods are a group of poorly known small planktonic gastropods. Research suggests that they are an important component of the ocean zooplankton worldwide, but we know very little about their morphology, taxonomy and distribution. This research will use various techniques to understand their taxonomy and distribution which will have important implications for understanding their fossil record including aspects of climate change.

Hong Kong visit

In February (2014) Professor Jim Griffiths was the guest of the Hong Kong Regional Group of the Geological Society where he delivered a version of his Glossop lecture and visited the site of a landslide remediation project . On 22 February Jim was the key note lecture at the HK Group conference on 'Advances in Terrain Mapping and Analysis for Landslide Hazard Assessment' delivering a paper co-written with Anne Mather and Martin Stokes (Plymouth University) entitled: Mapping landslides at different scales. This paper has now been submitted the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology.

New Years news

Congratulations to Dr Sarah Boulton and Dr Justin VandeVelde on being awarded the Royal Geographical Society Thesiger-Oman Fellowship for the project ' Palaeo-elevation and uplift of the Moroccan High Atlas'.

Elsewhere, Professor Malcolm Hart has been selected to receive the Second Place Grover E. Murray Best Published Paper Award from the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Sciences for his paper, 'The Cretaceous/Paleogene Boundary Events in the Gulf Coast: comparisons between Alabama and Texas,' published in the 2013 GCAGS Transactions.

2013

PhD success


Congratulations to Andrew Leighton (PhD titled: Benthic foraminiferal change and depositional history across the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary in the Brazos River area, Texas) and Samantha Ilot (PhD titled: Cosmogenic dating of fluvial terraces in the Sorbas Basin, SE Spain) for a successful defence of their PhD's in viva over the last week.

Colorado celebration

On the 25 October 2013, Malcolm Hart (Emeritus professor of Micropalaeontology, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences) attended the inauguration of the Global Stratotype Section & point (GSSP) for the base of the Turnian Stage. The event was held at Pueblo, Colorado, as part of the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, which is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year.

The ceremony was attended by several geologists who have investigated the Pueblo succession, including Dr Brad Sageman (Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio) and a number of invited guests. These included Professor Stan Finney (Chair of the International Commission on Stratigraphy), Professor Malcolm Hart (Chair of the International Sub-Commission on Cretaceous Stratigraphy) and Dr Suzanne Mahlburg Kay (Geological Society of America, President). After a number of speeches, the display board explaining the GSSP was unveiled and the Head Ranger of the Pueblo Park described how they were to use this in a number of educational outreach programmes.

The 100+ GSSPs represent the formally approved, and designated, sites that are the reference points for the geological Time Scale. Approximately 60+ have been designated and international teams of scientists are currently working on the remaining GSSPs. Malcolm Hart, as Chair of the Cretaceous Sub-Commission, is working with a number of international groups to complete the GSSPs for the Cretaceous System. At the International Symposium on the Cretaceous System in Ankara in September 2013, progress was made on a number of the remaining Cretaceous GSSPs. This research is being co-ordinated by Malcolm Hart (as Chair of the Cretaceous Sub-Commission) and Professor Bruno Granier (Brest, France) who was elected as the new Secretary of the Sub-Commission.

Plate Tectonics and Geohazards conference

On Wednesday 27 November Plymouth University will be holding a one-day conference for AS and A2 students in geology and geography, focused around the ‘hot topics’ of plate tectonics and geohazards. The event, fronted by Professor Iain Stewart, will provide an exciting opportunity for students to learn new case studies from experts at the forefront of teaching and researching global hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes. There will also be an opportunity to see practical demonstrations, and to chat to students currently studying geohazards at University.

Cretaceous Dating Funded

Congratulations to Dr Gregory Price on securing a NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities grant for a project entitled ‘Dating of Early Cretaceous carbon isotope stratigraphy and the geologic time scale: A U-Pb CA-ID-TIMS zircon study from the Aysén Basin (Patagonia, Chile)’. Greg will be working with Professor József Pálfy (Eötvös University, Hungary) and Dr Dan Condon (BGS) in order to provide new calibration points for the Early Cretaceous time scale.

