Dr Graeme Taylor

Dr Graeme Taylor

Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer)

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science & Engineering)


Senior Lecturer in Geophysics -

Responsible for the teaching of applied geophysics to Geologists and Earth Scientists and for marine geophysics to Marine MSc pathways. I also normally have inputs to geological field mapping trips and geohazards modules at both undergraduate and Masters levels.

Principal research interest is in the application of palaeomagnetism to the study of plate margin deformation and in particular the deformation of the South American plate to form the Andes.

NERC Peer Review College member 2008 -


Department of Geology & Mineralogy, University of Aberdeen, 1980 BSc Hons Geology

Sub-Department of Geophysics,University of Liverpool, 1985 " Geophysical investigations of the NE Shetland Ophiolite Complex"

Department of Geology, Teaching Fellow in Geophysics, University College, Cardiff 1983-1985

Department of Geology, Lecturer - Senior Lecturer in Geophysics, Oxford Polytechnic 1985-1991

Senior Lecturer - Principal Lecturer in Geophysics, University of

Plymouth, 1991- present

Professional membership

Member of the American Geophysical Union.

Teaching interests

My teaching interests centre around two areas in the main - applied geophysics and the teaching of geological mapping.

Since arriving at Plymouth I have always been involved in the mapping training fieldtrips, not because I believe that I am a good field geologist but to demonstrate that I believe it is the most important thing that a student can do. There is nothing better than producing a map of your own and knowing that you now understand that area as well as anyone else (and for me at least this includes geophysical mapping). In 2004-2005 I was given a UoP Teaching Fellowship to develop digital mapping for students using GPS, a PDA and GIS software. This is progressing with a small number of students having access to the system this year and a hopefully expanding number in the future.

I am responsible for teaching applied geophysics in the near surface, hydrocarbon exploration geophysics and marine geophysics (having once worked for BP and Occidental as a well log analyst in the deep and dark past) to second, third and MSc level students. In the second year we regularly undertake geophysical field surveys of Sourton Tors - one of the UKs best geophysical anomalies as it responds to so many techniques and most years at least a few students have done undergraduate geophysical projects with me.

In the third year I form part of the teams teaching on the Crustal analysis/Geodynamics modules reflecting my research interests in diffuse plate margins and the geophysical signature of deformation/orogens.

Research interests

The Andes


My primary interest is in the tectonics of plate margins, in particular diffuse plate margins, and the factors which control crustal rotation in such regions.  Much of my more recent research has focused on the convergent Nazca - South American margin and the role this has in the construction of the high Central Andes. For the past 13 years a group led by Prof. John Grocott (Kingston University) and myself have focussed our studies between 25o and 30oS in the Atacama desert of northern Chile in close collaboration with the Chilean Geological Survey (SERNAGEOMIN). We have employed a range of techniques including palaeomagnetism (Plymouth), structural analysis (Kingston) and Ar-Ar dating (NERC, Toronto & Santiago) to identify rotated crustal blocks, their relationships to major fault systems, the temporal and spatial evolution of the Jurassic-Paleocene arcs. In addittion we have published on granite and dyke emplacement as exemplified in this region.


Patagonia and the IPY (the International Polar Year)


Having published a series of controversial papers on the tectonic rotation of the Falklands and radiometric ages (late 80-early 90s) the proposed fit of the Falklands into a location of South Africa is now widely accepted and included on most modern paleogeographic constructions.  However offshore exploration between Argentina and the Falklands has failed to locate a possible boundary between the two regions. This therefore begs the question as to whether there is a boundary located within Patagonia. With this in mind I have been working with colleagues in Buenos Aires to revisit the Jurasic-Cretaceous paleomagnetic data in southern South America. A preliminary fieldtrip was undertaken in 2001 and new fieldwork is planned for 2006 to investigate the nature and timing of rotation we have already documented in Chubut province. This work is also being taken forward as part of the International Polar Year project - an Argentinian-UK-USA-NZ collaborative group has been established to collect new data, integrate existing data and consider paleogeographic reconstructions and how the tectonics of the South Atlantic to Antarctica region affected ocean circulation during the period ~220-120 Million years ago (i.e. pre the S. Atlantic as we know it today).


Rapid Crustal Rotation


The SW Pacific (Fiji,Tonga, Kermadec, New Caledonia) provides a unique insight into rapidly evolving plate margins. Previously published data suggest that Fiji is one of the largest and fastest rotated crustal fragments in recent times. A rotation of some ~1100 took place between 11-3 Million years ago. This region, is geologically speaking, considered to be one of the best analogues of the early (Archean)  tectonics which formed todays continental plates/cratons.

Russia – The Permo-Triassic Boundary

In 2006 I was invited to participate in a NERC funded expedition to the Urals of southern Russia. The aim of this work is to use paleomagnetism to provide a correlation between the terrestrial sequences of the Urals with the equivalent marine sequences of the Southern hemisphere. The Permo-Triassic boundary is the world’s largest ever mass extinction – 95% of all species were wiped out – to enhance the investigation of this event a high precision stratigraphic framework is required hence the need for magnetostratigraphy to provide a globally synchronous time record. It is intended to seek co-funding for further paleomagnetic research in sequences in northern Russia.

2007 Nuffield Undergraduate Bursary - Chris Tucker

Holocene Sea level Change

As well as large scale plate margin geology and geophysics I have always kept an interest in applied near surface geophysics (which I teach). This has resulted in a series of minor papers on the Sourton Tors geophysical Anomaly (a sulphide ore body and the St. Erth basin) but more recently in the application of the resistivity imaging method to help geography colleagues investigate Holocene Sea Level change by investigating Back Barrier sediments and basin morphology in S. Devon. 

