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Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

View of planet Mars from space

Earth and planetary science

We study the origins and evolution of the Earth, its atmosphere, oceans and life, and of the other planets and minor bodies in our Solar System.

Our facilities

We use a range of contemporary tools and facilities to conduct our research, including our Advanced Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Suite, and the instruments in our Williamson Research Centre and Centre for Atmospheric Science.

Studying the Earth and Solar System is fundamental to understanding the processes by which the Earth and other planets formed, allowing life to prosper. Our ability to forecast the impact of human activities relies on our understanding of the Earth system.

The Earth is not always a benign place, and our capacity to manage natural hazards depends on our knowledge of the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes, eruptions and floods, and our understanding of weather and the atmosphere.

The atmosphere is also integral to the Earth's climate and (bio)geochemical cycles, and studying its composition and dynamics are key to Earth system science.

sunset in the Antarctic
We're investigating the types of meteorites found in Antarctica.

The geological processes that produced the mineral and fossil fuel reservoirs that still sustain much of human activity are underpinned by the study of sedimentary processes and structural geology.

Our research uses an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to study the processes that have formed the Earth and other planets as they are today. We investigate fundamental questions to provide a framework to address key challenges for humanity in the future.

Research highlights

Our researchers study the fate of plastic waste

Mismanaged plastic waste entering rivers is concerning, and has a severe negative impact on ecosystems at land and sea. A team of researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Bergen have used landscape modelling, plastic production history, and numerical simulations to estimate the input of plastic waste to global river systems, and the fate of those plastics. The teams showed that plastic fate depends on the river type and its setting, which has implications for the retention, fragmentation, and biochemical weathering rates of plastics. The research shows that future river system dynamics should form the basis for targeted strategies to mitigate the impact of plastic waste, and are key to environmental risk assessments.

Solving the mystery of the missing iron-rich meteorites

Meteorites provide key insights into the geology of other planets, and one of the best places to hunt them down is Antarctica. A team of mathematicians and earth scientists from our Department have recently solved a long-standing conundrum - fewer iron-rich meteorites have been found in Antarctica than anywhere else on Earth. The solution? It seems that the amount of iron in the meteorite sample dictates how efficiently it heats up. Iron-rich meteorites heat more, and so sink through the ice.