Staff Directory

Duncan pirrie

Contact Details


BSc Geology
PhD Geology


I hold a BSc and PhD in Geology. On graduation I was employed at the British Antarctic Survey as a research sedimentologist in Antarctica for five years. Subsequent academic appointments were at the Camborne School of Mines and University of Exeter holding the posts of Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Associate Professor of Geology between 1990 and 2007. In 2007 I established Helford Geoscience LLP, which provided specialist applied mineralogy consultancy services for petroleum geoscience, mining, forensic, environmental, and archaeological clients. In 2016 I joined the University of South Wales as Lecturer in Geology.


I am a very experienced field and analytical geologist.
• Analytical skills in transmitted light microscopy, CL, manual SEM, automated SEM-EDS systems, EMPA,
XRD, XRF, trace element and stable/radiogenic isotopes. Pioneer in the application of automated
• Experienced field geologist with five Antarctic field seasons along with field based research in many
countries including UK, Spain, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
• Related field skills include field safety in remote regions, long wave and short wave radio communication,
work using small boats and helicopters, first aid training, field logistics and planning.
• Field work has been carried out as a member of multi-disciplinary and multi-national research teams.
• Fieldwork experience also includes environmental sampling at crime scenes in conjunction with other
forensic scientists, police officers and crime scene investigators.
• Qualified first aider for >30 years (current First Aid at Work certificate).


My main teaching responsibilities are on our BSc Geology programme, where I am heavily involved in our excellent field geology teaching over all years of the degree programme, currently running field courses in Iceland, Cornwall, Dorset, Spain, Pembrokeshire and the Lake District. I also teach Sedimentology and Basin Analysis and Hydrocarbon Exploration. I also contribute forensic geology expertise to our Forensic Science degree programmes.


I have published over 100 scientific papers, and edited several books. Key recent publications include:

Edited books
Pirrie, D., Ruffell, A. and Dawson, L.A. (eds) 2013. Criminal and Environmental Geoforensics. Geological Society, London, Special Publication, 384, 273 pp.
Francis, J.E., Pirrie, D. & Crame, J.A. (eds) 2006. Cretaceous – Tertiary high-latitude palaeoenvironments, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Geological Society, London, Special Publication, 258, 206 pp.

Published Scientific Papers.
101. DiMaggio, R.M., AL Naimi, K.S., Barone, P.M., Da Silva, F.A., Dawson, L.A., Dixon, R., Donnelly, L.J., Fitzpatrick, R., Gradusova, O., Gallego, C.M.M., Nesterina, E., Peleneva, M., Pirrie, D., Ruffell, A., McKinley, J., Sagripanti, G., Schneck, B., Sugita, R., Ushacova, O. & Villalba, D. 2017. Global developments in forensic geology. Episodes, 40, 120-131..
100. Pirrie, D., Dawson, L.A. & Graham, G. 2017. Predictive geolocation; forensic soil analysis for provenance determination. Episodes, 40, 141-147.
99. Hilditch, J., Pirrie, D., Knappett, C., Rollinson, G.K. & Momigliano, N. 2016. Taking the rough with the smooth: using automated SEM-EDS to integrate coarse and fine ceramic assemblages in the Bronze Age Aegean. In: Sibbesson, E., Jervis, B. & Coxon, S. (eds), Insights from innovation: new light on archaeological ceramics, Highfield Press, 74-96.
98. Spalletti, L., Pirrie, D., Veiga, G.D., Schwarz, E., Rollinson, G., Shail, R., Haberlah, D. & Butcher, A. 2015. Analisis mineraloogico integrado (QEMSCAN y DRX) de lutitas negras: Los depositos Tithonianos basales de la Formacion Vaca Muerta (Cuenca Neuquina, Argentina). Latin American Journal of Sedimentology and Basin Analysis, 22, 13-28.
97. Little, C.T.S., Birgel, D., Boyce, A.J., Crame, J.A., Francis, J.E., Kiel, S., Pirrie, D., Peckmann, J. & Witts, J.D. 2015. Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) shallow water hydrocarbon seeps from Snow Hill and Seymour Islands, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Palaeogeography, Palaeoecology, Palaeogeography, 418, 213-228.
96. Eby, N.G., Charnley, N., Pirrie, D., Hermes, R., Smoligia, J. & Rollinson, G. 2015. Trinitite redux: mineralogy and petrology. American Mineralogist, 100, 427-441.
95. Pirrie, D., Rollinson, G.K., Andersen, J.A., Wootton, D. & Moorhead, S. 2014. Soil forensics as a tool to test reported artefact find sites. Journal of Archaeological Science, 41, 461-473.
94. Rieuwerts, J.S., Mighanetara, K., Braungardt, C.B., Rollinson, G.K., Pirrie, D. & Azizi, F. 2014. Geochemistry and mineralogy of arsenic in mine wastes and stream sediments in a historic metal mining area in the UK. Science of the Total Environment, 472, 226-234.
93. Pirrie, D., Donnelly, L., Rollinson, G.K., Butcher, A.R., Dawson, L.A. & Pirrie, H.A. 2013. Forensic geology at the International School Science Fair 2013. Geology Today, 29, 222-228.
92. Ruffell, A., Pirrie, D. & Power, M.R. 2013. Issues and opportunities in urban forensic geology. Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 384, 147-161.
91. Pirrie, D., Rollinson, G.K., Power, M.R. & Webb, J. 2013. Automated forensic soil mineral analysis; testing the potential of lithotyping. Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 384, 47-64.
90. Pirrie, D., Ruffell, A. & Dawson, L. 2013. Environmental and criminal geoforensics: an introduction. Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 384, 1-7.
89. Williamson, B.J., Rollinson, G. & Pirrie, D. 2013. Automated mineralogical analysis of PM10: New parameters for assessing PM toxicity. Environmental Science and Technology, 47, 5570-5577.
88. Marshall, J.D. & Pirrie, D. 2013. Carbonate concretions explained. Geology Today, 29, 53-62.
87. Hillditch, J., Knappett, C.J., Pirrie, D. & Power, M. 2012. Iasos pottery fabrics and technologies. In: Momigliano, N. (ed) Bronze Age Carian Iasos, structures and finds from the Roman Agora. Archeologica 166, Missione Archeologica Italiana Di Iasos, 58-106.
86. Pirrie, D. & Ruffell, A. 2012. Soils and geological trace evidence. In Marquez Grant, N. and Roberts, J. (eds) Forensic Ecology Handbook. Blackwell-Wiley.
85. Pringle, J.K., Ruffell, A., Jervis, J.R., Donnelly, L., McKinley, J., Hansen, J., Morgan, R., Pirrie, D. & Harrison, M. 2012. The use of geoscience methods for terrestrial searches. Earth Science Reviews, 114, 108-123.
84. Haberlah, D., Strong, C., Pirrie, D., Rollinson, G.K., Gottlieb, P., Botha, P.W.S.K. & Butcher, A.R. 2011. Automated petrography applications in Quaternary Science. Quaternary Australasia, 28, 3-12.
83. Pirrie, D. & Rollinson, G.K. 2011. Unlocking the application of automated mineralogy. Geology Today, 27, 226-235.
82. Simons, B., Pirrie, D., Rollinson, G.K. & Shail, R.K. 2011. Geochemical and mineralogical record of the impact of mining on the Teign estuary Devon, UK. Geoscience in South-West England, 12, 339-350.
81. Pirrie, D., Jonkers, H.A., Smellie, J.L., Crame, J.A. & McArthur J.M. 2011. Reworked late Neogene Austrochlamys anderssoni (Mollusca: Bivalvia) from northern James Ross Island, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 23, 180-187.
80. Knappett, C., Pirrie, D., Power, M.R., Nikolakopoulou, I., Hilditch, J. & Rollinson, G.K. 2011. Mineralogical analysis and provenancing of ancient ceramics using automated SEM-EDS analysis (QEMSCAN®): a pilot study on LB I pottery from Akrotiri, Thera. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38, 219-232.


