Earth Sciences

Our Earth Sciences research provides fundamental insights into 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, geography, and planetary science.

Two widely recognised strengths that underpin much of our research are:

  • the exploitation of our analytical expertise for developing novel methodologies for understanding and quantifying the rates of Earth processes
  • innovation in field-based research that is complementary to our analytical work, including pioneering work in mountain areas and on coastal rock exposures.

Academic and research staff in Earth Sciences are collaborating on a wide range of transdisciplinary projects that currently focus on modern and palaeoenvironmental change, palaeobiology, geochemistry (inorganic and organic), mantle evolution and geochronology, mountain uplift and orogenic evolution, stratigraphy and sedimentology, oceanography and palaeoceanography. Research students form an integral and highly valued component within all our research projects.

Key facts

  • Each year we offer several NERC and University-funded studentships 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 regularly offer several studentships funded by other sources.
  • At any one time our School hosts more than 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.
  • We were part of the B7 Unit of Assessment submission from The Open University to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. Overall, 86% of our research was assessed in REF2021 as either 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*) in terms of its overall academic quality and rigour.


Most of our full-time research students are based at our Milton Keynes campus; for details of residence requirements for different modes of study see Full-time study and Part-time study.


Our well-equipped analytical laboratories lie at the forefront of technological development. Our world-class clean chemical laboratories for sample preparation allow us to undertake cutting-edge geochemical research. Our analytical facilities include two quadruple mass spectrometers (Agilent 7700 and 7900) for trace element analysis which can analyse solutions or be coupled to our new laser ablation system, a multi-collector inductively coupled mass spectrometer (MC ICP-MS; Neptune), a Cameca SX100 electron microprobe for spatially-resolved major element concentration and mapping work and a laser argon geochronology and noble gas analysis laboratory.

Supporting facilities include full rock and mineral preparation facilities, image processing, environmental sciences, micro- and macro-palaeontological preparation, and a range of geophysical equipment.

Within the STEM Faculty we also have access to (and use) isotope ratio mass spectrometers for carbonate and compound specific isotope analysis (Themo MAT252 and Delta-Plus-Advantage mass spectrometer) and are well equipped for GC and LC analysis of lipids.



Find your research topic

Explore specific areas of research, current and prospective projects, entry requirements, fees and funding, available supervisors, how to apply and contact details for advice.

Climate change, past, present and future

Earth system modelling


Mountain dynamics

Oceanography and palaeoceanography

Sedimentology, stratigraphy and palaeobiology