Current BUFI research projects

2014 student cohort

All of our PhDs that started in October 2014 are in collaboration with a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Further information can be found on our Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) page.

Climate and Landscape Change
S221 Millennial-scale variability in ice-ocean-climate interaction in the Sub-Antarctic SW Atlantic – a multi-proxy study of intermediate water production and Patagonian ice sheet variability over the last glacial

Student: Jenny Roberts

BGS Supervisor: Sev Kender

University Supervisor: Cambridge, Earth Sciences

S290 Ultrasound spectrometry of the aggregation of asphaltenes during the formation of water-in-oil emulsions

Student: Aleksandra Svalova

BGS Supervisor: Chris Vane

University Supervisor: Geoffrey Abbott, Newcastle School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences

S286 Effects of changing climate on an northern peatland: greenhouse gas sink or source

Student: Kerry Simcock

BGS Supervisor: Chris Vane

University Supervisor: Geoffrey Abbott, Newcastle School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences

S266 Constraining the marine environment of the Cambrian metazoan adaptive radiation

Student: Thomas Hearing

BGS Supervisor: Phil Wilby

University Supervisor: Mark Williams, University of Leicester, Geology

The Cambrian record preserves the first traces of complex ecosystems populated by arthropods, brachiopods and a range of scleritome-bearing animals, the latter often known only from the 'small shelly fossil' fragments of their post-mortem dissociated skeletons. Although the record of Cambrian life has been described in detail from numerous exceptionally preserved fossil assemblages, the marine environment in which these organisms lived remains poorly constrained. Recent advances using the oxygen isotope composition of ancient calcium phosphate skeletons now present a real chance to examine the environment of Cambrian seas, and to discriminate the environments occupied by a range of different organism groups. This project focuses on the Cambrian of England, a classical area in the study of early Cambrian faunas1. The Cambrian succession of England yields diverse and biostratigraphically important assemblages of 'small shelly fossils' and brachiopods from sedimentary deposits that are between ca 528 and 510 million years old2, the ages calibrated by radiometric dates from several bentonite horizons, and correlated with Cambrian successions worldwide by means of trilobites and other fauna3. Both the small shelly fossils and brachiopods have phosphate skeletons and pilot analyses (brachiopods and Rhombocorniculum) from the Comley Limestone of Shropshire have yielded oxygen isotope values within the range determined from Early Ordovician conodont skeletons. The project will use the small shelly fossils and brachiopods to reconstruct a sea temperature record for the earlier Cambrian.

Aims and objectives: The first detailed record of Cambrian sea temperatures, and therefore provide a context for the Cambrian adaptive radiation.

S268 Deep sea temperature and ice volume change across the mid-Pleistocene climate transition: Insights from the Bering Sea

Student: Henrieka Detlef

BGS Supervisor: Sev Kender

University Supervisor: Sindia Sosdian, Cardiff University, Earth and Ocean Sciences

The transition of Earth’s glacial-interglacial (G-IG) cycles from ˜40 ka to ˜100 ka periodicity during the middle Pleistocene (the so called Mid-Pleistocene Transition, MPT, ˜1.2–0.6 Ma) marks one of the largest climate events of the Cenozoic. Yet the causal mechanisms for this transition are still controversial, as there was no long-term shift in Earth’s orbital insolation to account for the lengthening glacial cycles and global cooling, and therefore there continues to be debate about the nature of the feedbacks and teleconnections that drove this transition. This is largely due to a lack of detailed, high-resolution climate proxy information from critical regions on the planet, with which proposed hypotheses can be tested. Two of the major hypotheses infer changes to North American Ice Sheet (NAIS) dynamics and northern hemisphere sea ice, for which the subarctic N. Pacific is a critical and largely un-sampled region. This project aims to develop high-resolution proxy records of benthic foraminiferal Mg/Ca - Bottom Water Temperature (BWT), stable oxygen (δ18O) and carbon isotopes (δ13C), and δ18O composition of seawater (δ18Oseawater, related to salinity) across the MPT from Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme (IODP) Expedition 323, Site U1343 from the Bering Sea (Fig.1).

The trajectory of ice volume and BWT across the MPT are critical to quantify the extent of global cooling and concomitant increase in ice volume on millennial and orbital time scales and provide insights into ice age variability. Two existing high-resolution benthic foraminiferal Mg/Ca BWT records from the N. Atlantic (Sosdian and Rosenthal, 2009) and S. Pacific (Elderfield et al. 2012) suggest significant changes in ice sheets. The N. Atlantic record shows that deep ocean cooling from δ1.15 to 0.82 Ma precedes the major expansion of ice sheets and the frequency shift from 41 ka to δ100 ka glaciations at δ0.9-0.7 Ma, thereby suggesting that the MPT was a fundamental change in NH ice-sheet dynamics. However, the site used by Sosdian and Rosenthal (2009) likely represents a regional signal and there were potentially large swings in water masses, along with changes in carbonate chemistry, which have been suggested to influence the epifaunal Mg/Ca ratios in this study. The Pacific Ocean record, derived from shallow infaunal species, suggests that the increase in ice volume is related to the expansion of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in contrasts to previous hypotheses and the N. Atlantic record. Confirmation and support of the existing records and hypotheses requires generation of high-resolution temperature records from sights proximal to the ice sheets. The new Mg/Ca-BWT record from Site U1343 will be based on shallow infaunal benthic foraminifera Uvigerina and will provide a BWT record independent of large swings in seawater chemistry and possibly ocean circulation. Comparison of these records with ongoing efforts to uncover the history of NAIS growth and instability over the MPT, by e.g. generating a millennial-scale IRD record (as Site U1343 records Cordilleran Ice Sheet instability), will allow the studentship to test the changing relationship between glaciations and NAIS instability.

S272 Measuring Micro-Aggregate Bond Energy for Improved Modelling of Soil Fragmentation

Student: Rachel Efrat

BGS Supervisor: Barry Rawlins

University Supervisor: John Quinton, Lancaster University, Environmental Science

Soil aggregates control many soil properties on which our understanding of major challenges facing society depend; how much air or water the soil can hold in order to grow sufficient crops to feed ourselves? How much reactive carbon is preserved in soil to help mitigate climate change? How long does that carbon stay there? Researchers have established some of the rules which determine how reactive carbon passes from plants to the soil and back to the atmosphere. We also understand some of the rules governing how aggregates break down into smaller fragments. We don't understand how the strength of the bonds between soil aggregates controls their fragmentation, which is crucial for the preservation of reactive carbon and also how soils can be managed in a sustainable way. Understanding what controls the strength of bonds between soil aggregates is complicated because fundamental soil properties are so varied, and also because soils are subject to a variety of forces (ploughing, burrowing fauna, shrinking and swelling forces). Soil minerals such as a variety of clay and iron containing minerals form bonds with organic matter, and these bonds require more or less energy to be broken. These bonds also change in strength over time as this organic matter gets older. To make it easier to understand how various soil properties control the strength of aggregate bonds, we need to study a range of minerals and organic matter to create soil aggregates in the laboratory using a method developed previously and then measure the energy required to disrupt the bonds holding the aggregates together using a new measurement system. Researchers have established simple rules in a mathematical model to describe how soils fragment. The student will use the data from experiments to improve this model. This is necessary so we can predict how soil structure - and all the properties associated with it - are modified in the real world.

