UCL Department of Geography
Matthew Owen
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Matthew Owen


matt.jpgI am a visiting researcher in the UCL department of Geography, having completed my PhD thesis (investigating the morphology and timing of submarine mass movement on the northwest British continental margin) in 2013.  I also work as a marine geoscientist (I have expertise in Side scan sonar, 2-D seismics, video data, GIS and CAD).

Additionally, over the last few years I have been conducting work into geohazard (including tsunami, earthquake, submarine slope failure and storm) risks for the reinsurance industry, with projects investigating risk to airports and offshore infrastructure.

My CV may be downloaded here: Link to CV pdf

email: m.owen@ucl.ac.uk

twitter: @ClimateMatt

UCL Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street

Enquiries: +44 (0)20 7679 0500
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 0565

Research interests

PhD research:

My PhD focused on the relationships between submarine mass movements and climate change.  The majority of my work was centred on the Peach debrites within the Barra Fan (NW British continental margin).

The PhD employed a wide range of techniques including high-frequency 2D seismics, multibeam-bathymetry, sedimentology and planktonic foraminiferal stable isotope geochemistry.

Using the geophysical methods I constructed a GIS based 3D model of the Peach debrite region within the Barra Fan, through the analysis and interpretation of which I gained a better understanding of the dynamics and morphology of the most recent sediment failures.

Sediment core analysis was used to place the event within its correct climatic and environmental context.  Methods employed included: particle size analysis; bulk sediment XRF geochemistry, and planktonic foraminiferal stable oxygen and carbon isotopes.  We used AMS 14C dating to date pelagic sediments overlying the slumped deposits.

Additional research interests:

  • Sources, and the role, of methane in Quaternary climate change: attempting to untangle the role played by various sources.
  • Natural hazard and structure interaction: focusing on offshore infrastructure.
  • Tsunami generation and impact: roles of submarine mass movements in generating tsunamis. Some work I undertook for the reinsurance firm JLTRe was reported on in the New Scientist
  • Potential impact of future climate change: methods of reducing and mitigating. I am an author of the UCL Environment Institute's Audit of UK Greenhouse Gas emissions to 2020: will current government policies achieve significant reductions? which formed the basis of Channel 4's 'Greenwash' dispatches episode.
  • Development of scientific method and epistemology with modern western philosophy.


Research cruises:

  • In 2005 I participated in the RRS Charles Darwin cruise 174 with the British Geological Survey.  This involved swath mapping of the Rockall trough and seismic surveys of the Barra Fan.
  • January - March 2010 I participated in British Antarctic Survey cruise JR206 aboard the RRS James Clark Ross.  During this cruise we successfully surveyed the southern South Georgia margin and the South Sandwich Island arc.



I have given talks at the following international conferences:

  • Climate Forcing of Geological and Geomorphological Hazards (London, 2009). Talk entitled "Is it possible to test whether submarine mass movements and methane hydrates have played a role in late Pleistocene climate change?"
  • 4th International Symposium of Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences (Austin, 2009). Talk entitled "Investigations on the Peach 4 Debrite, a late Pleistocene Mass Movement on the Northwest British Continental Margin."
  • 11th International Symposium of Antarctic Earth Sciences (Edinburgh, 2011). Talk entitled "Active Faulting, Transpression and Sedimentation in Endurance Basin, South Georgia: Potential Use of a Glaciated Continental Margin Basin in Reconstruction of Climatic Variations in the Sub-Antarctic Region."

In addition to which I have given talks at a number of workshops and presented posters at several other meetings.



Since 2007 I have undertaking a variety of teaching roles in the UCL Geography department:

  • 2007 - Tutor to affiliate undergraduates. A role that primarily involved giving advice and assisting external students with the more difficult concepts.
  • 2008 - Tutor to second year undergraduates. A role that, in addition to providing support and advice to students, required a considerable amount of assessment and marking.
  • 2011 - Lecturer for the UCL Geography department MSc in Climate Change. Lectures on cyclones (physical processes and hazard) and tsunamis (causes, propagation and inundation).
  • 2012 - Contributor at a workshop for UCL Geography department GIS Masters course. Presented a methodology for using weighted overlays to assess regional submarine slope failure risk.




Research articles:

Owen, M.J, Day, S.J., Leat, P.T., Tate, A.J., Martin, T.J. (Accepted), 'Control of sedimentation by active tectonics, glaciation and contourite-depositing currents in Endurance Basin, South Georgia', Global and Planetary Change.

