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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Aled Evans awarded inaugural Harry Elderfield PhD Placement Award

Published: 2 August 2018
Aled Evans and Professor Früh-Green
Professor Gretchen Früh-Green and Aled Evans aboard the Japanese drillship Chikyu

Aled Evans, a PhD student from the Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (GSNOCS), has become the first recipient of the University of Southampton Harry Elderfield PhD Placement Award. This award is in memory of Professor Harry Elderfield FRS' research achievements, including his commitment to training and inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Harry Elderfield was one of the world’s leading geochemists and chemical oceanographers of his generation. He made incisive contributions to our understanding of the elemental and isotopic composition of: seawater, mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal fluxes and their impact on ocean chemistry, biomineralization and elemental and isotopic proxies in biogenic carbonates, and their application to unravelling the past chemistry of the oceans.

Harry’s impact on the current generation of chemical and palaeoceanograhy leaders is demonstrated by the many current staff at Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton who were PhD students with Harry during his career at Leeds from 1969 to 1982 and following Leeds, Cambridge.

Aled Evans will use his award to participate in a US-led cruise to the Lost City hydrothermal vents on the Altantis Massif, a large outcrop of partially serpentinised mantle peridotite that has been tectonically exposed on the western margin of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. (Cruise #AT42-01 - Chief Scientists Prof Susan Lang, University of South Carolina and Prof William Brazelton, University of Utah).  

The cruise aboard the RV Atlantis will use the ROV Jason to sample fluids and microbes from these unusual seafloor springs that vent tepid (up to about 90°C), high pH (>11), H2 and abiotic CH4-bearing fluids, that form ghostly calcium carbonate towers on the seafloor, when the vent fluids mix with seawater.  Aled was invited on the cruise by Professor Gretchen Früh-Green from ETH-Zürich, one of the discoverers of the Lost City vent system. Gretchen was also Co-Chief scientist on IODP Expedition 357 that deployed wireline seabed rock drills from the RRS James Cook to sample the subsurface of the Lost City vents and install fluid and microbe sampling devices that will be inspected using ROV Jason. 

The Harry Elderfield Award will allow Aled to suspend from his PhD for three months to participate on the cruise and spend a couple of months in the clean laboratories at NOCS analysing the fluids and mineral precipitates.  Some of the analyses will be done with Dr Sasha Turchyn, an isotope geochemist at Cambridge who continues Harry Elderfield’s interests in global chemical cycles.

Aled said: “My PhD uses field geology and isotope geochemistry to track the serpentinisation of the mantle peridotites that form the highest peaks in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus from the ocean floor 90 million years ago to the present day. Being at the University of Southampton has given me the opportunity to be involved with the international Oman Drilling Project at the drill sites and onboard Chikyu describing the cores. It is through those experiences, that this link with Professor Früh-Green developed.

“When I started my PhD, I wasn’t expecting to go to sea on a research cruise or to experience using remotely operated vehicles, so this is a very exciting opportunity.” 

Involvement in major international collaborations such as scientific drilling on-land or in the oceans, or oceanographic research cruises, provide excellent opportunities for PhD and early career researchers to interact with leading international science teams and forge new scientific relationships. These often lead to new research opportunities and experiences, and even future careers.  Aled’s research journey from the peaks of Troodos to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, via Oman and Japan, supported by this award is a worthy commemoration of Harry Elderfield’s legacy of scientific excellence, adventure and discovery.

Photograph: Professor Gretchen Früh-Green of ETH Zürich and inaugural University of Southampton Harry Elderfield PhD Placement Awardee Aled Evans inspect strongly carbonate-veined serpentinised upper mantle peridotites from Oman Drilling Project Hole CM1A, aboard the giant Japanese drillship Chikyu, as part of ChikyuOman2018.




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