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

Research Group: Geology and Geophysics

Currently Active: 

The Geology and Geophysics Research Group is among the largest and most active research groups in this field in Europe.

Within the Geology and Geophysics Group, the concentration of marine geology and geophysics expertise, alongside state-of-the-art facilities and technology development enable research in a wide range of societally impactful areas of geoscience for a sustainable future.

Our research foci include:

  • The evolution of plate tectonics and mantle dynamics, including geohazard assessment and resilience improvement, active plate boundary and continental margin development, and deep Earth processes.
  • Fluid flow processes, such as greenhouse gas escape and removal, geothermal and hydrothermal processes, crustal magmatism
  • Digital planet - Environmental data to knowledge: Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the seabed and sub-surface using novel geophysical techniques, and autonomous digital monitoring using low-cost sensors and seafloor networks
  • Coastal and continental shelf environments and processes, including the physical environment of offshore energy infrastructure (e.g., renewable energy, high voltage cables, coastal defences)
  • Continental slope and deep-water sedimentation processes including mass-wasting, geohazards, environmental geology and ecosystems.

Our work is underpinned by world-class facilities for ocean bottom seismology, high resolution sea floor and sub-seafloor imagery, controlled source electromagnetic sounding, the analysis of sediment-rock cores and seafloor samples, high level computing and machine learning, and technique development in all areas.

wind turbines
3D Chirp survey around wind turbines, North Sea (Image: Justin Dix)
Erta Ale volcano
Eruption of the Erta Ale volcano, Ethiopia (Image: Derek Keir)








Contact: Professor Lisa McNeill

High Resolution Marine Geophysics

We have over 20 years of experience of collecting high resolution geophysical data for research projects as diverse as small object detection (including forensic work), wreck based surveys, Quaternary natural and archaeological landscape studies, neotectonics, and large scale sedimentological and structural analysis.

3D Chirp
3D Chirp being deployed. (Image: Justin Dix)

3D Chirp

3D Chirp is a surface-towed sub-bottom profiling system capable of imaging the upper tens of metres of the sub-surface on three dimensions with decimetric horizontal and centimetric vertical resolution.

Coastal Laboratories

The geology and geophysics research group operates three labs focusing on the study of coastal and shelf sea hydrodynamics and sediment dynamics. Our Coastal Processes and the Coastal Dynamics labs host a range of straight, recirculating and annular flumes equipped with a variety of high-frequency instruments and sensors, and are used for teaching and research into boundary layers, sediment transport and scour, submarine gravity flows and flow/sediment interactions with biota. The Sediment Analysis Lab is equipped with a range of tools used to analyse cohesive and non-cohesive sediment samples, including particle size distribution, grain texture and composition, and bulk sample properties; including a settling column and a Laser Sizer.

Ocean Bottom Instrumentation Consortium (OBIC)

The Ocean Bottom Instrumentation Consortium aims to provide the academic and commercial communities with access to multi-sensor, versatile seabed instruments to enable sub-surface geophysical imaging at high vertical and lateral resolution.

Marine Electromagnetics

The University is equipped to carry out marine controlled source electromagnetic (CSEM) surveys - for both academic and applied research topics.

Our equipment base includes:

DASI System
DASI deep-towed electromagnetic transmitter (Image: T. Minshull)
Vulcan electromagnetic receiver
The Vulcan electromagnetic receiver (Image: T. Minshull)









  • The DASI-2 deep-towed electromagnetic transmitter system, capable of 100-200 Amperes of transmission along a 50 m or 100 m dipole antenna at a frequency range of 0.25 Hz to 10 Hz. The DASI vehicle is also equipped with a conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) sensor.
  • Two Vulcans (developed at Scripps Institution of Oceanography) receivers that can be towed in behind DASI at distances appropriate for the geological target. Vulcan records all three components of the electric field transmitted from DASI. Vulcan also contains a Parasci pressure gauge to give an accurate measure of its depth, a compass to give the instruments heading, pitch and roll, as well as a three axis accelerometer to measure its motion as it is towed about 50 m above the seafloor.

The combination of DASI and Vulcan allows sub-bottom electromagnetic profiling to depths of c. 100-200 m beneath the seafloor. This approach can be applied to map resistive gas accumulations or gas hydrate deposits, conductive mineral deposits, and other shallow geological features. We commonly combine this equipment with ocean bottom electromagnetic receivers supplied by OBIC, allowing us also to survey deeper, crustal-scale targets.

