Background
FloatingRocks-Canaries

The most recent eruption on the Canary Islands – at El Hierro in 2011 – produced spectacularly enigmatic white “floating rocks” that originated from the layers of oceanic sedimentary rock underneath the island. Despite being violently transported through the volcano, some of these rocks contain microscopic fossils of delicate single-celled marine organisms, making the survival of these fossils all the more extraordinary. A new study published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal of the Nature Publishing Group, by a team of scientists which includes Prof Valentin Troll and Dr Fiona Meade (formally of Trinity College Dublin), uses these fossil time-travellers to date the sedimentary layers beneath El Hierro and, in turn, shed new light on the long-standing puzzle about the origin of the Canary Islands.

The origin and life cycle of oceanic volcanoes, such as the Canary Islands, has long been a source of debate among natural scientists. There are two competing models for the origin of the Canaries – one in which ocean floor fractures control the location of volcanic activity, and another in which an anomalously hot plume of molten rock from the Earth’s mantle feeds island growth from below. A cornerstone of the debate concerns the validity of an age-progression along the island chain. A fixed mantle plume under the roughly eastwards moving African tectonic plate would cause the islands and the pre-volcanic ocean sediments underlying them to become progressively younger towards the westernmost island of El Hierro. The fracture model, in turn, would give rise to randomly distributed island ages.

Fossils and volcanoes are not usually compatible with each other, which is what makes these samples so special. The newly published study in Scientific Reports by a research group led by Prof. Valentin Troll from Uppsala University, Sweden, offers a unique perspective on the plume versus fracture model debate for the origin of the Canary Islands. The fossils are de facto witnesses of the pre-island environment. Researchers can now place constraints on the ages of the sedimentary strata present before island-building and, indeed, on the initiation of island-building itself. In combination with known sediment ages from the east of the archipelago, it is now clear that the oceanic sediments become younger towards the west of the island chain, thus verifying an age-progression among the islands. These findings are in strong agreement with the mantle plume model for the origin of the Canary Islands and thus contribute to our wider understanding of ocean island volcano genesis.

For more information please contact Prof. Valentin R. Troll, Chair in Petrology at Uppsala University, valentin.troll@geo.uu.se

Zaczek, K., Troll, V. R., Cachao, M., Ferreira, J., Deegan, F.M., Carracedo, J.C., Soler, V., Meade, F.C., Burchardt, S. 2015. Nannofossils in 2011 El Hierro eruptive products reinstate plume model for Canary Islands. Scientific Reports 5:7945. DOI 10.1038/srep07945.

This project was initiated by Prof. Valentin Troll (Uppsala University, Sweden), Dr. Mario Cachao (University of Lisbon, Portugal), and Prof. Juan Carlos Carracedo (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain) and forms part of the doctoral thesis of Kirsten Zaczek at Uppsala University. The research was supported by an international team of co-workers from institutions in Spain and Portugal and by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA), the Center for Natural Disaster Sciences (CNDS) at Uppsala University and through the Swedish Science Foundation (VR).

Mike Hinchey Lero

Lero – the Irish Software Research Centre (Lero) has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the implementation of a research programme worth €400,000. The 18 month programme, which will be led by Lero Director Prof. Mike Hinchey, will commence this month.

Lero will collaborate with chip manufacturer Cobham Gaisler AB of Gothenburg, Sweden on the software behind specialist microchips to be used in European space missions. The Cobham Gaisler  LEON radiation hardened microchip, which was developed in association with the European Space Agency, is designed to operate in harsh environments such as space.

Lero researchers based at the University of Limerick will work on a new back end for the Open Source LLVM compiler library to enable it to be used for the LEON chip family. This is designed to expand the toolset available to developers working on the flight software for future European space missions in order to boost reliability.

This is the third and largest contract awarded in recent years by the European Space Agency to Lero, which is backed by Science Foundation Ireland.

“We are honoured to be selected for this important work,” commented Prof Mike Hinchey, Director, Lero. “Software designed for space missions needs to be leading edge and highly reliable in view of the cost, distance and unforgiving environment involved.”

Before heading up Lero, Prof. Hinchey was Director of the Software Engineering Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. He remains a consultant to NASA.

Lero (www.lero.ie) is a global leader in software engineering research. It combines the best in Irish software talent by bringing together researchers from Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick. It is funded by Science Foundation Ireland as well as by contracts from Irish and international technology corporations.

