Postgraduate research opportunities 

Geology PhD/MLitt/MSc (Research)

Cracked soil in water

NERC Funded PhD Studentships: IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership

Self funded opportunities

The physical and chemical interaction between legacy steel slag and lake water

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald

Aim

This project will investigate the physical and chemical interaction between legacy steel slag and lake water, where the slag has been dumped into a lake.

Rationale of the project

Worldwide, it is estimated that steelmaking produces up to 250 million tonnes of waste slag per year. Slag was, until the last few decades, dumped in heaps with little or no subsequent remediation.  Previous research has shown that interaction of rainwater with these subaerially exposed legacy slag heaps facilitates release of ecotoxic metals (such as Cr, As, V and Pb) into surrounding streams. However, in some instances, steel slag has been dumped directly into standing water (lakes). The degree of physical and chemical interaction between slag and the water was dumped into has not been studied and will control the extent of ecotoxic metal release into the lake.

Methods

At the former Glengarnock Steelworks in North Ayrshire, Scotland, steel slag was dumped into Kilbirnie Loch between the 1850s and 1980s. During this period, the size of the loch decreased by around a quarter. In order to investigate the interaction of slag and lake water, samples of water will be taken from the lake surface as well as sediment from lake shore and slag from the slag heap which is exposed above the lake level. A range of petrographic and geochemical analytical techniques will be applied to the samples in this project, including optical and SEM petrography, XRD, ICP-OES and ICP-MS.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or environmental chemistry background with an interest in pollution. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in a range of analytical techniques and familiarity with aspects of pollution science. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in environmental monitoring and management.

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

Figure 1. Kilbirnie Loch (left) and slag on the lake shore (right).

How is atmospheric CO2 captured by steel slag?

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald (john.macdonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk), Dr. Luke Daly

Aim:

This project will investigate the crystallinity and crystallography of calcite which has precipitated during sequestration of atmospheric CO2 by steel slag.

Rationale of the project

Steel slag is the waste product from steel manufacturing. It is usually dumped in heaps open to the atmosphere. Similar to ultramafic rocks, steel slag is dominated by minerals with divalent metals cations and is highly reactive. This results in carbonation of the slag – the divalent metal cations in the slag minerals react with atmospheric carbon dioxide and precipitate carbonate minerals such as calcite on the surface of the slag pieces or in the pore spaces. As this chemical reaction captures CO2 from the atmosphere, it has attracted attention as a possible method for sequestering atmospheric COand therefore potentially mitigate the effects of climate change.

Methods

Samples of carbonated steel slag will be collected and cut into polished blocks and polished thin sections. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis will be conducted to determine the crystallinity of the precipitated calcite, and to quantify the crystal size, shape and structure as well as any crystallographic orientation relationships with other minerals within the slag. The EBSD data will then be compared with µCT analysis and crystallographic modelling to investigate the way the calcite crystals have grown through the reaction between the slag and atmospheric CO2.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or chemistry background with a strong interest in climate change and its mitigation. Laboratory experience is desirable - particularly use of SEM - and a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in advanced SEM techniques and familiarity with industrial residues and the opportunities they present. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in a discipline relevant to climate change.

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

Figure 1. Carbonated slag (left); micro-computed tomography model of calcite in a piece of slag (right).

Cement Waste Carbonation for Carbon Capture

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald (john.macdonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk)

Aim

This project will investigate the natural capture of carbon dioxide by a legacy cement waste heap.

Rationale of the project

Cement manufacture involves smelting raw materials (predominantly limestone and clay) in a furnace at ~2000 °C which produces gravel- to cobble-sized cement clinker, which is subsequently ground up to become cement powder. Some clinker may be discarded for quality-control reasons and has historically been dumped in heaps around cement works. The clinker is composed of highly reactive minerals (this is what gives cement its desired properties), which are far from equilibrium in the natural environment and, similar to other industrial smelting products like steel slag, react with atmospheric CO2 to precipitate calcium carbonate (calcite). This reaction, which draws down atmospheric CO2, merits further investigation as it may present an opportunity to limit or reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations which are increasing global temperatures. In order to address the feasibility of this, various questions need to be addressed such as how much CO2 could waste cement clinker sequester, and what are the mechanics of the calcite precipitation.

Methods

Samples of cement clinker have been collected from a former cement works near Wishaw in Scotland. A small cliff section through a bank of partially ground discarded clinker shows irregular layering and a range of textures. Photography and logging of this cliff will provide context to subsequent petrographic and XRD analysis to determine the mineralogy. µCT analysis will be conducted on samples to determine the spatial distribution and volume of calcite which has precipitated on the clinker.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or chemistry background with a strong interest in climate change and its mitigation. Laboratory experience is desirable and a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in advanced SEM techniques and familiarity with industrial residues and the opportunities they present. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in a discipline relevant to climate change or environmental management.

Figure 1. Section through a waste cement deposit (left) and a close-up of calcite precipitated on the cement clinker (right).

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

The effect of crystallinity on the distribution and release of ecotoxic metals from steel slag

Supervisor: Dr. John MacDonald (john.macdonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk), Dr. Luke Daly

Aim

This project will investigate the degree of crystallinity in steel slag, and its spatial variation within lumps of slag relative to ecotoxic metal distribution.

Rationale of the project

Worldwide, it is estimated that steelmaking produces up to 250 million tonnes of waste slag per year. Slag was, until the last few decades, dumped in heaps with little or no subsequent remediation.  Previous research has shown that interaction of rainwater with these subaerially exposed legacy slag heaps facilitates release of ecotoxic metals (such as Cr, As, V and Pb) into surrounding streams. Slag is generated in a furnace at >1000 °C and is rapidly quenched when dumped in a heap. The effect of this quenching on the crystallinity of the minerals that make up the slag, and the ecotoxic trace elements they contain, is not known. Low-crystallinity or amorphous areas are more likely to undergo rapid dissolution and therefore release ecotoxic metals into the environment more rapidly than more crystalline areas. In crystalline regions, the host phase of these elements will determine their susceptibility to weathering. This project may inform quenching protocols for slags to promote sequestration in environmentally robust mineral phases.

Methods

Samples of steel slag from legacy slag heaps at various locations in Scotland and/or Northern England will be collected. Thin sections will be prepared for electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis on a scanning electron microscope; this will determine crystalline and amorphous domains within the slag. Solution inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) of these different domains will determine whether ecotoxic metals are concentrated in low crystallinity or amorphous areas, and which specific mineral phases ecotoxic metals are sequestered into in more crystalline regions.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geoscience or environmental chemistry background with an interest in pollution. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in a range of analytical techniques and familiarity with aspects of pollution science. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in environmental monitoring and management.

Figure 1. Hand specimen (left) and thin section (right) of steel slag.

Interested applicants should contact Dr. John MacDonald at: John.MacDonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk

Evolution of the western Carboniferous Midland Valley Basin, Scotland

Supervisors: Dr Cristina Persano, Dr Amanda Owen, Dr Iain Neill
Project aim:

The aim of this project is to quantitatively reconstruct the source of Carboniferous sediments in the western portion of the Midland Valley and constrain the basin’s thermal evolution since its deposition. Data from this area will be integrated into a wider project based at the University of Glasgow to better understand the Carboniferous Midland Valley and its potential as an unconventional resource basin, including oil and geothermal energy.

Project rationale:

To date, the Carboniferous of the Midland Valley of Scotland has received considerably less attention than its Devonian counterpart. Carboniferous sedimentation and associated volcanism occurred in response to crustal extension, and the nature and source of sedimentary materials represents a delicate balance between tectonic processes operating both locally and across NW Europe, and sea level change. The Midland Valley has provided important sources of coal, aggregate and limestone which fuelled Scotland’s industrial revolution, and is today the source of much interest for low-enthalpy geoenergy resources close to our main towns and cities (eg.Potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland).

Although a stratigraphic framework is in place, detailed sedimentological and geochronological data is generally lacking due to urbanisation and a lack of outcrops being present in the central portion of the Midland Valley leading to gaps in knowledge. However, access to unique core from drilling associated with the Dalmarnock UK Geoenergy Observatories programme will shed light onto this economically significant basin through new geochronological and sedimentological studies.

