Owen’s research is focused on the application of enhanced weathering in tropical-wet plantation forests systems, conducting experiments within nurseries and tree plantations in Malaysian Borneo. Perennially high temperatures and rainfall, combined with acidic soil and nutrient limited yet highly productive vegetation makes these systems prime environments for mineral dissolution.
The crushing and milling necessary to increase the surface area of basalt are responsible for the vast majority of emissions related to enhanced weathering as an operation. As a result, Owen is aiming to investigate the role of grain size, specific surface area, and application rate in determining weathering solute flux. Particular attention is being paid to the role of differing root-symbiotic microbes in mediating enhanced weathering reactions across a range of tropical plantation tree species. The role of tree productivity in driving enhanced weathering will also be investigated, by exploiting the naturally wide variation in growth rates among tree species of the Dipterocarpaceae family. The impact of basalt addition on soil fertility and tree growth and nutrition will also be measured, given the important benefits basalt fertilisation is expected to yield for tropical plantations.
Owen first started studying the role of biology and mineral weathering in mediating global climate during his degree in Environmental Science at the University of Sheffield. During his masters, he probed the fossil record for insights into the rise of the earliest tree-like plants during the Devonian, linked to dramatic perturbations in atmospheric CO2 levels. He then entered a field research technician internship, where he measured greenhouse gas fluxes across the Alaska North Slope. In 2015, Owen joined the Beerling lab group as a lab and field research assistant, where he expanded his knowledge and skills in weathering research before commencing his PhD.