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Dr Owen Weller

Dr Owen Weller

Lecturer

Fellow and Director of Studies, Sidney Sussex College

Metamorphic petrology and structural geology

Owen Weller is accepting applications for PhD students.

Owen Weller is available for consultancy.

Office S203, Department of Earth Sciences, Downing St, Cambridge, CB2 3EQ, UK
Twitter: @owenmweller

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 333464

Biography:

2006–2010: BA/MSci in Natural Sciences, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, UK. Worked with Frederik Tilmann and Dietrich Lange to illuminate a new strike-slip duplex along the Great Sumatran Fault using relocated crustal seismicity (Weller et al., 2012).

2010–2014: DPhil in Earth Science, Exeter College, University of Oxford, UK. Worked with Mike Searle, Dave Waters and Marc St-Onge to probe the crustal evolution of the Tibetan plateau using various tectonic windows into the mid-crust (Weller et al., 2013, 2015a, 2016a, 2016b).

2014: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Postdoctoral Fellow, Nagoya University, Japan. Worked with Simon Wallis to rationalise the distribution of glaucophane- and barroisite-bearing lithologies within the Sanbagawa metamorphic belt (Weller et al., 2015b).

2015–2016: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Visiting Fellow, Geological Survey of Canada, Canada. Worked with Marc St-Onge on the Quebec–Baffin portion of the Himalayan-scale Paleoproterozoic Trans-Hudson orogen (Weller et al., 2015c; Weller & St-Onge, 2017).

2017-present: Lecturer in the Earth Sciences department at the University of Cambridge. I currently teach the Part IB Maps & Structures course, contribute to the Part II skills course and Part III seminar series, and help to lead the Part IB field trip to Cornwall.

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in structural and metamorphic processes that occur within the lithosphere, and how these processes have changed over geological time. I examine these topics by integrating field and petrographic observations with phase equilibria modelling, thermal modelling, high-temperature geochronology and trace element geochemistry to decode the tectonothermal history of high-grade terranes. Presently, I am leading a variety of projects within three major research themes:

1. Formation of Archean granite-greenstone belt terranes. In collaboration with the Geological Survey of Canada, I am taking part in a geological study of North Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. This region is of scientific and economic interest as it exposes a classic Archean granite-greenstone belt terrane, with one of the belts host to the world-class Mary River iron deposit. Nevertheless, fundamental questions remain concerning the extent, geometry, age and origin of the belts. These questions will be resolved through targeted mapping, U-Pb geochronology and phase equilibria modelling using newly developed thermodynamic models appropriate for the melting of metabasic lithologies. The results will shed light on the nature of early Earth tectonics. For more information, see a recent blog post and Skipton et al. (2017).

2. Secular change in tectonometamorphic processes. Tectonic regimes on Earth have undergone a secular change in style with an early non-plate tectonic regime giving way to more uniformitarian plate tectonic processes featuring subduction, largely owing to planetary cooling and the resultant effects on lithospheric thickness and strength. However, the timing, details and drivers of these changes are debated. I am investigating the metamorphic implications of the associated bulk chemical variations through time on plate dynamics using integrated phase equilibria and thermal modelling. These studies will further our understanding of the evolution of plate tectonics.

3. Timescales of metamorphism. Analytical advances in dating accessory phases are allowing for greater insights into the rates of metamorphism. I am exploring how laser ablation raster mapping of monazite grains can provide further constraints on the timing of monazite growth. I am also conducting thermal modelling to explore the implications of our refined understanding of metamorphic cycles. 

I have ongoing collaborations with researchers from the University of Oxford, the Geological Survey of Canada and the Colorado School of Mines. I also greatly enjoy doing scientific outreach, and have been a guest on a Naked Scientist podcast and have written blogs for the UK in Canada Arctic partnership.