In this project, quantified facies mapping techniques, zircon U-Pb dating and apatite fission track analyses will help understand fundamental scientific questions of the Scottish Carboniferous: whether a dominantly axial or transverse sediment routing system was present, the key source areas for sediment supply, and the post-depositional thermal history. Our group have already commenced work on the eastern Midland Valley, but for the first time we have an opportunity to continue this work in the western part of the basin. All aspects of these questions are critically important for this basin due to its economic significance as it is currently being explored to assess its viability as a geothermal resource. The approaches taken within this study will not only serve to answer questions specific to this basin but also serve as a methodological approach to resource (i.e. coal, shale gas, geothermal) identification, reservoir connectivity, and prediction of the best targets for exploitation in other under-utilized basins across the world.

Methods

The work is organized into two parts which interact and feedback on each other. The rock core will be fully logged by the student, its sedimentary characteristics and structures will then be used to quantitatively characterise facies to generate robust palaeogeographic interpretations. The portions of the sedimentary core allotted to Glasgow will undergo extensive petrographic investigations, and those, coupled with the logs, will guide a sampling strategy for the recovery of zircon and apatite grains. Apatites will undergo U-Pb dating and fission track analysis at the University of Glasgow, whilst entire zircon populations will undergo U-Pb dating and trace element analysis using laser ablation mass spectrometry, again at the University of Glasgow. The U-Pb ages will provide insights onto the provenance of the sediments, whereas the fission track data will constrain the thermal evolution of the basin.

The student will then integrate the different datasets in combination with regional data to produce a paleogeographic model for the western portion of the Carboniferous Midland Valley, which will then be integrated into ongoing work in our group to build a robust understanding of the origins and thermal history of this economically significant sedimentary basin.

Please note that there is a £1000 programme cost due from the student. This cost partially covers the student’s expenses to visit Nottingham for core sampling, for laboratory preparation, sample analysis, and subsequent conference/workshop presentations.

Knowledge background of the student

You must have a 2:1 in a relevant Geoscience degree. You must be enthusiastic about working in a laboratory and attentive to the Health and Safety procedures. You must be able to work independently, effectively managing your project, but also be part of the research team and work alongside other lab users, including postgraduate students and research fellows, in a vibrant, international environment.

Career prospects

Due to the multidisciplinary aspects to this project the chosen student will gain a host of skills. Research based skills including scientific writing, presentation (poster and oral) and outreach skills will be gained as part of this project. Scientific skills include training in logging of sedimentary core, quantitative facies analyses, U/Pb analysis of zircons and apatite fission track analyses, involving training in sample preparation and laser ablation mass spectrometry. Such skill sets are relevant for a future career in both industry (such as geothermal, oil and gas and mining) and academia (PhD programmes).

You will be eligible to attend a range of study- and career-enhancing workshops as part of their postgraduate training at the University of Glasgow.

Delivery of water to early Earth by the carbonaceous chondrite meteorites

Supervisor: Prof Martin Lee, Dr Ben Cohen, Dr Lydia Hallis

Project aim:

This project asks whether the Earth’s hydrosphere could have come from outer space via the impacts of water-rich meteorites. The focus of this work will be on analysing the abundance and hydrogen isotopic composition of water in Mighei-like carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. These rocks contain ~9% water, and come to Earth from outer parts of the asteroid belt. These meteorites are the focus of much current attention given that both NASA and the Japanese space agency have missions to collect and return samples of carbonaceous chondrite asteroids.

Project rationale:

The Mighei-like (CM) carbonaceous chondrite meteorites contain water that is hosted mainly within phyllosilicate minerals such as serpentine. These rocks could therefore be the mechanism by which extraterrestrial water was delivered to the surface of the early Earth (i.e., after it had cooled following its initial formation). However, not all CM carbonaceous chondrites contain the same amount of water, and this project focuses on those that have been heated prior to falling to Earth. This heating is believed to have taken place within their parent asteroid, and was responsible for driving off much of their original water. The nature and timing of this heating are both unknown, but are critical for understanding the potential flux of extraterrestrial water to Earth.

Methods

We have a large collection of CM carbonaceous chondrites, most loaned by NASA. The petrography, mineralogy and chemical composition of these rocks will be characterised by scanning electron microscopy, and their water content and hydrogen isotopic compositions will be measured by stepped pyrolysis at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.

Knowledge background of the student

The project is suitable for a graduate with a good honours degree in geology or Earth science.

Career prospects

This project will equip the student with skills in mineralogy and geochemistry, which could lead to employment in areas such as extractive industries or environmental management. There are also many opportunities for PhD research in planetary science in the UK and internationally.

Speleothems in Scottish sea caves: A new tool for determining the chronologies of climate change and isostatic rebound

Supervisors: Prof Martin Lee, Dr Derek Fabel, Dr Cristina Persano, Dr John Faithfull

Project aim:

The aims of this project are to assess whether speleothems that have been recently discovered in sea caves on the west coast of Scotland are a new archive of information on regional tectonic and environmental histories. Specifically the project asks whether they can be used to determine: (i) when the caves formed; (ii) when the caves were isostatically lifted above sea level; (iii) whether the influx of meteoric water into the caves has changed in response to climatic fluctuations.

Project rationale:

Caves formed by the dissolution of limestone commonly contain calcite speleothems, which are very important archives of information on climate change. Speleothems would not be expected to occur in caves within rocks other than limestone, but recently we have found stalactites in a cave on Iona, which has formed by marine erosion of metamorphic rocks. This discovery in itself needs an explanation, including the source of calcium to produce the speleothem. The Iona discovery also however shows that speleothems are not restricted to areas containing limestone, and so this climate proxy can be used far more widely than previously thought. Intriguingly, the speleothems in sea caves on Iona and elsewhere along the west coast of Scotland may also be used to constrain the timescale of isostatic rebound because they can only have started to form when the caves were sufficiently far above sea level.

Methods

Speleothems have been collected from the Iona cave, but additional fieldwork will be required to find other examples. The growth histories of the speleothems will be determined by studying thin sections using light and scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray microanalysis. Various layers within them will then be dated by laser ablation ICP-MS.

Knowledge background of the student

The project is suitable for a graduate with a good honours degree in geology, Earth science or physical geography.

Career prospects

This project will equip the student with skills in mineralogy, geochemistry and environmental science, which could lead to employment in areas such as extractive industries or environmental management, or a PhD position.

Quantifying the mineralogical controls on precious metal enrichment in the Rum layered intrusion, NW Scotland

Supervisors: Dr Joshua F. Einsle, Dr John Faithfull, Dr Brian O’Driscoll (University of Manchester), and Dr Daniel Lonsdale (LIG Nanowise)

Project aim:

The Rum layered mafic intrusion (NW Scotland) provides an excellent opportunity for studying the processes by which platinum group metals (PGM) are mobilised and enriched during precious metal ore formation. Connecting the magmatic processes that operated in the Rum body with other economically significant layered intrusions relies on being able to quantitatively contextualise multiscale data to reveal the full complexity of the PGM mineral assemblage and distribution.  By combining advanced microscopy and microanalysis techniques with machine learning tools, this project will provide a statistically quantitative approach to understanding the PGM mineralisation in the Rum intrusion.  Working from the field and hand sample scales down to the grain scale, this project will look to correlate optical information (sub-micrometre optical microscopy and Raman mapping) with electron beam microanalysis to develop an efficient workflow for locating and describing nanoscale PGM grains in samples, while simultaneously preserving large scale context. This should result in a flexible tools set suitable for studying other energy critical element orebodies.

Project rationale:

Platinum group metals (PGM) are of increasing global importance due to their role in the automotive and electronics industries.  This demand drives a need to not only understand existing resources but investigate methods for enhanced recovery of PGM from previously extracted ore; a prospect whose economic viability depends on metal price(s). Interestingly, most of these reserves are associated with layered igneous intrusions, where chromite layers are enriched in PGM.

