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Earth Sciences

In Earth Sciences our research provides a fundamental understanding of the key natural processes that have governed the development of planet Earth over its 4.5 billion-year history. We provide a stimulating and well-equipped environment for interdisciplinary research and foster strong links with colleagues in biodiversity and ecosystems, and in planetary science and comparative planetology.

Two widely recognised strengths that underpin much of our research are: (i) the exploitation of our analytical capability for developing novel methodologies for the quantification of the rates of key processes in the Earth system; (ii) innovation in field-based research that is complementary to our analytical work, as in orogenic belts and in areas of active volcanism. Academic and research staff in Earth Sciences are collaborating on a wide range of transdisciplinary projects that currently focus on palaeoenvironmental change, isotope geochemistry and geochronology, mountain uplift and orogenic evolution, stratigraphy and sedimentology, oceanography and palaeoceanography, and volcano dynamics. Research students form an integral and highly valued component within all our research projects.

Key facts

  • We were part of the Unit of Assessment 7 submission from The Open University, which achieved 6th in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework power ranking (reflecting the quality and cohort size), with 77 per cent of our outputs achieving 3*/4* grades. 
  • Each year we offer several NERC studentships and university-based studentships; the appointments are made through CENTA (Central England NERC Training Alliance), a consortium of universities and research institutes that provide doctoral research training within the NERC remit. We also have a number of postdoctoral research workers funded by NERC and other sources.
  • At any one time there are over 20 full-time research students studying projects that cover a wide range within Earth and environmental sciences.
  • Our field work and collaborative research projects are global in their distribution; the current focus lies within Central America and the Himalaya as well as across Europe.


Our analytical laboratories are well equipped and lie at the forefront of technological development. Our world class clean chemical laboratories for sample preparation allow us to undertake cutting-edge geochemical and isotope geochemistry research. Analytical facilities include a plasma-source sector mass spectrometer (Neptune), two quadruple mass spectrometer for trace element analysis including an Agilent triple quadruple, which can analyse solutions or be coupled to our new laser ablation system and electron microprobe for spatially resolved major element concentration and mapping work. A laser argon geochronology and noble gas analysis laboratory has been pioneered by our Earth scientists. Supporting facilities include image processing, environmental sciences, palaeontological preparation, and a range of geophysical equipment. 

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 858253

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.


Research publications by Open University staff are available through Open Research Online (ORO), the university's repository of research publications and other research outputs. ORO can be searched or browsed by staff name or subject.

The following list, generated from ORO, provides a flavour of the most recently published work in Earth Sciences