Iceland Fieldwork 2015 (aka 50 Shades of Grey)

Another summer, another trip to Iceland! However, instead of sampling the usual volcanic and hydrothermal deposits and environments, this visit was focused on one thing only: sediments. Sedimentary deposits have become a key focus of ongoing Mars exploration. This is because of their association with long-lived liquid water habitats (such as fluvial-lacustrine deposits), and preservation…


36 Month PDRA Position in Planetary Sciences

Following a recent award by The Leverhulme Trust, applications are invited for a full-time PDRA position in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of St. Andrews to work on the project “Looking for Life in the UV: Fluorescence as a tool for planetary exploration”. This multidisciplinary project brings together techniques from luminescence…

Taking a break to munch down some much-needed calories.

Mars analogue adventures in Iceland 2014

Landing into Keflavik airport has become a familiar sight, as the vast flat expanse of moss-covered lava flows stretches out into a horizon of cold grey clouds as we approach the runway. This is my ninth trip to Iceland, and for this trip we are sampling from various sites in the northeast – some old, some…


Deep Carbon Science at Yellowstone National Park

The Rocky Mountains and a big blue Montana sky provided the backdrop for the Deep Carbon Observatory summer school this month. Thirty PhD students and postdocs from across the globe came to learn about carbon cycling at Yellowstone National Park. Organised by Adrian Jones (University College London) and John Baross (University of Washington), this summer school…

Overview of the course at the Scottish Off-Road Driving Centre.

Going Off-Road…Perthshire Style

With Iceland fieldwork looming on the horizon (3 weeks to go!), it seemed appropriate to do some pre-emptive off-road driving in preparation for the rocky tracks that criss-cross the remote Icelandic interior. One of the nice things about the RSE fellowship is that it has extra funds attached on the side courtesy of the EC Marie…

Subsurface picnic, a well-earned lunch 1.1 km underground. Image credit: Matt Gunn.

Taking space technology underground

Last month saw the astrobiology group at Edinburgh head down to darkest deepest Whitby, to test out new and existing space technology at Boulby Mine – a sprawling salt mine warren burrowing 1.1 km beneath the bottom of the North Sea. Joining us in the network of tunnels, which are still being actively mined for potash, were…


The Next Giant Leap

Film producer Coolbox has released a short documentary discussing the future of Mars exploration, in collaboration with Sophie Nixon of our own UK Centre for Astrobiology, and Euan Monaghan from the Open University. In it’s own words, through interviews with scientists at the cutting edge of planetary science and astrobiology, this short documentary discusses the challenges…

The cold and dry volcanic terrain in Iceland also provides an ideal testing ground for developing Mars-rover instrumentation.

Onwards and upwards

Recently I started work on a 5 year Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellowship, co-funded by Marie Curie Actions. This is based within the UK Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh, where I have been working as a postdoc over the summer. Over the next 5 years I will be using volcanic…

Iceland fieldteam 2013! From L-R: Pete Grindrod, Claire Cousins, Jennifer Harris, Matt Gunn.

Iceland fieldwork 2013: field video released!

Birkbeck, University of London have released a short field-video we made documenting our July 2013 Mars-analogue fieldwork. This fieldwork was carried out as part of PhD student Jennifer Harris’s research on using reflectance spectroscopy and multispectral imaging to search for evidence of past habitability on Mars. To see the video, follow this link: