Professor Sarah J. Davies

Current Research

  • understanding the processes that controlled deposition and erosion in non-marine and shallow-marine settings from the geological record
  • examining the spatial and temporal evolution of non-marine and shallow-marine fine-grained depositional systems
  • investigating how processes on mud-dominated ancient shallow marine shelves influence the production, concentration and distribution of organic matter
  • determining the environmental conditions that existed during rebuilding of an early Carboniferous ecosystem and how conditions contributed to the preferential preservation of early tetrapods

These research themes are addressed by combining detailed sedimentological analysis (at outcrop, core and thin section scales), with other approaches including stable-isotope geochemistry, whole rock geochemistry, palynology and palaeontology. A major NERC-funded project "The Mid-Palaeozoic biotic crisis: setting the trajectory of tetrapod evolution", involving Research Associate Dr Carys Bennett, forms a cornerstone of sedimentological research in the group and builds on the research on Carboniferous fine-grained depositional systems by PhD students Jennifer Graham and Sven Koenitzer and Researcher Janet Sherwin.

Projects, primarily PhD research, undertaken in collaboration with Professor Mike Lovell link petrophysics to sedimentology to enable a better understanding of complex solid-fluid chemical systems. Integrated projects address major research challenges such as understanding conventional and unconventional gas reservoirs. Using data generated from expeditions, IODP Research Associates are addressing how the physical properties of sediments, particularly through periods of major climate change, are influence by the evolution of depositional systems.

My papers examining the sedimentary responses to tectonics are regularly cited and make significant contributions to our understanding of the development of depositional systems; in high subsidence settings (e.g. Davies & Gibling 2003), as indicators of fault evolution and displacement rates (e.g. Davies et al. 2000) and in transpressional basin settings (e.g. Howard, Cunningham, Davies, Dykstra & Badarch 2003). Research upported by NERC (co-investigator on a multidisciplinary CONNECT B NERC research grant with Dickson Cunningham, Richard England & Peter Maguire)  identified ancient extensional basins and unravelled their sedimentary evolution, subsequent uplift and recent transpressional deformation in Mongolia. Collaborative papers resulting from this work include Cunningham, Davies & Mclean 2008 and Cunningham, Davies & Badarch 2005.

Present and Recent PhD students

I have supervised 17 PhD and and 20 masters students to date. Students have been working on a range of sedimentological research topics and, in collaboration with Professor Mike Lovell, on reservoir characterization projects combining petrophysics and sedimentology. PhD students are supported by NERC, the British Geological Survey and a range of industry partners including Exxon Mobil, Conoco-Phillips, BG Group, Weatherford and the London Petrophysical Society.

2014 to date Joe Emmings Controls on UK lower Namurian shale gas prospectivity: understanding the temporal and spatial distribution of organic matter in siliciclastic mudstones. (with Dr Gawen Jenkin (University of Leicester, Professor Melanie Leng (NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory Facilities, BGS) Professor Mike Stephenson, and Dr Chris Vane (all British Geological Survey). NERC CENTA Doctoral Training Programme Studentship.

2013 to date Kieran Blacker Evaluating 3D sedimentary architecture as a fundamental control on geotechnical and physical properties (Dogger Bank Round 3 Windfarm zone). (with Dr Jennifer Inwood (University of Leicester); Dr Carol Cotterill (BGS); Professor Richard W England and Professor Mike A Lovell (University of Leicester); Dr Leo R James (RPS Energy)

2013 to date Leah Nolan Equatorial sea surface temperature seasonality in the Mississippian (Carboniferous) derived from brachiopod shell carbonate (with Professor Melanie Leng (NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory Facilities, BGS), Professor Mike Stephenson & Dr Vanessa Banks (British Geological Survey); Professor Lucia Angiolini (University of Milano).

