Since 2021, I work on Environmental Geophysics at the University of Toronto (Scarborough campus) in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences.

Below is a list of my previous positions, alongside my publications and research interests. Feel free to get in contact using the Contact tab.

Check out the Education and Useful links tab for everything else!

Research Interests


Mantle Lithosphere

Data Science

Plate Tectonics

Catastrophe modelling

Science communication

Arctic dynamics

Climate modelling

Numerical modelling

Graduate projects

(Feel free to get in contact: potential projects are listed above and below. Not an exhaustive list)

Arctic geodynamics

Graduate research opportunities are available in understanding the evolution of the Arctic through high performance computing.

The Arctic region has been geologically active for the last 500+ Myr, with repeated opening and destruction of oceans alongside massive intrusive and extrusive volcanic and magmatic events. Although repeated episodes of rifting have been documented in the region, a fundamental understanding of the geodynamic processes involved is lacking. This project seeks motivated students to produce, for the first time, detailed numerical simulations of the tectonic evolution of the Arctic Ocean from first principles. The successful applicant will work on this high profile project alongside international collaborators from the University of Oslo (Norway) and Durham University (UK).

Mantle dynamics of Supercontinent formation

Graduate research opportunities are available in understanding the impact of the formation of a supercontinent on our planet.

A supercontinent is generally considered to reflect the assembly of most, if not all, of the Earth’s continental lithosphere. However, there is no formal definition of how much continental material is required to be assembled, or indeed which additional ‘geomarkers’ of supercontinent formation (e.g., crustal growth, life evolution, climate and sea level change, etc) need to be present. Recent work has suggested the response of the mantle can be used as a proxy for supercontinent classification, in that the size of continental amalgamation must be sufficient to influence mantle dynamics. For this project, we seek dynamic graduate students to investigate the size of continental lithosphere required to produce an impact on ‘bottom­up’ dynamics from the convective mantle using 3D numerical modelling with high performance computing. Although this work is rooted in numerical modelling, the graduate student will work across disciplines to analyse available ‘geomarker’ data. The successful applicant will work alongside domestic and international collaborators which include the University of Oslo (Norway), Monash University (Australia), and St Francis-Xavier University (Canada).

Tectonic unravelling of oroclines

An MSc research opportunity is available to unravel the elusive mechanism involved in the formation of oroclines.

An orocline is a large-scale bend (or curvature) of an orogenic (mountain building) belt.  The geological discovery of such bending of mountain belts was key to understanding the evolution of continents, and indeed of the theory of plate tectonics itself. However, the fundamental mechanics of orocline formation are not well constrained. This project seeks an MSc student to test potential theories and mechanism through high performance computing.  The successful applicant will work alongside domestic and international collaborators which include the University of Alberta (Canada) and University of Granada (Spain).


  • Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough (2021 – present)
  • Operational Researcher, UK Government (2020 – 2021)
  • Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow, Durham University, 2018-2020
  • COFUND Junior Research Fellow (Geodynamics) Durham University, 2017
  • Post-doctoral fellow (Geodynamics)University of Toronto, 2014-2016
  • PhD (Physics), University of Toronto, 2010-2014
  • MSc (Physics), University of Toronto, 2009-2010
  • Teaching English, Paris, France, 2007-2009
  • Chestnut Productions, UK/France/Canada, 2005-2010
  • MGeophys (Earth Sciences), University of Leeds, 2002-2006
  • Visiting student (Physics), University of Alberta, 2004-2005


Google scholar linkORCID


Heron, P. J. and Williams, J. A., 2022, Building confidence in STEM students through breaking (unseen) barriers, Geosci. Commun., 5, 355–361,


Crameri, F., Shephard, G.E. & Heron, P.J. 2020, The misuse of colour in science communication. Nat Commun 11, 5444 (2020).

