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 involve (a) 'Catastrophic Failure: what controls precursory damage localisation in rocks?' (CATFAIL), (b) 'Research for Emergency Aftershock Response (GCRF-REAR)', (c) 'Prospective aftershock forecasting of the Norcia 2016 earthquake sequence, Central Appenines, Italy', (d) 'Probability and uncertainty in Risk Estimation and Communication in China' (PUREC), (e) 'Rift volcanism: past, present, future' RIFTVOLC and (f) 'Carbonate Rock Physics in four dimensions' (4DRP). Recently-completed projects include (g) 'Robust Assessment and Communication of Environmental Risk' (RACER), (h) Time dependent deformation: bridging the strain rate gap (CREEP2), (i) Exploring Failure FOrecasting in Real Time (EFFORT) using a new science gateway, (j) Strategies and tools for real-time earthquake risk reduction (REAKT), and (k) Massive real-time data assimilation in environmental science (the 'Terracorrelator').

Current teaching responsibilities include pre-honours courses in 'Earth Dynamics' and 'Introduction to Geophysics', and a new Honours course in 'Natural Hazard and Risk', launched in the 2017-18 academic year.

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) 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.

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