S281 Basin-scale mineral and fluid processes at a palaeo-platform margin, Lower Carboniferous, UK

Student: Catherine Breislin

BGS Supervisor: Jim Riding

University Supervisor: Cathy Hollis, University of Manchester, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Science

The studentship will be based at the University of Manchester with BGS as a CASE partner. The aim of the project is to determine whether a reconstruction of palaeofluid (Carboniferous - Permian) flow paths in the dolomitised platform margin can provide insight into the extent of hydrocarbon migration out of shale-rich successions in adjacent hanging wall basins. This would be achieved by an investigation of the interdependency between faulting, fracturing, dissolution and fluid flow (resulting in dolomitisation, silicification, hydrocarbon emplacement and lead-zinc mineralisation) at the platform edge. It will require field and core based sedimentological and structural analysis, detailed petrological studies, isotope analyses and fluid inclusion studies and some fluid flow modelling. The study will be facilitated by the provision of dolomitized limestone core from a site investigation for four wind turbines in the Derbyshire Peak District. The wind turbines are founded on dolomitized limestone and are situated immediately to the north of Carsington Reservoir, which is underlain by Namurian shales. The starting hypothesis is that the source of the fluids was initially deep seawater and basinal brines carrying hydrocarbons and MVT mineralizing fluids derived from the subsiding Widmerpool Gulf (Hollis and Walkden, 2013; Frazer et al., 2012). The anticipated outcome of this project is a contribution to future refinement of shale gas reserve calculations as well as a deeper understanding of the relationship between organic maturation, clastic diagenesis, basinal fluid flux and porosity modification on adjacent carbonate platforms.

Earth Hazards & Observatories
S261 Toward a universal model for lava emplacement

Student: Nathan Magnall

BGS Supervisor: Charlotte Vye-Brown

University Supervisor: Mike James, Lancaster University, Environmental Science

Our understanding of the processes behind the emplacement of silica-poor (e.g. basalt) and silica-rich (e.g. rhyolite) lavas currently differ significantly. This project will close this gap by deriving a generalized multi-scale model for lava emplacement, based on observations, textural analyses and 3D computer reconstructions of flows at Cordón Caulle, Chile and Mt. Etna, Sicily. Fieldwork will be carried out at both locations to enable characterisation of flow processes over scales of mm- to 100s-m. The results will be combined with laboratory analyses to quantify degassing, and satellite data to provide km-scale process information. State-of-the-art analytical facilities and novel computer modelling approaches will be used whilst working with international experts from the U.S., Italy and the U.K. The results of the project will have wide implications for our understanding of flow emplacement both on Earth and on other planets. For details on our preliminary study, see Tuffen, James et al. (2013), Nature Comms., 4, 2709, doi:10.1038/ncomms3709.

Flow processes in low-viscosity basaltic lavas are broadly understood as eruptions are commonly observed. However, high-viscosity lavas (e.g. rhyolites) are seldom witnessed and poorly understood. The supervisors have recently collected the first observations of an advancing rhyolite lava flow, during the 2011-13 eruption of Cordón Caulle, Chile (preliminary study: Tuffen, James et al, Nature Comms., 2013). With this being the most silica-rich lava flow ever observed, we now have a unique opportunity to develop a generalised model for lava flow emplacement, based on observations and measurements taken of active flows.

A central challenge is to understand how degassing, crystallization and shear localization interact within lavas. Such effects are critically important in high-viscosity flows, leading to highly-heterogeneous flow and gas escape, and affect processes operative over scales of millimetres to kilometres. This project will combine existing and new field data, laboratory analyses and satellite imagery to develop a multi-scale model of high-silica lava emplacement processes firmly linked to existing understanding of lower-viscosity lavas. The resulting universal emplacement model will have broad application, from geologists studying terrestrial flow fields to planetary scientists, who are beginning to discover high-viscosity lavas on Mars in the latest satellite images. Insights gained into degassing and strain localisation during flow will have significant additional implications for our understanding of magma ascent, and ultimately, how volcanoes erupt – whether they produce explosive ash or effusive lava.

S262 Fissures and fountains: magma dynamics in basaltic conduits

Student: Thomas Jones

BGS Supervisor: Charlotte Vye-Brown

University Supervisor: Ed Llewellin, Durham University, Earth Sciences

Basaltic eruptions are often spectacular, are rarely violently explosive, but can have serious impacts. Eruptions are highly variable in their vigour, duration and eruptive style; some produce spectacular pyroclastic explosions, some effuse gently, and all erupt abundant gas. Analogue experiments indicate that complex, multiphase fluid dynamic processes in the shallow subsurface explain this variability. This study will address fundamental questions about how basaltic eruptions work by investigating how magma moves to the surface and quantifying the relationship between surface eruptive phenomena and physical processes at shallow depth. This is a crucial step to forecasting the onset, evolution and termination of basaltic fissure eruptions.

S263 The sources, mechanisms and timing of volatile loss accompanying basaltic volcanism

Student: Catherine Gallagher

BGS Supervisor: Charlotte Vye-Brown

University Supervisor: Kevin Burton, Durham University, Earth Sciences

Continental flood basalt (CFB) volcanism is characterised by the repeated eruption of huge batches of magma, producing enormous basalt provinces (105-106 km3) over relatively brief intervals of time, and delivering large masses of volcanic gas to the atmosphere [e.g. 1]. The release of gases and aerosols during CFB volcanism is thought to have had a significant impact on the atmosphere, ocean chemistry and climate – and many have linked such eruptions with mass extinction events that punctuate the history of life on Earth [e.g. 2]. Some of the key factors influencing atmospheric chemistry and the environmental impact of continental flood basalt eruptions are:

  1. The source of volatiles to the magma – because of the pressure dependence of sulphur (S) solubility in melts, mantle derived magmas should be undersaturated in S when they arrive at the surface. However, CFBs are normally S saturated and this must occur either by near-surface fractional crystallisation or by assimilation of crustal rocks, each of which are likely to deliver a very different volatile budget to the melt.
  2. The duration of volatile release, into the atmosphere – because the residence time of many gases and aerosols in the atmosphere is on the order of weeks up to 3 years, and their impact on the atmospheric chemistry is thus a function of the duration of atmospheric loading (e.g. [1]). This, in turn, will depend upon the extent and duration of S saturation in the melt (that results from fractional crystallization or crustal assimilation).
  3. The mechanism of gas and aerosol release into the atmosphere. This depends, in part, on the chemistry of the melt (in particular, oxygen fugacity fO2) determining which gaseous species (H2S and SO2) are actually present [3], but also, in part, on the mechanism of transfer to the atmosphere. Where the release of sulphur may occur via gaseous species or else via the emission of crystalline sulfide particles (FeS2) or sulfates in aerosols, each of which will have a very different impact on the environment and climate (e.g. [4]).

In turn the volatile content of the magma will play a role in magma dynamics, and the style and nature of the eruption – and volatile degassing may ultimately be responsible for the initiation of eruption.

Over recent years considerable progress has been made in determining the precise timing of CFB volcanism, relative to climatic/biotic events (e.g. [5]). However, the timescale of atmospheric loading with gases and aerosols is considerably shorter than the recurrence interval of flood-basalt eruptions in an individual province [6]. The critical question then becomes whether it is possible that the atmospheric effects from a single eruption are sufficient to trigger an environmental response that results in significant climate change and/or a biotic crisis, or if 2 or 3 closely spaced events are required. Such information can only be obtained by dissecting an individual flood basalt event.

The 187Re-187Os isotope system is exceptionally sensitive to the presence of crustal material in mantle derived melts, while the extremely high parent/daughter ratios of many basaltic minerals can be used to reveal precise age information and details of equilibration between coexisting phases [7]. Recent results indicate that for individual flood basalt flows both the Columbia river and Deccan provinces, the earliest melts are affected by crustal assimilation suggesting a clear role for this process in driving melts to volatile saturation, and that immiscible sulphide (due to S oversaturation) was present in those early melts [8]. Work undertaken thus far in both the Deccan and Columbia river basalts indicates that contamination of the earliest melts is a common phenomena. However, the approach adopted here requires the presence of phenocrysts (rare in the Deccan) and for this reason the proposed work will focus on porhyritic lava flows in the Columbia river) and modern analogues in Iceland, the Laki eruption (affected by crustal assimilation) and the Thorsja eruption (little crustal contamination).

