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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.

Recent and current research projects include:

  • Neoproterozoic ocean oxygenation and sediment diagenesis: Evidence in the Aberfeldy stratiform baryte deposits, Grampian Highlands, Scotland
  • Critical metal mineralisation in alkali granite complexes: the Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland
  • Characterising styles of Au mineralisation within complex orogenic terranes 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
  • SOCORRO - seeling out microbially-enhanced corrosion in marine/coastal steel structures: an Interreg-funded project in collaboration with colleagues at University of Brighton

Approach to teaching

I have 31 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.

Also currently I am Course Leader for the BSc Earth and Ocean Science course, which integrates earth science with knowledge of aquatic environments and marine ecology. This inter-disciplinary course is increasingly popular with applicants who are concerned about environmental degradation and remediation.

My most innovative teaching course is the ‘professional practice’ component of a 3rd year module on 'Exploration geology and professional practice'. This component is run as a five-day intensive course. It involves students 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 have previously supervised several PhD students researching various types of mineral deposits, mineral exploration methods, and aspects of metal contamination. I would be pleased to supervise further postgraduate research students - MRes or PhD - in the following areas: ore deposit geology particularly sediment-hosted barite and Zn-Pb-Cu sulphide deposits; gold mineralization in orogenic contexts, and geochemical exploration in glaciated terrains. As of 2021, I am keen to supervise MRes projects on two topics:

(a) Zircon U-Pb dating and heavy mineral provencancing of a probable palaeoplacer conglomerate in the Hawick Group Silurian of County Down, Northern Ireland

(b) Geological architecture of the Duntanlich barite deposit, Scottish Highlands, using drillcore from new mine development and historical exploration

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Geology, geochemistry and petrology of the Foss stratiform baryte - base metal deposit and adjacent Dalradian meta-sediments, near Aberfeldy, Scotland, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 1 Jul 1985

Bachelor, 1st Class Honours, University of Aberdeen

Award Date: 1 Jul 1980

External positions

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

1 Jan 201831 Jul 2021


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