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Geology Bites
By Oliver Strimpel

Geology Bites By Oliver Strimpel

By Oliver Strimpel
What moves the continents, creates mountains, swallows up the sea floor, makes volcanoes erupt, triggers earthquakes, and imprints ancient climates into the rocks? Oliver Strimpel, a former astrophysicist and museum director asks leading researchers to divulge what they have discovered and how they did it.

To learn more about the series, and see images that support the podcasts, go to
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David Sandwell on Seeing Plate Tectonics Under the Oceans

Geology Bites By Oliver Strimpel

David Rothery on Volcanism in the Solar System
David Rothery investigates volcanism on Earth and elsewhere in the Solar System using remote-sensing Earth-orbiting satellites and space probes.  Mercury is his present focus, and he is lead co-investigator for geology on the X-ray spectrometer aboard BepiColombo, an ESA mission currently on its way to Mercury.  He describes some intriguing puzzles about Mercury that he hopes BepiColombo will resolve, as well as a type of volcanism occurring on some icy bodies in the outer solar system called cryovolcanism. Go to for illustrations supporting this podcast and to learn more about Geology Bites. 
December 3, 2020
Harold C. Connolly Jr. on Bringing an Asteroid Sample Back to Earth
There are some things we just cannot learn about other bodies in the solar system without actually having our hands on a sample of the body and analyzing it on Earth using the battery of techniques that have been refined for the analysis of terrestrial rocks.  Harold C. Connolly Jr. is Professor and Founding Chair at the Department of Geology at Rowan University.  He investigates the origin of the very oldest planetary materials from which the Earth was made.  Asteroids are a good place to look for such materials, and, to that end, he is Mission Sample Scientist for OSIRIS-REx, a NASA asteroid sample return mission, as well as a member of the Japanese asteroid sample return mission called Hayabusa 2.  He explains how the sample was captured, and what we hope to learn from analyzing it back on Earth. Go to for illustrations relating to the podcast and to learn more about Geology Bites.
November 28, 2020
Laurent Jolivet on the Origin of the Mediterranean
Laurent Jolivet is an expert on the dynamics of tectonic plates and the mantle and is a Professor at the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Sorbonne University.  He combines satellite measurements, seismic tomography, field observations, and computer modeling to reconstruct plate motions, even in some of the most complicated parts of the world.  Here he unravels the tangled evolution of the Mediterranean. Visit to see maps and animations of the Mediterranean's geological history and of the processes discussed in the podcast. 
November 21, 2020
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart on Transitioning to a Post-Carbon Economy
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart is a former chairman of Royal Dutch Shell and is a director of Saudi Aramco, which has the largest daily oil production of any oil-producing company.  He obtained a PhD on the Devonian sediments of Spitsbergen before joining Shell, where he started his career as a geologist in Spain, Oman, Brunei, and Australia. After recognizing that our response to global warming demands a transformation of our energy strategy, he became a prominent voice for change in the oil industry.   Here, he discusses how he sees this change coming about.  Go to for illustrations that support this podcast, as well as to learn about other Geology Bites episodes.
November 18, 2020
John Marshall on the Riddle of the Mass Extinction 360 Million Years Ago
The Earth has endured many mass extinctions.  We are pretty confident that we know what caused these events.  Except for one of them: the one at the end of the Devonian period 360 million years ago.  John Marshall is a fossil expert specializing in mass extinction events and is a Professor at the School of Ocean & Earth Science at the University of Southampton.  He explains how his recent research has uncovered new evidence that may finally explain what caused the end-Devonian mass extinction. Go to for illustrations that support this podcast and to learn more about the series.
November 1, 2020
Laurence Robb on Where our Mineral Resources Come From
So much of what we make starts with materials we extract from the Earth.   Some of these materials make up only a tiny proportion of our planet, but fortunately for us, they are concentrated in certain places, which makes it possible to extract them in economically viable quantities.   So how exactly do these materials become concentrated? Lawrence Robb is a Visiting Professor at the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University.   By analyzing the relationship between mineral deposits, principally in Africa and Asia, and our latest understanding of plate tectonics and mountain-building, he has unraveled the processes that formed some of our most important mineral deposits. Go to for illustrations that support this episode as well as to learn more about the podcast series.