I am a Fellow of the Geological Society of London


I am Deputy Editor of the science magazine Geology Today.
I am a committee member on the International Union of Geological Sciences Initiative on Forensic Geology
I am currently editing a Geological Society of London Publication “Guide to Forensic Geology”
I am a member of the USA NIST OSAC working group on forensic geology


Research themes

Current research interests fall into three main fields:

• geoforensics and geoarchaeology
• automated mineral analysis
• sedimentology and petroleum geoscience

These three research strands are linked together through expertise in the application of automated quantitative mineralogy and provenancing of sediments, soils and man-made materials. Many of these current research projects are based on completed commercial consultancy where the outputs are now available for publication. Current research projects are briefly summarised here.

• Geoforensics and geoarchaeology. I pioneered the application of automated mineralogy in forensic geoscience as a methodology which provides fully quantitative mineralogical datasets. Underpinning forensic casework, research has focussed on the recovery of particulate geological trace evidence, establishment of methodologies for data analysis and reporting, and understanding spatial variability of soil mineralogy. Ongoing research is examining the principles and application of geolocation studies based on soil and other particulate geological materials. Automated mineralogy has also been used in the analysis of other types of particulate trace evidence including firearm discharge residues, explosion debris and man-made particulates. Linking geoforensics with geoarchaeology is the analysis of construction materials and provenancing building stones along with the analysis of ancient ceramics and provenancing archaeological artefacts.

• Automated mineral analysis. Since 1999 I have been working with FEI Ltd on the development and application of mineral analysis based on automated SEM-EDS technologies. My research has utilised the technology which allows the very rapid acquisition of energy dispersive spectra and their interpretation in terms of mineral or chemical groupings in many fields. Whilst the technology was initially designed for the analysis of mining related mineral products, the technology can equally well be used for the characterisation of any inorganic chemical compound which can be distinguished based on ED analysis. One long term aim of this research is to develop a new database of particle types based on SEM/EDS analysis.

• Sedimentology and petroleum geoscience. Ongoing completion of field based studies on both clastic and carbonate Mesozoic and Cenozoic basins in Antarctica, Argentina and New Zealand. Sediment petrography, provenance and diagenesis studies based on quantitative QEMSCAN automated mineralogy on conventional clastic and carbonate reservoirs and also on unconventional shale gas targets along with source and seal lithologies on Carboniferous, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Cenozoic sequences. Sediment provenance and diagenesis studies on modern aeolian, coastal, arid zone and cave sediments and Quaternary glacial sediments from Northern Europe, Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Germany. Oxygen isotope palaeoclimatological studies on both marine and cave carbonates.

Areas of Expertise

Geology, Forensic Geology, Automated Mineralogy

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