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Earth Sciences - research centres

Earth Sciences - research centres

Department research activity spans diverse topics designed to investigate the past, present and future of Planet Earth and its resources. Our research work ranges from ground-breaking blue-sky research, to very applied projects with high societal impact deliverables for industrial and government sponsors.

Our research has been grouped into activities within three main research centres highlighted below. As in any successful research environment, besides the research done within these research centres, much research happens as internal collaborations between centres and with external collaborations at many other high-ranking research institutes globally.

Centre for Energy and Resources (CERES)

CERES brings together researchers whose research focuses on the energy and mineral resources of the Earth and how these can be used, sustainably, for the benefit of humanity. The centre aims to provide a stimulating and supportive academic environment in which researchers can develop and progress, from research students up through the entire academic spectrum. CERES fits within the “Living Sustainably" and “Digital” catalysts of Royal Holloway.

Current research topics
    •  Subsurface Energy Storage
    •  Groundwater
    •  Geothermal Energy
    •  Reservoir properties in sedimentary basins
    •  Fractures and faults
    •  Solar Energy
    •  Laboratory analogue modelling
    •  Computer Modelling

Research environment
The Department of Earth Sciences has been a major UK centre for research/teaching of Earth-resource exploitation since it was established in 1985. Multi-million-pound projects have been supported by industry (e.g. the Fault Dynamic Project in the 1990s and the on-going SE Asia, COMPASS and Drifters consortia) whilst substantial research projects have also been funded by Research Councils and the EU. However, as we approach our 5th decade, there is a scientific and financial imperative for us to pivot towards more sustainable use of Earth’s resources.

Fortunately, much of the science and many of the skills that were needed for resource exploitation in the 20th century will also be needed for sustainable development in the 21st century. In particular, our skills in geophysics, bio-geochemistry, sedimentology, structural geology, fluid-flow and risk-analysis are as important to geothermal-energy or subsurface CO2 storage as they were to hydrocarbon-exploration. Furthermore, all forms of renewable energy require significant geological input (e.g. engineering geology underpinned by shallow geophysical surveys).

Our extensive computing facilities, along with world-leading access to data and software, are ideal for these new research areas.

Members

Centre for Dynamic Earth and the Solar System (CeDESS)

CeDESS brings together researchers whose research focuses on the structure, composition and dynamics of the Earth as well as other planetary bodies in our solar system. The centre aims to provide a stimulating and supportive academic environment in which its researchers can develop and progress, from research students up through the entire academic spectrum. Through our expertise in geohazards, CeDESS fits within the “Living Sustainable" catalyst of Royal Holloway.

Current research topics
    •  The origin of life and the volatile content of meteorites
    •  Earthquake history and paleoseismology of major faults in South East Asia
    •  Development of space missions to Venus to study its tectonics and dynamics
    •  Mantle sources of Icelandic magmatism
    •  Velocity and density structure of Earth’s lowermost mantle

Research environment
At Royal Holloway, our research facilities include the X-ray fluorescence laboratory, the wet sediment processing lab, the thermal ionization mass spectrometer, as well as the use of ArcGIS and excellent computing facilities.

We have long-standing collaborations with universities across the world, including the Australian National University, Earth Observatory Singapore, University of Bergen, Utrecht University, University of California Berkeley, University of Mandalay and many others. We also have excellent links to many external organisations such as the Natural History Museum, the Met Office, UK Meteor Network, Diamond Light Source, NASA, JAXA and ESA.

Our research receives funding from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), The Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society, the European Space Agency and NASA.

Besides the academic staff members listed below, CeDESS has a large community of postdoctoral researchers and research students. By organising specialist discussion meetings and research training events, we aim to build an inclusive and collaborative community with shared research interests.

Members

Centre of Climate, Ocean and Atmosphere (COCOA)

COCOA is an Earth Science-led grouping with world-class expertise in Climate, Ocean and Atmosphere research. The research occurs at length scales from the sub-molecular to the planetary and temporal scales from the nanosecond to billions of years and elucidates what happened in the past as a model for the future as well as understanding how the current planet works. The Centre has a simple remit to understand controls on the climate of the planet, and to advise on how to predict and mitigate the severe consequences of climate and environmental change. COCOA brings together excellent research in Climatic, Oceanic and Atmospheric sciences to increase the quality of our research outputs, collaborate and share resources,  find and nurture new impact pathways, share best practice and facilitate the training and development of future researcher leaders.

Current research topics

COCOA strengths are presently in Greenhouse gas monitoring and carbon cycle modelling, Paleoecology and biotic responses to climate change, oceanic chemistry and its interaction with global environmental change, air pollution, planetary albedo change owing to aerosol and atmospheric climate change associated with it, and the understanding of past and present day wildfires. 

Research environment

At Royal Holloway, our research facilities include the clean labs and associated Neptune mass-spectrometer, a suite of instruments for measuring atmospheric gases  including methane, ethane, NOx, and solar radiation. We have laboratories for planetology with associated SEM,  cold labs for the generation of large tanks of sea ice, and laboratories of simulation of desert soils for calibration of Earth Observing satellites. We also have excellent computing facilities for modelling studies. The centre also has a mobile atmospheric chemistry laboratory, an automated car. Members of the centre are also heavy users of synchrotron radiation and (inter)national facilities, in x-ray, neutron and laser science.

COCOA  has strong partnerships and relationships. Examples include:

  • National Physical Laboratory (NPL) – shared PhD students, with and without NERC funding, and applications to ESA for the calibration of Earth Observing satellites using ground targets.
  • Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) – shared PhD students and NERC/STFC funding developing new techniques in photon and neutron science for calculating the radiative cooling of the Earth by aerosol.
  • British Antarctic Survey (BAS) – Multiple links focusing around Aerosol and Greenhouse gas monitoring in the southern ocean and Antarctica, with shared postdoctoral researchers and PhD students and joint NERC projects on methane measurement in Antarctica and on the new research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough.
  • United Nations (UN) Methane Science Advisory panel and Global Atmospheric Watch for the Clean Air Consortium,
  • British Geological Survey (BGS) and BEIS – joint projects related to environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
  • Met Office – joint NERC research grants into the effect of aerosol on modern climate change.
  • Forest Research – Shared use of greenhouse gas monitoring tower for atmospheric chemistry experiments.
  • Through our NERC ARIES DTP – 4 partner HEIs (UEA, Kent, Essex, Plymouth) and access to facilities at ~30 research organisations (e.g. BAS, John Innes Institute, PML, CEH, Met Office).
  • UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Wallingford – Impacts of climate change on water quality.
  • UK Global Methane consortium – 14 partners including a dozen universities, British Antarctic Survey and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology is led by Members of COCOA.
  • European Union’s MEMO2 infrastructure for mobile methane measurement.
  • Natural History Museum, London (NHM) – shared research students and research collaboration.

Our research receives funding from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), The Leverhulme Trust, the Science Technology and Facility Research Council (STFC), United Nations, and UK HM Government BEIS, and SMEs.

Besides the academic staff members listed below, CeDESS has a large community of PhD  and postdoctoral researchers and research students. By organising specialist discussion meetings and research training events, we aim to build an inclusive and collaborative community with shared research interests.

Members

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