This project will leverage the strong lithological and structural similarities between the Rum Layered Suite and the world’s most productive PGM resource (the Bushveld Complex, South Africa) to help develop a holistic model for PGM enrichment in chromite more generally. As Rum is considerably younger and smaller, it should preserve valuable primary magmatic (chemical, textural) signatures which are not present in the Bushveld body. This makes Rum a valuable locality to examine PGM distribution and develop new approaches to the quantitative characterisation of the phases that control the distribution of the metals.  Previous efforts to map out these features using quantitative automated mineralogy tools on the electron microscope have been limited by the trade-off between automation throughput versus spatial resolution1.

This project looks to apply correlative approaches using optical and electron microscopy combined with machine learning to produce statistically robust datasets describing the diversity and distribution of the mineral phases of interest. The advanced statistical approach to the correlative methods developed in this project will be generalisable for localising and identifying of other rare element grains in a range of geological settings.

Methods

This project will involve the student working on materials from the Isle of Rum. This can focus entirely on archived samples (e.g. materials in the Hunterian and previously collected materials) or fieldwork can be organised for acquiring fresh specimens. In order to understand the PGM enrichment process, the petrography, mineralogy and chemical composition of thin sections samples will be characterised by developing a correlative workflow moving from hand specimen to thin section (optical microscopy) and then onto the scanning electron scope utilizing x-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS; at the University of Glasgow).

Analysing the EDS maps with open source machine learning tools2,3 will produce quantitative phase maps which can be explored for both PGM phases as well as textural relationships revealed through the phase maps. These statistically derived mineral phase relationships will be used to derive statistically robust datasets based on the full range of grain sizes down to the nanoscale which are connected across multiple thin sections.

Further, the data driven localisation of PGM grains will be used to inform optical inspection techniques (leveraging advanced nanooptics developed by LIG Nanowise) and look at developing an efficient process for inverting this workflow. There is also scope to explore applications of electron backscatter diffraction and/or x-ray tomography in understanding PGM enrichment growth processes. We envisage that the workflows and analytical methods developed here will be redeployable across a broad range of geological applications in petrology, mineralogy and beyond.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a background in geosciences, computer and or data science, or the physical sciences. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. The student will become familiar with scanning electron microscope, energy dispersive spectroscopy, nanooptics and data science methods. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This project will equip the student with skills in mineralogy, microscopy and microanalysis as well as data science techniques. This could lead to several possible roles in the microscopy industry, materials science, data science and the mineral resource/extractive industries or a PhD position. Partnership with LIG Nanowise will provide industrial experience for the student and provide useful insight into differences between commercial and research approaches.

References
  1. O’Driscoll, B., Butcher, A. R. & Latypov, R. New insights into precious metal enrichment on the Isle of Rum, Scotland. Geol. Today 30, 134–141 (2014).
  2. Einsle, J. F. et al. All Mixed Up: Using Machine Learning to Address Heterogeneity in (Natural) Materials. Microsc. Microanal.24, 562–563 (2018)
  3. Peña, F. de la et al. HyperSpy 1.1.2. (2017). doi:10.5281/ZENODO.240660

Data driven approaches for unmixing meteoritic magnetic mineralogy

Supervisors: Dr Joshua F. Einsle, Prof Martin Lee, Dr Ian MacLaren, Dr Alex Eggeman (Manchester)

Project aim:

The proposed project will leverage big data techniques to analyse complex crystallographic and chemical data of magnetic minerals from iron-nickel meteorites.  The magnetic properties of the ‘cloudy zone’, a nanoscale iron-nickel intergrowth, are of interest since it both records the magnetic history of the proto-planet (planetesimal) where the. Application of data deconvolution techniques like clustering have revealed a complex chemical and crystallographic environment.

The project will look at testing these results by examining the composition and crystallography from a series of iron-nickel meteorites displaying different cooling histories.  By mapping out the microstructures throughout the thermodynamic phase space, it will be possible to better constrain planetesimal cooling rates and develop a better understanding for the low-temperature synthesis of these Fe-Ni alloys.

Project rationale:

Rare-earth permanent magnets play a critical role in green technologies such as wind turbines and electric vehicles1–4.  These elements are mainly sourced from a limited number of countries, many of which suffer from complex political situations. A desire for secure and ethical materials drives a strong global interest in developing low cost alternatives for permanent magnetic materials. 

Recently, Goto et al5 have developed a low-temperature laboratory based method for the synthesis of the ordered iron-nickel alloy, tetrataenite.  This alloy naturally forms of years allows for diffusion to form a nanoscale intergrowth called the cloudy zone 6,7. The finest region of the cloudy zone possesses a high magnetic coercively due to the 50 nm (or less) particles of tetrataenite being magnetically aligned and surrounded by a different ordered Fe-Ni alloy matrix. These properties provide a natural analogue to rare-earth permanent magnet materials.

The synthetic process above can only be optimised through a better understanding of the low temperature phase space recorded in the cloudy zone microstructures of meteorites with different cooling rates. These experiments will build on the recently reported data driven approaches for examining these nanoscale mineral phases but extend them in two critical methods7. Using the direct electron detector on the MagTEM microscope in the Kelvin Centre for Nanotechnology (KNC)-Glasgow we will be able to undertake high-resolution electron diffraction experiments exploring the chemical ordering in the matrix. Additionally, Lorentz mode convergent beam diffraction patterns allow for the mapping of sample magnetization.

Further, there is scope to extend the analytical techniques at KNC, by correlating measurements with the atomic resolution elemental mapping available at SuperSTEM. Using the correlative microanalysis tools, all three data sets can be overlaid and analysed in parallel to understand how chemistry and crystal structure in the two phases produce the magnetic behaviour of the cloudy zone. This will extend the correlative microanalysis framework by incorporating functional properties of the material studied.

Methods

The cloudy zone of Fe-Ni meteorites consists of two similar cubic crystal structures with similar chemical compositions. As such data deconvolution approaches have been critical to understanding how these two phases formed as the parent body cooled.  This project will focus on developing correlative data science approaches for examining spectroscopic and crystallographic data in parallel allowing covariance in data sets to be revealed. Studies will be conducted on archived meteorite samples. The collection of new data sets will be facilitated training in electron microscopy techniques. Then analysis will be performed using open source Python based packages, such as Hyperspy, and Scikit-learn.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a background in geosciences, computer and or data science, or the physical sciences. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. The student will become familiar with electron microscopy and microanalysis (both crystallographic and spectroscopic techniques). The focus will be on the application and further development of data science approaches to the analysis of microanalytical data. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This project will equip the student with skills in mineralogy, microscopy and microanalysis as well as data science techniques. This could lead to several possible roles in the materials science (including renewable technologies) and microscopy fields, as well as space exploration, data science and the mineral resource/extractive industries or a PhD position.

References:
  1. Grandell, L. et al. Role of critical metals in the future markets of clean energy technologies. Renew. Energy 95, 53–62 (2016).
  2. Riba, J.-R., López-Torres, C., Romeral, L. & Garcia, A. Rare-earth-free propulsion motors for electric vehicles: A technology review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 57, 367–379 (2016).
  3. Widmer, J. D., Martin, R. & Kimiabeigi, M. Electric vehicle traction motors without rare earth magnets. Sustain. Mater. Technol. 3, 7–13 (2015).
  4. Lewis, L. H. et al. Inspired by nature: investigating tetrataenite for permanent magnet applications. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 26, 064213 (2014).
  5. Goto, S. et al. Synthesis of single-phase L10-FeNi magnet powder by nitrogen insertion and topotactic extraction. Sci. Rep. 7, 1–7 (2017).
  6. Bryson, J. F. J. et al. Long-lived magnetism from solidification-driven convection on the pallasite parent body. Nature 517, 472–475 (2015).
  7. Einsle, J. F. et al. Nanomagnetic properties of the meteorite cloudy zone. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 115, (2018).

The composition and pollution implications of waste materials from historic paper making

Supervisor:Dr. John MacDonald

Project aim:

This project will investigate the composition and pollution implications of waste materials from historic paper making, using a case study site at Milngavie, Scotland.

