School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences


School of GeoScience News - Last 20 Stories

Hazard Maps Project Funded

Oct 17, 2016 1:00 am

Communication with Hazard Maps in Central America: A multidisciplinary science-media-community network (HazMap_CA) Funds awarded through the NERC-ESRC-AHRC Global Challenges Building Resilience Network Building call (over 9 months, for £137,000) to the School of GeoSciences' Eliza Calder (PI), Julie Cupples (Co-I), and Edinburgh College of Art's Catherine Ward Thompson (Co-I). Others from Geosciences who will participate in the network are: W Mackeness, J Cortes, I Main and J McCloskey. This network will involve bringing together researchers and practitioners to understand how hazard maps can be used more effectively to communicate hazard information with decision makers, emergency managers, NGOs, and the public before, during and after times of crises in Central America. Our central aim is to address developmental issues in the region by strengthening existing emergency management systems and creating useful modes of hazard communication that empower communities, enhance the effectiveness of communication and increase resilience. We will focus on the communication of volcanic, seismic and landslide hazards via maps, and use case studies from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Athena SWAN Award

Oct 6, 2016 1:00 am

The School is proud to have been awarded an Athena SWAN Silver Award in October 2016, only 3 years after having been awarded a Bronze Award.

What is the Athena SWAN Award?

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. It is an initiative of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), which works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education institutions across all four nations of the UK and in colleges in Scotland. More information on the Athena SWAN

Our Athena SWAN Silver Award 2016

In 2016 the School of GeoSciences won an Athena SWAN Silver Award. Our application was led by Dr Niamh Shortt, assisted by a School-wide Athena SWAN self-assessment team. The award highlights the School's commitment to advancing women's careers and will provide impetus for further improvements. Over the past 3 years, since being awarded the Bronze Award, the School has been focussed on raising awareness of Athena SWAN and gender equality issues within the School. This includes, but is not limited to, unconscious bias training, career coaching and reducing the number of single sex interview panels. We have hosted a range of events including career paths in academia and the Women in Science and Engineering Day which has included several high profile speakers including Laura Bates (founder of the Everyday Sexism website) and Dame Professor Athene Donald.
We are very pleased to have received the Silver Athena SWAN award that recognises our hard work in the area of gender equality. We have a very ambitious action plan that we will continue to put in place that aims to make the School of Geosciences a welcoming and fair environment for all those who work and study within it. Dr Niamh Shortt, Athena SWAN Champion, School of GeoSciences

Improving Cryosat Information

May 12, 2016 1:00 am

A new technique in processing data from the Cryosat spacecraft will allow researchers to assess larger regions of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. The technique is known as swath altimetry. "Swath altimetry will totally change the way scientists are able to study some phenomena" says Dr Noel Gourmelen from Edinburgh University, UK. "The temporal and spatial improvements mean that if we have a surge in a glacier, it now makes it much easier to look at where that event initiated. Did the whole glacier start moving at once? Or did the change start at the ocean, meaning the ocean was having an impact on the glacier? Or perhaps it was further back, meaning different processes were involved. Now, we're better able to trace the history and the causes of the surge," he told BBC News. Access the BBC article here: Dr Noel Gourmelen on the BBC

UK/China Research Partnership

May 5, 2016 1:00 am

Prof Ian Main and Dr Mark Naylor from the School of GeoSciences will lead a group working between Edinburgh and London to help build resilience to future earthquakes in china, as well as associated events such as landslides and floods. The UK team will work together with colleagues in Beijing to estimate and communicate the risk from earthquakes better. The study will be based on one of the oldest historical archives of such events in the world, in combination with modern data from the digital age. Ian Main said: "The ultimate aim is to support local authorities and decision-makers in developing and applying disaster risk reduction strategies before events happen".