Equilume-Barbara

Equilume, the University College Dublin (UCD) equine technology spin-out company, has announced that it has secured €550,000 in seed funding.

The innovative technology was profiled in The Science Squad Series 3, Episode 4 which aired on RTE One on Monday 17th November. You can view the programme on the RTE Player by clicking here:  http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10345569/

Equilume, which is based in Co. Kildare, has secured the funding from Enterprise Ireland and a number of angel investors based in Ireland, the UK and in the USA. The company intends to use the investment to accelerate sales of its innovative Equilume Light Mask technology within the global Thoroughbred industry to assist breeders to maximise the reproductive efficiency and performance in their horses.

The Equilume Light Mask, which is manufactured entirely in Ireland, is a novel automated mobile lighting device that fits comfortably under a horse’s head collar. The Light Mask has been scientifically proven to provide the optimum level of blue light to a single eye of a mare to successfully advance her breeding season, prevent long gestations and ensure reproductive activity in early foaling mares.

Thoroughbred breeders around the world are currently using the Equilume Light Mask to eliminate the requirement to maintain their non-pregnant mares indoors under artificial lighting and thereby save at least €1,000 per mare per season while at the same meeting crucial industry timelines. The technology is also being successfully used globally to help pregnant mares foal on time.

Dr Barbara Murphy, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and the founder of Equilume said, “The Equilume Light Mask has already gained considerable traction within the global Thoroughbred market and this summer we doubled our sales in the key Australian market. This seed funding will help us accelerate our marketing efforts, expand our reach into new market segments and continue to break new boundaries in advancing equine reproductive health technologies with our ongoing new product development.”

She added, “Equilume currently employs 7 people and we plan to increase staff numbers to 11 by end of 2016.”

The Equilume Light Mask has been developed as a result of ground breaking research carried out by Dr Barbara Murphy from UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science, in collaboration with Professor John Sheridan, an optoelectronics researcher in UCD’s School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering.

Dr Brian O’Neill, Manager, High Potential Start-Ups, Lifesciences, Enterprise Ireland said, “This is an amazing success story and a world’s first. We are delighted to have supported this company from a research concept stage right through to commercialisation and global roll-out. I believe Equilume has enormous potential and is a real game changer for the equine industry. It really adds to Ireland’s reputation as a global centre of excellence for equine technology.”

Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “Equilume is an excellent example of a UCD spin-out company, established with the support of our technology transfer and enterprise development team at NovaUCD, which has translated an innovative idea arising from world-class UCD research into a commercial entity which in generating global sales and impact in the Thoroughbred industry.”

Equilume has already won a number awards including Enterprise Ireland’s ‘One to Watch’ Award (2012); overall winner Newbridge 200 Business Start-Up Competition (2012) and a NovaUCD Start-Up Award (2011).

For more information click here

 

CorkYoungScientists

Scientific hat-trick winners Sophie Healy-Thow 17 yrs, 16-year-olds Ciara Judge and Emer Hickey have been chosen Cork Persons of the Month.  Their names now also go forward, with the other Persons of Month chosen this year, for possible selection as Cork Persons of the Year at a gala awards lunch on January 16th next.

The Kinsale Community School pupils won this year’s BT Young Scientist, EU Young Scientist and the top prize at the Google Science Fair in San Francisco, beating thousands of entries from around the world.

The trio investigated how natural bacteria could be used as a growth aid for crops as part of their project “Natural Bacteria Combating World Hunger”.

Working from home over the last three years, the girls did an extensive study on how the bacteria “diazotroph” affects germination rates and found that it increased crop growth by up to 50% and barley yields by as much as 74%. These results have significant potential for increasing crop yield, providing a possible solution to food shortages in developing countries.  It could also reduce the footprint agriculture has on the environment by reducing fertiliser needs.

Kinsale Community School Deputy Principal Kathleen O’Brien said that the three girls were inspirational to women, the science community and the country, and their work has the potential to solve the global food crisis.

“They are also highlighting the education system and raising the profile of Ireland as a country with a high skill base in science” added Ms O’Brien.

Time Magazine has named the girls as three of the top 25 influential teenagers in the world, along with people like Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzal who was shot by Taliban gunmen for promoting girls education.

