I grew up in Galway on the west coast of Ireland, and spent a large part of my youth messing around in boats. After completing school I studied for a B.Sc. in Geology and Geophysics at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), spending part of my final year studying marine geology and geophysics at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale (UBO) in France. This experience produced a degree of wanderlust so I completed my Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics from NUIG while working as a research assistant in the Geophysics group at the Geological Survey of Norway. After a postdoctoral position at the University of Michigan, in the United States, I came to Oxford in 1996 as an EU Marie Curie Fellow, before becoming a departmental lecturer in 1998. After a semi-nomadic existence at several Oxford colleges (Wolfson; Univ; Jesus & Worcester) I joined Exeter College as a college lecturer in 2005, and became the inaugural Giuseppe Vernazza Fellow in Earth Sciences in 2015.
One of the main reasons that I enjoy working at Exeter College, and at Oxford, is that I am surrounded by smart colleagues and students. They keep me on my toes, challenge me to question accepted wisdom, and push me towards a deeper understanding of my subject. Earth Sciences is a discipline that integrates the basic sciences of Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in an understanding of our home planet, and requires that we develop theories and test them against observations we make both in the laboratory and in the field. I count myself lucky that my fieldwork has taken me to many (often remote!) corners of the world.
When not at work I provide a weekend taxi service to my children for their various sporting and social engagements. I still enjoy messing around in boats.
I am a geological generalist, and I have turned my attention to questions as diverse as the large scale evolution of ancient mountain belts, the reconstruction of the motions of tectonic plates through time, understanding the causes and triggers of major episodes of environmental change in the Earth’s history (particularly those associated with large igneous provinces), the emplacement mechanisms of volcanic rocks, and the long-term behaviour of the Earth’s magnetic field.
My interest in the generation and evolution of the Earth’s magnetic field came about from my work on plate reconstructions as these use the record of the Earth’s ancient magnetic field that is encoded in rocks. I direct the palaeomagnetism laboratory in the Department of Earth Sciences, where we analyse the magnetic signal recorded in rocks to tell us something about the behaviour of the Earth’s magnetic field in the past, and we use the records of that past behaviour to tell us something about the history of those rocks. The processes we look at can range from the sub-micron scale to the planetary scale, and all most of my research involves a combination of field, laboratory, and analytical work.
At Exeter College I teach much of the basic geology relating to the 1st and 2nd year courses in Earth Sciences.
In the Department of Earth Sciences I teach in the first year courses in Fundamentals of Geology and Planet Earth; in the second year paper I teach in the courses on Geological Maps, Geophysics and Igneous Petrology; and in 4th year I teach part of the course on Major Events in Earth History and the complete course in Rock, Palaeo-, and Environmental Magnetism.
I also lead two 1st year field courses every year to Pembrokeshire in Wales, in the autumn, and to the island of Arran in Scotland during the Easter Vacation.
Selected Recent Publications
Wilkinson, J.J., Vowles, K., Muxworthy, A.R., & Mac Niocaill, C. 2017. Regional remagnetization of Irish Carboniferous Carbonates dates Variscan Orogenesis, not Zn-Pb Mineralization. Geology, doi:10.1130/G39032.1
Jolley, D.W., Daly, R.J., Ebinghaus, A., Kemp, D.B., Gilmour, I., Mac Niocaill, C., & Kelley, S.P. 2017. Centennial to decadal vegetation community changes linked to orbital and solar forcing during the Dan-C2 hyperthermal event. Journal of the Geological Society, (In Press)
Døssing, A., Muxworthy, A.R., Supakulopas, R., Riihuus, M.S., & Mac Niocaill, C. 2016. High northern geomagnetic field behavior and new constraints on the Gilsa event: paleomagnetic and 40Ar/39Ar results of ~0.5 – 3.1Ma basalts from Jökuldalur, Iceland. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 414, 16-29. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2015.01.009
Dodd, S., Muxworthy, A.R., & Mac Niocaill, C. 2015. Paleointensity determinations from the Etendeka Province support a low magnetic field strength prior to the Cretaceous Normal Superchron. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 16 (3), 785-797. doi: 10.1002/2014GC005707
Dodd, S., Mac Niocaill, C., & Muxworthy, A.R. 2015. Long Duration (>4Ma) Steady State volcanism in the early Cretaceous Paranã-Etendeka Large Igneous Province. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 414, 16-29. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2015.01.009