A roaring success for Dino Day 2013

The earth science team along with Plymouth Museum once again ran this very popular annual event at the bank holiday weekend. External visitors from around the country discovered a range of fossils that lived during the time of the dinosaurs - from Ichthyosaurs to tiny microscopic organisms that floated in the oceans. The now (almost) famous 'walk-like-a-dinosaur' activity was the star attraction but lots of other fun was to be had including a real fossil dig. If you missed it don't worry we're planning on running this event again next year.

Summer award hat trick

Three cheers to Professor Iain Stewart for a triple bill of awards recognising his contribution to Geoscience outreach and communication. In June Iain was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, in July he received a Plymouth University Vice-Chancellor Enterprise award and in August he was named as the recipient of the 2013 AGU Athelsthan Spilhaus Award. What a fantastic acheivement - hip hip hooray.

Graduate update

We have received news of that former student Imelda (Mel) Johnson (nee Gorman) has been appointed to the Earth Sciences Technology Department at Chevron Energy Centre in Texas. Imelda was a Plymouth undergraduate and then also completed an MPhil with us on the Portland Stone in 1994. Subsequently Mel received her PhD in Geology from Texas Tech University in 1999, her dissertation focused on a carbonate asset operated by Texaco. After graduating, she worked for Badley Ashton and Assoc. Ltd. in the UK., followed by positions with ExxonMobil. Mel has conducted numerous studies of carbonate reservoirs in the Middle East, and has been involved in several regional to sub-regional scale studies, including: the west Africa Aptian salt basin, Norwegian Barents Sea, South China Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

It's always great to hear from former students - please keep in touch and share your successes with us.

Grant success

Congratulations to Dr Luca Menegon for securing four years of funding worth 100000 Euros over four years from a Marie Curie career integration grant titled EVOCOS (Evolution of Continental Strength from Rifting to Collision – A Journey through the Wilson Cycle).

Award winners

Congratulations to two of our students on successfully being awarded Roland Levinsky Memorial Awards - Jonathan Barry (BSc Applied Geology) will assist with volcanology research conducted at the University of Colima, Mexico using laboratory and fieldwork to collect data from an active volcano over the summer and Zoe Langford (BSc Physical Geography and Geology) will travel to the Arctic with Anthony Jinman's Education Through Expeditions company to experience the way of life there. Once back in the UK she will educate school pupils on her experiences through various outreach projects. We wish them well on their exciting travels.

Grant success

Congratulations to Dr Paul Cole for securing a NERC Urgency grant of £51,817 to investigate 'Explosive activity at Volcán de Colima, Mexico - Extrusion rates and eruption mechanisms.' This nine month grant has already seen Paul visit Mexico to collect ash samples further research will look at satellite imagery analysis, flights over the volcano and sample analysis.

Grant success

Well done to Professor Iain Stewart on being part of a successful 7th framework programme Integration Training Network (TIN) mobility proposal called ALErT (Anatolian pLateau climatE and Tectonic hazards), which will comprise ten European academic and five industry partners in the fields of applied Earth sciences, natural hazard monitoring, knowledge transfer, and risk communication. The project aims to investigate the tectonic and climatic boundary conditions in the regions along the densely populated margins of the Central Anatolian Plateau (CAP) in Turkey and the associated natural hazards. The principal aim of the initiative is to establish a research-based virtual campus, designed to foster excellent training of young geoscientists through cutting-edge research topics and the transfer of knowledge.

Plymouth is charged with delivering Work Package 4 Science Communication and will be allocated one Early Stage researcher for three years, i.e. a PhD student, who will research the challenges of communicating earth science to the public and to policy makers, specifically focusing on exploring popular 3-D and immersive visualization of geoscience phenomena.