Acadian Tectonics of SW England

SW England occupies a pivotal position in recently revised models for the middle Devonian (Acadian) tectonic framework of NW Europe, approximately 390Ma. A reappraisal of Devonian stratigraphic and structural relationships in the UK (Woodcock et al., 2007) suggests, that Acadian deformation in the UK may reflect collisional processes associated with closure of a southern (younger) proto-Atlantic ocean (the Rheic ocean) rather than the traditionally held view linking it with closure of a northern (older) proto-Atlantic ocean (the Iapetus ocean). A significant problem with this hypothesis is, however, the lack of evidence for the position of SW England at this time. This study aims to find out whether there are suitable materials for palaeomagnetic study in SW England.

2008 Nuffield Undergraduate Bursary - Joss Smith

Research groups

  • Geodynamics and Palaeomagnetism

Additional information

Recent Conference abstracts

Mass extinction of tetrapods at the Permo-Triassic boundary in Russia

M.J. Benton, R. J. Twitchett, T. Kearsey, A. J. Newell, M. Ruta, M.V. Surkov, G. K. Taylor and V. P. Tverdokhlebov. The 55th Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, Glasgow, Aug. 2007.

Grocott, J., Arévalo, C., Cruden, A., Kloppenburg, A. & Taylor, G. 2006. Lithospheric structure, fault reactivation and mineralisation during the emplacement of composite arc plutons, Coastal Cordillera, northern Chile. Fermor meeting, Geological Society of London, Sept.

Marta Ghidella, Ian Dalziel, Matthias König, Lawrence Lawver, David Macdonald, Sergio Marenssi, Víctor Ramos, Augusto Rapalini, Rubén Somoza, Bryan Storey, Graeme Taylor, Haroldo Vizán. 2006. Rigorous revision of Gondwana break-up for International Polar Year. SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) meeting, 8 - 20 July 2006, Hobart, Tasmania

Taylor, G.K.
& Dashwood, B., 2006. Crustal rotation in the Andean forearc of northern Chile: mechanisms and timing. GSA meeting Backbone of the Americas conference, 2-7 April, Mendoza Argentina.

Vizán, H, Somoza, R, & Taylor, G K. 2005 Paleomagnetically testing the behaviour of Patagonia during Gondwana break-up. Gondwana 12, Mendoza, Argentina, Nov. 2005

Marta Ghidella, Ian Dalziel, Matthias König, Lawrence Lawver, David Macdonald, Sergio Marenssi, Víctor Ramos, Augusto Rapalini, Rubén Somoza, Bryan Storey, Graeme Taylor, Haroldo Vizán. Critical revision of Gondwana break up for International Polar Year. Gondwana 12, Mendoza, Argentina, Nov. 2005.

Ben Dashwood and Graeme Taylor, 2005. Temporal and Spatial Constraints on Multi-Phase Crustal Rotation in the Forearc of Northern Chile. 6th International Symposium on Andean geodynamics, Barcelona, Sept. 2005.

Somoza, R, Taylor, G K, & Vizan, H 2005. Exploring the Tectonic Behavior of Patagonia During the Breakup of Gondwana: A Paleomagnetic Approach. Eos Trans. AGU, 86(18), Jt. Assem. Suppl., Abstract xxxxx-xx. AGU Joint Assembly. New Orleans, May. GP33A-04

Ben Dashwood & Graeme Taylor, Temporal and Spatial Constraints on Multi-Phase Crustal Rotation in the Forearc of Northern Chile TSG 2005 5-7th Jan Plymouth

Leigh Truelove, John Grocott, Carlos Arévalo, Graeme Taylor & Mark Gipson Structural setting and emplacement mechanisms of Paleocene arc plutons, Precordillera of Vallenar, northern Chile (28o30’S to 29o30’S) TSG 2005 Jan Plymouth

Graeme Taylor, Ben Dashwood and John Grocott The Central Andean Rotation Pattern: Evidence of an anomalous forearc terrane in northern Chile from paleomagnetic rotations. TSG 2005 Jan Plymouth

John Grocott, Carlos Arévalo, Alexander Cruden Graeme Taylor & Daniela Welkner TSG 2005 Jan Plymouth Fault-assisted vertical pluton growth: Coastal Cordillera, north Chilean Andes

Dashwood, B Taylor, G K .2004. Temporal and Spatial Constraints on Multi-Phase Crustal Rotation in the Forearc of Northern Chile. AGU fall Meeting, Dec 2005 GP43A-0844

Taylor, G K, Vizan, H & Somoza, R 2004. Paleomagnetically Testing the Integrity of South America AGU San Francisco, Dec, U33A-0028

H. Vizán, R. Somoza, and G. Taylor. Paleomagnetism from Upper Triassic-Lower Jurassic rocks in the Deseado Massif: new insights on the behavior of patagonia during the breakup of Gondwana. GEOSUR, Buenos Aires 22-23 November 2004

Dashwood, B; Gipson, M; Taylor, 2004. G. The accumulation of clockwise crustal rotations in northern Chile, 27-30°. EGU 1st General Assembly, Nice 2004 S EGU04-A-04883

Leigh Truelove, John Grocott , Carlos Arévalo & Graeme Taylor 2004. Structural setting and emplacement mechanisms of Palaeocene arc plutons, Main Cordillera, Vallenar, northern Chile (29°S) TSG. 2004

Truelove, L. Grocott1, J., Arevalo, C., Gipson, M. & Taylor, G.K. (2003). Emplacement and structural setting of Paleocene plutonic complexes in the Main Cordillera of the Andes, Vallenar region, northern Chile (29°S). 10th Congreso Geologico Chileno 2003