News from IEPS

Impact Ejecta Layer At The Base Of Lavas On Skye Contains Unmelted Impactor Fragments.

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Blaven Mountain

Evidence that a meteorite hit the Isle of Skye around 60 million years ago.

In a collaboration between five institutions led by the UCL-Birkbeck Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences*, geologists have discovered a 0.9-metre thick ejecta layer at the base of the Mid-Paleocene lava series, overlying Mesozoic sedimentary rocks at two localities on the Isle of Skye. The layer contains shocked minerals, metals, glasses and a variety of shocked rocks including basement gneiss, with lapilli and glass shards sharing several textural similarities with volcanic ignimbrites.
Metallic iron forms spherules with ferro-silicate glass, and irregular native iron grains with oxidized rims and barringerite (Fe,Ni2P). Rare carbo-nitrides and nitride minerals like osbornite with vanadium (TiVN) are interpreted as unmelted impactor remnants.

Research Highlights

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2017-12-Research Highlight

By Prof John Brodholt.

In November this year Andrew Thomson and John Brodholt visited the European Synchrotron facility in Grenoble (ESRF) to measure the seismic properties of CaSiO3 perovskite at high pressures and temperatures. Although CaSiO3 perovskite only makes up about 5% of the lower mantle as a whole, it makes up as much as 30% of subducting oceanic crust.
We hope, therefore, to be able to use our measured velocities to trace subducted crust into the lower mantle and understand what happens to old ocean crust in the deep Earth. For instance, does oceanic crust just get smeared out and mixed back into the rest of the mantle, or could it separate out and form distinct reservoirs in the mantle?

Making a (Green) Impact.

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By the GreenTeam  member Tania Alim, Earth Sciences student.

As Earth scientists, we are aware of the burden that modern society places on the environment, but as a community, we have perhaps ignored the impact of our department in recent years – not anymore! We are joining the“…UCL-wide environmental competition and accreditation scheme that allows departments and divisions across the university to improve their environmental impact, support UCL's Sustainability Strategy and engage peers and colleagues with these essential issues.” (Green UCL, We want you to get involved!
The impending move into the Kathleen Lonsdale Building makes this the perfect time to get our green hats on. The new KLB (which is due to be completed in January 2018) is perhaps surprisingly, hiding many advanced technologies within its construction that should reduce our environmental impact. There are motion-sensitive lights, CO2 monitored heating and our energy consumption can be monitored from overseas. So, we really have no excuse not to ace this – and we are aiming for a Bronze award by the end of July.

Research Seminars Series

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2017-12-Logic seminars

The London Geochemistry & Isotope Centre (LOGIC) seminars by Dr Ying Shields-Zhou.

The London Geochemistry & Isotope Centre (LOGIC) was launched in 2016 and combines research teams and facilities in geochemistry at UCL and Birkbeck colleges. It is an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research group, carrying out chemical and isotopic investigations of natural materials (rocks, soils, waters, and air) using a variety of analytical and experimental approaches to investigate processes both now and in the past. At the moment 18 academic staff, 8 research staff, 10 PhD students and 3 technicians are involved in the LOGIC group. LOGIC meetings, whether informal seminars or formal talks, are held every Wednesday at 1pm. By the start of this academic year, there have been 28 LOGIC talks, covering a wide range of topics from Earth’s oldest hydrothermal deposits to modern mine wastes and arsenic contamination. Diverse geochemical approaches, from non-traditional stable isotopes (e.g. Cd, Se) to rare earth elements and geochemical modelling have all been discussed.

Soapbox Science: Art and Science 2017

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2017-12-SoapBox Science

"Foraminifera, deep time climate change and the HMS Challenger expedition" by Rehemat Bhatia, PhD student.

