Plate Tectonics – When, Why and How?

by Craig Storey


A recent meeting at the Royal Society in London called “Earth Dynamics and the Development of Plate Tectonics. Above are (some of) the Portsmouth Crustal Evolution Research Group enjoying the debate.

It was a really lively 2 day meeting with representatives from as far as USA and Australia, picked to give their perspective on different issues. So we went from other planets (Venus and Mars) to the building blocks of our own planet, with a great talk from Maud Boyet (a certain class of enstatites can resolve BSE trace elements and a range of stable isotopes – but not major elements!). Geodynamics was a major topic of discussion, with input from numerical modellers and experimentalists and, of course, debate from geologists on the veracity of the models. An excellent summary of the geochemical and isotopic evidence for the growth and reworking of the continental crust was given by some familiar names to this group – Tony Kemp, Peter Cawood and Bruno Dhuime. A lively debate followed a presentation by Jun Korenaga, reexamining the famous crustal evolution growth curve models and proposing something controversial. The claim was based on the model representing the mantle evolution (Nd isotopes in basalts) rather than the crusal record (Hf and O in zircons). However, it would be nice to know if the Nd record presented stands up to scrutiny. Some very engaging talks on links between geodynamics and the atmosphere and biosphere kept spirits up, with Cin-Ty Lee talking about continents and their control on climate, Aubrey Zerkle introducing us to the idea of “Biogeodynamics” and giving a great talk on her work on the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, and finally Tim Lyons illuminating us on the Proterozoic, the rise of oxygen and the possible tectonic links to climate and life. Bob Stern finished up with a summary discussion and then we all went home for jelly and ice cream.

iGEO 2018 – an Irish event aimed at early career geoscientists

by David van Acken


In January 2018, NUI Galway hosted the inaugural Irish Geosciences Early Career Symposium 2018 event, a two-day conference with discussion hubs, workshops and presentations for PhD students and postdocs. Organized by PhD students and postdocs from NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, and University College Cork, the symposium aimed to connect early career geoscientist with senior scientists, industry members and policy makers to provide opportunities for collaboration, debate, and knowledge exchange. Attended by around 100 delegates, scientific discussion hubs spanned a wide range of topics, including Public Perception, Tectonics, Modelling, Geochemistry, Fluid Flow, and Big Data Management. After an address by the Minister for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, Sean Kyne TD, keynotes about the future of geoscience were delivered by Dr. Patrick Redmond (Teck), Dr. Joel Gill (British Geological Survey) and Dr. Margaret Desmond (MaREI), followed by a panel discussion. The day was rounded out by 20 lightning talks, a poster session, and a conference dinner.  The second day comprised workshops on Science Communication, Writing of Publications and Funding Applications, Career Development, Statistics, and introductions into specialist topics geared at non-specialists. The meeting was wrapped up by the awards for outstanding posters and lightning talks.  A field trip to County Clare to study Karst landscapes and deltaic deposits was offered on the days following the meeting.

The successful symposium will surely be repeated, and possibly interesting for early career scientists from across the Irish Sea as well!

Life on the ocean waves can be SWEET.

by Rachael Shuttleworth
Geochemists and palaeoceanographers use the chemical and isotopic composition of preserved foraminifera (carbonate microfossils) in deep sea sediments to reconstruct the environment of the past. There are a vast range of things we can reconstruct based on the chemistry of these fossils from temperature to nutrient utilisation. The research I do focuses on the boron isotopic composition of foraminifera, and how this can be used to calculate the pH that the carbonate shell precipitated in.

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Preparing the net for plankton tow – a little different to working in the clean lab!

Palaeoclimate and palaeoceanography is a very necessary branch of geochemistry in today’s world as we head towards a higher CO2 world. By looking back in Earth’s history to a time when CO2 was equal to that or higher than observed today we can make better predictions as to how environments will change in our future. However, to do this effectively we need to better understand how different the chemical composition the forams (foraminifera) record is to the ambient environment, it is this question that led to my venture into modern biology and hitting the fieldwork jackpot of 3 months in Bermuda…

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Unimpressed isotope geochemist faced with going through a jar of freshly towed zooplankton…

The idea here is that respiration, calcification (& photosynthesis if the foram hosts symbionts) work to alter that chemistry of the environment immediately surrounding the foram where based on the viscosity of water diffusion dominates over turbulence. In order to investigate this we aim to initially define what this offset is by measuring the isotopic composition of the water and forams of a range of species and size fractions. We then want to look at how much each process (eg. Respirartion) contributes to altering the isotopic composition of the microenvironment. This work was a massive learning curve for me, swapping a clean lab for boat trips, and Teflon cleaning for shackling up plankton nets!

This work is still ongoing and is part of the SWEET ( project and will (hopefully) form part of my thesis.

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Fieldwork; it’s a tough life.

The Journey Begins

Welcome to the new webpages for the Geochemistry Group.

These pages will serve as a continually updated resource for the UK’s geochemistry research community.

In addition to this rolling blog page, you will be able to find links to our parent groups, the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Geological Society of London, as well as downloadable files of application forms for our student travel bursary scheme, Early Career Prominent Lecture Series, and the Geochemistry Group Postdoctoral Medal.

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