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Tectonics and Geophysics

We investigate the physical processes of the solid Earth.

The Tectonics and Geophysics Research Group researches the breadth of tectonics and magmatism from rapid events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, to slower processes such as solid-state creep and magma flow, and longer time scale processes that shape Earth's crust by deep crustal and mantle deformation.

We use field research, laboratory analysis and numerical modelling to understand dynamic processes occurring in Earth's interior from near-surface to deepest mantle. This work feeds into research priorities in geohazards, deformation of Earth materials and computational Earth sciences.


We aim to understand the causes and consequences of the dynamic processes changing the solid Earth by using our expertise in structural geology, petrology, geophysics, tectonics and geodynamics.


Tom Blenkinsop, David Buchs, Ake Fagereng, Huw Davies and Chris MacLeod lead this area, investigating the physical processes of the solid Earth using field observations, laboratory analyses, geophysical observations and numerical modelling.

Our research ranges from crustal fault behaviour and fluid flow to the deformation of the mantle, from microscopic to global scales.

Our three focus areas are:

  • volcanic, sedimentary and tectonic processes at convergent and divergent margins
  • fault mechanics and microstructures
  • early Earth tectonics.

We examine how faults accommodate slip, seismically and aseismically, and how the range in geophysically observed fault behaviours may be recorded in exhumed rocks, using examples from contractional, extension and strike-slip tectonic regimes.

Magmatism and tectonics

Our research focuses on the formation and evolution of the lithosphere in a variety of oceanic and continental settings. These are split into four areas:

We adopt a multidisciplinary approach, mostly based on fieldwork on land and at sea (including ocean drilling), using a combination of geochemical/petrological modelling, structural geology and geophysics.

Processes of particular interest to us include:

  • magma generation in the sub-oceanic mantle
  • crustal accretion at mid-ocean ridges
  • deformation of the oceanic lithosphere
  • formation of seamounts and oceanic islands
  • formation of oceanic plateaus and continental flood basalts and their environmental impacts
  • hydrothermal processes
  • subduction initiation and the formation of ophiolites.

Mantle geodynamics

Led by Huw Davies, we are interested in understanding how mantle dynamics drive plate tectonics and control planetary evolution using global and regional numerical simulations constrained by observations. Processes of interest include subduction, upwelling plumes and mantle convection. Much of our numerical simulations are undertaken on large clusters including, the University cluster run by Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff (ARCCA), and the UK Supercomputer, Archer2.

Recent grants

  • Blenkinsop, T. G. (Lead PI of Cardiff element) Ballistic damage of stone heritage structures in conflict areas, to Dr. Lisa Mol, 2017-2022, £199,745, £81,304 to Cardiff.
  • Davies, H. (Lead PI of Cardiff element) Volatile legacy of the Early Earth. NERC Grant – NE/M000400/1. September 2014-March 2021, £123,512
  • Davies, H. (Lead PI of Cardiff element) Mantle volatiles : processes, reservoirs and fluxes. NERC Grant - NE/M000397/1. September 2014-March 2021, £221,000
  • Davies JH (Lead PI) Mantle Circulation Constrained (MC2): A multidisciplinary 4D Earth framework for understanding mantle upwellings, co-I - MB Andersen, O Shorttle, GG Roberts, A Biggin, J Wookey, T Elliott, A Nowacki, A Walker, C Davies, A Ferreira, P Koelemeijer, NERC Large Grant -  NE/T012633/1, November 2020-October-2024, £3,684,000 FEC, £2,963,000 from funder; £804,471 to Cardiff.
  • Davies, JH, The Evolution of Terrestrial Planets: Insights from Models of Planetary Evolution with Coupled Internal, Atmospheric/Surface Development, Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to Dr. Matt Weller, 2021-2023, €212,933.76
  • Fagereng, A. MICA: Mechanics of slow earthquake phenomena: an Integrated perspective from the Composition, geometry, And rheology of plate boundary faults. ERC Starting Grant 715836. Feb 2017 – Feb 2023, €1,499,244
  • Fagereng, A. (Lead of Cardiff element) PREPARE: Enhancing PREParedness for East African Countries through Seismic Resilience Engineering. EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund EP/P028233/1, May 2017 – Mar 2022. £1,381,845 from funder, £214,818 to Cardiff.
  • Lissenberg, C.J., Millet, M.-A. HiDe: A highly heterogeneous depleted mantle? NERC Standard Grant NE/T000317/1. Jan 2020-Jan 2023, £514,889.
  • Lissenberg, C.J. Decoding the crystal record of volcanic eruptions, Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Research Fellowship to Dr. Matthew Gleeson, 2020-2023, £193,578.
  • MacLeod, C.J. ULTRA - Ultramafic-hosted mineral Resource Assessment NERC Highlight Topic Grant NE/S004300/1. 2020-2024, £412,842.
  • Millet M-A NIIICE: Novel Isotope Insights Into Continent Evolution NERC Standard Grant NE/R001332/1 – £506,772 April 2018 – June 2022

Meet the team

Academic staff

Postgraduate students

Suame Ampana

Suame Ampana
+44 (0)29 2087 5874

Associated staff



School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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