My research interests are diverse and interdisciplinary in nature and I have an active research program. Throughout my research I synthesize of field and remote sensing observations with a range of geochemical data. I place a strong emphasis on fieldwork and this forms the basis for much of my research. Indeed, I approach planetary geology with the fundamental view that interpretations of other planetary bodies must begin by using the Earth as a reference.
The overarching focus for my research is on understanding the origin and evolution of the terrestrial (or rocky) planets of the inner Solar System and the Earth’s moon, through the study of planetary surface processes and planetary materials (e.g., meteorites and Apollo samples). A major thrust of my research on planetary surface processes is on impact cratering, in other words the study of meteorite impact structures and the processes, products, and effects of their formation. I am also actively working on various topics of glacial and periglacial geomorphology, involving fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic and comparative studies looking at the northern plains of Mars where such processes have been proposed to have taken place.
My research on impact craters extends to investigating the role of impact cratering in the origin of life on Earth and the potential for life on Mars, bringing my research into the field of astrobiology. This interest in meteorite impact craters also involves research on economic geology, focused on the Sudbury impact structure, Ontario, a ~250 km diameter impact crater and the site of North America’s largest mining camp.
A further area of research is on the Precambrian geology of the Canadian Arctic and Northwest Scotland. This represents some of the most recent and earliest research that I have been involved in – my first ever journal publication in 2001 was on the results of my undergraduate honours thesis, where I mapped an area of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
In addition to these scientific research objectives, I am also active in developing technologies and techniques for exploration, whether that be remote or extreme locations on Earth (e.g., High Arctic, deep underground mines) or human and robotic surface operations on the Moon and Mars. In essence, this part of my research addresses fundamental questions about how we explore and the techniques and technologies required to enable this exploration – both on Earth and other planetary bodies. The two major areas of research are on instrument development and autonomous science.