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Dr Kate Taylor Smith

Research Fellow


Telephone: 01326 253789

I have worked in the geosciences in the higher education sector as a lecturer, researcher and project manager since 1999. I started work at the University of Exeter in Penryn, Cornwall in 2012. Prior to that I was based at the Universities of Edinburgh and Iceland.

What I do at CSM

I am a research fellow in the European Union Horizon 2020 funded GREENPEG project, focussing on the environmental and social impacts of new techniques being developed for the exploration of buried pegmatites.

Many of the raw materials for green energy production, such as high purity quartz, silicon metal, lithium, rare earth elements, beryllium, tantalum, ceramic feldspar and caesium, can be sourced from a rock type known as pegmatite. The varieties of these which are most sought after are lithium-caesium-tantalum (LCT) and niobium-yttrium-fluorine (NYF) pegmatites, which are relatively common in Europe. The GREENPEG project will develop and test a set of high-level exploration technologies and algorithms to be integrated and up-scaled into flexible, ready-to-use toolsets for the identification of buried pegmatite ores. Validation of the new approach will be carried out in industry-led trials at demonstration sites in Norway (Tysfjord), Ireland (Leinster) and Austria (Wolfsberg) and application studies will also be done in Portugal and Spain. As well as the technical development and assessment of these technologies and algorithms, a key goal of GREENPEG is to minimise the environmental, social and safety impact of these developments.

Research interests

Prior to my work with GREENPEG I carried out research as part of the HiTech AlkCarb project, related to the environmental and social impact of exploration projects and mines, particularly associated with radiation, public perceptions and concerns, and related legislation and guidelines. This work was alongside my role as HiTech AlkCarb project manager. 

The HiTech AlkCarb project was funded under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, to develop new geomodels and sustainable exploration methods for alkaline igneous rocks and carbonatites. Rare earth elements, niobium, fluorspar and phosphate resources are commonly associated with alkaline rocks and carbonatites. There is a greater chance of carbonatites having economic resources to mine than any other rock type (there are 20 active mines in ca. 500 known carbonatite complexes). 

This work in CSM relates to my broad interest in risk perception and communication, in relation to a range of different issues from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and other 'natural' hazards, to geological exploration, mining and associated issues. Environmentally and socially responsible sourcing of raw materials is also of interest to me, and the challenges of social licence to operate for exploration and mining projects. Much of these issues are associated with the importance of trust between 'specialists' and other stakeholders, and best practice behaviours. I have experience of working with students on studies of public perception of landslide, flooding, climate change and volcanic risk.

My research background is more broadly in the fields of physical volcanology, ice-volcano interaction, volcanoglacial geomorphology and sedimentology, with a particular focus on Icelandic volcanic environments, and I still maintain interests in these fields. Major research projects to date have concentrated on reconstructing Holocene jökulhlaup records for the ice-capped volcanoes Katla and Snæfellsjökull, and analysis of the spatial distribution and grain size characteristics of tephra layers from the eruption of Hekla in 2000 and Eyjafjallajökull in the 6th Century. A key motivation behind these projects has been the need to better understand volcanic histories to prepare well for future eruptions, aided by improved hazard awareness and well-informed hazard assessments.

Education experience

I am an Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (Aspire Senior Fellow) and am experienced as a lecturer and in admissions and widening participation. Most recently i have focussed on developing online learning resources and have explored the role of education in research dissemination. 

In CSM I have been working with a team of geologists in CSM and international collaborators in industry, geological surveys and Universities to develop a free, massive open online course, Technology Metals for a Green Future, on the FutureLearn platform. You can take a look and sign up here: . I also deliver outreach talks and workshops to groups interested in volcanoes, natural hazards, critical raw materials, low carbon technologies, and studying at University - feel free to get in touch if you'd like me to give a talk.

I am experienced at teaching within higher education from pre-entry to postgraduate level, having developed programmes and modules since 2000 at the Universities of Edinburgh, Iceland and Exeter. I have taught broadly across the physical geography - geology spectrum including modules on Earth System Science, Natural Hazards and Risk, Volcanic Processes and Environments, Sedimentology, Climate Hazards and Risk Assessments and coordinated modules on undergraduate dissertation research, international and local residential fieldtrips. I also have several years of experience running outreach and widening participation programmes and leading on student recruitment activities and strategy.


2020 - present: Research Fellow (GREENPEG), Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter

2017 - 2020: Project Manager (HiTech AlkCarb), Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter

2012 - 2017: Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Exeter. Including: Admissions Tutor (Geography programmes). Widening Participation Academic Lead. Undergraduate Programme Director.

2010 - 2012: Visiting Research Fellow and Tutor, Universities of Edinburgh and Iceland (during maternity leave and infant child care)

2010 - 2012: Teacher, Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools, University of Edinburgh

2005 - 2010: Research Associate, Nordic Volcanological Institute, University of Iceland (funded by the Leverhulme Trust, Landsvirkjun, Vegagerðin, the Science Institute, University of Iceland, and ECORD)

2008: Teaching Assistant, Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland

2003 - 2005: Research Assistant, Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh

2000 - 2005: Tutor, Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh


• PhD, 2004, University of Edinburgh. Thesis: Holocene jökulhlaups, glacier fluctuations and palaeoenvironment, Mýrdalsjökull, South Iceland.

• BSc (Hons) Physical Geography, 1999, University of Aberdeen. Thesis: Glacier hydrology, geomorphology and implications for the deglaciation of the Dinnet Basin, north-east Scotland.

Social Media

Twitter: @tephrashard

Kate on The Conversation: