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

Research Group: Geochemistry

Currently Active: 

Geochemistry comprises more than 30 researchers and postgraduate students who apply state-of-the-art geochemical analysis and modelling to scientific questions of major societal, economic and environmental importance.

Our diverse research activity can be broadly divided into 8 themes. Click the theme title for more information.

Past Present and Future Environmental Change

  • We aim to achieve a better understanding of the major geochemical cycles of the Earth System and the impact of humanities action upon them. Our work also focuses on the reconstruction of the climate of the past to better understand the drivers of natural climate and environmental change.
Hyperalkaline spring, Oman ophiolite.
Hyperalkaline spring, Oman ophiolite. Credit: Damon Teagle

Environmental Geochemistry and Radioactivity

  • Research into how we interact with our environment and its impact on us
  • Encompasses GAU-Radioanalytical which is a major provider of radioanalytical expertise to the environmental and nuclear industries as well as state-of-the-art geochemical facilities providing material characterisation from the bulk to the nano-scale. These facilities also support our National Nuclear Users Facility in next generation accelerated characterisation technologies (NNUF-EXACT).

Volcanic Processes

  • Volcanoes are the points at the surface where material is exchanged between the inner Earth and the world we live in

Hydrothermal Processes and Mineral Deposits

  • Hydrothermal processes represent one of the major mechanisms for chemical and heat transfer on Earth. They have a profound influence on ocean chemistry and they play host to unique ecosystems. In addition many of the world's most important resources are sourced from deposits that formed as a result of hydrothermal activity.

Formation and Evolution of the Ocean Crust

  • The accretion of new crust at the mid-ocean ridges is the foundation process of the plate tectonic cycle

Medical Geochemistry

  • Geochemistry can play a valuable role in the study of environmental health issues

Geochemical Ecology

  • The geochemical ecology (Southampton University Marine Isotopes and Ecology SUMIE) group use natural chemical markers contained in the tissues of animals to track the flow of nutrients within food webs and the movement of animals across geochemical gradients.

Carbon Storage and Geoengineering

  • We are working to find solutions to reducing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. These include storage in conventional (depleted oil and gas reservoirs, deep saline aquifers) and unconventional (basalts, mantle peridotites, enhanced weathering) geological reservoirs.

Our strengths include:

  • ultra-low level trace element analyses
  • radiogenic isotope geochemistry and geochronology
  • fluid and volatile analysis
  • environmental radiochemistry
  • geochemical ecology and biominerals
  • speciation and reaction modelling
  • analytical technique development and refinement

Contact: Professor Gavin Foster

The Geochemistry Group is equipped with a world-class range of analytical equipment and associated laboratories. The instruments and techniques available can be applied to a diverse range of applications including environmental, geological, nuclear, medical, archaeological and oceanographic. The facility is used for a wide range of research purposes and also for commercial analysis. For examples of commercial activities please click here.

For initial enquiries about our capability or using the facilities contact Professor J. Andy Milton

The facilities available are briefly described below and further details are available on each by clicking on the links.

Quadrupole ICP-MS: Thermo X-SERIES 2

This instrument is used for high-throughput elemental analysis via solution or solid sample introduction using the laser.

Triple Quadrupole ICP-MS: Agilent 8900

This second-generation ICP-QQQ (or ICP-MS/MS) has a range of configurations to cover applications from routine analyse to advanced research and high-performance materials analysis via solution or laser ablation mode.

High Resolution ICP-MS: Thermo Scientific Element XR

This is a high-sensitivity elemental and isotopic analysis instrument for solution or solid samples using the laser. It is particularly suited to difficult matrix and problematic elemental analyses.

Time of Flight ICP-MS: Nu Instruments Vitesse

The ICP Time of Flight (TOF) mass spectrometer has the ability to collect complete mass spectra at >33,000 per second. This ultra-rapid, wide mass range acquisition is ideal for applications such as laser ablation imaging and nanoparticle analysis.

Thermal Ionisation: Thermo Scientific Triton Plus

This instrument provides high precision isotope analysis on samples that have been loaded onto a metal filament. Currently measuring the following systems: Sr, Nd, Pb.

Multi-collector ICP-MS: Thermo Scientific NEPTUNE and Neptune Plus

We have two of these high-sensitivity isotope analysis instruments allowing analysis of solutions or solid samples using the laser. Currently measuring the following systems: Li, B, Cr, Fe, Sr, Nd, Pb, Hf, U, U-Pb, U-Th and Pu.

Laser Ablation: ESI Lasers NWR193 and UP213

These two laser ablation systems can be used for micro-sampling of solid samples coupled to any of our ICP systems (including the TOF).

Micro drill: New Wave Micromill

For the precise micron-scale sampling of solid materials for subsequent geochemical and/or isotopic analysis.

