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Large topographic features are caused by subtle changes in the uppermost mantle

Brazil’s Borborema Plateau is in the middle of the South American plate - well away from the dynamic tectonic forces of subduction in the Andes Volcanic Belt. Plate theory suggests that passive areas like Borborema should be flat and stable, with little movement of the crust. But the region, which is thousands of kilometres across and a domed shape, has actually risen by up to a kilometre over the last 30 million years.

Large topographic features are caused by subtle changes in the uppermost mantle - Read More…

Phosphine clouds suggest Venus could host life

A UK-led team of astronomers involving Dr Paul Rimmer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Earth Sciences with affiliations at Cavendish Astrophysics and the MRC Labratory of Molecular Biology, has discovered a rare molecule – phosphine – in the clouds of Venus, hinting to the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.

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New record of Earth’s Cenozoic climate reveals defining role of polar ice

Research published today in Science presents a new record of Earth’s temperature and glaciation since the end of the age of the dinosaurs, revealing the changing state of the climate system through the last 66 million years.

New record of Earth’s Cenozoic climate reveals defining role of polar ice - Read More…

Atomic-scale imaging of uranium dioxide reveals how nuclear waste breaks down

A recent study, led by Dr Aleksej Popel and directed by Professor Ian Farnan, both at the Department of Earth Sciences and Cambridge Nuclear Energy Centre, has observed the surface breakdown of uranium dioxide, the primary component of nuclear fuel, shedding light on the mechanism and rate of waste leaching.

Atomic-scale imaging of uranium dioxide reveals how nuclear waste breaks down - Read More…

Scelidosaurus finally makes its way into the dinosaur family tree

The first complete dinosaur skeleton ever identified has finally been studied in detail and found its place in the dinosaur family tree, completing a project that began more than a century and a half ago.

Scelidosaurus finally makes its way into the dinosaur family tree - Read More…

Abrupt changes in Earth’s past climate occurred synchronously

An international study, involving Professor Eric Wolff at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, has found that the onset of past climate changes was synchronous over an area extending from the Arctic to the low latitudes.

Abrupt changes in Earth’s past climate occurred synchronously - Read More…

Carbon dioxide pulses are a common feature of the carbon cycle

A multi-institutional study, involving researchers at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, has found that pulse-like releases of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere are a pervasive feature of the carbon cycle and that they are closely connected to major changes in Atlantic Ocean circulation.

Carbon dioxide pulses are a common feature of the carbon cycle - Read More…

Addressing racial inequality and inclusion in the Department of Earth Sciences

This post is a response on behalf of the Department of Earth Sciences to an open letter sent by undergraduates, postgraduates and post-docs prompted by the current vocalisation around racial injustice, and in particular the Black Lives Matter movement. The letter raises concerns about the Department and wider Earth science sector’s track records on diversity and inclusion, and urges a substantial and comprehensive shift in the approaches taken to addressing this. To date, more than 120 people have signed the letter.

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Ozone depletion blamed for the end-Devonian mass extinction

359 million years ago, at the end of Devonian times, life on Earth suffered a catastrophic extinction—the cause of which has puzzled geologists for decades. Land plants and freshwater life were affected particularly badly. However, unlike other major extinctions, there is no evidence to suggest that major volcanic eruptions or asteroid impacts were to blame. Now a team of Earth scientists, including Sarah Wallace-Johnson from the University of Cambridge’s Sedgwick Museum, has found the cause.

Ozone depletion blamed for the end-Devonian mass extinction - Read More…

Origins of Earth's magnetic field remain a mystery

Zircons, and their microscopic mineral inclusions, from an ancient outcrop of Jack Hills, Western Australia, have been at the centre of an intense geological debate: When did the Earth first create a magnetic field? Previous studies have suggested that these minerals record traces of Earth’s magnetic field dated as far back as 4.2 billion years ago (Ga). However, an international team led by MIT, and including Professor Richard Harrison (Dept of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge), has now found evidence to the contrary.

Origins of Earth's magnetic field remain a mystery - Read More…

Taking a dinosaur's temperature

New chemical analyses of dinosaur eggshell by Dr Robin Dawson (Yale University), Dr Daniel Field (University of Cambridge), and colleagues from the US, Canada and Israel, show that representatives of all three major dinosaur groups were endothermic (i.e., warm-blooded). As such, thermal-regulation is likely to have been the ancestral condition for dinosaurs, and helps explain their remarkably successful occupation of Earth’s Mesozoic landscapes from pole to pole.

Taking a dinosaur's temperature - Read More…

'All the world's a stage'

According to Cambridge geologist Neil S. Davies and colleagues, Shakespeare was on the right track—again. Earth’s surface is indeed the stage upon which life has strutted its stuff, and has done so for the last 3.8 billion years. Billions of organisms have graced this stage, making their entrances and exits, but what was the impact of these ‘actors’? The answer has been locked up in Earth’s sedimentary record until now.

'All the world's a stage' - Read More…

A top avian predator’s surprising past

A single fossil bone found in Japan is ruffling a few feathers in the world of avian palaeontology. It belongs to a relative of the little auk or dovekie, today the most common seabird and top avian predator in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. At around 700,000 years old, the fossil’s presence in Japan indicates that during the ‘Ice Age’, the little auk had a much wider range that extended into the Pacific. Discovered by Junya Watanabe of the Department of Earth Sciences in the University of Cambridge and colleagues from Japan’s Kyoto University, the find raises the question of why such a successful, competitive and adaptive seabird should have suffered such a significant reduction in range.