Project rationale:

Modern papermaking adheres to strict environmental regulations but historical papermaking processes led to dumping of waste by-products which have implications for environmental pollution. Paper mill sludge, as the main waste product is referred to, is a water-saturated fine material which was dumped in heaps or ponds and dried out over time leaving a fine powdery deposit. This material can increase alkalinity in surrounding soils and watercourses, while ecotoxic metals can be liberated to the wider environment through leaching. One such historical paper mill where this paper mill sludge is still extant is located at Milngavie, northwest of Glasgow. This site is a good case study for investigating the composition of the paper mill sludge and potential pollution to surrounding watercourses.

Methods

Field survey including construction of a DEM of the sludge’s upper surface will map out the distribution of the paper mill sludge on the former paper mill site and give context to the subsequent analysis. Excavation and/or coring of sections through the waste heap will allow determination of any internal structure or variation, and the lead (Pb) content of the sediments will be used to construct a chronology of sludge deposition (by comparison with a well-dated industrial pollution chronology from nearby Loch Lomond).

Samples of paper mill sludge obtained from the stratigraphic sections will then be analysed using XRD and ICP-MS to determine their chemical composition and their variability across the site. Microscopy will enable textural characterisation of the waste powder. Water samples will be obtained from the adjacent Allander Water and a pond which was formerly used to power the paper mill. These will be analysed by ICP-OES/ICP-MS to determine the extent of pollution with ecotoxic metals. All datasets will be integrated to build a picture of the history of waste production at the site and any potential pollution concerns.

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a background in geosciences, environmental science, or analytical chemistry. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This project will equip the student with knowledge and skills that are appropriate for a career in environmental monitoring/management.

Geological history of an unknown protoplanet: The Ureilite meteorites

Supervisors: Dr Luke Daly, Prof Martin Lee

Project aim:

The Ureilite meteorites are an enigma as we do not know what parent planet they originated from. This project aims to determine the geological history of the Ureilite meteorites to aid in the search for their parent body/bodies.

Project rationale:

The Ureilite meteorites are an anomalous type of achondrite meteorite. They represent igneous rocks from a differentiated planetesimal, one that was large enough to separate into a core, mantle and crust, potentially as large as Mercury or Mars. There are however, no good candidates in our solar system for the source of the Ureilite meteorites and it is not clear that they come from the same body at all.

The Ureilite meteorites are interesting as they are rich in carbon that is concentrated in diamonds, that could have formed during intense shock metamorphism during planetary break up or during long-lived high pressure metamorphism in a planetary mantle. A comparative study of the petrography and deformation histories of these meteorites is vital to understand the formation evolution and destruction of planetesimals in our Solar System.

Methods

Urelite meteorites have been aquired from the Smithsonian Institute. The petrography, mineralogy and chemical composition of meteorite samples will be characterised by scanning electron microscopy techniques in particular electron backscatter diffraction to unpick their deformation history/histories derived from thermal and shock metamorphism.

Additional programme cost: £1,000

Knowledge background of the student

The project is suitable for a graduate with a good honours degree in geology, Earth science or materials science. Laboratory experience is desirable - particularly use of SEM - and a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by research project will equip the student with skills in mineralogy, crystallography and geochemistry. Additionally, this MSc by research project will give the student experience in advanced SEM techniques and handling big datasets. These skills could lead to employment in areas such as extractive industries or environmental management. There are also many opportunities for PhD research in planetary science in the UK and internationally.

Bubbling Over – Computer Simulations of Lava Lake Convection

Supervisor: Tobias Keller

Project aim:

You will characterise the dynamics of convection for active lava lakes around the world by means of custom-built computer simulations. The aim is to better understand the flow of lava driven by bubbles of volcanic gas through the plumbing system of persistently active volcanoes.

Project rationale:

Lava lakes provide a rare window into the plumbing system of volcanoes. A recent study  Lev et al., 2019, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2019.04.010.] has synthesised observations on the handful of currently active lava lakes world-wide and found a correlation between the observed flux of volcanic gas through the lake surface and the speed of lava flowing along it. The observed flow regimes vary between slow, plate-like creep and fast, churning flow.

Our current understanding is that the mode of convection depends on the chemistry, and temperature of the lava, on the geometry of the lake bed and the conduit feeding into it, and on the flux of volcanic gas passed through the system. The gas derives from exsolution of volatiles deeper down in the conduit and forms bubbles entrained in the lava. However, the relative importance of each factor remains unclear. A recent modelling study [Birnbaum et al., preprint, arXiv.org: 1907.02899] has developed computer simulations that can help to unravel the internal dynamics of lava lakes. You will extend this promising approach to study all currently active lava lakes world-wide.

Methods

You will extend a custom-built multi-phase flow simulator to test how lava lake convection driven by buoyant bubbles of volcanic gas depends on factors including lava crystallinity as a function of its chemistry and temperature, the geometry of the lake bed and conduit, and the influx of gas from deeper down.

You will systematically test a range of model parameters and analyse the resulting output to find overarching trends and systematic flow regimes that help explain the internal dynamics of convecting lava lakes.

Finally, you will compare your findings to observational records of surface flow speed and gas flux from currently active lava lakes and discuss what insights the simulations can reveal about these complex natural systems. The simulation code is written in Matlab and has been tested on a limited parameter range. You will have the opportunity to implement additional code features and develop post-processing scripts to analyse output. If your prior coding experience is limited you will be given sufficient training to accomplish these tasks.

Additional programme cost: £1,000

Knowledge background of the student

You will have a background either in Earth Sciences, Geology, or Geophysics, with an interest in computer modelling, or a degree in Physics, Applied Math, or Engineering, with an interest in Geology and Volcanology. Basic skills in Matlab or similar language are desirable.

Career prospects

This project will help you develop skills in quantitative analysis, numerical modelling, code development, and project management. These skill are essential for pursuing a career in academic research, but also valuable for related industrial, engineering, or public service careers.

Onwards and Upwards – Modelling Gravitational Stability of Magma Mush

Supervisor: Tobias Keller

Project aim:

You will characterise the gravitational stability and diapiric rise of magma lenses in crustal mush bodies by means of custom-built computer simulations. The aim is to better understand the time and length scales of magma ascent and intrusion in the mid to upper crust.

Project rationale:

Magma ascending from sources in the upper mantle is either emplaced as plutonic rocks or erupted at active volcanoes. The processing of magma through the crust remains poorly understood, but observations point towards the existence of vertically extensive bodies of crystal-rich magma mush, within which transient melt-rich magma lenses can form [Cashman et al., 2017, doi: 10.1126/science.aag3055.]. These magma lenses can become gravitationally unstable and rise as diapirs into overlying crustal layers.

The time and length scales of magma ascent are likely controlled by the chemistry and temperature of the magma, the deformational properties of the surrounding crust, and the flux of magma fed from the melt source beneath. As these processes are inaccessible to direct observation, many aspects remain unresolved. This project is based on a recent study [Seropian et al., 2018, doi: 10.1029/2018JB015523.] that combines analogue modelling and mathematical analysis to elucidate the gravitational stability of magma lenses in mush bodies.

You will complement the ongoing analogue modelling efforts of collaborators at the University of Bristol by means of custom-built numerical simulations. 

Methods

You will use simulations of magma flow and rock deformation to test how the gravitational stability of magma lenses depends on the deformational properties of magma mush and wall rock, the structure of the crust, and the flux of melt from sources below.

You will reproduce analogue model results to benchmark the code before scaling simulations up from laboratory to crustal scales. You will systematically test model parameters and analyse the results to identify pertinent length and time scales of magma ascent that help explain the internal dynamics of crustal magma processing.

Finally, you will compare your findings to observational records of plutonic rock complexes, crustal tomography, and volcanic output. The simulation code is written in Matlab and has been tested on a limited parameter range.

You will have the opportunity to implement additional code features and develop post-processing scripts to analyse output. If your prior coding experience is limited you will be given sufficient training to accomplish the required tasks. You will regularly communicate with Prof. Alison Rust (Bristol), who leads the analogue modelling efforts this study relates to.

