Funded PhD Studentship - Unlocking the deep-marine stratigraphic record in confined basin-fills

The deep-marine stratigraphic record provides a cryptic archive of palaeoenvironmental change. To unlock this record requires the study of ancient exhumed systems, and improved understanding of sediment gravity flow processes. Tantalisingly, if this is achieved it will provide a means to look into the future to predict the fate of sediment, organic carbon, and anthropogenic pollutants. Commonly, however, environmental signals in deep-marine stratigraphy are obscured by the interaction of different sediment flow types with evolving seafloor topography (e.g. diapirism, tectonics, or erosion). Removing the overprint of local depositional effects remains a major challenge in unlocking deep-water stratigraphic archives.

Sedimentological criteria and dimensional data of architectural elements have been established for simple submarine slope profiles to aid interpretation of deep-water depositional environments (e.g. the Karoo Basin, South Africa). The exportability of these criteria, which are the basis for widely used facies-based sedimentological models, are being tested in different systems as part of the Slope5 programme (based at the University of Manchester). However, settings with complicated and/or dynamic topography have the effect of perturbing the evolution of sedimentary systems.

The key aims of this studentship will be to determine the evolution of submarine slope successions deposited above and adjacent to dynamic topography, to establish exportable criteria for discerning 'kinetic sequences', and to semi-quantify the degree and style of confinement through time. A focus will be on the stratigraphic juxtaposition of architectural elements. Expected outputs include: 1) architectural panels with measured sections and digital outcrop models to quantify the rate of facies change and bed thinning, and constrain the effects of active topography through time, and 2) computational geometric models to examine architectural response to variable boundary conditions, e.g., structural growth, sediment supply, flow type. These results will have relevance during the energy transition and for carbon sequestration and storage, where such stratigraphy forms viable fluid reservoirs.

The studentship will leverage existing system-scale datasets and ongoing studies at Manchester and Leeds on different basin settings and in laboratory-based process experiments. The appointee will work alongside postdoctoral researchers at the Universities of Aberdeen and Leeds, contributing to the whole programme, while owning their own project. Extensive fieldwork will be undertaken in study areas carefully selected to test the stratigraphic prediction models at different scales. One area will be the Cretaceous Rosario system of NW Mexico, and other areas may include northern Spain and the Neuquén basin, Argentina. The project will also include selected modern seafloor datasets with core, seismic and experimental and numerical modelling to give a holistic approach. The successful candidate will also benefit from interaction with PhD students at Manchester working on other deep-water systems worldwide. Project supervisors are Professor Stephen Flint and Dr Ian Kane (Manchester) and Dr Aurélia Privat and Professor David Hodgson (Leeds).

Funding Notes

This is a funded PhD studentship.

Start dates available are September 2021 or January 2022

Open to UK applicants only

Deadline is the 10th of September 2021

To make an application please visit website -

posted: 17 August 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.