Professor Tony Morris

Professor Tony Morris


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


Professor of Geophysics and Geodynamics

Associate Head of School (Research)


B.Sc. (Hons.) Environmental Sciences, majoring in Geological Sciences (University of East Anglia)

M.Sc. Geophysics (University of Durham)

Ph.D. Geophysics/Geology (University of Edinburgh)

Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (University of Plymouth)

Accredited Teacher in Higher Education (UK Staff and Educational Development Association)

Professional membership

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

Fellow of the Geological Society of London

Member of the British Geophysical Association

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Member of the American Geophysical Union

Roles on external bodies

  • Chair of the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling Science Support and Advisory Committee (ESSAC) 2018-2019. In this capacity I lead the Program Management Office for European (and Canadian) involvement in the International Ocean Discovery Program, responsible for selection of scientists to participate in IODP expeditions and for a wide range of grants, scholarships and outreach events
  • UK Representative on ESSAC (2015-) 
  • Member of the Program Advisory Group, UK-IODP
  • Natural Environment Research Council Peer Review College member (2005-2008)
  • Treasurer of the British Geophysical Association (2004-2011)

Teaching interests

As a geophysicist I am interested in applying physical methods to look at plate tectonic and geodynamic processes. In addition, I use field studies to examine the evidence for oceanic crustal processes preserved in ophiolites. I have worked mainly in the eastern Mediterranean orogenic belt, but also have extensive experience of engagement with the International Ocean Discovery Program (that collects rock and sediment samples from the present-day ocean basins via scientific ocean drilling). I use my wide range of interests to inform my teaching. For example, I organise an annual nine-day field excursion to the Troodos ophiolite, Cyprus, drawing upon my research interests in this globally significant ophiolite.

Research interests

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2862-7377

I use geophysical magnetic methods to investigate fundamental crustal processes.

The main focus of my research has been the magnetic analysis of samples of oceanic lithosphere recovered from the world's oceans by the International Ocean Discovery Program and innovative investigations of major ophiolites (slices of oceanic lithosphere that have been emplaced tectonically on to land). 

International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) research:

I have sailed five times on the JOIDES Resolution, the state-of-the-art scientific drillship operated by IODP, and once on the RRS James Cook (part of the UK research fleet). My first expedition was in 2004/2005 on IODP Expedition 304/305. This  recovered a complexly layered sequence of gabbros and minor ultramafic rocks from the footwall of a major oceanic core complex known as Atlantis Massif, located at 30 degrees north on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The core, extending to over 1400 mbsf, opens a window in to lower crustal accretion processes. Shorebased research was carried out in collaboration with Prof Chris MacLeod (Cardiff University), Prof Jeff Gee (Scripps Institution) and Prof Bobbie John (University of Wyoming). The award of a NERC Standard Research Grant allowed us to conduct detailed palaeomagnetic analyses of the Expedition 304/305 core materials, and to combine these with wireline log interpretation, geochronological and geochemical data to provide important insights into the spatial and temporal controls of the accretion of slow-spreading rate lower oceanic crust. The project benefited from the research of Dr Nicola Pressling, a NERC research fellow funded by the project.

In January-February 2008 I sailed on an IODP Site Survey cruise to the tectonic exposures of fast-spreading rate oceanic crust at Hess Deep, as part of a NERC funded cruise aboard the (then) new James Cook research vessel (cruise JC21). This provided essential site survey data (bathymetric swath-mapping and sampling using the NERC remotely operated vehicle ISIS) to support future IODP drilling at this key locality (IODP Proposal #551). 

In April - June 2011, I was back on the "JR" as Lead Shipboard Palaeomagnetist on IODP Expedition 335, part of the "Superfast Spreading Crust" campaign focused on Hole 1256D. This deep hole was the first to reach the uppermost in situ gabbroic lower crust. Unfortunately, recovery during Exp 335 was limited due to challenging hole conditions, but samples have provided insights into the nature of the thermal boundary layer at the top of the lower crust.

In December 2012-February 2013 I was Lead Shipboard Palaeomagnetist on IODP Expedition 345 to Hess Deep in the Pacific Ocean. This recovered a suite of cores from primitive lower crustal layered gabbros for the first time, confirming the broad features of the ophiolite paradigm and providing a complete picture of the bulk geochemistry of fast-spreading EPR crust. Post cruise research is focusing on the development of magnetic fabrics in these layered gabbros and the origin of multicomponent remanences in these rocks.

In June-July 2014, I was back on board the JR again, this time as Lead Shipboard Palaeomagnetist on IODP Expedition 351 "Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc Origins", one of three back-to-back drilling expeditions designed to examine the evolution of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana arc system in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. This sampled a 1.4 km sedimentary succession documenting the responses of the upper plate to subduction initiation and the subsequent arc evolution. The site also penetrated into the "basaltic" basement, providing insights into the geochemistry and age of the basement rocks. Post-cruise research involved collaboration with Dr Marco Maffione (now at Birmingham University) to investigate the development of magnetic fabrics in deep sea pelagic sediments, and the palaeolatitudinal movement of the Philippine Sea plate.

