European Geophysical Union General Assembly 2017

As we approach another EGU meeting. Its worth hearing from early Career Researcher Niamh Cullen @cullenni about her experience from last year.


Arriving at the Vienna Conference Centre, Austria.

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Posted in Conference, opinion

Latest Paper: Rock stress history matters.

Viles, H. A., K. Messenzehl, J. Mayaud, M. Coombes & M. C. Bourke (2018) Stress histories control rock-breakdown trajectories in arid environments. Geology,


Rock and boulder surfaces are often exposed to weathering and /or rock-breakdown
processes for extremely long time periods. This is especially true for arid environments on Earth and on planetary bodies such as Mars.
One important, but largely unexplored, gap in knowledge is the influence of past stress histories on the operation of present rock-breakdown processes.
Do rocks in the same area with different stress histories respond equally to newly imposed environmental conditions?
This study investigates the influence of different physical and chemical stress histories on the response of basalt to salt weathering. We designed a four-stage approach of pre-treatment, field exposure, weathering simulation, and post-treatment:
(1) physical, chemical, or no pre-treatment in the laboratory;
(2) 3 yr exposure in either a hyper-arid sandy or salt-pan environment in the Namib desert (Namibia);
(3) 60 cycles of a hot desert salt weathering simulation; and
(4) desalination.
Salt uptake and rock breakdown was assessed at each stage through comparison with baseline observations of mass, internal strength (Dynamic Young’s modulus) and surface morphology (three-dimensional microscopy).

Basalt block inspection at salt Pan site. Note salt uptake into fractures on base of block.

Clear differences in block responses were found. Physically pre-treated blocks (especially those left in the salt-pan environment) experienced the highest loss of strength overall, chemically pre-treated blocks showed the greatest mass loss in the sandy environment, and freshly cut blocks gained strength during exposure in the desert and maintained this during the experiment.
These results imply that stress history matters for predicting breakdown rates, with humid, arid, and saline legacies influencing subsequent breakdown in distinctive ways.
This work was partly supported by NASA (Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program grant NNX08AM40G). We thank the Gobabeb Training and Research Station, Namibia, for help with field research; Mona Edwards and Mark Page for laboratory help; and the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, USA, for access to 3-D microscopy.
Posted in Fieldwork, Mars, Publications | Tagged

Historical Climatology: understanding the past to prepare for the future

Distinguished Lecturers in Geography seminar series:

Dr. Conor Murphy @cmurphy2904 , Maynooth University, Thursday 8th March 2018
12pm – 1pm, M4 Museum Building, TCD, Dublin.

Over the last number of years work has been ongoing at Maynooth University to extend knowledge of historical precipitation for the island of Ireland. Such knowledge is fundamental for understanding plausible ranges of climate variability, the detection of change over extended periods, attribution of the influence of different drivers of change, the identification of past extremes of flood and drought and societal responses.


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Posted in Blog

From Plastic Places to Circular Economy

A recent post from indicates that plastic bottles were found at 80% of Irish coastal landforms (by @coastwatch_ire ). Read more here .

Technology is helping. See here at Five ways to end plastic waste.

The @RediscoveryCtr in Dublin will run a Designs for Life: From Policy to Action in the Circular Economy conference on March 23rd.  @IrishEnvNet

Coastwatch survey plastic marine litter

Posted in Blog, Environment | Tagged

Results from TCD Mars Desert Research experiment have been returned!

As the Winter draws to a close, the undergraduate students involved in the Mars Desert Research Crew-185 have been reviewing the results and unpacking the equipment returned to Trinity College Dublin.

IMG_20171229_143447 (1)

Photo taken on Sol 11 (29th December) by Illaria Cinelli.

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Posted in Fieldwork, Mars | Tagged

From Mars

Image result for mars heart

Image | Posted on by

Pierazzo Crater

Betty would love this.

Posted in Blog