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My research is focused on the role that impact events have had in the evolution of Earth and the inner Solar System.
Impacts were a fundamental geological process controlling the evolution of early planetary crusts – as evidenced by the battered facades of the Moon and Mars – and have also had drastic effects on the more recent evolution of Earth’s geosphere and biosphere – for example, by causing one of the largest mass extinctions of the Phanerozoic, at the K–Pg boundary.
One aspect of my research is to understand how minerals commonly used in U–Th–Pb geochronology (for example, zircon, apatite, and monazite) respond to the extreme temperatures and pressures of impact events and how they can record impact ages. This is done through work on samples from impact structures as well as analogue studies (for example, lightning strikes).
I then apply this understanding to providing absolute age constraints on impact structures on Earth. Of the approximately 200 known impact structures on Earth, the vast majority (>80 %) currently lack robust absolute ages and this has hampered understanding of the full role of impacts in Earth’s evolution – for example, whether Chicxulub was unique in its devastation or whether impacts have played a repeated role in mass extinctions.
Other research avenues include the evolution of the heavily bombarded lunar and Martian crusts, and understanding the behaviour of water and other volatiles in impacts.
The tools I use to test impact-related hypotheses include fieldwork at impact structures, petrography, whole rock major and trace element geochemistry, mineral-scale trace element geochemistry, mineral-scale stable isotope geochemistry, microstructural characterisation of deformation in minerals and rocks (by EBSD analysis), in situ U–Pb analysis (by LA–ICPMS and SIMS), and high-precision U–Pb analysis (by CA–ID–TIMS).
If you’re interested in collaborating on these or any other projects please get in touch!