The principal objectives of the research proposed here are to use a combination of isotope and petrological techniques to constrain:

The source of the volatiles, using the exceptional sensitivity of the 187Re-187Os to the presence of crustal material in the melt, linking that information with trace element and volatile measurements on coexisting phases (and melt inclusions), and assessing the impact of immiscible sulphide (due to excess S saturation) on early volatile release.

The relative duration of volatile release during volcanism using the 187Re-187Os isotope system to monitor variations in melt chemistry and volatile release that accompany mineral crystallisation during the eruption of an individual flow.

The mechanism of volatile release, in particular, which gaseous species are present and the mechanism of S transport, either as gases or crystalline sulfide particles and/or sulfates, traced using highly siderophile element (HSE) abundances, Cu, Z and S stable isotopes.

This information will then be used to make greatly improved estimates of the mass of sulphur (and other volatiles) released during individual flood basalt eruptions, and the consequences for atmospheric loading and climatic and environmental effects. This novel approach will make a significant contribution to a long-lived and polarised debate on the potentially deleterious effects of flood basalt volcanism on the atmosphere and biosphere and the causes of mass extinction events on Earth.


[1] Self, S. et al Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 248 (2006) 518-532.

[2] Thordarson, T. et al. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pub. 453 (2009) 37-53.

[3] Burgisser, A., Scaillet, B. Nature 445 (2007) 194-197.

[4] Thordarsson, T., Self, S. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 74 (1996) 49-73.

[5] Chenet, A.-L. et al. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 263 (2007) 1-15.

[6] Widdowson, M. et al. Geol. Soc. Spec. Pub. (1997) 269-281.

[7] Gannoun, A. et al. Science 303 (2004) 70-72.

[8] Vye-Brown, et al. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 368 (2007) 183-194.

S284 The hidden hazard of melting ground-ice in Northern Iceland

Student: Costanza Morino

BGS Supervisor: Colm Jordan

University Supervisor: Matt Balme, The Open University, Earth and Environmental Sciences

S285 Soil moisture estimation: a new approach using multi-temporal satellite and airborne RADAR data

Student: Clare Bliss

BGS Supervisor: Colm Jordan

University Supervisor: Daniel Donoghue, Durham University, Geography

Engineering Geology
S293 Geomorphology and landslide hazard assessments. Evaluating the control of landscape evolution on landslide hazards in the UK

Student: Steven Parry

BGS Supervisor: Vanessa Banks and Claire Dashwood

University Supervisor: Bill Murphy, Leeds School of Earth and Environment

S283 Laboratory earthquakes

Student: Christopher Harbord

BGS Supervisor: Sergio Vinciguerra

University Supervisor: Stefan Neilsen, Durham University, Earth Sciences

Understanding dynamic rupture propagation and friction is paramount for earthquake modelling and provide constraints for risk assessment. Evidence from seismology, field geology and lab studies point to dramatic frictional weakening during the fast seismic slip (Di Toro et al., 2011). The weakening is achieved after a variable amount of slip which decreases dramatically with increasing slip velocity, normal stress and, generally, the amount of frictional power dissipated by slip (Nielsen et al., 2010).

Under conditions typical of faults at several km depth, the weakening may be achieved within a few tens of microns of slip only (Passelegue et al., 2013). Fully developed, dynamically propagating micro-earthquakes can be produced by stick-slip on small, pre-cut samples at the laboratory scale, provided that sufficient confining pressure and stress are imposed.

Such loading conditions can be imposed on centimetric samples (collected from exhumed seismic faults hosted in carbonate rocks, Italian Apennines), by a triaxial press such as the one at the Durham rock mechanics and at B.G.S. laboratories. Producing earthquakes in the laboratory under controlled conditions allows to directly observe the dynamic rock behaviour and measure parameters relevant to friction, rupture velocity, high frequency wave radiation (peak and steady-state friction, weakening distance, fracture energy, strength recovery). The measurements can be achieved by the instrumentation of a sample with acoustic emission sensors and high frequency strain gauges.

During the PhD the student will investigate the following questions:

  1. How does the detail of the friction weakening curve depend on slip history and loading conditions and can we generalize this behaviour into a new set of rate and state equations?
  2. What is the effect of geometrical complexities of the fault surface (kinks, bends, asperities) on the rupture propagation and on the radiated wavefield?
  3. How do these results apply to natural microearthquakes (Nadeau and Johnson, 1998) with high stress-drop and how does it upscale to larger faults and larger magnitude quakes?
  4. How do the microstructures compare to those found on exhumed natural faults?

The activity in the first year of the PhD will be devoted to bibliographic research, laboratory training, adapting existing laboratory machines, design/realization of new mechanical parts, perfecting of sample preparation procedures, and preliminary tests. The second year will be devoted to experimental activity, field excursions to obtain natural fault samples, analysis of post-experimental microstructure and interpretation of experimental observations in terms of processes. Third year will be devoted in small part to further experimental activity, but mainly, to the interpretation, extrapolation of results to real earthquakes and writing of publications and PhD thesis.

Environmental Modelling
S271 Understanding the interactions between adited groundwater sources and the Chalk aquifer under drought conditions, using the example of the River Colne Catchment and its groundwater sources

Student: Azucena Yebra

BGS Supervisor: Andrew Hughes

University Supervisor: Adrian Butler, Imperial College London, Civil and Environmental Engineering

In droughts the Chalk aquifer provides the largest water resource in southern England. Although Chalk often yields large quantities of water through high hydraulic conductivity zones, in some areas it doesn’t, and storage is poor. In these cases, e.g. the Colne valley, to improve yields horizontal adits (tunnels up to ~1 km long) were dug from vertical shafts. Affinity Water’s sources are such supplies, providing water to >0.5 million people.

In the Colne catchment groundwater is stored in the alluvial and glacial sands and gravels, the Palaeogene deposits, and Chalk. Recharge may be direct to the Chalk, via leakage from the Palaeogene, runoff from the London Clay, or indirect leakage from the gravels or the River Colne. The hydrogeology is complicated by karst development at the Palaeogene boundary. Understanding of drawdown and groundwater flow-path distributions to these sources is very poor. Under extreme droughts, the gravels may dewater, or the adits themselves become depressurised and even dewater causing non-linear behaviour. This area is poorly studied and to understand the relationships between the adit systems and the aquifer detailed modelling is required. Groundwater level, and pump test data for the shafts and observation boreholes are available to validate such models.

Zhang and Lerner1 have addressed the simulation of flow in aquifer-adit systems, but their model2 could not represent complex adit-borehole geometries, adit dewatering and seepage face development.

Aim & objectives: The aim of this project is to develop a new methodology to simulate adited systems that will allow improved assessment of yields during droughts. There are 4 key objectives:

  1. develop a detailed model of pressurised and gravity flow in borehole-adit systems;
  2. develop a method to couple this to a regional groundwater model;
  3. improve understanding of the hydrogeology of the Colne catchment and the important processes to model;
  4. apply the new model in the Colne, assess its performance under historic droughts, and quantify river flows and source yield under future climates.


  1. will be achieved by reviewing, selecting and modifying existing borehole and pipe flow models.
  2. will build upon work of an ongoing, joint Imperial-BGS PhD project, which has developed a linked model that simulates non-Darcian flow to vertical boreholes within regional aquifers3, using OpenMI model linkage tools ( to couple a borehole model to a groundwater model. To address the complex geometries of adited sources unstructured finite volume schemes will be investigated to couple a pipe flow model to finite difference groundwater models.
  3. will be based on a review of previous research and a large hydrogeological dataset held by the Affinity Water and BGS.
  4. will be achieved using BGS groundwater models and those which the Affinity Water has access to. Future climate scenarios will be based on latest statistical downscaling methods developed by the NERC funded Changing Water Cycle HydEF project, led by Imperial.


