Dr Lydia Hallis
- Lecturer in Planetary Science (School of Geographical & Earth Sciences)
On Earth, volcanic eruptions release volatile elements such as hydrogen and oxygen (mostly in the form of water vapor), nitrogen, carbon, sulfur, chlorine and fluorine into the atmosphere from the planets interior. Over geological time the volcanic release of volatile elements has helped to form Earth’s oceans and thick, protective atmosphere, making our planet a haven for life as we know it. It has been suggested that the same processes occurred on early Mars - volcanic activity pumped volatiles, including water, from the interior to the surface and sub-surface over billions of years. We know that during its early history Mars was once much wetter at the surface, with a thicker atmosphere, but over time that atmosphere was largely lost to space, or drawn down into the crust or cryosphere. However, volatiles trapped in the martian rock record remain, and can be used as indicators of both ancient mantle compositions and surface environments.
I am currently investigating the volatile content of both primary and secondary minerals in martian meteorites at sub-micrometer to atomic scales. These investigations utilise state of the art analytical techniques at the University of Glasgow (SEM, FIB, TEM, LC- and GC-MS), The University of Edinburgh (SIMS), the Diamond Lightsource UK synchrotron (FTIR and X-ray absorption spectroscopy), and the Carnegie Institute for Science (Raman spectroscopy). The overall aim of this research is to indicate the abundance of volatile elements in the martian interior, and to clarify the cycling and eventual fate of these elements at the martian surface. I am specifically focused on the martian carbon and hydrogen cycles. Knowing the stability and fate of the martian atmosphere is key to understanding whether life developed on Mars. Therefore the results of this research have strong astrobiological implications, and will be relevant to present and future missions to Mars.
PhD & MSc-by-Research opportunities
I am keen to hear from prospective students who wish to study for a PhD or MSc by Research. Enquiries are welcome, although please investigate potential funding and/or scholarships (if required) before getting in touch. Potential students should have a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Geology, Chemistry, Physics, or a related subject. Please see here for further details.
Current PhD students
- Christou, Evangelos
Martian Fluid Compositions: The Habitability of Ancient Aqueous Environments on Mars.
- Floyd, Cameron
Space weathering of carbonaceous asteroids
- Martin, Pierre-Etienne
Delivery of water to early Earth by carbonaceous chondrite meterorites
- O'Brien, Aine
Title: Evidence for recent water on Mars from the shergottite meteorites: Geological, palaoclimatological and astrobiological implications.