Grant success

Congratulations to Ms Emiko Kent on securing two grants in two days. Emiko has been awarded £960 by the British Society for Gemorphology to undertake field research to Turkey furthering her understanding of the river terraces and fluvial geomorphology of the Gediz Graben. Emiko has also been awarded up to 6 OSL dates though QRA-RLAHA Luminescence dating award scheme to determine the first ages of the terraces in her study area.

Golden Spike

Professor Malcolm Hart has lead the International Sub-commission of Cretaceous stratigraphy to the first ratification of a new Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) or Golden Spike of the year for the base of the Santonian Stage (Upper Cretaceous). The GSSP is located in the Navarra region of Spain at the Cantera de Margas Quarry.

New Arrivals

CRES welcomes three new staff members to Plymouth at the beginning of 2013. Dr Paul Cole joins us as our new volcanology and enginnering geology lecturer from the tropical shores of Monserrat where he previously was director of the Monserrat Volcano Observatory. Dr Luca Menegon joins the structural geology team as a lecturer in structural geology and tectonics from Tromso, Norway. Finally, Dr Jason VanDeVelde (previously Purdue University, USA) has just started his postdoctoral research with Dr Stephen Grimes and Dr Gregory Price on their NERC funded clumped isotope research project. Welcome to all our new friends.

2012

Award success

Congratulations to Professor Peter Matthews who has been awarded a NERC Research Grant entitled: 'A cross-disciplinary soil-proteomics and modelling approach for predicting switches between hydrophilic and hydrophobic soil surface responses' for £901,000 in collaboration with colleagues at Swansea University. This marks the end of an exceptional year for Prof Matthews whose PoreXpert project has attracted over £1.5 million in funding for the calendar year 2012.

Prestigious Invitation

Professor Jim Griffiths has been invited to deliver the 14th Glossop Lecture in November 2013 by the Engineering Group of the Geological Society. The Glossop Lecture and accompanying medal is the highest honour the Engineering Group can award to a practicing engineering geologist. In the letter of invitation the Chair of the Engineering Group stated: “You were a very popular choice among the committee, many previous Glossop Lecturers and past chairs. I believe this reflects your contribution to the subject, in particular engineering geology and geomorphology, and your commitment to developing and disseminating our science.” The Engineering Group is the largest specialist group of the Geological Society and represents the interests of over 3,000 engineering geologists, the majority of whom hold Chartered status. The Engineering Group is also the Geological Society representative on the Ground Forum which is the ‘umbrella’ body for the ground engineering sector. Ground Forum brings together five Learned Societies and four Trade Associations which collectively represent most construction-related ground engineering disciplines and gives the industry a single voice.

Saving marine species from extinction

Richard Twitchett was recently invited to a multidisciplinary workshop convened by the Mediterranean Science Commission (CIESM) to study the patterns and processes of marine species extinctions. The invited participants included experts in genetics, fisheries, invasive species, marine mammals, sharks, jellyfish and ecosystem modelling, as well as two palaeontologists providing the long view. A monograph which aims to provide a state-of-the-art snapshot of the field for researchers, as well as recommendations for policymakers in light of current and future threats, will be available on the CIESM website in early 2013.

Fab Five at GSA 2012

Five members of CRES attended the Geological Society of America’s Annual Meeting in Charlotte in early November. Richard Twitchett gave an invited keynote address on ‘Paleobiological models for the Permian-Triassic extinction and recovery’, and also presented the latest results from the group’s NERC-funded research on Pliensbachian-Toarcian palaeoecology. Luke Mander co-organised a cutting edge session on ‘The future of quantitative paleontology: biometry, computer vision and machine learning’ and presented his ground-breaking work on imaging technology in palynology. Marie-Emilie Clemence gave an oral presentation on the Oberhauserellidae - an exciting group of Triassic-Jurassic benthic foraminifera. Gregory Price presented a poster on the Early Cretaceous isotopes of Australian seas. Finally, Malcolm Hart presented the latest results of an ongoing CRES study into the end-Cretaceous extinction, and also an oral presentation describing how metal pollution and low pH can lead to deformations in benthic foraminifera.