1. Zhang & Lerner, 2000, Groundwater 38(1);

2. Swain & Wexler, 1996, USGS Tech. of Wat.‐Res. Investigations, book 6; 3Upton et al, 2013, Modflow & More, Golden, June 2013.

S274 Chromium speciation, transport and fate in Clyde catchment soils, sediments and waters: understanding Cr mobility in urban-industrial environments

Student: Gavin Sim

BGS Supervisor: Barbara Palumbo-Roe

University Supervisor: Margaret Graham, University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences

Disposal of industrial wastes has caused chromium (Cr) contamination of soils/sediments and waters in the UK, US and other countries. Cr-waste is of concern because hexavalent Cr (CrVI) is highly carcinogenic. However, the processes controlling the environmental mobility of Cr remain only partially understood. This project aims to address these knowledge gaps using a Cr-impacted catchment in Glasgow as a case study to examine the mobility and uptake of Cr to two key receptors: surface waters and humans. Widespread CrVI contamination in SE Glasgow from chromite ore processing residue (COPR) originated from JJ White’s chemical works (1838-1968). Although some sites have been remediated, CrVI is still readily detected in ground- and surface water and there is concern about its impact on the environment and human health. Evidence from BGS’s geochemical investigations suggests that Cr from COPR made-ground/soils as well as contaminated groundwater has a detrimental impact on sediment/water quality draining into the River Clyde. Indeed, surface water concentrations of up to 6.28 mg CrVI L-1 have been found in the Polmadie Burn adjacent to the JJ White’s site. The highly reducing, organic-rich burn sediments with up to 1.25% w/w total Cr are currently thought to be acting as a sink, but there is concern about the impact of drainage on the future fate of the stored Cr. Via field and laboratory measurements, this project will determine the key processes controlling both retention and release of CrVI from the soils/sediments, its transport in surface waters and eventual fate. Focus will be on processes such as (i) reduction of CrVI, e.g. by natural organic matter (NOM), microbes or FeII, which may aid CrIII retention in the soil/sediment; and (ii) complexation of CrIII (and perhaps CrVI) by NOM and/or reduction of FeIII oxides with which CrIII is associated, both of which can enhance transfer of Cr to the aqueous phase. The hydrological and biogeochemical processes which may enhance transfer of particulate, colloidal and truly dissolved forms of Cr from soils/sediments to the burn waters will be investigated. Water from the site is not used for drinking, but there is the potential for human exposure to chromium via contact with soil. Human exposure to soil-Cr can be via ingestion of soil directly or attached to home-grown vegetables as well as via inhalation of resuspended soil dust particulates. Chromium VI (the industrial form) is far more toxic to animals and humans than Cr III (found in most natural soils). To assess potential threats to humans, the project will determine the Cr VI/Cr III speciation present in soils. It will also examine the human bioaccessibility (amount transferred to the human body if the soil is ingested/inhaled) of soil Cr using laboratory-based extraction tests developed by BGS that mimic conditions in the stomach and the lung. Future plans for the site involve the possible culverting of the burn, which would potentially expose the Cr-polluted sediments to the atmosphere allowing suspension of dust particulates in air. Therefore, the project will examine the likely bioavailability of Cr in sediments from the site also. This work will contribute to optimising the bioavailability test methodologies being developed at BGS for Cr and to international understanding of the potential threats to human health from soil exposure.

S279 The effects of climate induced flood events on the mobility and bioaccessibility of potentially harmful elements, biological and radiological contaminants

Student: Diana McLaren

BGS Supervisor: Joanna Wragg

University Supervisor: David Copplestone, University of Stirling, Biological and Environmental Sciences

The effects of climate change are far reaching and likely to influence the lives of almost every citizen in the world. An impact of changing weather patterns is an increase in extreme flooding events and it is estimated that 2.5 million properties are at risk in England alone (Environment Agency, 2012). Incidences of severe weather events in the UK, including flooding of urban and rural environments and prolonged dry periods, are on the increase. Risks associated with flooding are recognised as a significant threat from climate change throughout the world. Depending on the frequency and magnitude flooding can be both beneficial and detrimental, flooding can maintain or enhance soil fertility by depositing fresh layers of alluvium and flushing salts out of soils. However, in some cases flooding of soils containing naturally or anthropogenically elevated concentrations of potentially harmful elements (PHEs) and deposition of contaminants from flood waters (e.g. pathogens from sewage and radionuclides from medical waste) may occur, mobilising contaminants to the extent that they are available for uptake by plants, animals and ultimately humans, highlighted by the analysis of floodwaters and sediments after hurricane Katrina (Abel et al., 2010). New literature is emerging investigating flooding induced contaminant fate & transport/mobility (Wragg and Palumbo-Roe, 2012) and a recent pilot study has shown that flooding events can increase environmental mobility and human uptake from naturally occurring PHE e.g. As and U both by 21% (Wragg, pers comm, 2013).

The BGS G-BASE data set and national soil/sediment archive and the Environment Agency Flood Risk Register will be used to identify a suitable study areas and used for further laboratory and field trial inundation simulations to evaluate the effects of flooding (wetting and drying) on the distribution, and human and environmental mobility of contaminants. A range of geo-chemical analysis techniques including total element digestions and analysis, human digestion availability, soil pH and gamma spectroscopy will be used and the results will be analysed using geostatistical, data modelling and risk-based management tools for assessing element distributions and populations, and hazards to environmental and human health. Training will be provided by the BGS the Geochemical Baselines & Medical Geology Team, the analytical laboratories, the registering University and where applicable via bespoke training courses.

The project aims to develop a process understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants impacting on the zone of human interaction by:

  • Geochemically characterising changes in the solid phase distribution and the human accessibility of chemical and biological contaminants before, during and after drying and wetting – a novel approach not previously investigated in detail; and,
  • Using predictive and mechanistic modelling to examine the results of new field and laboratory trials would improve our understanding of contaminant mobility and hazards in floodplains and the potential risks they pose

Abel, M.T. et al. 2010. Environmental, Geochemistry and Health, 32, 379-389.

Environment Agency. 2012. Catchment Flood Management Plans Annual Report 2012.

Wragg and Palumbo-Roe, 2011. Contaminant mobility as a result of sediment inundation. BGS Report OR/11/051.

Energy & Marine Geoscience
S289 Climatic cyclicity and environmental interactions in arid continental basins: The Leman Sandstone, Southern North Sea

Student: Molly Watson

BGS Supervisor: Phil Richards

University Supervisor: Stu Clark, Keele School of Physical and Geographical Sciences

S288 Environmental assessment of deep-water sponge fields in relation to oil and gas activity: a west of Shetland case study

Student: Johanne Vad

BGS Supervisor: Sophie Green

University Supervisor: Murray Roberts, Heriot-Watt School of Life Sciences

S287 Unravelling the structural controls and consequent feedbacks on Permian and Mesozoic depositional systems in the Southern North Sea

Student: Ross Grant

BGS Supervisor: Bob Gatliff

University Supervisor: John Underhill and Rachel Jamieson, Heriot-Watt, Institute of Petroleum Engineering

S280 The Bowland Shale of the UK: development of diagenetic models for a major UK hydrocarbon reservoir

Student: Sarah Kenworthy

BGS Supervisor: Edward Hough

University Supervisor: Kevin Taylor, University of Manchester, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Science

S278 Sulfate reducing bacteria in CO2

Student: Hayden Morgan

BGS Supervisor: Simon Gregory

University Supervisor: David Large, University of Nottingham, Chemical and Environmental Engineering

The presence and activity of microbes in the deep subsurface is of concern to various industries including those involved in carbon capture and storage (CCS). A specific concern to the CCS industry is the negative impact of sulphate reducing bacteria and hydrocarbon degrading microorganisms and on the injection and storage of carbon dioxide. Microbial activity can cause corrosion of materials, reduced injection well performance and degeneration of hydrocarbon fields, which are costly to remedy. A key control on microbial activity is the concentration of oxygen mixed in the carbon dioxide supply. The primary aim of this PhD will be to will carry out fundamental research into the relationship between oxygen concentration, microbial growth and the combined effects of hydrocarbon degrading bacteria and sulphate reducing bacteria in CO2 streams. The objective is to inform the setting of appropriate specification of oxygen concentration limits in CO2 that is to be stored in North Sea storage sites which will minimise the risk of negative microbial impacts without imposing onerous demands on the purification of the CO2 processing.