Clean Chemistry Laboratories

A suite of Class 100 chemistry laboratories for sample preparation and purification prior to geochemical and/or isotopic analysis. Take a tour of our facilities below.

Particle Characterisation: Asymmetric Flow Field-Flow Fractionation (AF4)

This system is capable of characterising the size of nanoparticles, polymers, and proteins (ranging in size from 1nm to 10microns) via a chromatography-like elution technique.  It can be coupled to a wide range of instruments such as our range of ICP.

Carbon Sequestration Laboratory

A wet chemistry lab facility to study water-rock interaction processes related to carbon capture and storage.

Organic Geochemistry Laboratories

Hosts a dedicated sample preparation lab, wet chemistry lab space, and an instrumentation facility designed to characterise organic matter from the environment and the geological record.

GAU-Radioanalytical (GAU)

GAU-Radioanlytical Laboratories is a long established commercial group providing radioanalytical services, consultancy and research support for government, industrial (nuclear and environmental) and academic sectors.


NNUF-EXACT (Next Generation Accelerated Characterisation Technologies) is part of the National Nuclear Users Facility enabling research and training in accelerated nuclear characterisation and remediation technologies underpinning civil nuclear programmes, decommissioning and site clean-up and new nuclear infrastructure.


Take a 360° tour of our facilities by clicking on the videos below. Top is the mass spectrometry laboratory and bottom is the clean labs.



Book Chapters




List of related projects to Geochemistry
Related ProjectsStatus
DETECT: Destabilisation of the Terrestrial Biosphere in Warm ClimatesActive
Movement patterns in pelagic sharks: stable isotope evidenceActive
Oman Drilling ProjectActive
Nuclear Forensics: Determining the origin of uranium ores from geochemical signaturesActive
Nutrient flow and ecosystem structure in marine fish communitiesActive
Understanding changes in Cenozoic carbonate chemistryActive
Phosphorus replacement in diatom lipids: Quantification of phospholipids and non-phosphorus lipidsActive
Resolving past changes in ocean oxygenationActive
Development of a volcano – Tracking the evolution of Montserrat, Lesser Antilles. Active
Transport of toxic metals in clay landfill linings: influence of nanoparticlesActive
Measurement of 135Cs/137Cs in environmental samplesActive
PISTON: Does Developmental Plasticity Influence Speciation?Active
Assessment of Sorbent Materials for the Remediation of Radionuclide Contaminated GroundwaterActive
A journey from icehouse to greenhouse and back again...a story of Antarctic ice sheet stability and CO2Active
Rare earth elements as geochemical tracers of hydrothermal processes in the Southern OceanActive
Superfast spread crust, deep drilling at IODP Site 1256Active
Ontogenetic movement and larval survival in North Sea Herring: A stable isotope approachActive
Mountains Metamorphism and Element MobilityActive
TRANSCEND – Transformative Science and Engineering for Nuclear DecommissioningActive
GAU-Radioanalytical LaboratoriesActive
TRANSPLAS – Developing a Transnational Plastics NetworkActive
Igneous Reservoirs: Controls on Porosity and PermeabilityActive
Biogeochemical cycling of iron and chromium in the oceans: Insights from stable isotopesActive
Ridge flank hydrothermal circulation: Juan de Fuca Ridge FlankActive
When will 1.5°C of warming occur, and what will the consequences be? (ADJUST1.5)Active
Marine sediment tephraActive
The Potential Health Effects of Transition Metals in Particulate Air PollutionActive
Iron Isotopes in seawater samplesActive
Hydrothermal Vent Geochemistry South of the Antarctic Polar FrontActive
Marine diagenesis of tephra and the carbon cycleActive
Deep Fault Drilling: a journey through an active plate boundaryActive
Mission MoHole, A Journey into the Mantle.Active
Hydrothermal vents on the world’s deepest seafloor spreading centreActive
Discovering salmon feeding grounds using fish scalesActive
Nanoparticles and associated metals in landfill leachatesActive
Collisional magmatismActive
Geological storage of CO2 into oceanic crustActive
GGREW - Greenhouse Gas Removal by Enhanced WeatheringActive
RiftVolc - Rift Volcanism: Past, Present and FutureActive
Role of Ocean Biogeochemical Reorganisation in the Intensification of Northern Hemisphere Glaciation Active
Macronutrient behaviour in estuarine systemsActive
Trophic and Spacial Ecology of Marine PredatorsActive
Fluid flow associated with the Alpine Fault, South Island, New ZealandActive
The Accretion of Lower Oceanic CrustActive
From icebergs to ice sheets; provenance of ice rafted sedimentsActive
Critical Metals in Porphyry Copper DepositsActive
Biogeography of deepwater chemosynthetic ecosystems (ChEss) - DormantDormant
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