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Geophysics, Geodynamics and Tectonics

Faulting in the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake
Faulting in the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, New Zealand. (Photo: J. Jackson)
The distinctive feature of this grouping is the investigation of a very broad spectrum of structural, tectonic and geodynamical processes using quantitative physical models based on land-, marine- and space-based observations. We have a strong tradition of interfacing theoretical and observational analyses in geophysics and tectonics with advances in petrology, geochemistry and mineral sciences. Work at the BP institute and the Institute of Theoretical Geophysics is an integral part of this research and connects the Department closely with the Departments of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, and Chemical Engineering.  We have a long history of research in modelling and observation of tectonic and geodynamic processes, with strong national and international collaboration in many aspects of space-based observation combined with fieldwork. The research of several staff involves in some aspects of seismology: from the development of theoretical, computational or analytical methods to the study of earthquake sources and crustal, lithosphere or deep-Earth structure.   An extensive collection of seismometers and new computational facilities have strategically enhanced our research in all areas of seismology and geodynamic modelling.

This is a vibrant training environment, for a career either in industry or academia, backed up by excellent research facilities.

Research is ongoing in:

  • Melt generation, and especially the relationship between composition, isotopic ratios and mantle stirring. The distribution of alkali basalts and kimberlites, and their relationship to lithospheric thickness.
  • The relationship between shear-wave velocity and temperature, and hence to lithospheric thickness of the continents. Control of continental tectonics, especially the geometry of fold-mountain belts and variations in elastic thickness, by the structure of the lithosphere.
  • Investigations of active faulting in earthquakes, through combined use of seismology, GPS, InSAR, geomorphology and Quaternary geology, from details of individual earthquakes to regional investigations of large continental areas. This effort is also networked and coordinated within the COMET group (, of which we are founding members..
  • The extent to which vertical motions of the continents are controlled by lithospheric stretching and/or by mantle circulation. This interest is pursued in close collaboration with the hydrocarbon industry who often fund projects and provide datasets.
  • Field deployments of networks of seismometers to study tectonics and lithosphere structure, as well as magma chambers in active volcanic regions. Areas of current work include Iceland, Iran, India, Indonesia and the Himalaya-Tibet region.
  • Use of innovative controlled-source seismic techniques to map and monitor fluid flow and cracking in the subsurface, including application to water movement, CO2 sequestration and hydrocarbon reservoirs.
  • The use of earthquake seismology, in association with mineral physics, to investigate the structure and composition of the Earth's deep interior.
  • The development of innovative theoretical and computational methods for solid Earth geophysics, including work on geophysical inverse problems and seismic tomography.
  • Understanding the relationship between mantle upwelling, lithospheric structure and plate motion, with a particular focus on plume melting, edge-driven convection and shear driven upwelling, and their implications for intra-plate volcanism.
  • Continental growth and evolution, and the relationship between the crust and lithospheric mantle over time. The use of multiple geophysical datasets, which can jointly constrain crust and upper mantle structure, forms a crucial part of this work.
  • The BP Institute is focusing on multiphase fluid flow through porous media and is located at the Bullard Laboratories.

We welcome applications from students with backgrounds in geology, geophysics, physics or mathematics.

Recent publications in this area.

People specializing in this area

Emeritus and College Teaching Staff
Name Phone Email Research Topic
McKenzie, Dan
Priestley, Keith +44 (0) 1223 337195
Woodcock, Nigel +44 (0) 1223 333430