Mineral Vortices

Apr 20, 2016 1:00 am

Fresh discoveries about common minerals are helping scientists better understand the nature of Earth’s magnetic fields. Hi-tech imaging technology is enabling researchers to study tiny magnetic spirals in grains of the naturally occurring mineral magnetite, found in rocks in the Earth’s crust. They have found that these structural vortices – formed during the cooling of molten rock – are unaltered by temperature change, as so act as a record of the Earth’s magnetic field. The discovery could help scientists document how the planet’s magnetic properties have changed over billions of years, and aid understanding of the Earth’s core and plate tectonics. A team of researchers led by University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London studied samples of magnetite. They used a technology known as electron-holography which enables vortices – which measure about one-tenth of the thickness of spider silk – to be imaged while they are heated. Their high-resolution scans have shown that although the magnetic vortices alter in strength when heated, they go back to their original state as they cool, resisting temperature changes. The Earth’s magnetic field protects the planet from charged particles from the sun and enables migratory animals to navigate. It constantly changes intensity and direction, and can even reverse the magnetic north and south poles. The study by the Universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham, Imperial College London and Forschungszentrum Jülich, was published in Science Advances. It was funded by the UK’s Natural Environmental Research Council and European Research Council. Professor Wyn Williams of the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study said: “These remarkable images show that vortex structures in natural magnetic systems can hold information about how the Earth’s inner structure evolved. This is a game-changer in our understanding of rocks’ ability to act as reliable magnetic recorders, and helps us see a little clearer into Earth’s history.” Dr Trevor Almeida, formerly of the Natural Magnetism Group at Imperial College London, said: “It is only in a small part of naturally occurring magnetite that magnetic structures known for being very stable with respect to temperature fluctuations are found. However, far more common are tiny magnetic vortices, and their stability could not be demonstrated until now. Magnetite rocks, which carry signs of temperature fluctuations, are indeed a reliable source of information about the history of the Earth.” For further information, please contact: Catriona Kelly, Press & PR Office, tel 0131 651 4401, email

E-Cigarette Use in Teens

Apr 15, 2016 1:00 am

A cross-University collaborative study into e-smoking behaviour in teens involving GeoSciences' Jamie Pearce and Catherine Tisch. Adolescents who recall seeing e-cigarettes in shops are more likely to have tried them in the past and are more likely to intend to try them in the future. There has been a rapid increase in the retail availability of e-cigarettes in the UK and elsewhere. It is known that exposure to cigarette point-of-sale (POS) displays influences smoking behaviour and intentions in young people. However, there is as yet no evidence regarding the relationship between e-cigarette POS display exposure and e-cigarette use in young people. This cross sectional survey was conducted in four high schools in Scotland. A response rate of 87 % and a total sample of 3808 was achieved. Analysis was by logistic regression on e-cigarette outcomes with standard errors adjusted for clustering within schools. The logistic regression models were adjusted for recall of other e-cigarette adverts, smoking status, and demographic variables. Multiple chained imputation was employed to assess the consistency of the findings across different methods of handling missing data. This study, published has found a cross-sectional association between self-reported recall of e-cigarette POS displays and use of, and intention to use, e-cigarettes. The magnitude of this association is comparable to that between tobacco point of sale recall and intention to use traditional cigarettes in the same sample.

Antarctic ice loss

Feb 3, 2016 1:00 am

Andy Hein (Chancellor's Fellow, GeoSciences) and John Woodward (University of Northumbria) have published a study in Nature Communications that assesses the landscape to determine now the West Antarctic ice sheet might respond to a global temperature increase.

See the University news item:

  • Antarctic ice loss.
  • Sauropod footprints on Skye

    Dec 3, 2015 1:00 am

    Dinosaur Disco | Sauropod Dinosaur Trackways in an Ancient Scottish Lagoon: Dr Steve Brusatte has announced the discovery of the biggest dinosaur site yet found in Scotland: vast trackways of sauropod dinosaurs in a Middle Jurassic lagoon. The discovery was made during the group's annual fieldwork expedition to the Isle of Skye in April 2015 and the study was published in the Scottish Journal of Geology. The group making the exciting discovery with Dr Brusatte include Tom Challands (also from the School of GeoSciences), Mark Wilkinson and Dugald Ross from the Staffin Museum on Skye. Dr Brusatte: "Tom and I discovered the tracksite while walking back to our vehicles together after a long day collecting small vertebrate fossils in the Duntulm Formation on the far northeastern corner of Skye. It is a spectacular site: a platform of sandstones and limestones jutting out into the Atlantic, covered in hundreds of sauropod tracks, which are concentrated in at least three layers. What is really amazing is that these rocks were deposited in an ancient lagoon, and the sauropods made the tracks while wading in shallow water. Along with some other recent tracksites, this shows that colossal dinosaurs were at home near and even in shallow water, contrary to there image as land-bound behemoths. The discovery received some press attention. We were really fortunate to have journalists from BBC Earth with us on our fieldtrip, and they produced an amazing multimedia piece with an article, videos, and animations for the BBC Earth website." You can view the BBC animated report on the BBC Earth website: BBC Earth: Jurassic Island.