Applied research award

Professor Peter Matthews’ research team, pictured with the supercomputer they have just constructed, has developed software called ‘PoreXpert’ to study a wide range of porous materials – graphite nuclear reactor cores, paper coatings and soil to name but a few. The software is about to be marketed through a new spin-out company, PoreXpert Ltd, set up with the help of the University’s venture capital partners, Frontier IP. In recognition of this, the team were given the university’s Applied Research award at a glittering ceremony on Plymouth Hoe in September. More details at www.poreXpert.com.

PhD success

Congratulations to L. Felipe Opazo Mella for completing his PhD entitled ‘Extinction and recovery dynamics of Triassic-Jurassic macro-invertebrate communities’. Felipe was supervised by Professor Twitchett and Professor Hart.

Award success

Congratulations to Dr Christopher Smart who has been awarded a NERC Research Grant entitled: ‘High resolution oxygen isotope stratigraphy of Integrated Ocean Drilling Program sites U1394, U1395 and U1396, off-shore Montserrat, Lesser Antilles’ of £43,522 to fund Debbie Wall-Palmer to work as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant at Plymouth University for 6 months starting in February 2013.

Award Success

Congratulations to Dr Gregory Price and Dr Stephen Grimes on securing a standard NERC grant of £396,429 for a 3 year research project entitled 'Carbonate clumped-isotopic constraints on marine temperatures during the Cretaceous'.

Research Spotlight

Recent research by Dr Sarah Boulton and her colleague Alex Whittaker (Imperial College) has been selected as a research spotlight in EOS (transactions of the American Geophysical Union) under the byline 'What drives knickpoints to migrate upstream?' (EOS, Vol 93, No 25, Page 240).

Award success

Congratulations to Dr Marie-Emilie Clémence who has been awarded a Palaeontological Association Research Grant of £6,168 for a project entitled ‘The impact of climate change on carbonate production across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary’.

PhD success

Congratulations to Emhemed Alfandi for completing his PhD entitled 'Investigating neotectonics using geomorphology and landscape in north-west Libya (Gharian area)'. Emhemed was supervised by Dr Stokes, Dr Boulton and Dr Taylor.

Election success

Congratulations to Professor Malcolm Hart who has as a result of an international vote, been elected the new Chair of the International Sub-Commission on Cretaceous Stratigraphy (ISCS) which is affiliated to the International Committee on Stratigraphy (ICS) and the International Union of the Geological Sciences (IUGS). He was elected with 78.95 per cent of the vote and will take over from the current Chair (Professor Isabella Premoli Silva of Milan University) with (almost) immediate effect. The new Vice-Chairs, both from the USA, are Dr Brian Huber and Dr James Haggart. The ISCS promotes the understanding of Cretaceous stratigraphy and is particularly responsible for the definition of stage boundaries within the Cretaceous. The main events for the Chair are the 4-yearly meetings of the International Symposium on the Cretaceous System the next of which is to be held in Turkey in 2013. The last symposium was held at Plymouth University in September 2009.

Award success

Congratulations to Dr Arjan Dijkstra who has been awarded an EU Marie Curie Career Integration Grant worth €25,000 per year for four years. The award is to fund a project entitled 'OS.Earth - Osmium alloys and the pulse of the Earth'. The project aims to test the idea that there have been major global melting events in the earth's history, using Osmium isotope dating of alloys from mantle rocks and from mantle rock-derived heavy mineral sands.

Award success

Congratulations to Dr Helen Hughes who has been awarded a Research Grant of £5000 from the Palaeontological Association. This will fund fieldwork and analysis of lower Wenlock strata within the UK, for the project entitled ‘Biotic responses to Silurian global environmental change’.