Tamsin Mather

Tamsin Mather

Supernumerary Fellow in Earth Sciences; Professor of Earth Sciences

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Earth Sciences seeks to apply fundamental science to understand the processes that shape the formation and history of the solid earth, its oceans and atmosphere. The first year of the Oxford undergraduate course offers a broad grounding in fundamental physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics as well as exploring important themes and techniques that underpin the Earth Sciences as a whole. In the first year I teach basic chemistry in the department through lectures and problems classes.

Volcanoes lie at the heart of my research interests and in the 3rd and 4th year I teach specialist classes in the science of volcanoes (volcanology) through lectures, problems classes and tutorials. This is complemented by departmental field trips to locations such as Scotland, Spain and Greece.

Many of our students find the extended 4th year research project where you get a real taste of pushing the research frontier the highlight of the Oxford course and supervising students through these projects is very rewarding.


My main research interests centre on the science behind volcanoes and volcanic behaviour. My motivation is to understand volcanoes as (a) natural hazards, (b) a key planetary scale process throughout geological time, vital for maintaining habitability and (c) natural resources (e.g., geothermal power and the development of ore deposits).

Specific interests include:

• The environmental effects of volcanic eruptions

• The role of large igneous provinces in triggering global change events recorded in the geological record

• Using satellites to track volcanic activity

• The atmospheric chemistry of volcanic plumes including the effects due to background air mixing into the hot gas mixture and volcanic lightning

• Volcanic degassing processes and the formation of volcanic aerosol

• The emission and chemistry of mercury in volcanic plumes

• Using stable isotopes to understand volcanic processes

• The cycling of volatiles through subduction zones

• Patterns and forcing of volcanism on the arc/regional scale

• Studying volcanic deformation in order to understand the physical processes of magma movement and storage and the structure and stability of volcanic edifices

Current areas of geographical focus include Ethiopia and Latin America.

Selected Publications

L.M.E. Percival, M. Ruhl, S.P. Hesselbo, H.C. Jenkyns, T.A. Mather and J.H. Whiteside, Mercury evidence for pulsed volcanism during the end-Triassic mass extinction, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114, 7929-7934, 2017. (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1705378114)

E. Ilyinskaya, A. Schmidt, T.A. Mather, F.D. Pope, C. Witham, P. Baxter, Th. Jóhannsson, M. Pfeffer, S. Barsotti, A. Singh, P. Sanderson, B. Bergsson, B. McCormick Kilbride, A. Donovan, N. Peters, C. Oppenheimer and M. Edmonds, Understanding the environmental impacts of large fissure eruptions: Aerosol and gas emissions from the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption (Iceland), Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 472, 309-322, 2017. (doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.05.025)

H. Rawson, T. Keller, K. Fontijn, D.M. Pyle, T.A. Mather, V.C. Smith, and J.A. Naranjo, Compositional variability in mafic arc magmas over short spatial and temporal scales: Evidence for the signature of mantle reactive melt channels, Earth and Planetary Sciences Letters, 456, 66-77, 2016. (doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.09.056)

W. Hutchison, R. Fusillo, D.M. Pyle, T.A. Mather, J. Blundy, J. Biggs, G. Yirgu, B.E. Cohen, R. Brooker, D.N. Barfod and A.T. Calvert, A pulse of mid-Pleistocene rift volcanism in Ethiopia at the dawn of modern humans, Nature Communications, 7:13192, 2016. (doi: 10.1038/ncomms13192)

T.A. Mather, Volcanoes and the environment: lessons for understanding Earth’s past and future from studies of present-day volcanic emissions, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 304, 160-179, 2015. (doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2015.08.016)

J. Biggs, S.K. Ebmeier, W.P. Aspinall, Z. Lu, M.E. Pritchard, R.S.J. Sparks and T.A. Mather, Global link between deformation and volcanic eruption quantified by satellite imagery, Nature Communications, 5, 3471, 2014. (doi: 10.1038/ncomms4471)

S.F.L. Watt, D.M. Pyle, T.A. Mather and J.A. Naranjo, Arc magma compositions controlled by linked thermal and chemical gradients above the subducting slab, Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 2550-2556, 2013. (doi: 10.1002/grl.50513)

M.M. Parks, J. Biggs, P. England, T.A. Mather, P. Nomikou, K. Palamartchouk, X. Papanikolaou, D. Paradissis, B. Parsons, D.M. Pyle, C. Raptakis and V. Zacharis, Evolution of Santorini Volcano dominated by episodic and rapid fluxes of melt from depth, Nature Geoscience, 5, 749-754, 2012. (doi: 10.1038/ngeo1562)

T.A. Mather, M.L.I. Witt, D.M. Pyle, B.M. Quayle, A. Aiuppa, E. Bagnato, R.S. Martin, K.W.W. Sims, M. Edmonds, A.J. Sutton and E. Ilyinskaya, Halogens and trace metal emissions from the ongoing 2008 summit eruption of Kīlauea volcano, Hawai`i, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 83, 292-323, 2012. (doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2011.11.029)

T.A. Mather and R.G. Harrison, Electrification of volcanic plumes, Surveys in Geophysics, 27, 387-432, 2006. (doi: 10.1007/s10712-006-9007-2)

For a full list please see my faculty website.

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