Additional programme cost: £1,000

Knowledge background of the student

You will have a background either in Earth Sciences, Geology, or Geophysics, with an interest in computer modelling, or a degree in Physics, Applied Math, or Engineering, with an interest in Geology and Volcanology. Basic skills in Matlab or similar language are desirable.

Career prospects

This project will help you develop skills in quantitative analysis, numerical modelling, code development, and project management. These skill are essential for pursuing a career in academic research, but also valuable for related industrial, engineering, or public service careers.

Reconstructing terrestrial Scottish Carboniferous palaeoclimate through clumped isotope analysis of sideritic ironstones

Supervisors: Dr John MacDonald and Dr John Faithfull (Hunterian Museum)

Project aim:

This project seeks to precisely and quantitatively reconstruct late Carboniferous palaeotemperatures in the Midland Valley of Scotland with sideritic ironstones, using a combination of fieldwork, petrography and innovative clumped isotope laboratory analysis.

Project rationale:

Terrestrial palaeoclimate can be reconstructed in a qualitative fashion from fossil and palynological records. Quantitative proxies for quantitatively and precisely reconstructing ancient terrestrial palaeotemperatures are more limited. The relatively recently developed clumped isotope palaeotemperature proxy has been widely used in marine palaeoclimatic reconstructions, utilising the ability of molecular isotopic arrangements in the calcite shells of marine organisms to record seawater temperatures.

For ancient terrestrial palaeotemperatures, another carbonate mineral – siderite – gives the opportunity to apply clumped isotopes. In the Scottish Carboniferous, siderite is found in ironstones, such as the Musselband Ironstone. These sideritic ironstones represent non-marine horizons and can therefore be used to reconstruct terrestrial palaeoclimate.

Methods

Using a combination of samples collected in the field, and from the UK Geoenergy Observatories programme core from Dalmarnock near Glasgow, the student will undertake a multi-proxy research approach to reconstructing Scottish Carboniferous palaeoclimate.

You will conduct fieldwork to log and sample ironstones in central Scotland and integrate these with samples obtained from the Dalmarnock borehole and its associated records.

You will make thin sections of the samples and conduct optical petrography to quantify the mineralogy and textures of the sideritic ironstones. Samples will then be prepared for clumped isotope analysis, from which siderite precipitation temperatures – and therefore past surface temperatures – will be reconstructed. Full training will be given in all techniques.

Additional programme cost: £1,000

Knowledge background of the student

The student should have a geology background with an interest in sedimentology, stratigraphy and palaeoclimate. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

Career prospects

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in cutting-edge analytical techniques such as clumped isotopes, along with a range of general research skills. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in the environmental sector where knowledge of climate parameters is important.

Denudation on the Himalayas: where, when, how much?

Supervisors: Dr Cristina Persano,  Dr. Martin Hurst and Dr. Gyana Ranjan Tripathy (Department of Earth and Climate Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune,  India)

Project aim:

This project aims to reconstruct the temporal and spatial distribution of denudation across the Himalayas in the late Cenozoic to assess their contribution, over time, to the global sediment systems. Denudation will be constrained using published low temperature thermochrometric data (mica and feldspars Ar/Ar, apatite and zircon fission track and (U-Th-Sm)/He analyses).

The proposed research objectives are to (i) build a database of mineral cooling ages that will be be made publicly available to academics; (ii) use the thermochronometric data to build cooling isoage surfaces across the mountain belt to constrain its spatial and temporal development; (iii) reconstruct exhumation rates through time and, using mass balance calculations, quantitatively compare them with the volume of sediments offshore, to identify the Himalayas contribution as a global source of sediments.

Project rationale:

The Himalayas are one of the biggest topographic features on our planet and a ‘landscape of extremes’. It is on the Himalayas, for examples, that the highest summits, relief and erosion rates are recorded.  The processes and locations of where erosion takes place and how they have varied through time is still unknown, as studies tend to focus on one particular area, rather than the entire belt.

The Himalayas, however, are so big that they influence the global climate and they represent a source of sediments that is significant, although still unquantified, for the sediment budget of all the planet. On the other end, climate and, in particular, the alternation of a wet and dry monsoon has an important effect on the present erosion rates, but how climate and tectonic processes interacted with each other in the past to produce the mountain belt we see now is not very well understood. The plethora of thermochrometric data now available from the literature permits to reconstruct denudation through time across the entire mountain range.  

Methods

The project requires to build an archive of thermochronometric data on a platform, probably based on excel, that will be available to the academic world. The data will be used to build ‘isoage contours’ that take the rock age-present elevation relationship into account to reconstruct the denudational history of the entire mountain belt in a GIS environment.

Additional programme cost: £1,000

Knowledge background of the student

Student with a minimum 2:1 in a relevant degree (e.g. Geoscience, Physical Geography). The student will need to have a good mathematical background (Calculus 1 would be desirable, or at least Math at higher level).

Career prospects

The student will receive training in the use of numerical modelling and GIS software packages. Research based skills including scientific writing, presentation (poster and oral) and outreach skills will be gained as part of this project. Such skill sets are relevant for a future career in both industry (geospatial, geological) and academia (PhD programmes).

The student will be eligible to attend a range of study- and career-enhancing workshops as part of their postgraduate training at the University of Glasgow.

An impact origin for flood basalt volcanism in the Paleocene?

Supervisors: David Brown, Amanda Owen, Iain Neill (all University of Glasgow); Simon Drake and Andrew Beard (Birkbeck College London); Adrian Jones (University College London)

Project aim:

This project will test the hypothesis that a Paleocene impact event in the now North Atlantic region triggered flood basalt volcanism.

Project rationale:

Meteoritic impact events have demonstrably affected the evolution of the Earth. Ejecta blankets are deposited around impact craters but these are rarely preserved on Earth due to rapid erosion or burial.  Part of the supervisory team recently discovered a Paleocene ejecta deposit on Skye, NW Scotland.  This ejecta deposit is located at the base of a thick sequence of lavas, which represent part of the North Atlantic Large Igneous Province (LIP).  Many LIPs are coincident with impact events, and there have been suggestions that they could have been triggered or enhanced by impact.  The presence therefore of the Skye ejecta at the base of the lava pile, provides an exciting spatial and temporal link between impact and volcanism.  We have identified possible ejecta deposits at the base of Palaeocene lavas elsewhere in the NAIP, and these potentially represent a widespread ejecta blanket, now buried by the lavas.

Methods

The mode of deposition of the ejecta deposits will be determined through detailed mapping and logging using advanced volcanological and sedimentological methods. These data will be supported with high resolution electron microscopy, EBSD and Raman techniques to provide robust evidence of their impact origin.

Additional programme cost: £1,000

Knowledge background of the student

The student will have a 1st or 2:1 BSc (or equivalent) degree in geology/earth science and an interest in applying a multi-disciplinary approach to research. Field experience and enthusiasm is essential. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential, but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. Strong ability in scientific writing, evidenced by a substantial piece of independent writing (e.g. undergraduate dissertation) is expected.

Career prospects

The multi-disciplinary nature of the project will equip the student with a range of skills that can be applied in industry or for further study.  These skills include scientific report writing, field observation and 4D visualisation, analytical techniques and data analysis.

Anthropogenic geodiversity: How can Scotland’s industrial waste legacy contribute to geodiversity and biodiversity?

Supervisors: John MacDonald, Prof. Alistair Jump, School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling

The overall aim of this project is to characterise the extent and nature of various industrial wastes in Scotland and to evaluate their influence on biodiversity:

  • To achieve this aim, the following specific objectives/research questions will be addressed
  • What is the extent of artificial substrates (steel slag, paper mill waste, cement-making waste etc) in Scotland?
  • What are the physical and chemical characteristics of these substrates and how do they compare to natural substrates?
  • What plant communities are found on these substrates and what is their importance for biodiversity?

