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Personal profile

Research interests

Since the 1990s, my research has focused on metalliferous ore formation and exploration, seeking to understand metal behaviour in modern and ancient natural environments. I collaborated in several industry-academic joint studies to research the metallogeny and origins of hydrothermal precious- and base-metal mineralisation and the application of biogeochemical methods in mineral exploration. Working with colleagues I have used microchemical analysis of alluvial gold to characterise bedrock gold mineralisation, to determine the provenance of gold in pre-historic artefacts, and to resolve scientific controversies regarding landscape evolution. I have been involved in several collaborative research contracts: for example in 2013, I was co-investigator on an EU INTERREG IVa-funded Tellus Border Scientific Services contract worth £28,000 to research critical metal mineralising processes in granites of the Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland.

My research also encompasses contaminated soils, sediments and waste materials in which heavy metal behaviour can be modelled using natural analogues. For example, I was principal investigator on an industry-funded PhD project to characterise the content and form of lead in automobile shredder residue and investigate procedures to reduce lead levels and thereby increase recovery of recyclable materials. This trans-disciplinary research pioneered the application of analysis techniques developed in the Earth sciences to the investigation of materials produced by human activities. Current research aims to develop an understanding of microbially mediated chemical processes in shallow marine environments at a time when complex life was evolving in the Precambrian.

Current research projects include:

  • Critical metal mineralisation in alkali granite complexes: the Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland (link to MetCycle)
  • Neoproterozoic ocean oxygenation and sediment diagenesis: Evidence in the Aberfeldy stratiform baryte deposits, Grampian Highlands, Scotland
  • Geochemical models for the formation of Greek stratiform bauxite deposits
  • Characterising styles of Au mineralisation within a complex orogenic terrane using gold grain microchemical analyses
  • Sulphur isotope characterisation and formation of the Aynak copper deposit in the Kabul Basin, Afghanistan
  • Bronze Age gold and tin extraction in the Mourne Mountains, N. Ireland

Approach to teaching

I have 28 years of experience teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses at four UK universities including Continuing Education Departments and the Open University. Subject areas that I teach include: principles of geology, mineralogy, igneous and metamorphic petrology, structural geology, fieldwork, analytical methods, geological hazards, ore deposits, geochemistry, and professional practice.

Currently I am leader or co-leader of two geology field courses, namely Pembrokeshire (first year) and Cyprus (third year). Geology is fundamentally a practical science and fieldwork is the best way to acquire knowledge and understanding. It thrills me when students have a “wao” experience as they realise the significance of a geological feature or process.

My most innovative module is ‘environmental geology/professional practice’ which is run as a six-day intensive course for third year students. It involves them in role-playing realistic scenarios and teamwork to prepare presentations and reports in limited time periods, which is typical of a workplace environment. It is very satisfying to see students engaging with the tasks, rising to the challenges they are presented with, and gaining confidence in delivering group presentations.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research students in the following areas: ore deposit geology particularly sediment-hosted barite and Zn-Pb-Cu sulphide deposits; geochemical exploration in glaciated terrains.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Edinburgh

Bachelor, University of Aberdeen

External positions

External Examiner, Geography BSc and MSci courses, University of Sussex

1 Jan 201831 Jul 2021

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Research Output

Detrital gold, heavy minerals and sediment geochemistry elucidate auriferous mineralization in southeast Ireland

Moles, N. & Chapman, R. J., 27 Aug 2019, p. 691-694. 4 p.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Open Access
  • Open Access
  • Neoproterozoic microbial processes in chemical sediment diagenesis: evidence from the Aberfeldy barite deposits

    Moles, N. & Boyce, A., 27 Aug 2019, p. 1413-1416. 4 p.

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

    Open Access
  • Open Access
  • Open Access