“The trio from Kinsale Community School are now working on commercializing their discovery of using Diazotroph, a bacteria that sucks nitrogen from the atmosphere into soil, speeding up the germination of cereal crops and – more importantly – increasing their yield,” said Time Magazine.

MichaelODywer

Researchers at the National University of Ireland Galway have identified an enzyme that has a key role in the spread and survival of blood cancer cells. The discovery, which focussed on the cancer multiple myeloma, has just been published by the internationally acclaimed journal, Blood.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood which results from an overproduction of plasma cells, the white blood cells that produce antibodies. It leads to problems such as anaemia, bone damage, kidney failure and elevated calcium levels. There are about 240 new cases of multiple myeloma diagnosed each year in Ireland.

The research team was led by Health Research Board (HRB) Clinician Scientist, Professor Michael O’Dwyer and Professor Lokesh Joshi of the University’s Glycoscience Group, which is supported by Science Foundation Ireland. The group studies the complex sugars which cover all cells in the human body, and many of the proteins in the bloodstream. Dr Siobhan Glavey, a medical doctor funded by the HRB, also had a key role lead in the study and was lead author on the paper.

HRB Clinician Scientist, Michael O Dwyer, Professor of Haematology at the National University of Ireland Galway says; “While treatments for multiple myeloma have improved over the last decade, and most patients are living longer, there is no cure. Our research is crucial because it sheds new light on the biology of multiple myeloma which could lead to new strategies to overcome resistance to treatment.”

“Working in close cooperation with Dr Irene Ghobrial from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard in the US and colleagues from the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK, we focused on alterations in a process called glycosylation, a process whereby proteins and lipids are modified by specific sugars, because of its role in cell-cell interactions and the spread of cancer cells in the blood.”

“In essence, we have linked the overproduction of a specific enzyme called sialyltransferase to disease progression and worse outcomes in multiple myeloma. The increase in this enzyme activity causes a series of knock on effects; increasing glycosylation, which in turn increases the interaction of the cancer cells with receptors on the walls of blood vessels called selectins which then encourages their circulation, spread and retention in the bone marrow.”

“Our aim now is to prevent these interactions that cause the spread using specific enzyme and selectin inhibitors”.

Dr Graham Love, CEO of the HRB, commented on the importance of the research: “Understanding what causes multiple myeloma to progress, or generate worse outcomes, is the first step towards improving treatment. This discovery reinforces the transformational role our Clinician Scientists have in bringing real clinical questions to a research environment and delivering results back to the bedside.”

Space Enbio

Investment in 40 new projects to help transition high potential young talent to fully independent research leaders

Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock, T.D. has announced €23 million in new funding to help support 40 of Ireland’s most promising young research talent to become fully independent researchers. The funding which is being awarded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will help ensure that Ireland’s most talented young researchers can be encouraged to remain in Ireland, while also helping to attract excellent young researchers from other countries to base themselves here.

Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock TD said:“Funding for researchers at the outset of their careers is an important element of the Government’s strategy for job creation in research and innovation under our Action Plan for Jobs. SFI’s funding schemes for early career researchers help ensure that excellent research with the potential for real economic and societal impact is properly supported in Ireland. Investment like this is important for Ireland’s developing international reputation for excellent research with impact. The 40 research projects being awarded by SFI today demonstrate the enormous talent and potential that exists among Ireland’s young researchers.”

The €23 million in funding delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, through SFI’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Award (CDA) Programmes will support researchers and post-graduate students working on projects in areas such as sustainable and renewable energy, cancer research, neurological disorders, immunology, microbiology, biotherapeutics and Wireless Networks.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said:“Both of the programmes under which funding is being announced today will help promising young researchers to create and develop impactful careers here in Ireland and in turn enable the pursuit of scientific research that has potential economic and societal impact. These programmes are also an important factor in ensuring that Ireland can succeed in persuading top young scientific talent from abroad to base their research efforts here in Ireland.”

SFI’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) provides support for excellent postdoctoral researchers who wish to take steps towards a fully independent research career, while the Career Development Award (CDA) aims to support early and mid-career researchers who already hold a salaried, independent research post and who are looking to expand their research activities. Both programmes aim to support the development of young researchers with the potential to become excellent, fully independent research leaders in their chosen fields.

The 40 research projects awarded funding today will be funded by SFI through 12 research bodies, as follows: Trinity College Dublin (5), National University of Ireland Galway (5), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (4), Dublin City University (4), University College Cork (4), University of Limerick (4), National University of Ireland Maynooth (3), University College Dublin (3), National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (3), Teagasc (2), Tyndall National Institute (2) and Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1).

A further 12 projects were also deemed scientifically excellent by the International Review Panel and are on a reserve list to be funded by SFI, if budgets permit later in the year.

Examples of projects supported:

Orla O’Sullivan (Teagasc Food Research Centre, Cork) SIRG

Orla’s research focuses on microbial diversity in the gut. Microbial diversity is highest in a healthy gut and Orla’s research will investigate if it is possible to improve that diversity and in turn improve the overall health of individuals. The research will also examine whether alterations in diet and/or lifestyle can influence microbial diversity and function.  Orla’s ultimate goal is to inform the potential development of nutritional supplements that can help improve human health.

Stephen Dooley (University of Limerick) SIRG

Stephen’s research will focus on understanding ways that cleaner and more versatile energy sources can be developed from indigenous biomass resources, including plant matter.  His goal is to find ways that help ensure that Ireland imports less fossil energy by creating environmentally benign energy technologies, particularly for transportation. He hopes that his research can help achieve this by informing a deeper and predictive understanding of how indigenous biomass, in particular, can be harnessed.

Patrick Hayden (Dublin City University) SIRG

Patrick’s research will investigate techniques that could improve the quality of laser-powered high-precision measurement. High-precision measurements on the composition and uniformity of drugs are useful to the pharmaceutical industry to help perform quality control as drugs are developed and produced. One method to perform these measurements is by measuring light emitted from the surface of the drug when a laser pulse is focused on it. The process is known as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) at short wavelengths and Patrick’s research aims to increase the efficiency of this process. The research could also have applications in other areas including archaeology and forensic science.

Aoife Morrin (Dublin City University) CDA

Aoife’s research aims to explore the potential for the analysis of skin in non-invasive or minimally invasive diagnostic approaches as an alternative to more invasive blood sampling. Skin is the largest human organ and contains rich analytical information related to a wide variety of medical conditions. Pressures on healthcare systems have resulted in a greater focus on enhanced efficacy of treatments and cost reduction. As such, there is a lot of research into new diagnostics that can address these challenges. Aoife intends her research to demonstrate innovative approaches to the analysis of skin that can be used for the early detection of various conditions including eczema flare-ups, liver failure, and skin cancer.

Alex von Kriegsheim (University College Dublin) SIRG

Alex’s research aims to develop new treatments to help prevent against bowel cancer in patients with colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both conditions lead to chronic inflammation of the gut, which can in turn increase the risk of bowel cancer. Alex hopes that his research can identify the ways in which this inflammation causes the growth of cancer cells and how the process can be halted through the release of important enzymes known as hydroxylases, which are blocked in chronically inflamed tissues.

Click Here for the list of Funded Projects

MikeCoey

A team of researchers from the AMBER centre at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) are behind the discovery of a new magnetic material they claim will revolutionise the ICT sector.

The material is made from an alloy of three metals, manganese, ruthenium and gallium (MRG), and is reportedly as strong as the strongest magnets available in the world today. However, it has the characteristic of not appearing magnetic at all to the untrained eye.

Known technically as ‘zero-moment half metal’, the material could potentially spawn a completely new line of materials research and open up numerous possibilities for electronics and information technology.

Led by Prof Michael Coey, the AMBER team said MRG has incredible potential and could lead to the possibility of limitless data storage, resulting in huge, superfast memory in personal computer devices. It could also eliminate the potential of external magnetic forces to ‘wipe’ computer data.

For 25 years, researchers worldwide have grappled with how to create a magnet such as MRG by trying to arrange numerous combinations of atoms in a way which was difficult without flouting the basic principles of physics.

Potential ‘big data revolution’

The AMBER research team claims to have solved this problem by using established industry-standard processes for making the electronic circuits on silicon chips, making it relatively easy for MRG to be adopted by computer and electronics companies.

Commenting on the discovery and its potential to lead a ‘big data revolution’, Coey said, “Magnetic materials are what make reading and storing data – either on personal devices or on large-scale servers in data centres – possible. Magnets are at the heart of every electronic device we use, from computers and laptops to tablets, smartphones and digital cameras.

“Given its unique insensitivity to magnetic fields, and the tenacity of its internal magnetic properties, MRG could now revolutionise how data is stored, which could have major implications for the future development of electronics, information technology and a host of other applications.”