October 29, 2020
Bruce Buffett on Probing the Earth's Core
Bruce Buffett is a Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley.   He investigates the structure and motions within the Earth’s core by matching physics-based simulations of the core to the observed magnetic field of the Earth. Go to for diagrams that support this podcast episode as well as more about the Geology Bites podcast series.
October 21, 2020
David Sandwell on Seeing Plate Tectonics Under the Oceans
David Sandwell uses satellites to make accurate measurements of the shape of the ocean surface.  He explains how this enabled him to create a global map of the topography on the sea-floor.  This revealed the global extent of classic plate-tectonic features, such as spreading ridges and transform faults, but also intriguing new features we still do not understand. David Sandwell is a Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.
October 1, 2020
Barbara Romanowicz on Seeing Deep into the Earth
Barbara Romanowicz uses the seismic waves triggered by earthquakes to probe the interior of the Earth.  She has forged new techniques for analyzing these waves to give us a much sharper view of the deep structure of the Earth.  She is a Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California at Berkeley, and Chair of Physics of the Earth’s Interior at the Collège de France in Paris.
September 28, 2020
John Valley on the Early Earth
The Earth was formed just over 4.5 billion years ago.  What happened just after it formed and what were conditions like then?  John Valley reveals what we have managed to discover about our planet’s very distant past, and how we did it.
September 20, 2020
Sara Russell on What the Asteroids Can Tell Us About the Earth
The asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.   It formed out of the same protoplanetary disc as the Earth, but many asteroids have barely changed since then.  Sara Russell explains what these time capsules can reveal about the Earth and how we will learn much more from the spacecraft currently fetching and returning asteroid samples to Earth. Sara Russell is a professor of planetary sciences and leader of the Planetary Materials Group at the Natural History Museum in London.  Her research seeks to unravel how the solar system formed and cast light on questions such as how the Earth got its water and organic materials.  She even has an asteroid named after her.
September 18, 2020
Clare Warren on Divining the History of a Rock
Most rocks were formed many millions of years ago.  Since then, some have been largely left alone, while others have been baked at high temperatures and buried at great depths.  Clare Warren explains how we can now uncover remarkably precise histories of such rocks, even if they have been through more than one episode of such extreme treatment. Clare Warren is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at The Open University. For more on Geology Bites, go to, where you can also find diagrams and pictures that support the podcast.
August 9, 2020
Steve Sparks on What Makes a Volcano Erupt
Why do some volcanoes erupt almost all the time but others lie dormant for centuries, millennia, or even longer?  Steve Sparks has turned our ideas about volcanoes upside down.  Not quite literally, but by applying the physics of fluid motion to the rocks and magma below volcanoes, he discovered that magma forms at much greater depths than previously thought, eventually forming an unstable blob that forces its way up through as much as a hundred kilometres of overlying rocks to erupt from a volcano.  It is how quickly such blobs form that determines how frequently a volcano will erupt.  For more on Geology Bites, go to, where you can also find diagrams and pictures that support the podcast.
August 1, 2020
Dan McKenzie on What Venus Can Tell Us About the Earth
Why look to another planet to reveal something new about the Earth?  Dan McKenzie describes an ingenious way of using the data sent back from the Magellan Venus orbiter to discover that Venus is covered with an elastic plate about 30 kilometers thick.   Explaining this very unexpected result revealed something extraordinary about the Earth. For more on Geology Bites, go to, where you can also find diagrams and pictures that support the podcast.
July 29, 2020
James Jackson on the Fatal Attraction Between Cities and Earthquakes
In this episode, James Jackson explains what happens, geologically-speaking, during an earthquake, why they strike where they do, and why earthquake-prone places are such attractive places to live. For more on Geology Bites, go to, where you can also find diagrams and pictures that support the podcast.
July 29, 2020
Mike Searle on Why Mountains Exist
Mike Searle applies the theory of plate tectonics to explain what causes mountains of all kinds to form.  They range from enormous mountain belts such as those that stretch from the Himalaya to the Alps, to mid-ocean volcanoes such as Hawaii. For more on Geology Bites, go to, where you can also find diagrams and pictures that support the podcast.
July 29, 2020