The Earth Surface Geochemistry group at Oxford seeks to understand drivers and dynamics of the exchange of elements between rocks, sediments and the surface environment. We have a strong focus on the carbon cycle, quantifying the processes that remove carbon dioxide as rocks interact with air, water and life. Overall, we are motivated to quantify how climate change and earth surface dynamics (e.g. geomorphic processes) steer the net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through weathering and erosion processes.

To do this, we employ an interdisciplinary approach across Earth Sciences, calling on isotope and elemental geochemistry, geomorphology, hydrology, and biology. We combine a range of field approaches – working on the geochemistry of weathered rocks alongside river waters, while we also tracking CO2 and CH4 and their isotope composition. These approaches are combined with laboratory and numerical modelling experiments. By doing this research, we also quantify the production, pathway and fluxes of elements in water, which can be major macronutrients for life and include potential contaminants.

We meet regularly for “Carbon Coffee”, and informal and friendly research meeting open to all, where we discuss papers on this theme and hear about everyone’s research as it progresses.

At present, we have the following main research strands, funded by the ERC, NERC and Leverhulme Trust:

1. The climatic controls on oxidative weathering and CO2 release

2. The source and flux of CO2 and CH4 release from Arctic River surfaces – See RIV-ESCAPE project page

3. Novel isotope and elemental proxies for oxidative weathering

Picture showing the landscape at the Draix Bleone Observatory. The badland mountain terrain presents highly eroded material with deep incisions and sparse vegetation..

Field site at the Draix Bléone Observatory, France (photo courtesy of Prof Bob Hilton).