With my research and teaching, I span the disciplines of Environmental Science and Planetary Exploration. My overarching research interest is in the (bio)geochemical iron cycle and its interactions with other nutrient element cycles such as carbon and sulphur.
Reactive iron mineral phases play an essential role in the sequestration of carbon in soils and sediments, they influence the lateral transport of carbon from land to the ocean, and they determine bioavailability of both iron and carbon in the open ocean where iron is often the limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth. Understanding these controls of the carbon cycle is essential in our fight to mitigate global climate change on Earth.
The search for life on Mars relies on the preservation of organic compounds over geological timescales. Reactive iron mineral phases can aid that preservation through the same processes involved in the sequestration of carbon in sediments. I worked with NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity and am currently involved in the ESA ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover mission, which is due to launch in 2022.
The main method I use to investigate iron minerals involved in these processes is Mössbauer spectroscopy. At the beginning of my career, I got involved with the development of a miniaturized Mössbauer spectrometer for the NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission. I now run a Mössbauer spectroscopy laboratory in Stirling that offers conventional Mössbauer spectroscopy for iron mineralogy, speciation, and oxidation states (coupled to a cryostat enabling low temperature analyses to below 4.2 K - the temperature of liquid helium); (field-)portable Mössbauer spectroscopy for non-destructive and in situ analyses; and synchrotron-based Mössbauer applications for microscopic sample volumes.
Research Group: Earth and Planetary Observation Sciences
2021- UK Space Agency Robotic Exploration Oversight Committee
2019- Scottish Blue Carbon Forum member and project PI
2019- European Space Agency/Roscosmos ExoMars Rover Science Operations Working Group
2018- Africa Initiative for Planetary and Space Science Scientific Advisory Committee
2017- Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES) Executive Committee
2016- Scottish Planetary Science Research Network (SPERO) Executive Board
2015- Frontiers in Earth Science-Geochemistry Editorial Board
2015-2017 UK Space Agency Space Exploration Advisory Committee
2015-2016 UK Space Agency Sample Return Working Group
2015 UK Space Agency Space Exploration Education Review Panel
2012-2013 International Journal of Astrobiology Editorial Board
2003-2019 NASA Mars Exploration Rover Athena Science Team Collaborator