Environmental Geochemistry and Compositional Data Analysis
This research brings together world-leading expertise in the areas of geochemistry, geoscience, mathematics to stimulate debate and advances in the field of compositional data analysis.
Digital spatial data are becoming increasingly available for environmental studies through sub-continental scale and regional scale ground-based geochemical surveys and an ongoing global geochemical baseline survey. However, data sets such as geochemical surveys data pose many challenges for exploratory data analysis and any subsequent spatial data analysis. Geochemical data are compositional in nature in that they convey relative information. This has implications for a number of fields which routinely use geochemical data including baseline quality assessment, mineral and energy exploration, agriculture and ecology, medical geology, engineering and environmental management. A paradigm shift in thinking is advocated and alternative approaches presented through this collaborative research which emphasises opportunities for using compositional data analysis.
Research projects in this area engage with a multidisciplinary team from geography, geoscience, mathematics, statistics, engineering and health.
Professor Jennifer McKinley, School of Natural and Built Environment
Impact of Research
This research has brought together world-leading expertise in the areas of mathematical geoscience, geoscience, geochemistry and compositional data analysis to advance the field of compositional data analysis research and stimulate debate to acknowledge and deal with the inherently multivariate nature of compositional data including soil and water geochemistry. The research has encouraged a paradigm shift in the use of geochemical data in the fields of mineral and energy exploration, agriculture and ecology, resilient communities, medical geology, subsurface modelling, engineering and environmental management.
- Hosted geoENV2018 - the International Conference for Geostatistical Applications to the Environment in Belfast (July 2018). https://2018.geoenvia.org/
- MOU (2018, renewed 2021) between the Institute of Geophysical and Geochemical Exploration, CAGS, UNESCO International Centre on Global-Scale Geochemistry and Queen’s University Belfast.
- This has resulted in academic and PhD exchange with 5 visiting researchers (2017-2020 and student workshop (16 visiting Chinese undergraduate students).
- A GIS and Geomatics Workshop in Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) for invited PhD students and early career researchers from University of Geosciences Beijing; China University of Geosciences Wuhan, Chengdu University of Technology, Jilin University, Changchun and Sun Yat-Sen University in both Guangzhou and Zhuhai Campus.
Major grants and funding
- Strategic partner and steering committee for €4.5 EU funded Tellus Border project
Tellus Border was funded by the INTERREG IVA programme of the European Regional Development Fund, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (www.seupb.eu). The project was additionally part-funded by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Ireland) and Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland). http://www.tellusborder.eu/
- EU INTERREG IVA TELLUS, 2011-2013, £132,815.00. Border Soil carbon and peat depth assessment using Airborne Geophysical Data.
- EU INTERREG IVA-funded TELLUS Border Project, 2013. £38,935.00. 10761 DETI/GSNI Scientific Research Services for the Tellus Border Project.
- GCRF EPSRC DfE 2017 £51,590.00 Vertices Geo-Energy Pilot study: Versatile (Energy Resilience Through Innovations in Connected Energy Systems) Geo-Energy;
- GCRF DfE 2017 £18,850.00 Vertices Geo-Energy Audit Workshop
 Zheng, W., Liu, B., McKinley, J., Cooper, M. R., & Wang, L. (2021). Geology and geochemistry-based metallogenic exploration model for the eastern Tethys Himalayan metallogenic belt, Tibet. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 224, . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gexplo.2021.106743
 Wang, X., Zhou, J., Nie, L., McKinley, J., Lui, H., Zhang, B., & Han, Z. (2020). Geochemical background and geochemical characters of REE during hypergene processes in Bayan Obo, China. Journal of Geochemical Exploration Volume 215, August 2020, 106545 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gexplo.2020.106545
 Talebi, H., Mueller, U., Tolosana-Delgado, R., Grunsky, EC., McKinley, JM., de Caritat,. 2018. Surficial and Deep Earth Material Prediction from Geochemical Compositions. Natural Resources Research, Natural Resources Research 28 (3), 869-891
 McKinley, JM, Grunsky, E & Mueller, U 2016, Multivariate analysis of regional-scale geochemical data for environmental monitoring. Math Geosci (2018) 50:235–246 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11004-017-9686-x
 Tolosana-Delgado, R & McKinley, J 2016, 'Exploring the joint compositional variability of major components and trace elements in the Tellus soil geochemistry survey (Northern Ireland)' Applied Geochemistry. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2016.05.004
 McKinley, J., Tolosana Delgado, R., Hron, K., de Caritat, P., Grunsky, E., Reimann, C., Filzmoser P., and van den Boogaart K, G., 2016. Single Component map: Fact or Fiction? Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 162: 16-28. http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.gexplo.2015.12.005
The School of Natural and Built Environment and Research Centre in Sustainable Energy at Queen's University Belfast are joined by several international partners in this research
Details of international partners are as follows:
Geological Survey of Northern Ireland
Geological Survey of Ireland
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster, UK,
School of Science, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia
Geoscience Mathematics and Informatics, TU Bergakademie Freiberg ,Freiberg, Germany
Dept. Civil and Environmental Engineering, U. Politécnica de Cataluña (UPC), Barcelona, Spain
Dep. Computer Sciences, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics, University of Girona, Spain
Institute of Geophysical and Geochemical Exploration, (IGGE) and the UNESCO International Centre on Global-Scale Geochemistry (ICGG, Langfang, China) https://en.unesco.org/themes/science-sustainable-future/sc-centres
Geomathematics Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, Chengdu University of Technology, Chengdu 610059, China
University of Geosciences Beijing, China
China University of Geosciences Wuhan, China
Jilin University, Changchun, China
Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou and Zhuhai, China
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 15 Life on Earth – Providing a holistic problem-solving approach to provide an evidence-base for monitoring and protecting our fragile terrestrial ecosystems.
Goal 16 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use and management of terrestrial ecosystems.
Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Find out more
Keywords associated with the Research
- Geochemistry, compositional data analysis, environment, health, natural resources
Contact Details / Social Media
Prof Jennifer McKinley
Professor of Geology and Mathematical Geoscience,
Director of Centre for GIS and Geomatics
School of Natural and Built Environment,
Queen's University Belfast,
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. BT7 1NN.
Further relevant info
- International Association of Mathematical Geosciences is a scientific organization which promotes and serves an international community of mathematical geoscientists (mathematicians, statisticians, computer scientists, geoinformaticians and earth scientists. https://iamg.org/. Jenny McKinley was elected President (2016-2020) of the International Association of Mathematical Geosciences.
- The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), https://www.iugs.org/ has 121 national members, representing over a million geoscientists, is one of the World’s largest scientific organizations. Jenny was elected Councillor of the IUGS (2020-2024)
- Deep-time Digital Earth (DDE) Initiative is the first IUGS-recognized big science programme. The primary goal of the DDE programme is to harmonise 'deep-time' digital geological data. Jenny is a founding Partner and Vice President of the Steering Committee of DDE https://www.iugs.org/dde