This project would be suitable for a biological sciences or environmental science graduate with some experience in microbiology. Additional experience in molecular biology or geochemical modelling will be welcome. Training will be provided in running experiments to simulate subsurface CCS environments, and in the geomicrobiological analytical techniques including and molecular methods for characterising microbial communities.

S259 Variations in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and its impact on South Georgia ice sheet extent over the Holocene

Student: Rowan Dejardin

BGS Supervisor: Melanie Leng

University Supervisor: George Swann, University of Nottingham, School of Geography

Developing a better understanding of how the Southern Ocean evolved during the transition from the last glacial maximum (~25 ka) to the present is critical for assessing climatic sensitivity (Anderson et al., 2009), and placing recent environmental changes within a historical context (Pritchard et al., 2012). For instance South Georgia is one the most rapidly warming regions in the world (Whitehouse et al. 2008). This project has two broad goals: to understand variations in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) since the last glacial; and to decipher the nature and timing of the South Georgia ice sheet retreat within the same time interval.

The ACC is a major uninterrupted water mass that encircles Antarctica, and brings CO2 and nutrient-rich warm deep water to the surface. Recent studies indicate that the ACC may have been a major source of atmospheric CO2 during the de-glacial (Anderson et al., 2009), and studies from the Falkland Plateau and the Antarctic Peninsula show that changes to the climate of the Southern Ocean occurred during the comparatively stable Holocene. However, there is still no consensus on how the Southern Ocean evolved since the last glacial, largely due to a lack of well-preserved sedimentary records. One important region is South Georgia, which sits in the path of the ACC and within proximity to the modern southern ACC front (SACCF). Tracking changes to this frontal position through time will be important for understanding changes in wind strength (the Southern Westerly Winds) and ACC extent. South Georgia had an extensive ice sheet probably to the outer shelf during the last glacial (Graham et al. 2008), and understanding the nature and timing of its retreat should aid in our understanding of the potential coupling between ice sheets and surrounding water mass properties (Pritchard et al., 2012).

This project aims to reconstruct the palaeoceanography of the South Georgia region since the last glacial maximum, by generating geochemical and micropalaeontological climate proxy records from unique sediment cores recently collected on the shelf and in Cumberland Bay (Fig. 1). The shelf sites should contain a unique record of oceanic conditions since the last glacial (sea ice, productivity, bottom water temperature/oxygen), and the inner bay sites should contain a unique record of glacial retreat related to onset of marine sedimentation (including marine microfossils) and changing salinity from ice melt. The goals of this project will be to: (i) assess changes in the upwelling and nature of the ACC, via monitoring local movements in the proximal SACCF, and related changes in local productivity and sea ice; and (ii) assess how these changes related to the timing and rate of South Georgia ice sheet decay.

In practical terms the project will:

  • Reconstruct surface and sea floor conditions at centennial to millennial scale from South Georgia marine sediment cores (collected 2013 and housed in Potsdam) from the mouth of Cumberland Bay to the shelf edge, using a combination of the following depending on the material: benthic foraminiferal assemblages, planktonic and benthic foraminiferal stable isotopes, TOC/CN and organic carbon isotopes, diatom assemblages and stable isotopes, palynology.
  • Assess the stability/variability of oceanographic/climatic conditions around South Georgia from the last glacial and through the Holocene, to compare with the rate/amplitude of change observed in recent years.
  • Compare South Georgia climate records with those from South America, Falkland Plateau, West Antarctic Peninsula, and elsewhere to assess regional influences such as the Southern Westerly Wind belt.
  • Assess coarse fraction sediments in the cores – potential ice-rafted debris possibly derived from local South Georgia glaciers – to infer glacier advance/surges/instabilities.


Anderson R.F. et al. 2009. Wind-driven upwelling in the Southern Ocean and the deglacial rise in atmospheric CO2. Science, 323, 1443-1448.

Graham A.G.C. et al. 2008. A new bathymetric compilation highlighting extensive paleo–ice sheet drainage on the continental shelf, South Georgia, sub-Antarctica. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, 9, 7, Q07011.

Hogg O.T., Barnes D.K.A., Griffiths H.J. 2011. Highly Diverse, Poorly Studied and Uniquely Threatened by Climate Change: An Assessment of Marine Biodiversity on South Georgia's Continental Shelf. PLoS ONE 6(5), e19795.

Pritchard H.D. et al. 2012. Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves: Nature, 484, 502-505.

Whitehouse M.J. et al. 2008. Rapid warming of the ocean around South Georgia, Southern Ocean, during the 20th Century: Forcings, characteristics and implications for lower tropic levels. Deep-Sea Research I, 55, 1218–1228.

S292 Source apportionment of urban contaminants

Student: Abida Usman

BGS Supervisor: Louise Ander and Simon Chenery

University Supervisor: Liz Bailey and Scott Young, Nottingham, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

S265 Speleothem climate capture of the Neanderthal demise

Student: Laura Deeprose

BGS Supervisor: Melanie Leng

University Supervisor: Peter Wynn, Lancaster University, Environmental Science

Northern Iberia is ideally located to record long term changes in climate. The marginal location of this region to key ocean circulation regimes heightens its sensitivity to oscillatory climatic behaviour throughout the Quaternary. Terrestrial records of climatic change in Iberia are currently limited to the Holocene and late glacial, with some of the best records produced by speleothems. However, a paucity of records beyond this time frame has thus far prevented any reconstruction of ocean and atmospheric circulation at the time of the Neanderthal demise. Climate variations in Iberia during the transition between the Neanderthal decline and the rising dominance of modern humans are relatively unknown, yet are critical for understanding environmental controls on Neanderthal extinction patterns.

Current research in the Matienzo region of northern Spain has revealed a rich archive of palaeoclimatic information contained within speleothem deposits spanning the last 12,000 years. The Matienzo region is unique in its positioning along the Northern Iberian margin, its diversity of archaeology associated with pre-historic populations, and extensive speleological research which has mapped cave systems known to have developed throughout the Quaternary. This provides the opportunity to extend the palaeoclimate record of the Iberian Peninsula into key periods of hominid population dynamics in the region. In conjunction with the rich archaeological legacy of this region, understanding the climatic context during this time period promises to reveal exciting new insight into climate dynamics and patterns of Neanderthal population change.

S270 The mid-Pleistocene transition in Asian monsoon variability

Student: Sonja Felder

BGS Supervisor: Melanie Leng.

