Ph.D. University of Glasgow
Office: Off Campus
Research has mainly been concerned with Precambrian geology, including stratigraphic, sedimentological and geochemical investigations. These studies were initially focussed on Paleoproterozoic deposits of the Huronian Supergroup on the north shore of Lake Huron but broadened to include international investigations and collaborations that contributed to the recognition of two world-wide Proterozoic glaciations and theories regarding their genesis. Archean glacial deposits were also documented from the Pongola Supergroup of South Africa, and stratigraphic and geochemical investigations were also carried out on Late Ordovician glaciogenic rocks of the Cape Fold Belt. Comparative studies of Neoproterozoic glacial deposits in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia and those in Alaska and the northern part of the Canadian Cordillera led to correlations between the two continents that contributed to an understanding of the configuration of the supercontinent Rodinia. Regional stratigraphic and paleocurrent studies in Arctic Canada and the northern Cordillera provided data suggesting that the Grenville orogen may have shed detritus across the entire width of the North American continent, and demonstrated the applicability of the ‘big river’ concept to the Precambrian.
Another ongoing research interest is the geochemistry of soils, sediments and rocks. This work was largely stimulated by, and carried out in collaboration with, Dr. Wayne Nesbitt. It has included studies of modern and ancient soil profiles in Canada, South Africa and Scotland. The geochemistry of modern sediments has been investigated in varied climatic settings ranging from Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic to New South Wales, Australia and the Mojave Desert of California. The main thrust of these studies has been to develop a geochemical method of quantifying the effects of chemical weathering – the Chemical Index of Alteration - which is now widely used in such studies, and to understand the processes involved in weathering, transport, diagenesis and metasomatism.
In recent years work has been carried out on volcanic and sedimentary rocks in the North Spirit Lake area of NW Ontario, where stratigraphic, structural and geochemical studies have led to re-interpretation of the history of this Neoarchean greenstone belt, and to the recognition of rocks that resemble those forming at modern mid-ocean ridges. Scotland has also been the focus of much recent research, where, together with Dr. W.G.E. Caldwell, I have been working for the past decade. These investigations are aimed at understanding the stratigraphic, sedimentological, igneous and structural evolution of the western part of the Midland Valley of Scotland. The work has mainly involved field mapping of islands and coastal areas in the Firth of Clyde area, where we were both introduced to field work and carried out our first geological research, based at the University of Glasgow.
I maintain a strong interest in secular change and am currently exploring relationships among supercontinentality, the great glaciations that introduced and closed the Proterozoic eon, oxygenation of the atmosphere, the emergence of complex life forms and the influence of major impacts on Earth history. A lifetime of geological investigations (and Jean Sougy, in the Sahara Desert) taught me the importance of looking at things on different scales (from satellite images to the electron microscope), but more important than any of this is learning, practicing and teaching the art of meticulous field work, without which all the black boxes are talking a meaningless language.