My name is Catherine Hirst. I am a postdoctoral researcher in project WeThaw at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. We are “permafrost detectives” and our work in the Arctic is focused on understanding the vast landmass that currently remains frozen for much of the year, but is under severe threat from amplified climate change.

Our team seeks to understand how the minerals that are locked away in this permafrost landscape will change in response to the amplified Arctic warming. I use tools, including isotopes, microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, to decipher how elements are released from these minerals and transported in soils, plants and rivers. 

My passion for polar research and the wild, northern realms was kick-started in the UK, inspired by a childhood of hiking and river scrambling and reading about famous polar exploration. An early interest in rocks, ice and rivers prompted me to study Earth Sciences and eventually to study geochemistry.

I moved to Sweden for my PhD where I focused on understanding weathering processes in a large Arctic River basin, the Lena River in northeastern Russia. My postdoc work is building on PhD findings with the aim of deciphering weathering processes at smaller scales. I am certainly fortunate to work alongside and walk in the footsteps of fantastic female scientists. Ultimately, we all hope to use our geochemist tools to understand and ultimately protect the Arctic from the onslaught of climate change.

If you would like to learn more about me and my research, please visit:



Twitter: @cath_hirst

My publications include:

Hirst, Catherine and et al. (2017). “Characterisatoin of Fe-bearing particles and colloids in the Lena River basin, NE Russia.” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 213 (2017): pp. 553-573.

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