Message from the Head of the Department

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2017-12-Message from HoD

Professor Lars Stixrude

It has been an exciting year in the Department of Earth Sciences. Renovation of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building is nearing completion. This 28 million pound project will see tremendous benefits for our department including co-location for the first time in living memory, new research laboratories, dedicated teaching labs, re-housing of all of our teaching, research, and museum collections, and new MSc/MSci workrooms and PhD offices.
Students will benefit from integration into the department with new social hub spaces and teaching areas in close proximity to academic staff offices, and much improved teaching facilities. We should be fully moved in by the end of January, 2018 with just the central foyer and stair case to be wrapped up by mid-March 2018. Mark your calendars for the KLB grand opening event on April 17 highlighted by a very special guest of honour.

Alumni News – the Greenough Dining Club 2017.

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Reported by Prof Ian Wood.

This year’s Greenough Dining Club event – the annual dinner for staff, students, and alumni of the Department – was held on the 24th November in what is now referred to as the “Jeremy Bentham Room”, but which is still probably better known to many alumni at the “Upper Refectory”. Although the attendance this year didn’t match that of the 2016 “Wendy Special in the tent in the Front Quad”, over 50 people attended, with the graduation dates of our returning alumni ranging from the 1960s to 2017.


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Students' Blog - Simran Johal, Geology Student.

In the summer of my 1st year (2017), I endeavoured in volunteering as a Project Worker for Education Partnerships Africa (EPAfrica). After reaching my fundraising target of £2,100, we were set to fly to Kenya on 27th June. Shortly after arriving in our project county of Kisii we were assigned to our schools for 8 weeks to undertake project work. I was volunteering with my fellow project partners (Matt and Nurul) in 2 schools, Buyonge Secondary School and Gakero SDA school. We were based within our rural communities and living in basic but empowering conditions; without running water and limited access to electricity.
Our work involved investing our own fundraised monies into undertaking projects that would improve the school and facilitate learning. A few of our projects involved installing water tanks, gas and water into labs, creating extra library space for independent study and careers days/ murals.

Independent Mapping Experience

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Students' Blog - Switzerland, 2017

As a 3rd year Geologist, mention of the words ‘Independent Mapping’ can sometimes conjure up a general feeling of unease, distress and impending doom. It seems however, in our case, the symptomatic clamminess and tightness of the chest was most readily alleviated by our beautiful wagon.
In the case of our gang (Charlie R, Martin N, Arnold K, Oliver S), we set out to traverse Western Europe and the Swiss Alps in a 23 year-old pink Volvo 850SE.

Meet the Faculty.

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2017-12-Meet the Staff

Eric Oelkers, Professor of Aqueous Geochemistry

My biggest motivation is to apply the fundamentals of Chemistry to try to understand the Earth and address societal problems. I am very excited about my two latest projects. CARBFIX2 is a European funded research project which involves scientists at Reykjavik Energy, the University of Iceland and industrial partners in Spain and Switzerland which aims to develop new ways to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and safely store this gas as stable minerals in basaltic rocks.

News from the UCL Hazard Centre

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2017-12-UCL Hazard Centre

Believing forecasts of volcanic eruption.

Forecasts of eruptions are rendered useless if they are not believed. A crucial example in Europe is the active volcanic district of Campi Flegrei, outside the western suburbs of Naples in southern Italy. After 400 years without an eruption, the volcano has returned to intermittent unrest since 1950. Warnings of eruption have twice triggered mass evacuations, of about 40,000 people, from the commercial hub of Campi Flegrei at Pozzuoli. In neither case did an eruption occur. The warnings have been seen as false alarms by the population, raising concern that future warnings may not be heeded.
Studies led by the UCL Hazard Centre show that the episodes of unrest belong to a gradual build-up of stress in the crust beneath Campi Flegrei. Such a build-up means that the crust is more likely to break in the future, so that molten rock below the surface has a better chance of erupting. Public experience of past emergencies is thus a poor guide to what might happen in the future.

Dr Jieming Niu - Research Associate, Geophysics.

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2017-12-research profile - Jieming Niu

The first crater of the Naka-dake volcano, Aso caldera, Japan.

As a research associate in UCL, I carried out a field trip to Aso caldera in the centre of Kyushu Island, Japan this October. The aim was to recognise the past and current field states of the volcano as well as the modern/historical instrumentation around the central cone. 