University Supervisor: Andrew Henderson, Newcastle University, Geography, Politics and Sociology

A fundamental change in Earth’s climate occurred between ~1.3 and 0.6 million years ago (Ma), where the dominant periodicity of climate cycles shifted from 41 thousand to 100 thousand years (ka). Known as the mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT), this enigmatic climate change occurred in the absence of any substantial changes in external orbital forcing, indicating the mechanisms that caused this climate shift were internal to Earth’s climate system. During the MPT, the amplitude of deep-ocean oxygen isotopes increased, which have been interpreted as the main rhythm of ice ages throughout the Pleistocene. Recent research suggests the MPT was initiated by an abrupt increase in Antarctic ice volume ~0.9 Ma, while other evidence points to a quasi-100 ka cycle begining at 1.2 Ma, when sea surface temperatures first decrease, followed by a pronounced cooling at 0.9 Ma. A number of mechanisms have been suggested to explain the shift from 41 ka to 100 ka cycles during the MPT, including high latitude ice sheet dynamics and changes in the global carbon cycle leading to fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Even so, the trigger for the MPT remains elusive, with tropical forcing involving the global carbon reservoir, sea surface temperature (SST) changes in the equatorial Pacific, internal feedbacks of CO2 and ice albedo, as well as strong silicate weathering during glacial lowstands linked to Tibetan Plateau (TP) uplift, all being suggested.

Geological and modelling evidence show the uplift of the TP has pronounced effects on crustal weathering and atmospheric circulation, being invoked as a mechanism for late Cenozoic cooling by CO2 drawdown through silicate weathering. In addition, this uplift also enhanced the seasonal contrast between land and ocean, which drives the Asian monsoon system, as well as biofurcating the westerly jet circulation. Continental records from the Chinese Loess Plateau suggest the MPT evolved in two major steps closely linked to the stepwise uplift of the plateau, and intriguingly, there is evidence for rapid uplift of the TP, especially in the northern part, during the mid-Pleistocene at 1.2, 0.9 – 0.8 and 0.6 Ma. These events set up a positive feedback related to surface conditions on the TP, changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation linked to the enhancement of the Asian monsoon system, as well as the development of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets. However, there are very few high-resolution records of Asian monsoon variability covering the MPT and this hampers our ability to fully test this continental-weathering hypothesis.

The objective of this project is to produce the first high-resolution record of Asian monsoon variability from the Japan Sea/East Sea over the MPT using the oxygen isotope composition of benthic (ice volume and temperature) and planktonic (Asian monsoon variability) foraminifera, coupled with Mg/Ca ratios to tease out temperature effects on their geochemistry. These proxies will provide the necessary dataset to test the role of TP uplift during the MPT. The project benefits from newly collected material from the recent Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 346 (July-Sept 2013) to the Japan Sea/East Sea and it will focus on Sites U1426 and U1427, which are influenced by the Tsushima Warm Current (TWC) that flows into the basin. In turn, the strength of the TWC is controlled by the discharge of the Yangzte River in China. Annual discharge of the Yangzte River is inextricably linked to the intensity of the Asian monsoon, and therefore changes in the amount of freshwater delivered to the Japan Sea/East Sea will be reflected in the isotopic composition of planktonic foraminifera and hence reflect monsoon variability. In addition, Sites U1426 and U1427 have abundant foraminifera ideal for the proposed geochemical analysis, with working biostratigraphies already established, but, as part of this programme of research, these new geochemical records will be tuned to provide robust age models. The student will have access to all shipboard data, as well as being integrated into an international network of scientists working on these sites.

Key research questions this studentship will address are:

  1. What is the timing and nature of Asian monsoon variability during the MPT?
  2. How does changes in the Asian monsoon relate to Tibetan Plateau uplift?
  3. What is the sychroneity of monsoon variability with records of sea surface temperature and ice volume changes? And what do they tell us about the likely forcing mechanisms of the MPT?
S277 Bioavailability of chromium from African soils near mine waste dumps: implications for staple crops

Student: Elliott Hamilton

BGS Supervisor: Michael Watts

University Supervisor: Liz Bailey and Scott Young, University of Nottingham, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The environmental ubiquity of chromium can be attributed to both natural and anthropogenic sources. The toxicity of chromium is dependent on its chemical forms, with Cr(III) and Cr(VI) being the primary species in the environment (Kotaś and Stasicka 2000). It has been widely reported that Cr(VI) is acutely toxic and carcinogenic (Katz and Salem 1993), therefore increased concentrations of Cr(VI) can potentially pose a risk to living matter within soils. In addition, crops and plants grown in high-Cr(VI) soils can present a risk to human health as well as having deleterious effects on the growth of the plant (Shanker, Cervantes et al. 2005). Although it is known that Cr(VI) is more mobile and bioavailable due to its anionic forms (Fendorf, Wielinga et al. 2000), the mechanistic aspects of its fate in soils are not fully understood. Reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(III) in soils is possible through both geological and biological pathways, but anthropogenic contributions (fertiliser, liming) may also affect the speciation and bioavailability of Cr.

The aim of this proposal is to assess the mechanisms of chromium species equilibria in soils over a range of properties and conditions, and establish whether these mechanisms increase the likelihood of exposure to Cr(VI). This work will build upon existing analytical methodology with a view to incorporating computational speciation models to assess the processes dominating chromium speciation in soils. Isotope speciation analysis will be utilised to monitor redox reactions and species uptake, combined with pot experiments and fieldwork to evaluate controls on chromium speciation in idealised and real-world situations. There is scope to incorporate liming/fertiliser trials to look at the impact of agriculture on chromium speciation, whilst additional elements of interest, such as antimony, could be included on a site-specific basis. For example, Copperbelt mining in Zambia has been shown to increase total elemental concentrations in both the environment (von der Heyden and New 2004) and occupationally-exposed workers (Ndilila, Callan et al. 2014), although the specific pathways of exposure have yet to be determined; a more thorough understanding of chromium’s soil chemistry could begin the process of addressing this problem.

S269 Environmental lead pollution in the Roman Empire – characterising its effects on juvenile exposure, health and geographic mobility

Student: Joanna Moore

BGS Supervisor: Jane Evans

University Supervisor: Jane Montgomery, University of Bradford, Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences.

This project will investigate the impact of environmental lead pollution on human health and mobility in the Roman Period. It will develop the use of lead isotopes as an indicator of the cultural sphere an individual inhabited using exposure to geographically-determined anthropogenic pollution as a proxy. Lead isotope and concentration analysis will be undertaken on individuals from Roman period cemeteries across the Empire with the aim of:

  1. establishing and comparing the level of lead they were exposed to during childhood;
  2. establishing geographic and cultural variation in Roman Period human lead isotopes;
  3. exploring the link between lead burden and childhood health;
  4. Investigating the possibility of obtaining high-spatial and high-temporal resolution lead isotope data using LA-ICP-MS.

The project will obtain teeth from selected individuals buried in five Roman Period cemeteries at Dorchester, England, Ravenna, Italy, Tarragona, Spain, Budapest, Hungary, and Mainz, Germany. Enamel will be removed from the teeth following established procedures and measured for lead isotope and trace element concentration. Lead isotope preparation and analysis will be carried out in the clean laboratory suite at NIGL. Lead will be measured using PIMMS (MC-ICP-MS) according to established laboratory protocols. A novel aspect of this High spatial-resolution lead isotope analysis of enamel will be obtained by means of a New Wave Research UP193FX LA system connected to a Nu Instruments AttoM HR singlecollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (HR-ICP-MS). The elemental Pb concentrations of the enamel samples and quality control materials will be determined using an Agilent quadrupole ICP-MS instrument. Palaeopathological data will be collated from previously published data and integrated and analysed in relation to the isotope results.

Geology & Regional Geophysics
S264 Formation and age of the Arran central ring complex

Student: Robert Gooday

BGS Supervisor: Kathryn Goodenough

University Supervisor: Andrew Kerr, Cardiff University, Earth and Ocean Sciences

Our understanding of the processes behind the emplacement of silica-poor (e.g. basalt) and silica-rich (e.g. rhyolite) lavas currently differ significantly. This project will close this gap by deriving a generalized multi-scale model for lava emplacement, based on observations, textural analyses and 3D computer reconstructions of flows at Cordón Caulle, Chile and Mt. Etna, Sicily. Fieldwork will be carried out at both locations to enable characterisation of flow processes over scales of mm- to 100s-m. The results will be combined with laboratory analyses to quantify degassing, and satellite data to provide km-scale process information. State-of-the-art analytical facilities and novel computer modelling approaches will be used whilst working with international experts from the U.S., Italy and the U.K. The results of the project will have wide implications for our understanding of flow emplacement both on Earth and on other planets. For details on our preliminary study, see Tuffen, James et al. (2013), Nature Comms., 4, 2709, doi:10.1038/ncomms3709.

