Rhiannon Ackland

rhiannon ackland

Rhiannon Ackland

St Cross Graduate Scholarship in Environmental Research 

Joining us from: Lincoln, UK

DPhil in Environmental Research (NERC DTP) (2023)

I am doing a DPhil in the Earth Sciences department through the NERC DTP. I am interested in magmatic systems and the processes that lead to ore formation within these systems. I am focussing on layers of near-pure magnetite (iron oxide) in the Bushveld complex, South Africa, which is the largest layered magmatic system in the world. The magnetite ores are economically important to the region and an important source of critical metals needed for the green energy transition. The dominant model for their formation is via crystal settling in a liquid-rich magma chamber that is crystallising only magnetite. However, it is petrologically unrealistic for a magma to be saturated only in magnetite and there is a lack of geophysical evidence for liquid-dominated magma chambers in the modern day. My DPhil will consider the alternative hypothesis that magnetite layers formed via reactive flow of deep-derived melts and fluids within a solid-dominated ‘mushy zone’. I will test this mechanism through a combination of experimental petrology, fieldwork and thermal modelling. 

I am very grateful to receive the St Cross Graduate Scholarship in Environmental Research because it allows me to study a subject I love and perform essential fieldwork in South Africa. I chose to apply to St Cross College because I wanted to be part of a diverse, friendly community of other postgraduate students. It also doesn’t hurt that the college is very beautiful!

Outside of my studies I enjoy playing korfball (a Dutch sport somewhere between basketball and netball), visiting art galleries and learning German. To unwind at the end of a long day I like to read a good book over a cup of redbush tea.