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Attenborough Opening K. Lonsdale Building

Kathleen Lonsdale Building Re-Opened by Sir David Attenborough.

Image: Sir David Attenborough with members of Earth Sciences Department.  View the image gallery of the event on UCL Flickr

Published: Apr 18, 2018 10:26:00 AM

The BBC BluePlanet

Newly discovered ocean plankton named after BBC Blue Planet.

Although measuring only thousandths of a millimetre, these plankton play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems as a crucial source of food for many ocean dwelling organisms. They are also incredibly valuable for studying the impact of climate change on ocean life now and across the previous 220 million years.
The plankton – called coccolithophores – are single cells surrounded by a calcite shell that varies drastically in shape across different species, acting as armour against predators.
“Although microscopic, the plankton are so abundant that they are visible from space as swirling blooms in the surface oceans, and form our most iconic rocks with their calcite forms making up the bulk of the white chalk cliffs and downs of southern England,” explained study co-author Professor Paul Bown.
It is the ability to produce this calcite shell that is being disrupted through ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a symptom of climate change whereby rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.
By studying fossilised plankton shells or ‘coccoliths’ in samples from drilling down deep into the ocean bed, scientists can map the impact of climate change and other global events over a very long period of time and use this to inform what might happen to in the future.


Published: Apr 17, 2018 6:26:00 PM


The Hotel Dos Rios - UCL Core Laboratory.

The sediments of the Ainsa Basin provide world-class rock outcrops and a natural laboratory in which to study ancient deep-marine sediments, the processes that led to their deposition, and the sedimentary environments in which they are found. Students and researchers come to Ainsa to learn about the composition of the sediments, the remains and tracks of life (both hard-bodied fossils and trace fossils, respectively) in what was a deep seaway connected to the opening North Atlantic Ocean (up to many hundreds of metres deep). They can also learn about the physical processes that led to the deposition of the sediments, the geometry of the deposits or beds, and the 3-D stacking patterns of the sediments, particularly the sandstones.

Published: Apr 10, 2018 10:26:00 AM

KLB Supergraphics

New department, new Head of Department

I will be taking over as Head of Department from Prof Lars Stixrude in July. While Lars will remain in charge during the next few months, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his efforts on behalf of this department. In particular, Lars and John Bowles (with the support of our Space Committee) have done a fantastic job of guiding this department through the difficult process of building renovation. Some of us moved into the finished west wing of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building last year, but it was not until January this year that the east wing was finished and we essentially came together as a united department in a single building. The east wing is particularly important to us because it contains our new teaching labs, with a combined capacity of around 90 people. More...

Published: Mar 26, 2018 10:26:00 AM

2018-03- Hazard Centre

News from the UCL Hazard Centre

Geochemical surveillance is essential for reducing risk at actively degassing volcanoes. Variations in concentration and compositions of gases can be indicators of magma ascent or changes in hydrothermal system dynamics, so monitoring is important for the timely detection of unrest. The gases themselves can also present a major health hazard, with impacts ranging from aggravation of respiratory conditions and skin inflammation, to asphyxiation and death. A key challenge for monitoring is that degassing can occur over large areas and concentrations can change rapidly. In an ideal scenario, networks of instruments capable of providing real-time information would be installed across the degassing area, but conventional methods are usually cost-prohibitive.

Published: Mar 18, 2018 10:26:00 AM

2018-03-Research Highlights -Moscow

Research Highlights - Polar Research.

This February I helped to organise a workshop for early career researchers in Moscow. The aim of the workshop was to facilitate collaborations between UK and Russian researchers in the Russian Arctic. This was especially important for me as a sea ice scientist; our work in the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at UCL would benefit from more data from the Russian Arctic.

Published: Mar 15, 2018 10:26:00 PM


Past Greenough President returns

The Greenough Club has been running since 1904; it is still going strong, with Hannah Simpson as its current President. A few weeks ago, the Club was very pleased to welcome back a Greenough President from earlier times – Dr Gordon Knox – who came to give a talk on Malta's Water Consumption: Local and Global Challenges. Gordon is now probably one of the oldest alumni with whom we are still in touch. He was a student in what was then the UCL Geology Department from 1965-1968, and was Greenough President in his final year. After leaving UCL, Gordon gained a PhD from Liverpool and then went on to a long career in international oil and gas exploration. More recently, he has developed a voluntary interest in Malta’s water situation and is a founder member of the Malta Water Association.

Published: Mar 9, 2018 10:26:00 AM

Nature study Deep Diamond With Perovskite

Deep into the Earth: diamonds and surficial carbon down to 800 km depth in the Earth’s lower mantle.

A team of geologists from Italy (University of Padova, University of Pavia and CNR-IGG Padova), Canada (University of British Columbia and University of Alberta), UK (University College London), and South Africa (University of Cape Town and Rhodes University) definitively proved what geophysicists indirectly predicted so far, i.e. the oceanic crust and surficial carbon can reach the lower mantle (below 660 km depth) by subduction processes.
The discovery, published in Nature was possible thanks to the study of a special “super-deep” diamond from the famous Cullinan mine (South Africa), where the world’s largest 3107-carats Cullinan diamond was found more than 140 years ago. In detail, the research team, including Dr Martha Pamato from the Department of Earth Sciences at UCL, discovered, the first natural CaSiO3 mineral with a perovskite crystal structure still trapped within the diamond. Many deep Earth scientists had predicted that this mineral would never be found at the Earth’s surface, even though there are zetta tonnes (1021 tonnes) of this material buried deep in the Earth. This very high-pressure form of calcium silicate (CaSiO3) can be stable only from about 600 km depth in Earth’s mantle, continuing to be stable right through the lower mantle. This specific inclusion within diamond shows a chemical composition which would indicate that the diamond formed at about 780 km depth in the Earth’s lower mantle and, at the same time, that the inclusion is derived from oceanic crust (see the cartoon). The research team analysed the carbon forming the diamond, and this indicates its surficial derivation. The discovery is the first definitive prove of oceanic crust and surficial carbon recycled by subduction into Earth’s lower mantle as predicted by seismic images and geodynamic modelling.


Published: Mar 8, 2018 10:26:00 AM

Anoxic Event 2 - uranium isotope study

Study shows oxygen loss could be a huge issue for oceans.

A major study from universities including UCL, Birkbeck, Otago, Exeter and Oxford into an ancient climate change event that impacted a significant percentage of Earth’s oceans has brought into sharp focus a lesser-known villain in global warming: oxygen depletion. More...

Published: Mar 5, 2018 10:26:00 AM


Departmental Research Seminars Series.

As an established research grouping hosted by the Departments of Earth Sciences at UCL and Birkbeck college, the LOGIC group (The London Geochemistry & Isotope Centre) has developed its seminar series as an opportunity to bring together researchers interested in the forefront of diverse fields of geochemistry to meet with each other and with colleagues from other institutions for scientific discussions.

Published: Feb 20, 2018 11:26:00 AM