Fieldwork Grants from the Clough and Mykura Funds

Grants from these funds are available to support geological field work at home or abroad.

Further information | Reports from previous years.

Mykura Fund Report 2023 – local tectonic transport directions in the southern part of the Northern Highlands Terrane

E Davis, Virginia Tech

Looking west over Loch Hourn on an exceptionally clear day.

In the summer of 2023, with the support of the Edinburgh Geological Society through the Mykura Fund, I was able to travel to my field sites in NW Scotland in order to collect samples for my master’s project. My project focuses on determining the local tectonic transport directions in the southern part of the Northern Highlands Terrane using microstructural and shear fabrics from rocks collected from four E-W oriented transects that cross the Sgurr Beag thrust.

We travelled to my transects in NW Scotland to expand our collection of metasedimentary rocks for this project. For this trip we aimed to fill in gaps between our 2022 sampling locations and expand the four transects out from the Sgurr Beag thrust where appropriate quartz-rich units could be found (or accessed). While my project requires rocks that are quartz-rich with little mica for accurate measurements of deformation we did collect from pelitic (metamorphosed clay-rich sedimentary rock) units. This was in part to assure that we were not neglecting microstructures recorded in those units and because those rocks are more likely to contain metamorphic minerals that can be utilized for petrologic and age-dating analyses.

Snapping pictures for field notes down in the stream just west of Loch Monar

In addition to our expansion of my four transects, we decided that it would also be useful to collect samples in the structurally simpler eastern side of the Sgurr Beag thrust sheet, referred to as the “Flat Belt”, to see if there would be any changes in microstructures and shear senses from east to west across the thrust sheet. For the Flat Belt samples, we primarily collected from shallow dipping units exposed along A87 and A887. In total, we collected 33 additional southern NHT samples to be used for my master’s research. Upon return to Virginia Tech, USA we prepped the newly collected samples and sent them off to be cut into thin sections. These samples will be used, along with the 22 samples from 2022, to complete the optical-based petrologic, microstructural, and crystal fabric analysis to determine the shear histories of these transects and add the southern NHT context to the tectonic history of Northwestern Scotland.

Additionally, thanks to this award I was also able to meet with some other researchers who work on the structural and metamorphic histories of Scotland, namely Dr Ryan Thigpen from the University of Kentucky, USA and Dr Rob Strachan from the University of Portsmouth, UK. Before my own field work, I joined with Dr Thigpen to show him some of my sampling locations in the southern NHT and help him collect reconnaissance samples for a possible petrology project. We also talked about future work using U-Pb isotopic dating that could be done with my samples. After my advisor and I finished collecting along the southern NHT, we met up with Dr Strachan to collect samples in the slivers of Moine metasedimentary and mylonitic rocks in the Isle of Mull and Iona. Both of these side trips provided us with another 19 samples that we will do basic analyses of to compare with my transect samples and prepare for future work on the timing and methods of deformation/metamorphism in the southern NHT.

Mykura Fund Report 2023 – field work grant “Palaeoclimatic and sea-level changes reconstruction using a unique metamorphic cave-grown speleothem on Iona.”

Kang Xie, School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow

Being awarded this grant made it possible for me to visit Iona to collect speleothem, CO2 monitor, water and machair samples, which are fundamental to my PhD project.

My research is reconstructing the paleoclimate and relative sea-level change using the Scottish speleothem. Speleothems, secondary cave carbonates, like tree rings, are valuable archives for recording the climatic information. In this trip, we needed to take the monitors out to get some data because we put them in the cave last year, and some newly formed speleothems were collected to do geochemical analyses. In addition, machair sands were drilled to collect four samples to reconstruct the relative sea-level change. This fieldtrip is very helpful for me to collect some samples that will pave the way for my PhD project.

Mykura Fund – field work grant “Si isotope variability in the Archean crust in North West Scotland.”

Kerstin Wright, MSc Geochemistry, University of St Andrews (supervised by Sebastian Fischer)

The funding granted by the Edinburgh Geological Society through the Mykura Fund was used for field work as part of the above MSc dissertation project. The project set out to perform the first Si isotope measurements on lithologies from the Lewisian complex in NW Scotland. The aim was to establish whether there are observable differences between different lithologies and how the results from the Lewisian would compare with recently published data from other Archaean rock suites. While localities from both the Northern and Central Region of the Lewisian were targeted, a focus was put on Central Region localities interpreted as metasedimentary in the literature, because Si isotopes fractionate most in low temperature processes.

Field work was successfully carried out during the week commencing the 31st of April 2021. In total, 31 samples were collected from nine localities. Of this sample set, 11 samples were selected for analysis: a TTG gneiss, two pairs of mafic gneiss and adjacent brown gneiss, three further brown gneisses, two “green gneisses” (kyanite bearing, white mica-dominated) and an alleged meta-arkose. The samples were analysed for their Si isotope composition in the STAiG laboratories at the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences of the University of St Andrews.

Without the Mykura funding, field work might not have been possible, so we express our deepest thanks to the Edinburgh Geological Society for the awarded grant. For Kerstin it was of great motivation to have been able to collect samples herself, know the geological context, and therefore truly take ownership of the project, rather than simply get given some bags of rock powder. Kerstin presented the results in a first class MSc dissertation, and we plan to publish the data – either stand-alone or as part of a more widely-aimed study of Si isotopes in Archaean terrains.