    Greenland Ice Sheet - New Study

    Oct 29, 2015 1:00 am

    Whether or not an increase in meltwater, in response to climate warming, will accelerate the movement of ice sheets has been contentious. This is because while water lubricates the ice–bedrock interface, helping to speed up the ice flow over short time-scales (days to weeks), it also stimulates the development of efficient drainage.

    Using three decades of satellite images for a 170-km land-terminating stretch of the western Greenland Ice Sheet, Andrew Tedstone et al. report in the journal Nature that more meltwater does not equate to faster ice sheet motion. Rather, despite a 50% increase in surface melting, ice motion decreased in their 8000km2 study region by about 12%.

    Further information here:

    NASA feature on new studies
    Landsat Science feature and 'meet the authors'
    University of Edinburgh Press Release
    Full article in the journal Nature

    Geographer Royal for Scotland

    Sep 15, 2015 1:00 am

    It was announced on 15th August by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Scottish Government that our own Professor Charles Withers will serve as Geographer Royal for Scotland - a post that has been dormant for 118 years but which will provide a national and international ambassador for geography and the geosciences.

    Many congratulations to Charlie.

    The post was first granted to one of Charlie's 'heroes', Sir Robert Sibbald, who was appointed by King Charles II in 1682.

    Further information here: University of Edinburgh Press Release.

    GeoSciences in the news

    Jul 20, 2015 1:00 am

    Stuart Haszeldine tells us that greenhouse gas re-capture is not enough to prevent global change.

    Technology not enough to limit warming.

    Steve Brusatte comments on bird-like new dinosaur.

    Feathered cousin of movie star dino found.

    The BBC science site has great pictures and more from Steve.

    Velociraptor ancestor was 'winged dragon'..

    Andrew Schurer describes latest study that a slow-down in global warning is not a sign that climate change is at an end.

    Warming slow-down is climate pause.

    New SCCS report

    Jun 26, 2015 1:00 am

    Linking the development of enhanced oil recovery in the North Sea to low-carbon electricity can bring significant benefits to the wider UK economy while accelerating carbon storage and providing the most cost-effective pathway to UK decarbonisation targets, a new report proposes.

    An SCCS-led Joint Industry Project has completed a comprehensive new analysis of the efficacy of injecting carbon dioxide (CO₂) derived from low-carbon electricity production and industry to enhance oil recovery from existing North Sea fields (CO₂-EOR).

    See a full report on the SCCS web pages New SCCS Report on 16 June.

    Wolfson Research Merit Award

    Apr 14, 2015 1:00 am

    The scheme provides universities with additional support to enable them to recruit or retain respected scientists of outstanding achievement and potential to the UK. The scheme is jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Royal Society. This award will support his research into "Tracing sources and sinks in the terrestrial carbon cycle under global change” over the next five years.

    ERC Consolidator Grant

    Apr 14, 2015 1:00 am

    Tetsuya Komabayashi was awarded a five-year ERC Consolidator Grant (1.9 million euro)which will start in June 2015. The goal of this project is to identify the thermodynamic state of the Earth's central core, which will provide us with critical information about the origin and evolution of the solid Earth. Tetsuya will set up an ultrahigh-pressure diamond anvil cell laboratory to recreate the Earth's core conditions at pressures and temperatures of more than 135 GigaPascals and 5000 Kelvin respectively. By combining the experimental data with thermodynamic calculations, he will try to solve a sixty-year-old question, "what elements are in the core in addition to iron?".

    A salamander the size of a car?

    Mar 24, 2015 1:00 am

    Steve has led a team that discovered a 'mass grave' of massive, toothy amphibians from 200 million years ago. These two-metre animals have been named Metoposaurus algarvensis and the fossils represent the first find of a Metoposaurus in southern Europe.

    News of the discovery was published online in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (DOI:10.1080/02724634.2014.912988)

    See the BBC News article for more information 'Monster salamanders' found in fossilised mass grave.