As recognised in Scotland’s Geodiversity Charter, geodiversity underpins biodiversity and faces pressures from human influence. However, human influence can also broaden geodiversity. While geodiversity is usually considered in terms of naturally-occurring rocks and soils, there are wholly anthropogenic substrates which can create new ecological niches and therefore support biodiversity.

There are a wide range of anthropogenic substrates which are to be found in Scotland which are similar in character to naturally-occurring rocks and soils. Steel slag is a waste product from steelmaking which is found at many locations, particularly in central Scotland e.g. at Ravenscraig. It was dumped in heaps and is generally found as gravel- or pebble-sized pieces, and therefore mimics naturally-occurring scree slopes. It can have high ecotoxic metal concentration though and therefore creates an ecological niche which may enhance biodiversity. Scotland also has an extensive history of papermaking, again particularly in central Scotland e.g. near Penicuik. Historic papermaking produced large quantities of alkaline sludge which was dumped in ponds and subsequently dried to form powdery deposits. Cement- and lime-works also produced granular or powdery alkaline wastes – a substrate suited to alkaline-loving plants. Power station fly-ash and oil shale bings are other examples of industrial wastes found in the Scottish landscape which are artificial substrates that may support biodiversity and enhance geodiversity. S

cotland therefore possesses a range of artificial substrates as legacies of past industrial activity. To what extent do these artificial substrates contribute to geodiversity and the biodiversity it underpins?

A map/satellite imagery survey of sites with artificial substrates of industrial wastes will provide a summary of the extent of such sites in Central Scotland. Certain sites with different types of industrial wastes will then be selected to map the distribution of vegetation types. Vegetation maps will then be compared to the physical and chemical characteristics of the substrates. These parameters will be analysed using microscopy, XRD, ICP-OES/ICP-MS and other techniques. The composition of the artificial substrates and the plants present will be compared to non-industrial sites with natural substrates to determine the extent to which anthropogenic geodiversity enhances biodiversity.

How life and steel slag interact: Physical, chemical and biological breakdown of slag and the implications for remediation

Supervisors: John MacDonald, Prof. Alistair Jump, School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling

This project will investigate the physical and chemical processes occurring in slag heaps. Key research questions are:

  • How do physical and chemical properties of steel slag vary with depth in a slag heap?
  • Is there spatial variation in slag properties based on the degree of vegetation cover and is this influenced by the type of plant community?
  • Does vegetation retard or enhance weathering (and therefore ecotoxic metal release) in slag heaps?
  • Is natural colonising vegetation more effective than expensive engineering measures for remediation?

These questions will be addressed using detailed study of UK steel slag in situ at Workington in Cumbria. This extensive slag heap has variable coverage of natural vegetation and is very well exposed in 3D, allowing sampling from varying depths. It is anticipated that this accessible UKbased site will in the first instance generate fundamental research findings on the processes involved which can then be applied to other steel slag heaps across the world.

Survey of vegetation communities will provide a framework in which to investigate physical and chemical processes in the slag heap. Slag samples will be obtained for visual and microscope inspection to determine the case study site at Workington, Cumbria. how physical properties change spatially and with depth. Chemical analysis by XRD, SEM-EDX and ICP-OES/-ICP-MS at UoG will determine chemical changes in the slag, focussing on ecotoxic metals such as Cr and V. There is also the possibility of undertaking controlled environment experiments at the University of Stirling Controlled Environment Facility will determine how plant growth changes pH, surface properties and outflow composition from replicated vegetated and non-vegetated slag samples maintained at standard conditions.

Worldwide, it is estimated that steelmaking produces up to 250 million tonnes of waste slag per year. Slag is typically dumped in heaps with little or no subsequent remediation. Steel slag is highly reactive so the interaction of rainwater with exposed slag heaps is known to release ecotoxic metals into surrounding water bodies. Partial remediation at some former steelmaking sites has involved capping with soil and planting of trees but this has been done with little or no long-term perspective of the processes involved. While capping and planting can be a quick solution, it is extremely expensive and can fail when the cap is breached and plant roots, soil biota and water penetrate the slag below.

In un-remediated sites, spontaneous revegetation occurs slowly, with plant communities adapted to the sites they colonise. However, interactions between vegetation and slag have the potential to alter slag weathering via physical (root penetration) and chemical (acid root exudates) means. Enhanced weathering of slag can lead to release of higher concentrations of toxic metals.

As steel works close in the UK, and steelmaking in developing countries with loose environmental regulation produces ever-increasing amounts of slag, it is critical to develop an understanding of the physical and chemical processes occurring in steel slag heaps and how these are influenced by vegetation. This characterisation will be the underpinning science that allows for effective and appropriate risk assessment and remediation measures to be taken.

The impact of extraterrestrial bodies: The emplacement of impact ejecta deposits by particulate density currents

Supervisors:  Dr David Brown, Dr Amanda Owen, Dr Iain Neill, Prof Martin Lee and  Dr Simon Drake, Dr Andrew Beard (both of Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London)

Background:

Meteoritic impact events have demonstrably affected the evolution of the Earth and other planetary bodies. Ejecta blankets are deposited around impact craters but these are rarely preserved on Earth due to rapid erosion or burial. From the few well preserved examples (e.g. the Ries crater in Germany, and Stac Fada in Scotland), little is known of how the impact ejecta are formed and deposited.

High resolution imagery from other planetary bodies provides data on the distribution and scale of impact craters and the dispersal of associated ejecta, although they can be difficult to fully interpret. The ejecta blankets are typically preserved in the terrestrial rock record as meltbearing breccias known as “suevites”, with the type locality at the Ries crater in Germany. Ejecta blankets are classically thought to represent fallout deposits from the collapse of an ejecta plume.

However, the Ries suevite has recently been re-interpreted as the deposit of a particulate density current, analogous to those that form ignimbrites of volcanic origin, on the basis of characteristic field relationships and chemistry. Similar interpretations have also been tentatively suggested for other terrestrial ejecta blankets (e.g. both Stac Fada and Skye in NW Scotland). Recognition of a density current origin for these ejecta blankets would fundamentally re-evaluate our understanding of impact events, in particular the temporal and spatial distribution and deposition of ejecta, and the location and identification of previously unrecognised impact craters and/or ejecta blankets. Further understanding of these processes would allow for accurate modelling of impact scenarios and better recognition of impact events on Earth, and in turn, other planetary bodies.

Through application of methods in physical volcanology, sedimentology, geochemistry, modelling, remote sensing and planetary geology, this project aims to address some of these fundamental problems. 

This project investigates critical phenomena on Earth and other planetary bodies. The impact of meteoritic material on planets causes profound geological changes. This project uses a multi-disciplinary approach investigating a terrestrial impact deposit and seeks to compare it with similar events on other planetary bodies. The project is aligned with STFC interests in Astronomy and Space Science and their themes of Earth observation and modelling.

Training and skills:

The supervisory team provides multi-disciplinary quantitative expertise in ejecta deposits from volcanological, sedimentological and geochemical perspectives, and research on planetary bodies. The student will receive training in:

  • Mapping and logging impactoclastic and sedimentary rocks in the field, using a rigorous lithofacies approach.
  • Quantification of lithofacies architecture of depositional bodies through detailed logging and outcrop measurements, and statistical analysis of quantitative data
  • Interpretation of imagery from impacts craters and ejecta on other planetary bodies.
  • Numerical modelling of impact crater location collaborating with Science and Technology Facilities Council computational experts
  • Optical and electron microscopy for sample characterisation
  • Elemental and isotopic analyses using XRF, LA-ICP-MS and EPMA
  • Presentation, writing and outreach skills

Field work will be predominantly in the Inner Hebrides of NW Scotland and in Northern Ireland, but with some training in Ries and Stac Fada.

The student will be joining an innovative and multi-disciplinary geology group at the University of Glasgow. The student will join the School’s Dynamic Earth and Planetary Evolution theme, and interact with researchers in volcanology, sedimentology, geochemistry and planetary science. Excellent employability skill training will also be provided by the College Graduate School. 