Leat, P.T., Day, S.J., Tate, A.J., Martin, T.J., Owen, M.J., Tappin, D.R. (2013), 'Volcanic evolution of the South Sandwich volcanic arc, South Atlantic, from multibeam bathymetry', Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Vol. 265, pp. 60-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2013.08.013

Leat, P.T., Tate, A.J., Tappin, D.R., Day, S.J., Owen, M.J. (2010), 'Growth and mass wasting of volcanic centers in the northern South Sandwich arc, South Atlantic, revealed by new multibeam mapping', Marine Geology, Vol. 275, pp. 110-126. doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2010.05.001

Maslin, M., Owen, M., Betts, R., Day, S., Dunkley Jones, T., Ridgwell, A. (2010), 'Gas hydrates: Past and Future Geohazard?', Phil. Transactions A of the Royal Society, Vol. 368, pp. 2369-2393. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0065

Owen, M., Day, S., Long, D., Maslin, M. (2010), ‘Investigations on the Peach 4 Debrite, a Late Pleistocene Mass Movement on the Northwest British Continental Margin’, in Mosher, D.C., Shipp, R.C., Moscardelli, L., Chaytor, J.D., Baxter, C.D.P., Lee, H.J., Urgeles, R. (Eds.), Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences, Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research, Vol. 28, pp. 301-311. doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-3071-9_25

Owen, M., Day, S., Maslin, M. (2007), ‘Late Pleistocene submarine mass movements: occurrence and causes’, Quaternary Science Reviews, vol. 26, pp. 958-978. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2006.12.011

Maslin, M., Owen, M., Day, S., Long, D. (2004), ‘Linking continental-slope failures and climate change: testing the clathrate gun hypothesis’, Geology, vol. 32, pp. 53-56. doi: 10.1130/G20114.1

Owen, M.J., Maslin, M.A., Day, S.J., Long, D. (In prep), 'Testing the reliability of paper seismic record to SEGY conversion on the surface and shallow sub-surface geology of the Barra Fan (NE Atlantic Ocean)', Marine and Petroleum Geology.

Owen, M.J., Maslin, M.A., Day, S.J., Long, D. (In prep), 'Timing of late Pleistocene and early Holocene sediment failures on the Barra Fan and their relation to British and Irish ice sheet dynamics', Quaternary Science Reviews.

General articles and commentaries:

Owen, M.J.; Maslin, M.A. (2014), 'Underappreciated Atlantic tsunami risk', Nature Geoscience, Vol. 7, No. 8, pp. 550. doi:

Owen, M. (2010), ‘A case in favour of radicalisation: a commentary on issues surrounding the Caldicott report’, Opticon1826, iss. 9, 4 pp. Download pdf here

PhD thesis:

Owen, M.J. (2013), Morphology and timing of submarine mass movements on the northwest British continental margin, Unpublished PhD thesis, University College London, 267 pp.

Book chapters:

Maslin, M.A., Owen, M.J., Day, S.J., Dunkley Jones, T., Ridgwell, A., (2013), Assessing the past and future stability of global gas hydrate reservoirs, Climate Forcing of Geological Hazards, Wiley-Blackwell, 250-277


Owen, M.J., Drake, K.R., Maslin, M.A., Comberti, C., Marazzi, L., Mitchell, L.T. (2012), 'Structural vulnerability and potential catastrophic loss scenarios for North Sea oil and gas infrastructure', A report by the UCL Environment Institute for JLT Reinsurance Brokers Limited. 220 pp.

Owen, M., Maslin, M. (2010), 'Assessment of Tsunami risk Worldwide with specific case studies on 10 International Airports', A report by the UCL Environment Institute for JLT Reinsurance Brokers Limited. 82 pp.

Maslin, M., Owen, M., Austin, P., Dickson, A., Murlis, J., Panizzo, V. (2007), 'Are we on target? Audit of UK Greenhouse Gas emissions to 2020: will current Government policies achieve significant reductions?', UCL Environment Institute: Environment Policy Report Number 2007:01, 61 pp. Download pdf here




September 2013 to present

Visiting researcher at the UCL Department of Geography and director of MAJO Consulting ltd.

During this period my research has focused on natural hazard risk and I have been working commercially with a number of offshore UK wind farm developments in the North Sea.


May 2006 to  September 2013

Part-time PhD at UCL department of Geography investigating the relationships between submarine mass movements and climate change.

During this period I also founded my company, MAJO Consulting ltd, and have worked offshore UK, Norway, Ireland, Germany, France and Congo as a marine geophysicist working on a number of projects including offshore wind farms, cable and pipeline surveys.


October 2000 to April 2006

I worked at the specialist cheese mongers Neal's Yard Dairy.

Over the years my roles included:

Retail department manager, responsible for ~30 staff and a annual turnover of £1.5 million

Project manager, in which role I organised the relocation of the wholesale department and the construction of a new shop.

October 1999 to October 2000

MRes in Environmental Sciences - UCL

October 1996 - July 1999

BSc Environmental Geography - UCL