Heron, P. J., B. Murphy, D. Nance, and R. N. Pysklywec, 2020, Pannotia’s mantle signature: the quest for supercontinent identification. In: Murphy, J.B., Strachan, R.A., and Quesada, C., eds. Pannotia To Pangea: Paleozoic orogenic cycles in the circum-North Atlantic region. Geological Society of London Special Publication,

Murphy, J.B., Nance, R.D. , Cawood, P.A., Collins, W.J., Dan, W., Doucet, L., Heron, P.J., Li, Z.-X., Mitchell, R.N., Pisarevsky, S., Pufahl, P., Quesada, C., Spencer, C.J., Strachan, R.A., & Wu, L., 2020. Pannotia: In defence of its existence and geodynamic significance. In: Murphy, J.B., Strachan, R.A., and Quesada, C., eds. Pannotia To Pangea: Paleozoic orogenic cycles in the circum-North Atlantic region. Geological Society of London Special Publication,

G-P Farangitakis*, P. J. Heron, K. J. McCaffrey, J. van Hunen, L. M. Kalnins, (2020), The impact of oblique inheritance and changes in relative plate motion on the development of rift-transform systems, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 541,

Heron, P. J. (2020), Teaching geoscience in prison, Nature Reviews Earth & Environment,


Heron, P. J., A. L. Peace, K. J. W. McCaffrey, J. K. Welford, R. Wilson, J. van Hunen, & R. N. Pysklywec, (2019). Segmentation of Rifts Through Structural Inheritance: Creation of the Davis Strait. Tectonics, 38.

Heron, P. J., Pysklywec R. N., Stephenson  R., and van Hunen J. (2019), Deformation driven by deep and distant structures: Influence of a mantle lithosphere suture in the Ouachita orogeny, Geology,

Heron, P. J., Unlocking the doors to education for prisoners, Astronomy & Geophysics, Volume 60, Issue 5, October 2019, Page 5.13,

Heron, P. & Garnero, E., What lies beneath: Thoughts on the lower mantle. Geoscientist 29 (3), 10-15, 2019; Download the pdf here


Heron, P. J. (2018), Mantle plumes and mantle dynamics in the Wilson Cycle, Geological Society Special Publication, Fifty Years of the Wilson Cycle Concept in Plate Tectonics,

Heron, P. J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson  R., (2018), Exploring the theory of plate tectonics: the role of mantle lithosphere structure, Geological Society Special Publication: Fifty Years of the Wilson Cycle Concept in Plate Tectonics,


Heron, P. J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson  R., (2016), Identifying mantle lithosphere inheritance in controlling intraplate orogenesis, J. Geophys. Res. (Solid Earth), 6966–6987, doi:10.1002/2016JB013460. 

Heron, P.J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson, R., (2016), Lasting mantle scars lead to perennial plate tectonics, Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms11834.

Heron, P.J. and Pysklywec R. N., (2016), Inherited structure and coupled crust-mantle lithosphere evolution:  Numerical models of Central Australia, Geophysical Research Letters, 10.1002/2016GL068562.


Heron, P.J., Pysklywec R. N., and Stephenson, R., (2015), Intraplate orogenesis within accreted and scarred lithosphere: Example of the Eurekan Orogeny, Ellesmere Island, Tectonophysics, 664, 28, 202-213(invited manuscript).

Heron, P.J., Lowman, J.P., and Stein, C., (2015), Influences on the position of large igneous provinces following supercontinent formation, J. Geophys. Res. (Solid Earth), Vol. 120, 3628-3648, doi:10.1002/2014JB011727.


Trim, S.J., Heron, P.J., Stein, C., and J. P. Lowman, (2014), The feedback between surface mobility and mantle compositional heterogeneity: implications for the Earth and other terrestrial planets, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., Vol. 405, 1-14.

Heron, P.J., and Lowman, J.P., (2014), The impact of Rayleigh number on assessing the influence of supercontinent insulation, J. Geophys. Res. (Solid Earth), Vol. 119, doi:10.1002/2013JB010484.

Heron, P.J., Mantle dynamics following supercontinent formation, PhD thesis, University of Toronto.


Heron, P.J., and Lowman, J.P., (2011), The role of supercontinent thermal insulation and area in the formation of mantle plumes, Tectonophysics, 510, 28-38.


Heron, P.J., and Lowman, J.P., (2010), The influence of continental thermal properties on mantle flow, Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L22302.


Roman, D.C., and Heron P, (2007), Effect of regional tectonic setting on local fault response to episodes of volcanic activity, Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L13310, doi:10.1029/2007GL030222.


2020: Stem For Britain Awards finalist

2020: N8 New Pioneer Award winner

2019: Impact and Engagement Award, Durham University shortlisted

2019: European Geosciences Union outreach award recipient

2019: British Geophysical Association outreach award recipient

2013: Machlan-Gilchrist Scholarship, Canada recipient

2011: The Van Kranendonk Teaching Assistant Award, University of Toronto recipient

2003: Conoco-Phillips Scholarship for highest overall grade, University of Leeds recipient