    Icelandic canyon formation

    Feb 18, 2015 12:00 pm

    A recent published paper by Edwin Baynes (published with his PhD supervisors: Mikael Attal, Linda Kirstein, Andrew Dugmore and Mark Naylor) looked at the impact of extreme flood events on the formation of a large canyon in Iceland. The paper has shown (and what has generated interest in the media BBC article, that the 28 km long, 100 m deep canyon has been formed during flood events (which last a matter of days) approximately two, five and nine thousand years ago. Between these periods, the evolution of the canyon has been relatively stable. This shows that natural environments can be shaped very suddenly, rather than gradually through time, and these catastrophic events can have a long lasting impact on the landscape morphology.

    Research Excellence Framework

    Jan 5, 2015 1:00 am

    The School of GeoSciences has been identified by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 assessment as having the UK's greatest concentration of excellent researchers in its subject areas. Some 78 per cent of the School’s research activity is in the highest categories - 4* and 3*- which are classified as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, with 100% of our research environment in these categories.

    More information on the REF results.

    IT Skills Courses

    Dec 16, 2014 5:00 pm

    Information Services have provided a schedule for IT Skills Courses over the period covering 12/01/2015 to 25/06/2015 ( semester 2). Details can be access from here

    “Antarctic Science”

    Nov 18, 2014 1:00 am

    December 2014’s issue of the journal “Antarctic Science” is a Special Issue in Honour of the Long-Standing Contributions of Professor David E. Sugden to Antarctic Geoscience. Commissioned after the announcement in 2012 of David’s award of the International Glaciological Society’s top honour, the Seligman Crystal, the special issue was edited by three of David’s former Edinburgh PhD students, Dr Chris Fogwill (now University of New South Wales), Dr. Andrew Mackintosh (now Victoria University of Wellington), and Professor David Marchant (Boston University), and current School of GeoSciences staff member Dr. Robert Bingham. The issue comprises 14 papers on Antarctic geomorphology, geology and glaciology, reflecting David’s multidisciplinary approach to Antarctic geoscience. In total 53 authors contributed to the issue, and 11 of them, who are now themselves highly active in current Antarctic research, were former Ph.D., M.Sc. and undergraduate students supervised or taught at Edinburgh by David during the last 25 years. The editorial team were also fortunate enough to persuade David to contribute a paper himself, which is devoted to evaluating the seminal contributions the 19th century University of Edinburgh scientist James Croll made to our understanding of ice ages and their causes. The Open-Access special issue can be accessed here:

    Research on Royal Mail stamps

    Nov 10, 2014 1:00 am

    The NERC iSTAR Ice Sheet Stability Programme, as part of which the School of GeoSciences’ Dr. Robert Bingham and Ph.D. student Damon Davies participated in the UK’s first major-vehicle oversnow traverse in West Antarctica during November 2013 – January 2014, is being marked with a set of commemorative British Antarctic Territory stamps, expected to be issued from mid November 2014. The 75p stamp depicts Damon Davies and a surface radar used to investigate the internal properties of ice in Pine Island Glacier, making him possibly the first Edinburgh Ph.D. student to appear on a UK postage stamp! iSTAR is an ambitious scientific programme funded by NERC involving leading scientists from 11 UK universities and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The objective is to improve understanding of ice depletion processes in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where the greatest rates of ice loss over the last decades have been observed. New knowledge about the stability of this ice sheet is critical for making better predictions on the response of the ocean and ice to environmental change, and their future sea levels. The six-year, £7.4 million programme involves four main research projects — each using state-of-the art technologies to make new discoveries about the ocean or the ice. The Edinburgh contribution to this work, led by Dr. Robert Bingham, is the deployment of radio-echo sounding systems to image bedforms and subglacial material beneath 2-km thick West Antarctic ice. As part of a team of 12 scientists and support staff taking part in the 2013/14 iSTAR traverse of Pine Island Glacier, Bingham and Davies towed an ice-penetrating radar >2000 km during the 2013/14 iSTAR traverse, and with iSTAR colleagues are currently working on the acquired data so as to better understand the influence of the basal forms and composition on West Antarctic ice flow. Davies has now returned to Antarctica for the second iSTAR traverse which takes place from November 2014 to January 2015. Link to further details about the stamps: