A man stands on a rocky outcrop photographing an eruption on Mount Etna

Earth Science

Group Leader

Barbara Maher

Centre for Biophotonics, Earth Science, Innovation for a better environment, Sustainable Catchments, Understanding a changing planet


Loading People

Research Activity

Within LEC, the Earth Science Group research activities span four main areas of expertise:

  • Volcanology and Hazards
  • Contemporary Environmental Processes
  • Sub-surface Fluids
  • Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoenvironments

Follow us on LancsUniEarth on Twitter or find us on LancasterEarthSciences on Facebook.

Volcanology and Hazards

The Volcanology research group at Lancaster investigates the processes that control hazardous volcanic activity. We have a wide range of expertise, spanning field measurement, experimentation, numerical modelling and geochemistry. Our current projects include characterisation of advancing basalt and rhyolite lava flows using imaging techniques, investigation of Strombolian eruptions using analogue experiments, the study of ash generation and transport in recent Icelandic eruptions, experimental degassing and crystallisation of magma, and both modelling and geochemical studies of volcano-ice interactions.

Volcanology and Hazards

Contemporary Environmental Processes

Our research in contemporary environmental processes aims to better understand the dynamics involved in glacial, coastal and fluvial systems, as well as studying atmospheric particulate pollution Our active projects employ a wide range of approaches ranging from remote sensing to magnetic and isotopic techniques.

Contemporary Environmental Processes

Sub-surface Fluids

Our research into sub-surface fluids involves studying the wide variety of fluids that are found in the Earth's crust. We have diverse projects ranging from looking at groundwater quality and flow to how hydrocarbon reservoirs form and evolve. We are actively engaged in analytical and modelling studies of natural CO2 in the subsurface, not only as a means to understand how safe carbon capture and storage is, but also as a way to identify how the crust and the atmosphere interact over geological time. We also have interests in the subsurface processes that occur during fracking.

Sub-surface Fluids
Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates

We reconstruct palaeoenvironments and palaeoclimates on a range of temporal and spatial scales. Our work includes determination of palaeogeographies and hinterland tectonics, and palaeoclimatic reconstruction and dating involving variety of approaches including the use of lake sediment records, stable isotopes, dendrochemistry and speleothems<, volcanic facies and degassing data and both palaeomagnetism and environmental magnetism.

Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates

Research Highlights

Further Highlights

  • The Unsung Heroes of Summer: Beach Bulldozer Engineers
    Once again the summer holidays have arrived and many people will be jetting off to the beach. However, few tourists will notice the tonnes of sand and gravel that weren’t there the previous year.
  • Earth sciences accolade
    A volcanologist, who spent some of his formative years at Lancaster University, has won the 2015 Vetlesen Prize, considered the ‘Nobel Prize’ for earth sciences
  • Volcanologist inspires a generation with new book
    Dr Hugh Tuffen describes the incredible life of a volcanologist in the book which is aimed at young people who are looking for interesting and adventurous careers.
  • Unlocking the secrets of the deep
    What is a Himalayan geologist, typically acclimatized to working at altitudes in excess of 4000m, doing in the Bay of Bengal, bobbing around at sea level? Dr Yani Najman explains.
  • Trekking and training in nature's highest laboratory
    Dr Yani Najman organises a group of 32 scientists on a geological field trip across the Himalaya.
  • "Outstanding scientist" wins medal
    Professor Barbara Maher has been awarded the Mineralogical Society-Schlumberger Award (2014) for her work. The annual award was founded in 1990 to recognize scientific excellence in mineralogy and its applications.
  • Lava sighting solves mystery
    Scientists have made the first-ever observations of how a rare type of lava continues moving almost a year after a volcanic eruption.
  • Ancient volcanic activity on asteroids
    Emeritus Professor Lionel Wilson explains how data from the spacecraft Dawn show that the same kinds of volcanic eruptions that happen on Earth now took place on some asteroids 4570 million years ago.
  • Volcanic ash study prize
    A mature student’s undergraduate dissertation could help in the development of a volcanic ash early warning system for aircraft.