Understandable Earth Science

Posts tagged ‘postdoctoral researcher’

Who am I?

Who am I and why am I calling myself the Noble Gasbag?

I am currently (summer 2014) a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Geosciences at The University of Edinburgh, Scotland. That means I work as a scientific researcher, mainly on a specific project (more on that in a moment). I did my PhD at The University of Manchester, UK, and have worked on postdoctoral projects at The Open University (Milton Keynes), UK and Roskilde University, Denmark.

I am an Earth Scientist – that means I use scientific methods to investigate processes happening in The Earth. I could also be classed as a Geoscientist or a Geologist.

A lot of my work involves a group of elements called the Noble Gases (Group 8 on the periodic table –those elements in the far right hand column, historically these have also been called “the rare gases” or inert gases). So The Noble Gasbag seemed an appropriate name for a blog where I talk about my scientific work.

One of my main interests is a geological dating technique called ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar dating (that is finding out how old rocks are, not wining and dining fellow geologists 😉 ). This involves measuring the noble gas, Argon (Ar).  I am most interested in using this to find out when volcanoes erupted, which means I have been lucky enough to visit some exciting parts of the world with some very pretty volcanoes, all in the name of work.

Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Houses built into volcanic ash, Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Inerie, Flores, Indonesia

Inerie volcano near Bajawa, Flores, Indonesia

I am also interested in learning more about some of the fundamental assumptions of the technique and how to refine and improve it so we can produce more accurate and precise dates of geological events. Part of this involves studying how atoms diffuse in geological materials.

To fully understand how atoms diffuse, we really need to understand the structure, chemical and thermodynamic properties of the geological materials being studied. That means I have spent quite a lot of time studying geological and mineralogical microtextures (small scale – microns to centimetres – structures and features in rocks and minerals) and helping to develop ways to study microtextures more easily. The blogs summarising those papers will have a lot of pretty pictures.

The project I am currently working on is a bit of a new area for me. I will be finding out if we can use noble gases to make sure that geological storage sites for CO₂ are secure and don’t leak (and if they do leak, who should take responsibility for fixing the problem). CO₂ capture and storage (CCS) is a way that the world can quickly reduce CO₂ emissions and minimise anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change, IF large-scale CCS projects start working soon. More on that later.

So, that is me, and a bit of info about what I am going to be “gassing” about.

The Noble Gasbag

Photo of me in the Soa Basin, Flores, Indonesia.
Photo by David McGahan