School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences


Ian Main FRSE
Professor, Seismology & Rock Physics

Ian Main

Ian is interested in the processes that lead up to catastrophic failure events, from earthquakes, rock fracture, and volcanic eruptions to failure of building materials and bridges, and in quantifying the resulting hazard. He is particularly interested in the population dynamics of localised brittle failure as a complex, non-linear (unreasonable) system, as well as fluid-rock interactions and fluid flow involving fractures in the subsurface.

Current research projects as Principal or Co-Investigator include (a) ‘UKRI GCRF Multi-Hazard Urban Disaster Risk Transitions Hub’, 'Earthquake RIsk reduction for a reSilient Europe (RISE)’, (c) ‘The central Apennines Earthquake cascade - under a new microscope’, and (d) 'Catastrophic Failure: what controls precursory damage localisation in rocks?' (CATFAIL), and (e) 'Rift volcanism: past, present, future' RIFTVOLC. Recently-completed projects include (f) 'Prospective aftershock forecasting of the Norcia 2016 earthquake sequence, Central Appenines, Italy', (g) 'Probability and uncertainty in Risk Estimation and Communication in China' (PUREC), and (h) 'Carbonate Rock Physics in four dimensions' (4DRP), and (i) a 'Road Defect Prediction System', using mobile phone data to detect potholes.

PhD Opportunities for a start in 2020 include three advertised E4 Doctoral Training Programme Studentships, on Catastrophic failure in porous media: how and when? ; Seismicity induced by geothermal energy production; and Fault distributions and seismic hazard in evolving normal fault networks.

Current teaching responsibilities include pre-honours courses in 'Earth Dynamics' and 'Introduction to Geophysics', and an honours course in 'Natural Hazard and Risk'.

Ian is Director of Research in the School of GeoSciences, and member of the College of Science and Engineering research Committee. He recently served as a member of the HEFCE Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) Panel on Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, and is currently a member of the Scottish Regional Advisory Group for Enhanced Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) and the Research Advisory Forum of the Scottish Energy Technology Partnership (ETP)

Ian served as a member of the International commission on earthquake forecasting for civil protection, chaired by Tom Jordan, following the destructive earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy. It's peer-reviewed full report, including findings and recommendations, was published in 2011.

He gave the Bullerwell lecture in Geophysics in 1997, and moderated the Nature debate on earthquake prediction in 1999. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) in 2009, and completed a Scottish Government/RSE research support fellowship in 2011. He was awarded the Louis Néel Medal of the European Union of Geosciences in April 2014, and will give the Ed Lorenz lecture in Non-linear Geophysics at this year's meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Phone: +44 131 650 4911
Fax: +44 131 668 3184
Email: ian.main[at]