Flow processes in low-viscosity basaltic lavas are broadly understood as eruptions are commonly observed. However, high-viscosity lavas (e.g. rhyolites) are seldom witnessed and poorly understood. The supervisors have recently collected the first observations of an advancing rhyolite lava flow, during the 2011-13 eruption of Cordón Caulle, Chile (preliminary study: Tuffen, James et al, Nature Comms., 2013). With this being the most silica-rich lava flow ever observed, we now have a unique opportunity to develop a generalised model for lava flow emplacement, based on observations and measurements taken of active flows.

A central challenge is to understand how degassing, crystallization and shear localization interact within lavas. Such effects are critically important in high-viscosity flows, leading to highly-heterogeneous flow and gas escape, and affect processes operative over scales of millimetres to kilometres. This project will combine existing and new field data, laboratory analyses and satellite imagery to develop a multi-scale model of high-silica lava emplacement processes firmly linked to existing understanding of lower-viscosity lavas. The resulting universal emplacement model will have broad application, from geologists studying terrestrial flow fields to planetary scientists, who are beginning to discover high-viscosity lavas on Mars in the latest satellite images. Insights gained into degassing and strain localisation during flow will have significant additional implications for our understanding of magma ascent, and ultimately, how volcanoes erupt – whether they produce explosive ash or effusive lava.

S273 Runoff generation, flooding and flowpaths in the changing environment of upland UK

Student: Leo Peskett

BGS Supervisor: Alan MacDonald

University Supervisor: Kate Heal, University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences

In temperate environments, uplands are often dominated by agricultural land use, as in the UK, which is linked to downstream flood risk. Increasingly natural flood management (NFM) measures applied in the uplands - such as wetland restoration, changes in land use and management, and tree planting - are promoted as more sustainable ways of addressing flood risk compared to constructing more extensive flood defences downstream. NFM measures should also be more resilient to the increased flood risk expected as the result of more frequent extreme rainfall events. However, for NFM to be effective requires an integrated understanding of runoff processes and flowpaths across a catchment. This enables the scale and locations of different types of NFM measures to be selected so as to reduce flood peak flow and volume downstream. The situation is further complicated by the heterogeneous nature of upland catchments, which typically contain a mixture of topography, land uses and soil types within a small area. Most research on upland hydrological processes has focused on plot- and small-scale investigations and not on the catchment scale which is most relevant for implementing NFM. The interaction between surface and subsurface flow and water stores has also been largely overlooked in upland catchments, even though it has been shown to have an important effect on catchment hydrology. These research gaps will be addressed in this project which aims to relate detailed understanding of hydrological processes to river flows at the catchment scale.

S260 Understanding groundwater controls on microbial metabolic activity, biogeochemical cycling and associated greenhouse gas production in streambed sediments

Student: Sophie Comer

BGS Supervisor: Daren Gooddy

University Supervisor: Stefan Krause, University of Birmingham, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

This interdisciplinary project will pioneer the combination of novel distributed sensor networks and smart tracer technologies for quantification of microbial metabolic activity with state-of-the-art isotope tracer techniques and novel passive pore-water chemical sampling and gas analysis. The innovative combination of these cutting-edge technologies will allow investigating the role of streambed sediments for integrated C, N and O cycling in dependency of spatio-temporal variability in groundwater – surface water mixing and resulting patterns and dynamics of thermal and redox-chemical conditions. In addition to analysing spatial patterns of biogeochemical hotspots and C, N, O turnover rates and identifying their reliance on groundwater up-welling, residence time distributions and hyporheic mixing patterns, the project will aim to quantify bulk streambed respiration rates in order to assess their role for carbon sequestration and the production of climate active gases CO2, CH4 and N2O.

S291 Semantic Information Retrieval for Geological Resources

Student: Ikechukwu Nkisi-Orji

BGS Supervisor: Rachel Heaven

University Supervisor: Nirmalie Wiratunga, Robert Gordan School of Computing Science.

Minerals & Waste
S295 An enhanced understanding of the thermal and fluid history of a Variscan metallogenic province from critical metal investigations: The antimony and tungsten-bismuth deposits of south-west England.

Student: Eimear Deady

BGS Supervisor: Dr Kathryn Goodenough and Mr Paul Lusty

University Supervisor: Dr Kathryn Moore and Dr Frances Wall, Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter

The aims of this project are to improve the model for tungsten mineralisation in the south-west and to develop a model for bismuth mineralisation which has not been established as yet in this region. An additional deliverable is to establish a robust directory of tungsten mineral occurrences in the south-west using legacy collections and the associated metadata.

Ideally the project would aim to characterise the bismuth minerals associated with the tungsten mineralisation and to establish whether this accessory could be processed as a value-adding by product to tungsten processing. To establish the paragenetic sequence of the mineralisation, using a variety of localities across the region. Describe previously un-described bismuth mineralisation in samples from spoil heaps.

S276 Timing of Cu-Au-Te-PGE porphyry-style mineralisation in northern Greece and Bulgaria and its relationship to metamorphic core complex exhumation

Student: Rebecca Perkins

BGS Supervisor: Jon Naden

University Supervisor: Frances Cooper, University of Bristol, Earth Sciences

The increasing global interest and investment in green technologies such as wind turbines, solar energy collectors, and electric cars, has created new demand for previously underutilized elements such as Te and Se for photovoltaic energy production and platinum group elements (PGE) for autocatalytic convertors and fuel cells. These elements are commonly enriched in areas of Cu, Mo, or Au mineralisation associated with high-level potassic and calc-alkaline magmatism. Typically, the anatomy of this mineralisation at the deposit scale is porphyry and epithermal in style, but on a regional scale, enrichment in Te, Se, and PGE appears to be connected with post-subduction high-K to shoshonitic magmatism. Thus, a key area for research is to understand the regional geodynamic setting for this mineralisation; in particular, the generation and timing of fertile magmas and the structural pathways that control their emplacement. Advances in this field will significantly aid mineral resource exploration through the development of new genetic models for this relatively poorly understood mineral deposit type.

A globally important region for porphyry- and epithermal-style Cu-Au-Te-PGE deposits is the Rhodope Massif of northern Greece and southern Bulgaria (Figs. 1-2), which forms the hinterland to the Hellenic orogen [1]. The PhD will focus on a detailed geo- and thermochronology study of the emplacement, mineralisation and exhumation of the Moronia–Sappes–Leptokaria magmatic corridor in NE Greece, a sequence of Eocene–Miocene mineralised and barren subvolcanic plutons plus the Biala Reka–Kekros Dome, part of the Rhodope metamorphic core complex into which the plutons are intruded [e.g. 2]. Key research questions to be addressed are:

  1. How does magma petrogenesis influence magma metal fertility,
  2. how does the timing and duration of mineralization processes affect the size of mineral deposits and
  3. can rates of exhumation and erosion be used to determine regional potential for ore deposit preservation.

The PhD will involve two field seasons in the Rhodope Massif, a programme of laboratory work that includes trace element geochemistry, geo- and thermochronology (U-Pb, Ar-Ar, (U-Th)/He) and computer modelling. The project will provide excellent research training in field skills, analytical techniques and numerical analysis. Work will be primarily undertaken at the University of Bristol and the British Geological Survey, with potential for visits to other laboratories for additional analyses. Fieldwork support will also be provided by experts in the Universities of Thessaloniki and Athens.

