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Geochemistry of the Earth system

Research Isotope geochemistry of the Earth system with The Open University. Rare gas laboratory (photo: James Schwanenthal).

Geochemistry has been a major focus of the research carried out at The Open University for nearly 40 years.

Academics and researchers from Earth sciences use cutting-edge geochemical techniques, such as laser ablation (LA) inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and solution ICP-MS, to study a very diverse range of problems in the Earth and environmental sciences. Our research interests cover present-day and past environmental change; oceanography and palaeoceanography; tectonics and mountain building; volcano dynamics; sedimentology and stratigraphy, ore formation and the evolution of the Earth's mantle and crust. Geochemistry has been central to the major contributions to the international research agendas in these varied fields that have been made by academics and researchers at the OU since the 1970s.

Qualifications available:



For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

We encourage enquiries from prospective students on any geochemical, biotic or geochronological aspect of present-day or palaeoenvironmental change. Lists of postgraduate research projects likely to be available for a 2018 start will become available towards the end of 2017.

Please also see further opportunities.

Current/recent research projects

  • Understanding the Earth's mantle-to-crust volatile cycle (Mantle Volatiles: Contemporary Processes, Reservoirs and Fluxes)
  • From Arc Magmas to Ores (FAMOS): a mineral systems approach
  • Te and Se Cycling and Supply (TeaSE)
  • Hydrous and hydrothermal evolution of impact craters
  • Response of global ocean oxygenation to early Cenozoic climate extremes (RESPIRE): three-year NERC funded research project
  • The Impact of Recent Ocean Acidification on Bio-calcification
  • Reconstructing ocean circulation patterns during the early/middle Eocene climatic warmth and subsequent cooling trend (47-53Ma)
  • Tectonic scale Indian Summer Monsoon evolution
  • Reconstruction of Indian Summer Monsoon runoff response to global climate
  • Reconstruction of past changes in North Atlantic overturning using neodymium isotopes
  • Eclogites, amphibolites and argon: tracing Ar through a metamorphic cycle
  • An integrated metamorphic and isotopic study of crustal extrusion along the Main Central Thrust, Sikkim Himalaya
  • Orogenesis in the Eastern Himalayas: a study of structure, geochronology and metamorphism in Bhutan
  • Understanding excess argon in volcanic tuffs by 40Ar/39Ar laserprobe geochronology

Potential supervisors

  • Dr Pallavi Anand – biogeochemical proxies development and application in understanding calcification, oceanic processes and climate.
  • Dr Tom Argles – Senior Lecturer in Earth Science. The evolution and provenance of highly deformed and metamorphosed rocks in orogenic belts.
  • Marcus Badger - organic geochemistry and Earth System Science modelling.
  • Professor Nigel Harris – Professor of Tectonics. Links between tectonics and magmatism, the role of mountains in the Earth system, comparative tectonics along the Tethyan orogenic belts, how mountain building impacts on global climate.
  • Dr Frances Jenner - global cycling of elements during evolution of the Earth's mantle and crust.
  • Dr Susanne Schwenzer - water-related alteration processes, impact-cratering and Early Earth processes.
  • Dr Phil Sexton  – climatic change during the Eocene and mid-Cretaceous ‘greenhouse’ regimes.
  • Dr Sarah Sherlock – Senior Research Fellow. 40Ar/39Ar geochronology.

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.