UCL Earth Sciences


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Centre of learning & research discoveries, diverse student community, advanced laboratories infrastructure, public sector outreach, knowledge transfer with industry, engagement with government policies

Modern Earth Sciences is as dynamic and diverse as the planet itself.  We study everything from the origin of the Earth to the history of the life it sustains. We are an integrative, interdisciplinary, modern science, applying state-of-the-art maths, physics, chemistry and biology in order to better understand the Earth and other bodies in the solar system.

Update from Prof Paul Upchurch, Head of Department   

 At present, anyone strolling along Gower Place might struggle to realise that the Department of Earth Sciences is still there – the Kathleen Lonsdale Building is covered in boards and scaffolding while its exterior stonework is cleaned. But on the inside, things are looking good. We’ve all been co-located in the KLB for the best part of ten months now and, despite one or two of the inevitable snagging issues that follow a major refurbishment, morale is high and feelings are positive. Aside from our new facilities, we’ve had various items of good news since my last update. For example, although we did not quite get enough returns to be able to use the result officially, I’m delighted to report that we achieved a 95% satisfaction rating in the most recent National Student Survey (second highest score for any department at UCL). Several members of staff have obtained major grants, and John Bowles (in charge of technical staff and Safety) has just been awarded a BEAMS professional Services prize for his contribution to the KLB refurbishment. And, after years of concern and waiting, the Bloomsbury Environmental Isotope Facility is moving to Earth Sciences and will have some of its key pieces of equipment upgraded.

One of the tasks we’ve been carrying out is to look at our papers since 2014 in order to identify those that we will submit for the next Research Excellence Framework. I mention this not to bore you with the technical details, but as a way of saying that I’ve recently had the opportunity to survey the research activity across the Department. This has involved reading the papers of colleagues who work in fields very different from my own, and it has ben fascinating and encouraging to see the shear diversity and high quality of the research carried out here. Topics include:  monitoring current ice cover in polar regions; insights into the composition of the Earth’s core; the earliest evidence for life on Earth; driving forward  policy change and public understanding on the climate change front; measuring and ameliorating the effects of ground-water pollution;  improved understanding and mitigation of geophysical hazards; the impact of past climate change on the evolution of planktonic organisms; major environmental and ecosystem events preceding and during the Cambrian Explosion;  and, dare I say slightly immodestly, a new dinosaur or two! So, if you do pass us by on Gower Place at the moment – remember, there’s a lot going on under all that scaffolding and boarding. 

Kathleen Lonsdale reopening with Sir David Attenborough

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We are very proud to be in the building named after Dame Kathleen Lonsdale – the colocation is a major transformation for us with new teaching, laboratory and social places provisions.

Research Spotlight: Dr Ana Ferreira

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I study deep Earth structure and earthquake source processes to obtain an integrated understanding of the processes controlling the dynamic behaviour of our planet from the surface down to the lowermost mantle.

Student Spotlight: Omar Fernandez

Omar Regalado Fernandez

"The biomechanics behind how a hand became a foot in sauropodomorph dinosaurs"


Reseach Spotlight: Dr Phillip Pogge von Strandmann

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The climate must be relatively constrained. It can't change too much, otherwise life would go extinct and there must be some mechanism that prevents the climate going completely crazy.

Research Spotlight: Prof Bridget Wade

Prof Bridget Wade

Bridget uses microfossils and their chemistry to determine patterns of evolution and extinction, ancient marine temperatures, productivity levels, global ice volume and sea level fluctuations. Her research has been international in scope, involving fieldwork in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico.

Lunch Hour Lecture: Are we waking up the sleeping Arctic Ocean?

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Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at more than twice the global average rate. As the sea ice cover retreats, there is a radiation imbalance and a modification of the Arctic Ocean circulation, and as the atmosphere and ocean come into direct contact, exchanges of heat and momentum will potentially be transformed. Dr Michel Tsamados will discuss the implications for the Arctic climate system and beyond.

Geobus outreach programme


GeoBus is a free outreach programme run out of the Earth Science department of UCL. We aim to bring engaging, hands-on sessions to school students in and around London. We want to inspire the next generation of Earth scientists by instilling in them a spark of curiosity and wonder for the world around them.

Research Spotlight: Dr Pieter Vermeesch

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A brief introduction to U-Pb, (U-Th)/He and fission track geochronology and thermochronology - Pieter Vermeesch, talks about the research at UCL's London Geochronology Centre.

Department History: The Kathleen Londsdale building

Kathleen Lonsdale

If we look right back to one of the very founding fathers of College itself, George B.Greenough, whose name our Student Society proudly bears to this day, we can trace our roots as far back as the 19th century.

Student Spotlight: Lisa Fuellenbach

Lisa Fuellenbach

“Understanding the mechanisms of heavy metal immobilisation is essential to expedite sustainable remediation of polluted sites. ”


Fieldtrip Highlight: Ries impact crater

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Asteroid and comet collisions have shaped the surface of the Earth – this fieldtrip gives students to opportunity to study impact geology of such event that occured ~14.5 million years ago. 

Outreech Event: Earth Science Week

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The event attracted a large number of visitors interested in the rocks, minerals and fossils that we have exhibited. This was a hands-on exhibition where visitors were encouraged to examine the specimens themselves and check them out under the scope. Earth Science Week initiative, organised by the Geological Society, is an annual international celebration of the geology all around us.

World's oldest fossil discovered here

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Research led by Dr Dominic Papineau & Matt Dodd provide direct evidence for one of the oldest life forms on Earth - fossilized remains of microorganisms that are at least 3,770 million years old. These discoveries demonstrate life developed on Earth at a time when Mars and Earth had liquid water at their surfaces, posing exciting questions for extra-terrestrial life.

Student Spotlight: Kate Laxton  
Kate Laxton

“ Volcanoes, like pets, cause mischief and need constant supervision.”


Soapbox Science - Contributing to woman in science.

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What two iron bolts, apple and polystyrene sphere have in common? They are all part of the public outreach presentation on studies of the interior of the smallest planet in our solar system, Mercury.

Fieldtrip Higlight: Pyrenees Fieldtrip 2017

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The field provides a natural laboratory where students can learn. Many students find fieldwork one of the most enjoyable parts of their undergraduate career. Fieldwork is an essential component of study across all of our degree programmes in Earth Sciences.

Student Spotlight: Mark Jefferd

Mark Jefferd

“Squashing and heating Sandstone to see what happens.”


Student Spotlight: Paul Minton

Paul Minton
“Using microfossils to provide insights into long-term, seemingly gradual, climate change.”


December 2017
March 2018

Department history
Geology at UCL - a brief history.

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