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The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Research involves the full breadth of the earth sciences and has benefited from major investment in new laboratories and equipment in the past few years. Important initiatives include experimental and theoretical studies of physical, chemical and biological processes of the Earth.

Please note: If you are applying for this programme, you need to select Geology PhD as the programme choice when completing your online application form.

Research groups

The research programme at Bristol is characterised by an expanding range of exciting subject areas. Research in the School of Earth Sciences encourages interdisciplinary collaboration between its five research groups, which in turn nurtures revolutionary research.

Geochemistry

The Geochemistry group uses fundamental chemical techniques to understand natural processes on a range of temporal and spatial scales. This can be from single atoms on mineral surfaces and the environmental geochemistry of the modern Earth to the large-scale chemical structure of planets and the birth of the solar system. The group has considerable expertise in isotopic measurements, spectroscopy and first-principles calculations.

Geophysics

Geophysics uses physical properties of the solid Earth to measure structure and processes on scales from the single crystal to the entire planet. Members of the Bristol Geophysics group use gravity, seismic and satellite data to image the Earth in a variety of different contexts. These include the Earth's core, mantle and tectonic processes, volcanoes, oil and gas reservoirs and mines.

Palaeobiology

The Palaeobiology group uses the fossil record to study the history of life. Research focuses on major diversifications, mass extinctions, dating the tree of life, phylogenomics and molecular palaeobiology, morphological innovation, biomechanics, and links between evolution and development; the organisms of interest range from foraminifera to dinosaurs.

Petrology

The Petrology group uses a combination of high-pressure and high-temperature experiments, petrology, geochemistry and mineral physics to attack a wide range of problems in the solid Earth - from the core to the surface.

Volcanology 

The Volcanology group at Bristol aims to understand the physical processes underlying volcanic phenomena and develop methods of hazard and risk assessment that can be applied to volcanoes worldwide.

Recent case studies and collaborators include the Met Office, Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland and INGEOMINAS in Columbia.

Research centres

The School of Earth Sciences is involved in a number of collaborative research groups on an international level. Inter-faculty research centres such as the Biogeochemistry Research Centre and the Cabot Institute involve collaboration across several departments and faculties.

  • Centre for Environmental and Geophysical Flows
  • This interdisciplinary research centre brings together expertise from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. This creates diverse research activities and interests, from traffic flow to explosive volcanic flows, meteorology to oceanography.
  • Biogeochemistry Research Centre
  • The Biogeochemistry Research Centre involves staff from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences and Chemistry. The research aims to develop our understanding of the biogeochemistry of modern-day and ancient environments and the way that it is affected by natural processes and the actions of mankind.
  • Bristol Isotope Group
  • The Bristol Isotope Group is a world-class research facility for isotope measurements directed at understanding natural processes, from the formation of the solar system and the origin of Earth - its deep structure and atmosphere - through to the evolution of that atmosphere and contemporary climate change.
  • Interface Analysis Centre
  • The Interface Analysis Centre specialises in the application of a wide range of analytical techniques and is used by the Schools of Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Physics.
  • The Cabot Institute
  • The Cabot Institute carries out fundamental and responsive research on risks and uncertainty in a changing environment. Interests include climate change, natural hazards, food and energy security, resilience and governance, and human impacts on the environment.
  • Coral Reef Research at Bristol (CRAB)
  • The research group reflects the interdisciplinary nature of coral reef science and strives to understand these beautiful, complex and highly important ecosystems, combining perspectives from biology, chemistry, geology and geography. Members of the group span the Faculties of Science and Life Sciences, coming from the Schools of Biological Sciences, Earth Sciences and Geographical Sciences.
  • Bristol Oceans Past and Present (BOPP)
  • BOPP’s main focus is to further understand the chemical and physical conditions of the oceans, both past and present. Our study of the oceans is made possible through the use of a diverse range geochemical techniques applied to geological, biological and oceanographic samples.

Careers

A large proportion of our graduating PhD students continue to post-doctoral research and an academic career. Previous students have taken up post-doctoral positions in national and international laboratories, for example in New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, the US and China. A number of recent alumni now have permanent lectureship positions in institutions including the University of St Andrews, University of Liverpool and Harvard University.

Some of our students embark on industrial careers in an area that relates to their PhD studies. Other careers include teaching, publishing and management consultancy.


Visit the Earth Sciences - MSc by Research page on the University of Bristol website for more details!

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