A top avian predator’s surprising past - Read More…

Arts Council England funding announced for the Sedgwick Museum

Arts Council England has announced that the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is among 28 organisations to be awarded Designation Development Funding. A total of £2.1 million has been awarded across the country, drawn from the National Lottery, with the Sedgwick Museum receiving £89,406

Arts Council England funding announced for the Sedgwick Museum - Read More…

UKRI fellowship enables further research on the origins and evolution of birds

UKRI fellowship enables further research on the origins and evolution of birds

Announced today, Dr Field, University Lecturer in Evolutionary Palaeobiology, has been named a recipient of a Future Leaders Fellowship by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Dr Field is an expert on the origins and evolution of birds, and his award, entitled 'Modernisation, diversification, and domination: Macroevolutionary origins of living bird diversity', will fund his research for the next several years.

UKRI fellowship enables further research on the origins and evolution of birds - Read More…

Mussels could 'tough out' climate change

Mussels could 'tough out' climate change

Global environmental change is generally bad news for life on Earth. But the future may not be entirely doom and gloom. Cambridge biologist Luca Telesca and colleagues have conducted the first large-scale examination of natural variation in biomineralisation in ecologically and economically important Atlantic mussel species Mytilus edulis and M. trossulus within their natural habitats. Little is known about the processes, which allow species such as these to vary regionally. So the researchers tested the mussels ability to vary the production and composition of their calcareous shells which provides them with a resilience to the impacts of climate change in their shallow marine habitat.

Mussels could 'tough out' climate change - Read More…

Professor Richard Harrison appointed Head of Department

Professor Richard Harrison appointed Head of Department

Richard Harrison (Fitzwilliam 1990), Professor of Earth and Planetary Materials and Fellow of St Catharine’s College, will take over as Head of Department on 1st August 2019.

Professor Richard Harrison appointed Head of Department - Read More…

Perched for take-off

Perched for take-off

Perching birds, ranging from sparrows, tits and jays to the South African White-bellied Sunbird, form the largest and most diverse group of living birds. With over 6,000 species belonging to 143 families, the passerines, as they are technically known, have had astonishing evolutionary and geographical success. Within the last 45 million years they have spread out around the world. Now, for the first time the evolutionary tree of all major groups of perching birds has been mapped out in a study involving Daniel Field of the Department of Earth Sciences in Cambridge and led by Carl Oliveros and Brant Faircloth of Louisiana State University.

Perched for take-off - Read More…

Geological Society awards for Cambridge researchers

Congratulations to Professor Marian Holness, Dr Nigel Woodcock and Dr Brendan McCormick Kilbride who each received awards from the Geological Society of London. The awards were presented on President's Day on 6 June 2019.

Geological Society awards for Cambridge researchers - Read More…

Magnetic properties of meteorite ‘cloudy zones’ revealed

A team led by Cambridge Earth Sciences' Joshua Einsle and Richard Harrison have used advanced microscopy techniques and numerical simulations to gain new insight into the formation, composition and magnetic behaviour of the meteoritic composite known as the ‘cloudy zone’.

Magnetic properties of meteorite ‘cloudy zones’ revealed - Read More…

Research shows what it takes to be a giant shark

Research shows what it takes to be a giant shark

Have you ever wondered why the Megalodon shark became to be so big? Or wondered why some other sharks are much smaller?

Research shows what it takes to be a giant shark - Read More…

Liz Hide appointed as first full-time Director of the Sedgwick Museum

Liz Hide appointed as first full-time Director of the Sedgwick Museum

The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, the oldest of the University of Cambridge museums, has appointed its first full-time director.

Liz Hide appointed as first full-time Director of the Sedgwick Museum - Read More…

Taking to the skies: measuring volcanic gas emissions using drones

Taking to the skies: measuring volcanic gas emissions using drones

Many of the world’s most hazardous volcanoes are either too remote or too active to make measurements safely from the ground. Cambridge Earth Scientists are now taking to the skies to investigate the gases being released by these elusive volcanoes.

Taking to the skies: measuring volcanic gas emissions using drones - Read More…

Metals mark magma for life

Metals mark magma for life

Gases erupted by volcanoes contain various volatile metal products. New research by Marie Edmonds and Emma Liu in Cambridge and Tamsin Mather in Oxford has discovered that different kinds of volcanoes have distinctive metal ‘signatures’, which reflect differences in how their magma forms.

Metals mark magma for life - Read More…

Lessons about a future warmer world using data from the past

Selected intervals in the past that were as warm or warmer than today can help us understand what the Earth may be like under future global warming. A latest assessment of past warm periods, by an international team of 59 scientists from 17 nations including Cambridge Earth Sciences' Professor Eric Wolff, shows that in response to the warming ecosystems and climate zones will spatially shift and on millennial time scales ice sheets will substantially shrink.

Lessons about a future warmer world using data from the past - Read More…

Dating the emplacement of the Shap granite using zircon

Dating the emplacement of the Shap granite using zircon

G5a - the distinctive coarse-grained, pink granite exposed at Shap in Cumbria - has long been a favourite igneous hand specimen for Earth Sciences teaching in Cambridge. New research uses the age of zircon crystal formation to suggest a long gestation period in the mid-crust before its final emplacement 405 million years ago.

Dating the emplacement of the Shap granite using zircon - Read More…