Sedimentology of shales

Thin section of a shale showing just how heterogeneous these fine-grained sediments can be
Thin section of a shale showing just how heterogeneous these fine-grained sediments can be
Shales are important. They comprise roughly two-thirds of our sedimentary rock record. They provide fundamental information on past climate, environment and life on earth. They fuel our world through production and trapping of hydrocarbons. For palaeontologists shales are significant because they host some of the world’s most important fossil deposits. Investigating the processes of deposition of these shales, and unravelling their primary geochemical make-up, can greatly inform on our understanding of past ecosystems. It allows us to compare across deposits to elucidate whether fossil absence is real or taphonomic, to determine how much of the living community is likely to have been preserved, whether animals were transported before preservation, and what the environment was like where the animals lived. But correctly reading the rock record of shales is challenging. To get the most out of such fine-grained rocks a holistic approach is key utilizing a range of tools from lab-based experiments, detailed textural analyses, geochemistry, organic matter extraction and more. I explore mud by undertaking very detailed lamina-by-lamina logging of sediments, analysing sediment textures and composition using Scanning Electron Microscopy and in 3D, through use of micro-CT techniques.

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