Field Geophysics, Year 3

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Students' Blog: Jeremy Wardle geophysics student.

As a 3rd year Geophysicist at UCL, I undertook a field course during the September preceding the start of term.(18th-23rd September 2017). My year group of Geophysicists, and some mature students from Birkbeck College embarked on Marble Hill  Park, Twickenham. The aim was to undertake a survey of the surrounding area, in the hope of discovering, old drainage pipes, ancient Italian gardens and grottoes from the 1700s.

UCL IRDR Careers and Opportunities Fair, 28th Feb 2018

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career event

Careers and Opportunities in Risk and Disaster Reduction

Wednesday 28th February 2018, 5-8pm 

IRDR Seminar and Christmas Party 17.00 to 21.00 Tuesday 5th December 2017

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Seminar and Christmas party image

Seminar at UCL Main Campus: Anatomy Building G04 Gavin de Beer Lecture Theatre 17.00 to 18.00

Risks to national security: comparing apples and dragon fruit

ERC Starting Grant awarded to Dr Ingo Waldmann

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Dr Ingo Waldmann

Many congratulations to Dr Ingo Waldmann (Physics & Astronomy, UCL) who has recently been awarded a €1.5M European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for a project entitled: ExoAI - Deciphering super-Earths using artificial intelligence. The project will run for 5 years, starting in January 2018.

Launch of the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster, 7 March 2018

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  • Wednesday 7th March 2018, 18:00-21:00
  • Panel discussion: Wilkins Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, 18:00-19:30
  • Networking Reception: North Cloisters, 19:30 - 21:00
  • This event is open to the public and free to attend, but you need to register via eventbrite

IRDR Members and Alumni Dinner, 21 Nov 2017

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Alumni Dinner

7pm, Tuesday 21st November 2017, UCL Haldane Room

UCL IRDR staff, students, alumni and members are all cordially invited to the annual IRDR alumni dinner at 7pm on Tuesday 21st of November 2017. The theme of the dinner is “New Hazards and Communicating Risk” with a focus on Space Weather, in celebration of our new MSc programme Space Risks and Disaster Reduction.

UCL Humanitarian Institute Evening Conference Series on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

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HI Conference

Sustainable Development in the Himalaya

Friday 20th October 2017 18:00 to 21:00

UCL Humanitarian Institute Masterclass

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HI MSclass

The masterclasses are led by experts and practitioners from across UCL and our international collaborators.

IRDR Special Seminar: The future of risk auditing: catastrophe models in disaster risk reduction

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Catastrophe impacts

The global catastrophe insurance industry almost went out of business at the start of the 1990s. Catastrophe impacts are too just volatile to measure the average level of life loss or economic impacts from a few years or even a few decades of experience data. 

Size matters in the detection of exoplanet atmospheres

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Hot Jupiter exoplanets

A group-analysis of 30 exoplanets orbiting distant stars suggests that size, not mass, is a key factor in whether a planet’s atmosphere can be detected according to a UCL-led team of European researchers.

Cassini’s legacy and a final farewell

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Artist’s impression of Cassini in orbit at Saturn

Many researchers at the UCL/Birkbeck Centre for Planetary Sciences said a fond farewell to the Cassini spacecraft when it was plunged into Saturn on 15 September 2017, after 13 years of exploring the giant planet and its moons, leaving an enormous legacy of data.

Guest crater on the Moon

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John Guest

A crater on the Moon has been named after the late John Guest (1938-2012), a pioneer in volcanology and planetary science, who inspired generations of colleagues and students at UCL for over half a century. During his time at UCL, John established the emerging disciplines of planetary geology and physical volcanology and, in 1980, he founded the first NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility outside the USA. 

Building Resilience to Geohazards in the Face of Uncertainty

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China Debris

A conference on 'Building Resilience to Geohazards in the Face of Uncertainty' is going to be held in London (at the Geological Society) on 7-8 September 2017. For more details see below:

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