Research Articles

Magma arta: rocks under the microscope.
Study of a unique rock collection – and its astonishingly beautiful microscopic crystal structures – could change our understanding of how the Earth works.

A new study funded by the Natural Environment Research Council in the University’s Department of Earth Sciences has turned to a unique rock collection, amassed since at least the early 1800s and held within the Sedgwick Museum, to provide fresh understanding of the composition of the mantle.
Dr John Maclennan, project leader, is working alongside Dr Arwen Deuss and Dr Tim Holland to look at the frozen remains of magma formed at depths of 100 km or more from the mantle and then 'spewed out of volcanoes'. More information and the film associated with the project can be found here.

Wolfe Creek Crater: the second largest meteor impact site in the world.

Article by Dr Kenneth McNamara, Director, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

Australia is famous for its natural beauty: the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, the Kimberley. But what about the places almost no one goes? Sedgwick Museum Director, Dr Kenneth McNamara was asked to nonimate one of Australia’s unknown wonders.
"It is a testament to the size and isolation of many parts of Australia that it wasn’t until 1947 that the second largest meteorite crater in the world was discovered. Known as Wolfe Creek Crater, this imposing feature is located about 145km from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It can be reached after a two to three-hour drive down the Tanami Road, only accessible to conventional vehicles during the dry season." Read the full article here

First Footfall: fossil discoveries that are providing tantalising evidence of some of the first animals to live on land.

Article by Dr Kenneth McNamara, Director, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

The world in which animals took their first tentative footsteps on land was a very different one from today. No verdant meadows, nor forests. Not a fern to be seen. The only plants were mosses and liverworts, clinging to rocks in wet places. For the most part the land was a bare, windswept world, probably not too dissimilar to the surface of Mars. Yet for some reason, some animals decided to leave the oceans, rivers and lakes, and venture on to this largely barren surface.Like the first Mars Rover that left its distinctive marks on virgin Martian soils, the first animals to drag themselves out of their aqueous world onto a harshlandscape at least 450 million years ago,left their own distinctive traces. Full article available here.



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Sep 5, 2014

One of the most iconic of Cambrian age fossils from the famous Burgess Shale is a little (3.5 cm long) creature called Hallucigenia, which has been the subject of considerable controversy for several decades. Now, researchers, Martin Smith and Javier Ortega-Hernandez from the Department of Earth Sciences have reinvestigated this strange creature and its relationship to other animals.


Jul 30, 2014

A new project is underway at Cambridge’s oldest museum, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. Funding from Arts Council England’s ‘Designation Development Fund’ is enabling the Museum to make some of its most historically important specimens available to visitors for the first time as high-quality, interactive digital 3D objects.