Geosciences Advisory Unit (GAU)

GAU-Radioanalytical is an industry and government-agency focussed organisation that offers specialist radioanalytical research and analytical services.

Rock Preparation and Thin-Sectioning Laboratory

This facility primarily focuses on making high quality sections of a range of materials for teaching and research. Cutting services, vacuum impregnation and staining techniques are also available.

Research Vessel

We have one vessel, R.V. Callista, based at NOCS that is available to staff and students of Ocean and Earth Science.

Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory

This facility houses state-of-the-art instrumentation as well as a shielded room to support paleomagnetism, rock and mineral magnetism, magnet stratigraphy, and palaeoenvironment related research.

X-Ray Diffraction Facility

The XRD facility located at NOCS provides a service for the qualitative or quantitative analysis of rock samples to determine bulk mineralogy and/or clay mineralogy.


Book Chapters





List of related projects to Geology and Geophysics
Related ProjectsStatus
iCOASST - integrating coastal sediment systemsActive
The influence of reefs on coastal oceanography, erosion and recoveryActive
Quantifying and Monitoring Potential Ecosystem Impacts of Geological Carbon Storage (QICS)Active
Pb-Zn mineralisation within the Limerick Basin (SW Ireland): A role for volcanism?Active
Windermere ResearchActive
Sediment transport pathways offshore between Poole and Christchurch BaysActive
Effects of Posidonia oceanica on sediment transport: implications for the protection of shorelinesActive
Optimising the value of near-surface seismic reflection dataActive
Dynamics of gas hydrates in polar environmentsActive
Igneous Reservoirs: Controls on Porosity and PermeabilityActive
Volcanic edifice collapse: processes, timing, and impact on volcano evolution Active
Impact of seabed properties on the ampacity and reliability of cablesActive
Improved mineral exploration and exploitation strategiesActive
Geo-archaeology - New high-resolution 3D seismic imagingActive
Storms and Their Seismic Signals: Can seismometers be used to study oceans?Active
Machine Learning for Optimal Unexploded Ordnance MitigationActive
The Taphonomy of Historic Wreck SitesActive
Vertical turbulence structures in the benthic boundary layer as related to suspended sedimentActive
Landslides glide plane mechanics using seismic reflection data and numerical modellingActive
Trans-Haiti: Crustal-scale geodynamics of the Hispaniola boundary in the CaribbeanActive
Rips and risk: An investigation of the hazard signatureActive
Structure, fluid flow and earthquake potential of the Makran Subduction Zone, PakistanActive
Crustal and sedimentary structure of the Eastern Black Sea Basin from long-offset seismic reflection dataActive
Surge Watch: An interactive and multi-purpose database of coastal flooding events for the UKActive
Passive Imaging of the Lithosphere-Asthenosphere Boundary (PI-LAB)Active
Characterising Seismic Anisotrophy Beneath Ocean BasinsActive
3D Chirp - Decimetre resolution sub-bottom profilingActive
Venice lagoonActive
Geological storage of CO2 into oceanic crustActive
RiftVolc - Rift Volcanism: Past, Present and FutureActive
Sumatran Earthquake Segment Boundaries ConsortiumActive
Sediment-water column exchange of nutrients in coastal and shelf-sea watersActive
Fluid flow associated with the Alpine Fault, South Island, New ZealandActive
Critical Metals in Porphyry Copper DepositsActive
Great Barrier Reef: How reef morphology and sea level affects wave transmissionActive
Active Rift research: The Corinth Rift, GreeceActive
Underwater large-area high resolution monitoring by Distributed Optical Fibre Acoustic SensorsActive
Interaction between tectonic deformation and magmatism during volcanic rifting in AfarDormant
Comprehensive assessment of the social, environmental and economic viability of gas hydrate commercialisationDormant
ECO2 sub-seabed CO2 Storage: analysis of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle DataDormant
Structure and structural permeability of active rift systems, examples of the Kermadec Arc, SW Pacific and the Main Ethiopian Rift, EthiopiaDormant
Active fault kinematics during non-volcanic rifting in East AfricaDormant
Evolution of faulting and magmatism during volcanic rifting in the Ethiopian RiftDormant
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