S267 Earth observation for advanced geoscience modelling – the Tellus South West airborne high resolution geophysical, multispectral and LiDAR survey

Student: Chris Yeomans

BGS Supervisor: Paul Lusty

University Supervisor: Robin Shail, University of Exeter Camborne School of Mines, Mining Geology

This project offers a unique opportunity to contribute to the development of a new geoscience framework for South West England. The region (most of Cornwall, Devon and part of Somerset) is now one of the best surveyed parts of the planet, because of recent NERC investment in a high resolution airborne geophysical and LiDAR survey and land-based geochemical sampling The Tellus Survey of Northern Ireland exemplifies what can be achieved with comparable data, including improved geological and structural mapping, enhanced regional geological interpretation (e.g. Young and Earls, 2007; Chew et al. 2010) and more sophisticated mineral exploration targeting (e.g. Lusty et al. 2012), particularly in areas of concealed geology.

These new data are of particular significance as the South West England orefield is widely recognised as the most important metallogenic province in the UK (Scrivener, 2006; Moon, 2010), with significant current exploration interest (e.g. Wolf Minerals, Hemerdon project and exploration by Treliver Minerals) and the potential for development of a future mining industry. Despite extensive geological research and a protracted history of mineral extraction, fundamental questions remain concerning the exact nature, source and timing of the mineralisation and its relation to structure, magmatism and regional tectonics. Key to addressing these questions is the development of an enhanced geoscience framework, based upon the new high resolution datasets, coupled with extensive legacy data (e.g. geological mapping, borehole data, mineral occurrences databases etc). The new data provide an exceptional opportunity to enhance our fundamental understanding of the geological and structural evolution of South West England, with direct implications for metallic mineral exploration and future resource potential.

The main aim of the project is to integrate all available data for the South West (new imagery and geochemistry, previous bedrock and superficial mapping, geophysics etc) to generate enhanced baseline geological and structural information and understanding for the region. The project will develop and employ novel approaches for spatial analysis, interrogation, filtering, modelling, visualisation and fusion of multi-resolution and multi-source geological data (e.g. correlation analysis, non-metric multidimensional scaling, principal component analysis, fractal clustering, regression analysis, transformation techniques, geophysical inversion etc) to emphasise patterns and association. Of particular interest is the application of the new LiDAR data for enhanced and automated lithological and structural mapping (e.g. Grebby et al. 2010; Grebby et al. 2012). South West England provides an opportunity to test this approach in a well vegetated terrane with less pronounced topographic variation. The datasets derived from this analysis and interpretation will be used to develop augmented geological and structural maps for the region. The distribution of mineralisation in the South West can subsequently be reinterpreted in this context. The new geological map and structural interpretation coupled with other derived datasets will ultimately form a basis for a regional scale prospectivity model and quantitative resource assessment, based upon a range of techniques e.g. discriminant analysis, weights-of-evidence, artificial neural networks (e.g. Harris et al. 2003). Datasets produced by this study e.g. lineament and fracture maps will have wide ranging applications e.g. geothermal energy, hydrogeology and environmental modelling, which could inform future decision making in the South West and the attribution of 3D models of the region at a variety of scales.


Chew, D.M, McFarlane, J.A.S., Cooper, M.R. and Fleming, C.M. (2010) New geological insights into the Dalradian Lack Inlier, Northern Ireland and correlative sequences: implications for lithostratigraphical correlation and gold mineralisation. In Abstracts of the 53rd Annual Irish Geological Research Meeting, 16.

Grebby S, Cunningham D, Naden J, Tansey K. (2010). Lithological mapping of the Troodos ophiolite, Cyprus, using airborne LiDAR topographic data. Remotes Sensing of Environment, 114, 713–724.

Grebby, S., Cunningham, D., Naden, J., & Tansey, K. (2012). Application of airborne LiDAR data and airborne multispectral imagery to structural mapping of the upper section of the Troodos ophiolite, Cyprus. International Journal of Earth Sciences, 101, 1645-1660.

Harris DV, Zurcher J, Stanley M, Marlow J, Pan G. (2003). A comparative analysis of favorability mappings by weights of evidence, probabilistic neural networks, discriminant analysis, and logistic regression. Natural Resource Research 12, 241–255.

Lusty P A J, Scheib C, Gunn A G, Walker A S D. (2012). Reconnaissance-Scale Prospectivity Analysis for Gold Mineralisation in the Southern Uplands-Down-Longford Terrane, Northern Ireland. Natural Resources Research, 21, 359–382.

Moon C J. (2010). Geochemical exploration in Cornwall and Devon: a review. Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis, 10, 331–351.

Scrivener R C. (2006). Cornubian granites and mineralization of SW England. In: Brenchley P.J. and Rawson P.F. (eds), The Geology of England and Wales, 2nd Edition. The Geological Society of London.

Young M E, Earls G J T. (2007). New geochemical and geophyisical data of Northern Ireland. In: Andrew C J (ed). Digging Deeper, Proceedings of the ninth Biennial SGA Meeting, Dublin, Ireland, Millpress.

Recent Masters projects

Year Project title University Department University supervisor(s) BGS supervisor(s)
2005 Mineral Economic of the global copper industry: ores, wastes and end-products Exeter Camborne School of mines Mining Geology Scott PW Bonel KA
2006 Permian hydrogeology of the Ripon and Darlington Regions Leeds School of Earth and Environment Murphy P Cooper A
2006 An investigation of the Cu-As-Fe mineralisation at Tilberthwaite and Greenburn Valley, Lake District.  Exeter Camborne School of mines Mining Geology Scott PW McEvoy FM
2006 An investigation of the Bohaun Mountain epithermal gold system, Co. Galway, Ireland.  Exeter Camborne School of mines Mining Geology Scott PW Lusty P
2006 An investigation of the Bohaun Mountain epithermal gold system, Co. Galway, Ireland.  Exeter Camborne School of mines Mining Geology Scott PW Gunn AG
2007 3D sediment modelling of macroplankton—novel approach using x-rays Leicester Geology Zalasiewicz JA Aspden J
2008 Investigation of the Role of Soil and Climate Factors in Equine Grass Sickness in Scotland Edinburgh Division of Vetinary Clinical Science







Fordyce F
2008 Development of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) GIS system and hazard mapping of column collapse and pyroclastic flows New York Geology Calder E Hards VL
2008 The potential of archaeological human enamel barium concentrations to determine geographic regions Bradford Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences Montgomery J Ander L
2008 The evolution of gypsum karst modelled from the hydrogeology and water geochemistry of sulphate-rich springs and ponds in Yorkshire and Durham Leeds School of Earth and Environment Odling N Cooper A
2008 Assessing the Importance of Depth to Groundwater in a Methodology for Prioritising Threats to Groundwater Quality from Surface Contaminants in the Clyde Gateway, Glasgow Exeter Camborne School of mines Mining Geology Kalin R Fordyce F
2008 Assessing the Importance of Depth to Groundwater in a Methodology for Prioritising Threats to Groundwater Quality from Surface Contaminants in the Clyde Gateway, Glasgow Strathclyde Civil Engineering Kalin R O Dochartaigh BE
2008 Characterisation of mineralisation within the Snowdon Apical Graben; the Hafod-y-Porth mine workings Exeter Camborne School of mines Mining Geology Scott PW Lusty P
2008 Gold mineralisation and ore potential in the Fore Burn igneous complex, Ayrshire Exeter Camborne School of mines Mining Geology Scott PW Naden J

Contacts for further information

Dr Jon Naden
BGS University Funding Initiative
British Geological Survey
NG12 5GG
E-mail: BUFI
Telephone: 0115 936 3100
Fax: 0115 936 3200
Twitter: @DocBGS