Methods

This project will test the hypothesis that one of the main modes of emplacement of impact ejecta blankets is deposition by particulate density currents that form from collapsing ejecta plumes, and that stratigraphic and geochemical variations in the resultant deposits record variations in particle support, segregation, and fluid turbulence within the current and evolving “target” material and impact crater morphology. The project will use the recently discovered impact ejecta material on the Isle of Skye in NW Scotland as a case study to build upon and test existing work from the Ries crater and Stac Fada. The ejecta material on Skye is dated to the Palaeogene and found beneath lavas of the same age, suggesting possible links between impact and flood basalt volcanism/large igneous provinces. We have identified related deposits elsewhere in the Palaeogene of NW Scotland (Ardnamurchan, Mull, Morvern) and in Northern Ireland (Antrim), which display textures similar to terrestrial density current and fall deposits (or their reworked equivalents) and these may represent further “distal” expressions of the Skye ejecta. Although no impact crater has been found, the widespread extent of these materials offers a good contrast to the ejecta deposited in and closely around the Ries crater. Furthermore, the mixed lithologies allow investigation of the nature of potential fall and density current deposition from impact ejecta clouds.

Through detailed examination of the ejecta material on Skye and beyond, the emplacement dynamics of the density currents, the resultant ejecta blanket and the palaeotopography will be reconstructed. This will require detailed mapping and logging of the deposits using advanced volcanological and sedimentological methods. These data will be supported with elemental and isotopic analyses of the deposits, where chemical zoning patterns and provenance studies can be used to demonstrate variations in flow directions of density currents as they sample variable target rock and respond to the evolving crater and variable land surface. Field sedimentological evidence and geochemistry will also be used to model potential crater locations and investigate links to flood basalt volcanism. Together, these data will be compared with the Ries and Stac Fada examples, and models developed for ejecta blankets elsewhere. The project will also utilise high-resolution imagery from impact sites on other planetary bodies. Although conditions differ from Earth these data can be used to compare and contrast the distribution of ejecta deposits in these different planetary settings

Knowledge background of the student

The student will have a strong geology/earth science background, and an interest in applying a multi-disciplinary approach to research. Field experience and enthusiasm is essential. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential, but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. Strong ability in scientific writing, evidenced by a substantial piece of independent writing (e.g. undergraduate dissertation) is expected.

Key references

Synchrotron determination of metal mobility in carbonates

Supervisors:  Dr John MacDonald, Prof Martin Lee, Dr Iain Neill and Dr Susan Cumberland (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde)

Project aim:

Pilot geochemical data suggests that precipitation of tufa in legacy industrial wastewater streams could capture ecotoxic metals. However, the toxicity of metals in such effluent, and its (re-)mobility after initial capture, are not known. These processes may depend on oxidation state, e.g. As(III) vs. As(V); as a result, this PhD project proposes to investigate the locale and oxidation states of the identified metals in field case-study tufas using synchrotron X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy (XFM) and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS).

Understanding how metals are bound into the tufa structure will inform the effectiveness of inducing tufa formation as a remediation measure to reduce the long-term mobility and bioavailability of ecotoxic metals in legacy industrial effluent.

Background:

Effluent from legacy industrial sites often contains elevated levels of ecotoxic metals which are harmful to the environment. Ecotoxic metals, such as As, Cr and V poison and kill plants and invertebrates and undermine the ecosystems they support. Reducing ecotoxic metal concentrations, or removing them entirely, is therefore a key challenge in remediating legacy industrial sites. Tufas are terrestrial carbonate (calcite) deposits which mainly form in high pH streams with high levels of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). T

hey can also form due to anthropogenic industrial activity such as dumping of slags (an industrial by-product from metal processing). Slag weathering releases dissolved calcium and hydroxyl groups which raise the water pH, resulting in CO2 dissolution and hydroxylation which promotes calcite precipitation. Breakdown of slag and similar industrial wastes also releases various ecotoxic metals.

Methods
Fieldwork

Two field sites in the north of England – Millom and Consett – will be used as case studies. At Millom a tufa has formed at the edge of a marsh as water has drained through a heap of old blast furnace slag. At Consett, a large tufa has formed in the Howden Burn which drains a large steel slag heap. The student will conduct fieldwork at the case study sites, collecting tufa samples.

Sample Characterisation

The student will prepare thin sections of samples for petrographic analysis to provide context to the subsequent synchrotron analysis. Additionally, sample powders will be analysed using X-Ray Diffraction (XRD). Pilot XRD analyses from co-supervisor Cumberland of a natural metal-deficient tufa and an anthropogenic Fe-rich tufa have confirmed the mineralogy in both are predominantly calcite and are indistinguishable. This indicates that synchrotron research is necessary for further investigation.

Synchrotron Analysis

From the pilot data, it is unknown if ecotoxic metals are incorporated as nanoparticles between layers of calcite within the tufa, or if they substitute for Ca within the crystal lattice. This is key in determining potential re-mobility of the ecotoxic metals should the environmental conditions of the tufa change over time. Understanding metal oxidation state is also of high importance due to effects on metal re-mobilisation and toxicity. The supervisory team have already submitted a proposal for time at STFC’s Diamond Light Source synchrotron, using the I18 beamline. Should this be successful, the student would participate in the analysis. XFM analyses will comprise (1) mapping of the positioning of metals in environmental samples and (2) conduct X-ray absorption of the near edge structure (XANES) and extended X-ray absorption of the fine structure (EXAFS) analyses (As, Fe, Cr, Pb, V) as spots or transects in addition to XAS analyses on bulk powders. In addition to the current pending beamtime application prepared by the supervisory team, the student would be expected to work with the supervisors to prepare a subsequent application for additional beamtime at Diamond Light Source.

Data Analysis and Synthesis

Data will be processed using specialist software packages with training and guidance from cosupervisor Cumberland. The results are expected to show that the ecotoxic metals are either incorporated into the calcite crystal lattice or absorbed onto calcite surfaces. We postulate that metals sitting within the crystal lattice would be stable and therefore less likely to remobilise than surface adsorbed metals. The results would therefore aid our understanding of the effectiveness and long-term stability of induced tufa precipitation as a potential new method in environmental remediation.  

Knowledge background of the student

The student will likely have an environmental or geoscience background with an interest in 

geochemistry and the environment. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. Strong ability in scientific writing, evidenced by a substantial piece of independent writing e.g. undergraduate dissertation, is expected.

Baffin Island plume development and evolution

Supervisors: Dr Lydia Hallis

Project aim:

  1. Characterise sample mineralogy, via SEM analyses, and locate olivine-bound glassy melt inclusions
  2. Use SEM EDX and WDX in combination to determine inclusion chemistry. This will allow for the differentiation of samples from the previously reported depleted and enriched plume sources. Melt inclusion chemistry will also indicate if crustal assimilation or sea-water contamination has affected any of the samples.
  3. Use LA-ICP-MS to measure inclusion trace-element chemistry (including REE), to again look for crustal assimilation and contamination.
  4. Crush olivine separates of each sample to gain 3He/4He isotopic data, in order to determine if these samples originate from an undegassed, deep mantle source, as suggested by previous Baffin Island picrite analyses.

Studies of the trace-element, radiogenic-isotope, and noble gas isotope characteristics of mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORBs) and ocean-island basalts (OIBs) reveal the existence of domains within Earth’s mantle that have experienced distinct evolutionary histories. Although alternative theories exist, most studies suggest that high 3He/4He ratios in some OIBs indicate the existence of relatively undegassed regions in the deep mantle compared to the upper mantle, which retain a greater proportion of their primordial He. Study of the chemistry of these deep mantle regions can thus provide information relating to the Earth’s original composition, and the building blocks it formed from.

The Baffin Bay Volcanic Province erupted ~58 million years ago, during the rifting apart of Greenland and Baffin Island, which formed the Davis Strait. The resulting picrites are among the earliest manifestations of the ancestral Iceland mantle plume, and are thought to have a composition that reflects little fractionation from the mantle source. Based on the trace element compositions of chilled margins and glasses from the Baffin Bay picrites, Robillard et al. (1992) demonstrated that both slightly depleted lavas (similar to NMORBS) and slightly enriched lavas (similar to E-MORBS) were erupted. Both N-type and E-type picrites from this location have been reported to contain the highest 3He/4He ratios of any terrestrial samples yet measured, at between 31 and 50 Ra. These high 3He/4He ratios highlight the undegassed nature of the Baffin Island mantle plume material, indicating it has been largely isolated from mantle mixing over geological time.

