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Matthew Owen



Pearson Building Room 106
UCL Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street

twitter: @ClimateMatt
Google Scholar: link
ResearchGate: link
Enquiries: +44 (0)20 7679 0500
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 0565

I 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.

My particular expertise is as a marine geoscientist, with extensive knowledge and experience of: sediment core analysis, side scan sonar, 2-D seismics, video data and GIS.

I am also employed as a Senior Projects Geophysicist at Cathie Associates, an offshore geotechnical and geophysical consultancy.


September 2013 to present
Visiting researcher at the UCL Department of Geography and Senior Projects Geophysicist at Cathie Associates.
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. One of my aims is to develop links between academia and industry to strengthen risk analysis for offshore renewables.

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
This period covers a break from academia, when I worked at the specialist cheesemongers 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

My CV may be downloaded here: Link to CV pdf



Published articles:

Owen, M.J., Long, D. (In Press), 'Barra Fan: a major glacial depocentre on the western continental margin of the British Isles', Atlas of Submarine Glacial Landforms, Geological Society of London.

Owen, M.J., Maslin, M.A., Day, S.J., Long, D. (2015), '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, Vol. 61, pp. 69-81. doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2014.12.009

Owen, M.J, Day, S.J., Leat, P.T., Tate, A.J., Martin, T.J. (2014), 'Control of sedimentation by active tectonics, glaciation and contourite-depositing currents in Endurance Basin, South Georgia', Global and Planetary Change, Vol. 123, Part B, pp. 323-343. doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2014.08.003

Owen, M.J., Maslin, M.A. (2014), 'Underappreciated Atlantic tsunami risk', Nature Geoscience, Vol. 7, No. 8, pp. 550. doi: 10.1038/ngeo2206

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

In preparation:

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.

Owen, M.J., Day, S.J., Leat, P.T., Tate, A.J., Martin, T.J. (In prep), 'Sediment waves of the South Sandwich volcanic arc', Marine Geology.

Owen, M.J., Maslin, M.A. (In prep), 'North Atlantic tsunamis: increasing exposure and risk', Risk Analysis.

General articles and commentaries:

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. Download pdf here

Book chapters:

Maslin, M.A., Owen, M.J., Day, S.J., Dunkley Jones, T., Ridgwell, A., (2012), 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


Selected talks:

  • Quaternary Research Assocation 2015 Annual Discussion Meeting (Edinburgh, 2015). Talk entitled: "A new map of southern North Sea channel formations, produced from an extensive geophysical dataset acquired during the development of the UK round 3 Hornsea wind farm."
  • Oxford University Hazard Forum (2012). Talk entitled "Lost production from North Sea Oil and Gas infrastructure as a consequence of a 10,000 year extreme water level event“.
  • 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."
  • 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."
  • 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?"
  • In addition to these, I have presented posters and talks at several other workshops and conferences.



    Submarine mass movements

    My PhD focused on slope failure on the Barra Fan, NW British continental margin.

    This work employed a broad range of methods, including sediment core analysis (sedimentology and geochemistry), 2-D seismics, bathymetry and side scan sonar. Using these data I refined the shallow stratigraphic model of the Barra Fan and mapped the sedimentological processes using GIS methods. This has allowed me to understand the environment in both local and regional contexts.

    The major findings from my doctoral work concern the timing of Peach 4, the most recent large slope failure, to between 11 and 12 ka cal BP; and the role of bathymetry and ocean circulation interacting at different water depths to influence sediment deposition and erosion on the fan. This latter process is likely to vary significantly between glacial and interglacial periods, enhancing permeability contrasts between clays and silts: increasing the potential for high pore water pressure reducing the strength of the sedimentary column.

    Sub-Antarctic marine geology

    A participant in BAS research cruise JR206, to the Scotia Sea and South Sandwich volcanic arc I have been working with colleagues to improve our understanding of the region's geological evolution.

    Of particular interest to me is the role of transpression on the southern continental margin of the South Georgia micro-continent and the presence of contrasting mass transport deposits to the south of this margin. Work in the South Sandwich is focusing on the morphology of the arc's large sediment wave fields, how these evolved and why there are so few slope failures in this region.

    Geohazard risk

    I study a range of geohazards, from submarine landslides, to tsunamis, tropical and extra-tropical cyclones.

    This work has been undertaken in collaboration with the reinsurance industry and is now looking at the affect of increasing exposure on levels of risk. Such changes have the consequence of changing impact magnitude, where previously an event may have caused minor damage, an event of comparable physical magnitude may now cause more significant damage simply due to the higher exposure.

    Recently I have begun to investigate methods of assessing hazard - structure interaction and mapping submarine landslide susceptibility.


    In addition, and intrinsically related, to the above I am strongly interested in the study of past (and by inference future) climate. In particular I have conducted significant research into gas hydrates and their potential role in influencing climate. Recently I have also been collaborating on a study looking at the influence of bathymetric changes on ocean circulation during the Pliocene.


    Fellow of the Geological Society

    Member of the Quaternary Research Association

    Member of the International Association of Sedimentologists


    Industry collaboration

    I have worked on a number of projects with the reinsurance industry, with companies including AON and JLT Towers Re.

    I was heavily involved in a multi-departmental UCL climate change workshop for AON's UK board, during which I presented a talk on risks associated with oil and gas production in the Arctic.

    Projects with JLT Towers Re have been more substantial. One assessed the risks from tsunamis to international airports and another conducted hazard scenarios for extreme weather and seismic events on North Sea oil and gas infrastructure.

    The tsunami work attracted considerable media coverage (click source for link):

    New Scientist

    Nature Blog

    Indian Express

    EU consultation on seabed mining

    With significant consulting experience for seabed aggregate extraction I contributed towards the UK NOC Association response to the recent EU consultation on seabed mining.

    The NOC Association response may be downloaded here.


    ClimateSnack is an international organisation, which aims to improve early career researchers' communication skills. Based around a blog format, it works by researchers writing articles, which they then read aloud to the local group. The group then offers critique via discussion, before the author edits and posts online. I have helped form and run the UCL group, which is growing and represents a broad church of climate researchers.

    This is a model for writing improvement that I highly recommend.


    I do not have a formal teaching role in the department, however, over the years I have contributed in various ways:

    2014 - Support for undergraduate field class to Lesbos, studying the physical geography of the Mediterranean. I drove the minibus and helped students with the final projects.

    2012 - Contributor at a workshop for UCL Geography department GIS Masters course.

    2011 - Lecturer for the UCL Geography department MSc in Climate Change. Wrote and presented lectures on cyclones (physical processes and hazard) and tsunamis (causes, propagation and inundation).

    2009 to 2007 - Tutor to undergraduates. Provided support and advice to students, with a considerable amount of assessment, including marking of essays and presentations.