Most recently, in December 2015 - January 2016 I sailed as Lead Palaeomagnetist on IODP Expedition 360 "Indian Ridge Moho", that drilled into the footwall of the Atlantis Bank oceanic core complex on the SW Indian Ridge. This long-term project offers the prospect of drilling vertically through a geomagnetic reversal boundary in the oceanic crust for the first time, although we did not reach this level during Expedition 360 unfortunately.

Ophiolite research:

In addition to research in oceanic lithosphere via the IODP, I have also focused on the application of palaeomagnetic and magnetic fabric techniques to a range of geodynamic and tectonic problems within ophiolites of the Tethyan orogenic belt and elsewhere. Field areas have included Albania, Canada, Cyprus, Oman, Syria and Turkey. In most cases, this has involved using advanced net tectonic rotation analysis methods to interpret paleomagnetic magnetisation data (a novel approach that out-performs standard structural corrections in complex ophiolite settings). Examples of these projects include:

(i) an integrated palaeomagnetic and structural analysis of the tectonic evolution of the Hatay ophiolite, southern Turkey (PhD research of Jennifer Inwood), proving that it rotated as part of a broad oceanic microplate along with the Baer-Bassit ophiolite (NW Syria) and Troodos ophiolite (Cyprus)

(ii) proving paleomagnetically that an oceanic core complex is preserved in the Mirdita ophiolite of Albania, extending the record of slow-spreading rate detachment-mode seafloor spreading back to the Jurassic (postdoctoral research of Marco Maffione)

(iii) showing that the tectonic evolution of the Mersin ophiolite (Turkey), which exposes a superb sequence of lower oceanic crustal gabbros, involved detachment-mode seafloor spreading and progressive rotation (including a major phase of rotation in the footwall of an oceanic core complex after emplacement of the Mersin metamorphic sole) (PhD research of Ahmed Omer and ResM research of Bugra Cavdar)

(iv) magnetic fabric analyses of gabbros in the fast-spreading rate Oman ophiolite and their implication for lower crustal accretion (PhD research of Matthew Meyer)

(v) determining the origin of fluid-mediated remagnetisation of the southern massifs of the Oman ophiolite using paleomagnetism, magnetic fabric analysis and end member modelling of isothermal remanent magnetisation acquisition curves (PhD research of Louise Koornneef)

(vi) magnetic fabric analysis of the Ordovician Thetford Mines ophiolite of the Canadian Appalachian mountains, where tectonic fabrics during late stage orogenesis (Acadian orogeny) have largely obliterated primary seafloor fabrics in the ophiolite (postdoctoral research of Anita Di Chiara)

(vii) reconstructing the kinematics of Late Cretaceous subduction initiation in the Neotethys Ocean by restoring paleoridge orientations in eastern Mediterranean opholites (via a collaboration with the ERC "SINK" research programme led by Douwe van Hinsbergen, Utrecht University)

Grants & contracts


2016 - NERC Standard Grant, “Magnetization and tectonic evolution of ultraslow-spreading rate lower oceanic crust, Atlantis Bank, SW Indian Ridge (IODP Expedition 360)” (PI: Morris) (£35,878)

2015 - EU Marie Curie IF Award, Jan 2015, "PASS: Palaeozoic Seafloor Spreading" (PI: Morris, CI: Anderson, Research Fellow: di Chiara)(183,000 Euros)

2014 - NERC Standard Grant, "Rotation of the Philippine Sea Plate (IODP Expedition 351)" (PI: Morris)(£35,828)

2012 - NERC Standard Grant, "Palaeomagnetic constraints on lower oceanic crustal processes (IODP Expedition 345 Hess Deep Plutonic Crust" (PI: Morris)(£25,456)

2011 - NERC Standard Grant, "Superfast spreading rate crust 4: magnetism of the lower oceanic crust" (PI: Morris)(£12,425)

2010 - EU Marie Curie IEF Award, Jan 2010, "DEFOrm: Detachment Faults in Ophiolites" (PI: Morris, CI: Anderson, Research Fellow: Maffione)(176,000 Euros)

2007 - NERC Standard Grant, July 2006, "Spatial and temporal scales of crustal accretion in slow-spreading rate oceanic crust (Atlantis Massif, Mid Atlantic Ridge - IODP Site U1309D)" (PI: Morris, CI: MacLeod (Cardiff), Project Partners: Gee (Scripps), John (Wyoming))(£217,400)

2006 - NERC UK IODP Rapid Response Grant, May 2006, "Palaeomagnetic constraints on the construction of the lower oceanic crustal section recovered at Hole U1309D, Atlantis Massif, Mid-Atlantic Ridge (IODP Expedition 304/305)" (£1890)

2004 - NERC UK IODP Site Survey Initiative Standard Grant, May 2004, "Accretion of the lower oceanic crust at fast-spreading ridges: a rock drill and near-bottom seafloor survey in support of IODP drilling in Hess Deep" (PI: MacLeod (Cardiff) CI: Teagle (Soton), RR: Morris + Project Partners)(£474,413)


Research groups

  • Geodynamics and Palaeomagnetism