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Professor Barbara Maher

Professor Emerita, Professor

Barbara Maher

LEC Building

LA1 4YQ

Lancaster

Tel: +44 1524 510268

Research overview

  • Barbara directs LEC’s internationally-renowned Centre for Environmental Magnetism & Palaeomagnetism. Her current major research interests are to investigate the health impacts of airborne magnetic pollution particles, and to retrieve palaeoclimatic, palaeoenvironmental & dating information from the magnetic records of Quaternary terrestrial sediments (soils, loess, tills, lake sediments) & deep-sea sediments. She applies magnetic methods to key, present day environmental problems, including magnetic monitoring and sourcing of airborne particulate pollutants, tracing of modern fluvial sediment sources, & magnetic 'clean-up' of contaminated waters.

PhD supervision

Magnetic analysis and quantification of atmospheric particulate pollutants
Magnetic sourcing of mineral dusts in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica

Research Interests

Barbara is Professor and Director of LEC’s internationally-renowned Centre for Environmental Magnetism & Palaeomagnetism, Lancaster University. Amongst recent prizes, awards and distinctions, Barbara was the Edward Bullard Lecturer at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 2021 (AGU Named Lectures are awarded to distinguished scientists with proven leadership and discoveries in their fields). She was awarded Fellowship of the AGU in 2020. In 2014, she received the Schlumberger Award (now the Neumann Medal), the most prestigious honour bestowed by the Mineralogical Society of Gt Britain & Ireland, for scientific excellence in mineralogy and its applications. For outstanding teaching, she received a Pilkington Teaching Award in 2013. From 2006 to 2012, Barbara held a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2006-2012). In 2005, she was awarded by the  Institute of Physics the Chree Medal and Prize (2005) for ‘pioneering contributions to the study of magnetic signals from the geological record as a means of determining climatic changes’). Uniquely, Barbara was elected Chair of the Rock Magnetism Group, International Union of Geophysics and Geodesy, 2002 – 2006 and then re-elected for a further two years (2006 – 2008). She was Vice-president of the Quaternary Research Association, 2008 - 2010.

Barbara's major research interests are in Environmental Magnetism and Palaeomagnetism. She led the team which recently discovered the abundant presence of externally-derived magnetite, and co-associated metal-bearing air pollution nanoparticles in the human brain, identifying for the first time a possible causal role for these particles in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer's disease. She applies magnetic methods to current environmental processes and problems, including magnetic monitoring and sourcing of particulate pollutants, tracing of modern fluvial sediment sources, and magnetic 'clean-up' of contaminated waters. In geological contexts, she uses magnetic methods to retrieve palaeoclimatic, palaeoenvironmental and dating information from the magnetic records of Quaternary terrestrial sediments (soils, loess, tills, lake sediments), deep-sea sediments, and pre-Quaternary rocks. She led the international Working Group (INQUA ‘DIRTMAP3’ and NERC-QUEST) on Dust and Climate.

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