Research Supervision

Working with:

  • Postdoctoral researcher Dr William Miller to decipher the petrogenesis of a suite of greenstone rocks from northern Baffin Island.
  • PhD student Andrew Whyte to investigate the formation and destruction of ancient gneissic terranes.
  • PhD student Ian Cawood (University of Oxford) to decode the metamorphic evolution of the Greater Himalayan Series in Zanskar, India.
  • MSci student Ben Harris to unravel the relationship between deformation and metamorphism in the Ptarmigan Fiord thrust imbricate zone on Baffin Island.
  • MSci student Matt Maltby to constrain metamorphic field gradients using the latest thermocalc a-x models in order to analyse the thermal evolution of metamorphic terranes.
  • MSci student Sophie Miocevich to interpret rare supracrustal assemblages in the Lewisian Complex of north-west Scotland.

Key Publications

Kellett, D.A., Weller, O.M., Zagorevski, A., and Regis, D. (2018) A petrochronological approach for the detrital record: tracking mm-sized eclogite clasts in the northern Canadian Cordillera. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 494, 23–31, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.04.036

Weller, O.M., and St-Onge, M.R. (2017) Record of modern-style plate tectonics in the Palaeoproterozoic Trans-Hudson orogen. Nature Geoscience 10, 305–311 doi: 10.1038/ngeo2904

Palin, R.M., Reuber, G.S., White, R.W., Kaus, B.J.P., and Weller, O.M. (2017) Subduction metamorphism in the Himalayan ultrahigh-pressure Tso Morari massif: An integrated geodynamic and petrological modelling approach. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 467, 108–119, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.03.029

Skipton, D.R., Saumur, B.M., St-Onge, M.R., Wodicka, N., Bros, E.R., Morin, A., Brouillette, P., Weller, O.M., and Johnston, S.T. (2017) Precambrian bedrock geology of the Pont Inlet–Mary River area, northern Baffin Island, Nunavut. Summary of Activities 2017, Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Office.

Weller, O.M., St-Onge, M.R., Rayner, N., Waters, D.J., Searle, M.P., and Palin, R.M. (2016b) U-Pb zircon geochronology and phase equilibria modeling of the Sumdo eclogite, south-east Tibet: insights into metamorphic zircon crystallisation and eclogite exhumation. Lithos 262, 729–741, doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2016.06.005

Palin, R.M., Weller, O.M., Waters, D.J., and Dyck, B.J. (2016) Quantifying geological uncertainty in metamorphic phase equilibria modeling; a Monte Carlo assessment and implications for tectonic interpretations. Geoscience Frontiers 7, 591–607, doi: 10.1016/j.gsf.2015.08.005

Weller, O.M., St-Onge, M.R., Rayner, N., Searle, M.P., and Waters, D.J. (2016a) Miocene magmatism in the Western Nyainqentanglha mountains of southern Tibet: an exhumed bright spot? Lithos 245, 147–160, doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2015.06.024

Weller, O.M., Dyck, B.J., St-Onge, M.R., Rayner, N., and Tschirhart, V. (2015c) Completing the bedrock mapping of southern Baffin Island, Nunavut: plutonic suites and regional stratigraphy. Summary of Activities 2015, Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Office, p. 33–48.

Weller, O.M., Wallis, S.R., Aoya, M., and Nagaya, T. (2015b) Phase equilibria modelling of blueschist and eclogite from the Sanbagawa metamorphic belt of south-west Japan reveals along-strike consistency in tectonothermal architecture. Journal of Metamorphic Geology 33, 579–596, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12134

Weller, O.M., St-Onge, M.R., Searle, M.P., Waters, D.J., Rayner, N., Chung, S.L., Palin, R.M., and Chen, S. (2015a) Quantifying the PTt conditions of north-south Lhasa terrane accretion: new insight into the pre-Himalayan architecture of the Tibetan plateau. Journal of Metamorphic Geology 33, 91–113, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12112

Weller, O.M., St-Onge, M.R., Searle, M.P., Rayner, N., Waters, D.J., Chung, S.L., Palin, R.M., Lee, Y.H., and Xu, X.W. (2013) Quantifying Barrovian metamorphism in the Danba Structural Culmination of eastern Tibet. Journal of Metamorphic Geology 31, 909–935, doi: 10.1111/jmg.12050

Weller, O.M. Lange, D., Tilmann, F., Natawidjaja, D., Rietbrock, A., Collings, R., and Gregory, L. (2012) The structure of the Sumatran Fault revealed by local seismicity. Geophysical Research Letters 39, 1–7, doi: 10.1029/2011GL050440