2020  Ratagain Complex, NW Highlands

Anya Lawrence, University of Birmingham

After a summer spent in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in late August 2020 I was able to undertake my long-awaited final field session at the Ratagain Complex in the NW Scottish Highlands with support from the Edinburgh Geological Society.

As a disabled PhD student with Asperger’s syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) I rely on my parent carers to help me manage my everyday life. The grant awarded to me by the Edinburgh Geological Society enabled both myself and my parent carers to complete my detailed sampling of the Ratagain Complex and bring the total haul for the project up to the milestone figure of 100 block samples.

Future work will include detailed geochemical and structural analysis of the 100 samples that I have gathered across four field sessions at Ratagain. The geochemical methods used will be X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry and Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), whilst the structural studies will involve the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS) and thermomagnetic analysis, both of which are powerful indirect tools used to study intrusive rocks like granites that often lack visible fabrics.

Read Anya’s full report on the fieldwork and the Ratagain Complex

2019 New Insights into Gardar Rifting: Geological Mapping of Tuttutooq, SW Greenland

Report (pdf file, 3.77 MB) from a group of five undergraduate Geologists from the University of St Andrews who undertook a six-week geological mapping expedition to the island of Tuttutooq, south-west Greenland, during the summer of 2019.

Figure 1 – Our campsite in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, looking towards Mount Griggs, Bob Gooday.

2017 Mount Katmai and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Bob Gooday, Cardiff University

In June 2017, support from the Edinburgh Geological Society allowed me to participate in the International Volcanological Summer School in Katmai National Park, Alaska. This involved staying in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes for ten days, looking at volcanic features in the Valley and the surrounding Katmai Cluster of volcanoes. The Katmai-Novarupta eruption in 1912 was the largest on Earth in the twentieth century, and completely filled a nearby valley with pyroclastic deposits. These deposits sustained intense fumarolic activity for several years, giving the valley its name.

During our stay in the Valley, we looked at the pyroclastic deposits and landforms created by the 1912 eruption, which have been largely untouched by erosion or vegetation. The highlight of the trip was climbing to the rim of the crater at the top of Mount Katmai. The eruption itself happened at Novarupta, 10 km to the west, but the emptying of the magma chamber below Katmai caused the mountain to collapse, forming a caldera 4 km across.

Observation of this caldera, and discussion of the processes at work in the accompanying eruption, have helped me with my PhD work on a similar-sized, but much older, caldera system on Arran, western Scotland.

Download a more detailed article written by Bob about this project.

Figure 2 – The caldera at the summit of Mount Katmai, formed during the 1912 eruption. Bob Gooday.

2015 The Central Layered Intrusion, Isle of Rum, NW Scotland

Luke Hepworth, Keele University

With the support of the Edinburgh Geological Society I was able to spend some time in addition to my planned field season exploring the Central Layered Intrusion (CLI) as part of the Rum Layered Suite in NW Scotland.

The CLI is perhaps the most poorly studied of the Rum Layered Suite, and the most lithologically complex, being composed of juxtaposed cumulate rocks such as peridotite (including harrisite), troctolite, and gabbro without pervasive layering (see image above). The CLI occurs closest to the Long Loch Fault in the centre of the intrusion, the presumed source of the Rum magmas which was purportedly active during the formation of the layered complex. As such, brecciation and deformation is widespread with metre sized blocks of foreign cumulate found incorporated within peridotites and troctolites. The purpose of additional study as part of my current PhD project was to investigate the occurrence of Cr-spinel seams within the CLI, which was actively deforming during its formation.

A primary focus of my research is to elucidate the magma chamber dynamics within the Rum Intrusion using ubiquitous platiniferous Cr-spinel seams found within peridotite cumulates. My previous investigation has focused on the well-layered Eastern (ELI) and Western Layered Intrusions (WLI). As Cr-spinel seams typically represent a replenishment event in layered intrusions, numerous Cr-spinel seams found within peridotite cumulates suggest multiple and potentially much smaller replenishment events. These Cr-spinel seams are also associated with harrisite, an unusual olivine cumulate composed of highly skeletal olivine crystals, comprising a key example of in situ crystallisation in layered intrusions. This lithology has also been suggested to represent intrusive replenishment into the crystal mush. The association with this intrusive and in situ lithology strongly suggests the platiniferous Cr-spinel seams also formed in situ, opposed to gravity settling commonly advocated in layered intrusions. The crystallisation of these seams in situ within the crystal mush has significant implications to the petrogenesis of Cr-spinel seams and associated platinum mineralisation in much larger layered intrusions such as the Stillwater Complex (Montana, USA), or the Bushveld Complex (South Africa) which hosts world class deposits of platinum mineralisation, and where intrusive replenishment has not yet been explored fully.

While not as common as Cr-spinel seams found in the ELI and WLI, Cr-spinel seams do occur within the CLI, also hosted in peridotite. Perhaps not unexpectedly, Cr-spinel seams found within the unlayered CLI are not oriented in a particular direction as in the ELI or WLI where layering is strongly defined. Instead, these seams appear vertical, sub-vertical, or in concentrated clots within coarse grained harrisitic peridotite (see images above).

Results of sampling and field investigation during 2015 will be incorporated into my current study to provide an intriguing parallel to well-layered peridotite cumulates and investigate the effects of magmatic deformation on the petrogenesis of Cr-spinel seams an associated platinum concentration in the Rum Layered Intrusion.