PROF LUKE O'NEILL

Eleven researchers based in Irish universities have been ranked among the world’s top 3,000 by the multinational media body Thompson Reuters. Inclusion means the person’s research is listed in the top 1 per cent for the number of times their work has been cited by other scientists.

The list includes scientists and engineers in NUI GalwayTrinity College Dublin,University College DublinUniversity of LimerickUniversity College CorkBeaumont Hospital, Dublin and the University of Ulster.

All were gauged to be “highly cited researchers” who had had an “exceptional impact”, Thompson Reuters said.

Their work “has consistently been judged by peers to be of particular significance and utility”, the company said when releasing the list on the website highlycited.com.

Those selected will also be published in book form, the Thompson Reuters 2014 World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.

Cutting edge

Inclusion in this publication means the researcher is among those “who are on the cutting edge of their fields. They are performing and publishing work that their peers recognise as vital to the advancement of their science”.

NUI Galway had three academics on the list: Henry Curran (engineering), Colin O’Dowd (geosciences) and Donal O’Regan (mathematics).

TCD had two: Luke O’Neill (immunology and also pharmacology and toxicology) and Jonathan Coleman (materials science).

UCD also had two: Colm O’Donnell (agricultural sciences) and Desmond Higgins (computer science).

UL had Michael Zaworotko (chemistry), UCC had John Cryan (pharmacology and toxicology), Beaumont Hospital had Mary Cannon (psychiatry and psychology) and University of Ulster had Brendan McCormack (social sciences).

The use of citation listings as a measure of research quality has sometimes been drawn into question but it remains a widely used metric despite this. Its strength lies in the fact that it reflects later access of the research by scientists working in the same area. If your paper is truly cutting edge then others will want to cite the original work within their research papers.

‘Huge testament’

Prof O’Neill yesterday expressed his delight at having been named on the list. “Being included in the top 1 per cent of anything is great,” he said. He described it as a “huge testament” to the work of his research team over the past decade.

Prof Coleman also praised the students and post doctoral researchers who work with him in the lab, and thanked funding bodies including TCD and Science Foundation Ireland. “Without them this would have been impossible,” he said.

TeagascAlberta

Edmonton, Canada…Teagasc, Ireland’s agriculture and food development authority, and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and the University of Alberta in Canada have signed an agreement that will result in additional highly qualified personnel working in the agri-food sector.

This international agreement, signed in Edmonton, Canada on June 16, 2014, provides research funding to allow four PhD students to receive prestigious Walsh Fellowships and pursue their research to benefit the agri-food sector in both countries. Each Walsh Fellowship is valued at €22,000 per year (about $40,000 CAD) for four years. The funding is provided equally by Teagasc and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions.  The students will be directed and supervised by professors of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences (ALES) and co-supervised by Teagasc researchers.

Students will spend at least one year in Teagasc and one year in the University of Alberta in Canada, and will generally split their time equally between Canada and Ireland.

Dr. Frank O’Mara, Director of Research for Teagasc said, “Teagasc are continuously seeking collaborative arrangements with like-minded, leading research organisations around the world, to link with the foremost international scientists to deliver solid science for the future. Working with Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and the University of Alberta is one such opportunity. I am confident this agreement will benefit the agri-food sectors in both Ireland and Canada. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I’m delighted we’re able to do it.”

Teagasc provides integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities. It operates in partnership with all sectors of the agri-food industry and with rural development industries, employing approximately 1,100 staff at 52 locations throughout Ireland. It has developed close alliances with research, advisory and training agencies throughout the world and is continuously seeking to expand its international contacts.

Dr. Stan Blade, CEO of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions said, “Revenue from Alberta’s agri-food sector is an important component of the province’s economy but the sector has not grown significantly over the last decade. Teagasc has a superb record in creating new value-added opportunities in the food industry based on their expertise and facilities. Research and innovation supported through these inaugural Walsh Fellowships can help to accelerate growth in this sector, both in Alberta and Ireland.”

Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, an Alberta government research funding agency, invests in science and innovation to grow prosperity in Alberta’s agriculture, food and forest sectors through new technologies, products, services or industry practices. It routinely seeks R&D partners in the areas of sustainable production, bioindustrial innovation, food innovation, ecosystem services and prion diseases.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the students to conduct their research in an international setting and leverage the expertise in both Alberta and Ireland,” said Dr. John Kennelly, Dean of the Faculty of ALES. “We live increasingly in an inter-connected world and it’s through partnerships like these that we’re able to provide excellent training to highly qualified students in an international setting so they may, in turn, provide solutions to global challenges in the agri-food industry.”

The Faculty of ALES provides solutions to global challenges in the fields of food and nutritional security, environmental sustainability, bioresource innovation, and individual and community well-being. An applied science faculty, ALES also draws on the social sciences, business and the arts and humanities to provide comprehensive solutions. We teach this approach to our students, providing them with well-rounded real-world skills as they enter the labour market.

Volcano

The Carlingford Igneous Centre, NE Ireland, erupted 60 million years ago, but a new study published in Nature Communications reveals it has much to teach us about currently active volcanoes.

Since the geological expedition of R.W. Bunsen to Iceland in the mid 19th century, scientists have been puzzled by the frequent co-occurrence of basalt and rhyolite at many volcanoes. Bunsen, who also invented of the Bunsen burner, was the first to describe this phenomenon of “bimodal volcanism”, but these fundamentally different lava types have by now been found together at sites across the planet. Crucially, the mixing of basalt and rhyolite in a volcano’s magma chamber is a major cause of violently explosive eruptions, but in the 160 years since Bunsen’s observations, no consensus has been reached on how bimodal volcanism actually originates. A new article in “Nature Communications” now re-ignites the debate and offers a fresh perspective on bimodal volcanism at continental volcanoes. Using detailed chemical analyses of rocks from the Carlingford Igneous Centre, the roots of a large, extinct volcano in northeast Ireland, an international team of scientists suggests that the key control on bimodal volcanism could, in fact, be the crustal rocks that lie below the erupting volcano.

Sixty million years ago, the North Atlantic Ocean was only beginning to form and America and Europe were slowly breaking apart. This process was exacerbated by an increased flow of molten rock from the Earth’s mantle, known as a mantle plume, which caused extensive volcanism throughout northeast Ireland, Greenland and western Scotland. Fissure-fed basaltic lava, as seen at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, was the most common type of activity, but a number of large volcanoes also formed. A key feature of these volcanoes was that they were short-lived and bimodal, producing significant amounts of light-coloured rhyolite and granite, as well as dark basalt. One such volcano was the Carlingford Igneous Centre, Co. Louth, Ireland. As the hot basaltic magma (>1200 °C) beneath Carlingford made its way from the mantle to the surface, it passed through the Earth’s continental crust, which is 30 km thick in this part of Ireland. “Luckily rocks from the crust and rocks from the mantle have characteristic chemical compositions, like geological DNA”, explains Dr Fiona Meade, the principal author of the article, “By using cutting-edge isotope analyses on the volcanic rocks from Carlingford, we can detect that the crust began to melt and that these melts were incorporated into the ascending magmas, transforming the basalt into rhyolite and granite”.

Significantly, the team’s work has shown that the continental crust was most strongly involved during the early stages of activity at Carlingford. It appears that while a first flush of crustal melt was easy to extract, melting became increasingly difficult and granite formation quickly stalled. This is because not all minerals in crustal rocks melt at the same temperature, and while some components are readily incorporated into the magma, others are left behind and will never melt. “This research suggests that crustal melts are vital for the formation of rhyolite/granite magmas in continental volcanic systems, and that once the crust can no longer produce such melts, the volcanoes rapidly return to producing basalt – forming a bimodal rock suite” added Prof Valentin Troll, the team leader and chair of petrology at Uppsala University (Sweden). “Evidence of basalt-rhyolite magma mixing is preserved at Carlingford, indicating that violent eruptions are likely to have been triggered early in the lifetime of the volcano, and while Carlingford has not posed any danger for 60 million years, it gives us a major insight into the processes that drive currently active volcanoes”, he concludes.

This project was initiated at Trinity College Dublin by Prof Valentin Troll and Dr Fiona Meade, who are now based at Uppsala University (Sweden), and was supported by an international team of co-workers from institutions in the UK, Italy and the Netherlands. The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) and the TEKNAT faculty at Uppsala University.

For more information please contact Prof Valentin Troll (valentin.troll@geo.uu.se) or Dr Fiona Meade (meade.fiona@gmail.com).