Head of Group
Prof. Dr. Cornelia Spiegel
Last Updated 2018-01-24


The earth's surface is the place where human beings live and which forms the interface between the solid earth (lithosphere) and the atmosphere (and, sometimes, the glacial cover or cryosphere). The overarching questions we address in this research groups are

  • How did the earth's surface evolve through time?
  • How is surface evolution influenced by interactions with the deep crust and earth's mantle on one hand, and with the atmosphere and cryosphere on the other hand?
Our main research areas are the Polar Regions, but we also work in areas of active mountain building as well as and in continental rift zones and sedimentary basins.

Working Areas

  • West Antarctic Rift System
  • North Victoria Land (Antarctica)
  • Dronning Maud Land & Shackleton Range (Antarctica)
  • Svalbard & Yermak Plateau
  • Ellesmere Island (Canadian High Arctic)
  • Northwest Greenland (northern end of Baffin Bay)
  • New Siberian Islands
  • Himalaya (Nepal & India)
  • Alps and circumalpine basins
  • Madagaskar
  • India
  • East African Rift System
  • Donets Basin (Ukraine)
  • Northeast German Lowlands


  • Zircon and apatite fission track and (U-Th-Sm)/He thermochronology

    These are radiogenic dating methods that date the passage of a rock through certain temperature ranges. Since (vertical) movements within the earth crust are generally associated with temperature changes, we can use these methods for
    • reconstructing the geodynamic activity of the upper crust through the geological past
    • deriving exhumation and erosion rates
    • detecting present and former movements along fault systems
    • determining the provenance of clastic sediment such as sand in a sedimentary basin, thus also enabling estimates for reservoir quality
    • reconstructing the thermal evolution of a sedimentary basin, also with respect to hydrocarbon production
  • Terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide analysis

    Terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides form from interactions of cosmic rays with rocks exposed at the earth's surface. Accordingly, the amount of cosmogenic nuclides in a rock collected directly from the surface in proportional to the time the rock is already exposed (e.g., since the vanishing of a glacial cover), and inversely proportional to the time-integrated denudation rate. In this research group, we are using the cosmogenic nuclide 10Be derived from quartz for
    • deriving lateral thinning rates of glaciers
    • deriving horizontal retreat rates of glaciers
    • estimating erosion rates
  • Petrography

    A lot of basic information on mineral content, structural and metamorphic evolution of a rock is derived from thin section analysis. Here we often include student's projects into our research projects.
Depending on the requirements of individual projects we also include vitrinite reflectance measurements, clay mineralogy, main and trace element geochemistry, isotope geochemistry and other dating methods such as Ar-Ar and U-Pb geochronology in our research.
Contact Info

Prof. Dr. Cornelia Spiegel
Tel.: +49 421 218-65280
Fax.: +49 421 218-65309

Universität Bremen
FB5 - Geowissenschaften
Klagenfurter Str.
28359 Bremen