The PhD candidate will analyse the mineralogy, petrology and chemistry of 5 unstudied Baffin Island picrites, originally collected from north-east Padloping Island in 2004. The aim of the project is to determine if the Baffin Island source region has been truly isolated from crustal recycling and mantle mixing throughout Earth history.

Overview

Dynamic Earth & Planetary Evolution

Quantitative understanding of Earth and planetary materials to elucidate mechanisms, drivers, and timescales of dynamic processes within our Solar System.

 

 

Susan Waldron

Professor Susan Waldron discusses research opportunities within Earth Sciences

Study options

  full-time
(years)
part-time
(years)
Phd 3-4 6-8
MSc (Res) 1-2 2-3
MPhil 2-3 3-4

Entry requirements

2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Required documentation

Applicants should submit:

  • Transcripts/degree certificate 
  • Two references
  • A one-page research proposal
  • CV
  • Name of potential Supervisor

Research proposal

Candidates are required to provide a single page outline of the research subject proposed (approximately 1000 words). This need not be a final thesis proposal but should include:

  • a straightforward, descriptive, and informative title
  • the question that your research will address
  • an account of why this question is important and worth investigating
  • an assessment of how your own research will engage with recent study in the subject
  • a brief account of the methodology and approach you will take
  • a discussion of the primary sources that your research will draw upon, including printed books, manuscripts, archives, libraries, or museums
  • an indicative bibliography of secondary sources that you have already consulted and/or are planning to consult

English Language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English.

Fees and funding

Fees

2020/21

  • £4,327 UK/EU
  • £21,920 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Re-submission by a research student £525
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,315
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £340
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £765

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee (also known as research support costs) to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Funding for EU students

The UK government has confirmed that EU nationals will remain eligible to apply for Research Council PhD studentships at UK institutions for 2019/20 to help cover costs for the duration of their study. The Scottish Government has confirmed that fees for EU students commencing their studies in 2019/20 and 2020/21 will be at the same level as those for UK students.

2019/20 fees

  • £4,327 UK/EU
  • £21,020 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Re-submission by a research student £500
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,250
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £320
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £730

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee (also known as research support costs) to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

Funding

Support

The vibrancy of our research environment derives from our large body of postgraduate students.

We take an integrated approach to study at Glasgow, bringing together internationally leading expertise in physical and human geography, geology and geomatics.

Our postgraduate students benefit from many fieldwork opportunities, ranging from short day excursions close to Glasgow to longer residential field trips, which may involved overseas travel.

The School has close links with industry. We arrange many guest speakers and there are also informal opportunities to meet people from industry at open events. Projects may be carried out in conjunction with industry.

You will be part of a Graduate School which provides the highest level of support to its students.

The overall aim of our Graduate School is to provide a world-leading environment for students which is intellectually stimulating, encourages them to contribute to culture, society and the economy and enables them to become leaders in a global environment.

We have a diverse community of over 750 students from more than 50 countries who work in innovative and transformative disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. An important part of our work is to bring our students together and to ensure they consider themselves an important part of the University’s academic community.

Being part of our Graduate School community will be of huge advantage to you in your studies and beyond and we offer students a number of benefits in addition to exceptional teaching and supervision, including:

  • A wide-ranging and responsive research student training programme which enables you to enhance your skills and successfully complete your studies.
  • Mobility scholarships of up to £4000 to enable you to undertake work in collaboration with an international partner.
  • A diverse programme of activities which will ensure you feel part of the wider-research community (including our biannual science slam event).
  • A residential trip for all new research students.
  • The opportunity to engage with industry-partners through training, placements and events.
  • Professionally accredited programmes.
  • Unique Masters programmes run in collaboration with other organisations.
  • State-of-the-art facilities including the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre and the Kelvin Nanocharacterisation Centre.
  • Highly-rated support for international students.

Over the last five years, we have helped over 600 students to complete their research studies and our students have gone on to take up prestigious posts in industries across the world.

Email: scieng-gradschool@glasgow.ac.uk

How to apply

Identify potential supervisors

All Postgraduate Research Students are allocated a supervisor who will act as the main source of academic support and research mentoring. You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply. Please note, even if you have spoken to an academic staff member about your proposal you still need to submit an online application form.

You can find relevant academic staff members with our staff research interests search.


Gather your documents

Before applying please make sure you gather the following supporting documentation:

  1. Final or current degree transcripts including grades (and an official translation, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original document
  2. Degree certificates (and an official translation, if needed): scanned copy in colour of the original document
  3. Two references on headed paper (academic and/or professional).
  4. Research proposal, CV, samples of written work as per requirements for each subject area.

Submitting References

To complete your application we will need two references (one must be academic the other can be academic or professional).

There are two options for you to submit references as part of your application.  You can upload a document as part of your application or you can enter in your referee’s contact details and we will contact them to request a reference.

Option 1 – Uploading as part of the application form

Your references should be on official headed paper. These should also be signed by the referee. You can then upload these via theOnline Application form with the rest your documents to complete the application process.

Please be aware that documents must not exceed 5MB in size and therefore you may have to upload your documents separately. The online system allow you to upload supporting documents only in PDF format. For a free PDF writer go to www.pdfforge.org.

Option 2 - Entering contact details as part of the application form

If you enter your referees contact details including email on the application form we will email them requesting they submit a reference once you have submitted the application form.  When the referee responds and sends a reference you will be sent an email to confirm the university has received this.

After submitting your application form

Use our Applicant Self Service uploading documents function to submit a new reference. We can also accept confidential references direct to rio-researchadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk, from the referee’s university or business email account.  


Apply now

I've applied. What next?

If you have any other trouble accessing Applicant Self-Service, please see Application Troubleshooting/FAQs.

If you are requested to upload further documents

Log into the Applicant Self Service and scroll down to the Admissions Section. The screenshot below indicates the section on the page, and the specific area you should go to, highlighted in red:

Applicant self service

Documents must be uploaded in .jpg, .jpeg or .pdf format and must not exceed 5MB in size.  There is a maximum 10MB upload size for all documents with the application.

Decisions

Once a decision has been made regarding your application the Research Admissions Office will contact you by email.

If you are made an unconditional offer

You can accept your offer through the Applicant-Self-Service by clicking on the ‘Accept/Decline link’ for your chosen programme under the ‘Admissions Section’ at the bottom of the Applicant Self Service screen.  You can access the Applicant Self Service by using the link, username and password you used to apply and selecting the “Self Service” button below your application.

Please make sure you accept your unconditional offer within 4 weeks of receiving your offer. If you are an international student your CAS will not be issued until you have accepted an unconditional offer.

If you are made a conditional offer

If you accept a conditional offer then the offer status on Applicant-Self-Service will change to ‘incomplete’ to indicate that the application is incomplete until such time as all the conditions are met.

Your offer letter will list all the conditions that apply to your offer and you can upload the required document(s) through Applicant Self Service. If you have met the conditions satisfactorily, you will automatically be sent an unconditional offer.

If your application is unsuccessful

If your application is unsuccessful then we will send you an email to inform you of this which will outline the reason why we have been unable to offer you a place on this particular programme. Please note that your application status will be updated to 'Cancelled' on Applicant Self Service if the offer is rejected.

Deferring your offer

If you want to defer your start date, please contact us directly at rio-researchadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk. We need authorisation from your supervisor before we confirm your request to defer. Once we have this we will contact you by email to confirm.

How to register

After you have accepted an unconditional offer you will receive an email nearer to the start of your studies to tell you how to register online using the University's MyCampus website, the University’s student information system. That email will provide you with your personal login details and the website address. Please ensure that your email address is kept up to date as all correspondence is sent via email. You can update your email address through the Applicant Self Service Portal under the Personal Information section.


Contact us

International Students