2010 to 2014 David Hartigan. The influence of mineralogy, geochemistry and sedimentology on petrophysical properties in fine-grained successions (with Prof Mike Lovell (University of Leicester); Dr Tim Pritchard (BG-group, Reading)

2010 to 2014 Joao Afonso. Electrical resistivity measurements in coal: assessment of coal-bed methane content, reserves and coal permability. (with Professor Mike Lovell (University of Leicester), Mr Roger Samworth (Weatherford)

2010 - 2013 Sven Koenitzer. Primary biological controls on UK lower Namurian shale gas prospectivity: understanding a major potential UK gas resource (with Dr M. J. Stephenson (British Geological Survey), Professor  M. Leng (University of Leicester/NERC Isotopes Geoscience Laboratory), Dr Sarah Gabbott (UoL), Dr J.H.S. Macquaker, Dr C. Vane (BGS) & Dr D. Millward (BGS). Now with Panterra Geoconsultants, Netherlands.

2010 - 2013 Sam Matthews. Petroacoustic Modelling of Heterogenous Sandstone Reservoirs (with Prof. Mike Lovell (University of Leicester), Dr Tim Pritchard (BG-group, Reading). At BP from January 2014.

2008 - 2012 Jennifer Graham. Controls on temporal & spatial distribution of organic matter in siliciclastic mudstones: implications for source rock development in shale gas plays. (With Dr Mike Norry, Dr Joe Macquaker and Dr. Kevin Bohacs (ExxonMobil). NERC Case Award with ExxonMobil. Now a Geoscientist with Chemostrat, Houston, USA.

2008 -2011 Irfan Jan. Investigating the palaeoenvironments and narrow palaeoclimate zones of the Palaeotethyan Permo-Carboniferous icehouse: the boulder beds of the Salt Range, Pakistan. (Dr. Mike Stephenson (BGS), Prof. Melanie Leng (NIGL), Dr Jan Zalasiewicz (UoL), Dr. Lucia Angiolini (Milano) and Prof. Fasl Rabbi Khan (Peshawar). Now a lecturer at NCEG, Peshawar, Pakistan

2005 - 2010 Joanne Tudge. Low Resistivity Pay – Investigation into a Chlorite-Rich Reservoir Co-supervisor with Prof Mike Lovell ConocoPhillips/LPS Funded. Includes 8-month internship as a logging scientist on theNanTroSEIZE IODP expedition 314 followed by a period as a NERC-Funded Postgraduate Research Assistant.

2005-2010 Peter Fitch. Petrophysical properties of carbonates: enhanced interpretation of complex reservoirs through integrated studies. Full time PhD. Lead Supervisor with Prof. M.A. Lovell. NERC CASE with BG-Group includes 5-month internship at Baker INTEQ, USA. Now a Teaching & Research Fellow at Imperial College.

2005 -2009 Carys Bennett. Lower Carboniferous ostracods and isotopes of the Midland Valley, Scotland: testing for the ecological shift into non-marine environments. NERC CASE with the BGS. Co-supervisor with David Siveter & Mark Williams. Now working a NERC Research Associate at Leicester

2002-2006 Clare Maher. An investigation of depositional mechanisms of pyroclastic density currents using detailed fabric analysis. Co-supervisor with Dr. M.J. Branney. Now working as a geoscientist for Neftex.

2000-2003 James Howard. Multi-disciplinary, field-based studies of sedimentary basin evolution along seismically active strike slip fault systems in the Mongolian Altai. Lead supervisor with Dr. W.D. Cunningham. Funded by Leicester Geologists Alumni Society. Now working as a geoscientist for CASP.

1999-2002 Matthew Hooper. Understanding basin evolution in strike-slip settings. NERC CASE Studentship with the BGS (Edinburgh). Now working in the environmental/geotechnical sector.

1997–2000 Matthew Brettle. Development of a high resolution sequence stratigraphic framework for the Kinderscoutian and Marsdenian intervals of the Pennine Basin. Co-supervised with T. Elliott (Liverpool) and C. Waters (BGS Keyworth). BGS/Liverpool University studentship. Included two three month periods in industry with Esso and Mobil. Now working for Premier Oil, Aberdeen.

1998–2001 Nadia Al-Abry. The role of active normal faulting in controlling deep-water sedimentation, Upper Jurassic Magnus Sandstone Member Northern North Sea. Co-supervisor with John Underhill (Edinburgh), PDO (Shell) funded. Now working as a geophysicist with PDO in Oman.

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