Volcanoes, Tectonics and Mineral Resources Research Group

Members of this research group lead several inter-disciplinary research programmes to investigate the evolution of the Earth’s crust, and its interrelationships with the mantle and atmosphere/ocean system.  It utilises a wide range of techniques, including field studies, geochemistry (whole-rock, mineral, trace element and isotopic), geochronology (especially 40Ar/39Ar and U/Pb dating), fluid inclusion studies, remote surveying and GIS, and tectonic analysis.

Large-scale Magmatic and Volcanic Processes

Pantelleria cliff section
Pantelleria cliff section. Picture credit: Nina Jordan

What are the causes and mechanisms of large volcanic eruptions - explosive, caldera-forming events, and flood basalts - and what are their effects on the environment? What is the role of mantle plumes in the formation of large igneous provinces (LIPs)? The group is currently studying flood basalts in Siberia, rhyolitic super-eruptions in the Snake River Plain, and pyroclastic systems in Pantelleria, also see Volcanology at Leicester.

Tectonics and Mountain Building

Mount Everest, Himalayas
Mount Everest, Himalayas. Picture credit: Mike Petterson

High-precision and high-resolution studies using laser-ablation multi-collector ICP-MS, based at the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratories at  BGS, Keyworth, are providing important information about timing and uplift rates in the Alps and Himalayas, and other orogenic belts. Geochronology is a key part of this research, especially U-Pb dating (zircon, monazite and allanite), and is used to determine the rates of tectonic and sedimentological processes, from mountain building to the diagenesis of mudrocks.

Sediments as Palaeoenvironmental Indicators

We are re-evaluating the processes that control deposition and erosion in non-marine and shallow-marine settings, with particular emphasis on fine-grained systems. Active projects combine sedimentological analysis with stable-isotope geochemistry, whole rock geochemistry, palynology and palaeontology to investigate how processes influence the production, concentration and distribution of organic matter and reconstruct environmental conditions during periods of global change

In addition, we are using trace element and isotope proxies, including carbon and selenium isotopes, to determine environmental change in the Cariaco Basin and Neoproterozoic ‘Snowball Earth’ sequences in Ethiopia.

Mineral Deposits, Mineralisation and Metallogenesis

High grade core, Cononish Scotland
High grade core, Cononish Scotland. Picture credit: Nyree Hill

This strategically-important research investigates, in particular, occurrences of copper, gold and platinum group elements and the magmatic-geochemical-hydrothermal processes that produce various types of deposit within modern and ancient arc, continental margin, large scale intrusive, and orogenic  environments.  Current research examines specific examples of metal deposits in the UK, Greenland, Australia, Chile, Greece, Africa, and the western Pacific. As part of this research, we are leading important developments of 3D X-ray computed tomography techniques in mineralogical analysis.

Carbon dioxide sequestration

Carbon capture and storage in natural systems is potentially an important tool to help minimise anthopogenic CO2 in the atmosphere.  We are investigating the potential of ultrabasic rocks to sequester large masses of carbon.

Mantle Circulation and the Wilson Cycle

Charting the fate of isotopically-distinct shallow mantle reservoirs through successive ocean closures, by combining Hf-Nd isotope fingerprinting of Tethyan MORB ophiolites with 3D spherical numerical modelling.

The Formation and Evolution of Oceanic Aseismic Ridges

Investigating the temporal and spatial evolution of three aseismic ridges: Louisville Ridge, Emperor-Hawaiian Ridge, and Ninetyeast Ridge, utilising trace element and isotopic data on samples from IODP and ODP Legs 121, 197 and 330. The study is designed to investigate the changing nature of the associated mantle plumes and their melting products.

Leads: Professor Andy Saunders and Dr Tiffany Barry.

Share this page: