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Depositional architecture and deformation of an active interbasinal relay zone: Corinth Isthmus, Greece


Project Description

Relay zones in active rifts are areas where strain is distributed between overlapping normal faults. At the scale of the major basin-bounding faults, interbasinal relay zones (or accommodation zones) separate depocentres along the rift axis. Numerous smaller faults may take up deformation in these relay zones but little is known regarding the frequency and magnitude of surface-breaking earthquake ruptures on these subsidiary structures compared to the main rift faults. A record of displacement of multiple stratigraphic surfaces of known age, exposed at outcrop, would be needed to allow the quantification of fault displacements in time and space.
Fortunately, the Corinth Canal in central Greece offers such an opportunity. The remarkable geological cross-sections exposed in the walls of the Canal reveal multiple erosion surfaces and multiple flooding surfaces related to Late Pleistocene sea-level changes on the Corinth Isthmus which is undergoing tectonic uplift.
Project aims: To use depositional architectures and stratigraphic markers to characterize the deformation history of a well-exposed intrabasinal relay zone.
Objectives: 1) To detail the sedimentological and sequence stratigraphic architecture around the Corinth Isthmus to infer the history of relative base level change, at higher resolution than previously possible. 2) To carry out a palaeoseismological study of faults exposed in the Canal section to determine the temporal and spatial distribution of surface-breaking earthquake events and strain distribution in the relay zone.
Methods: A basic stratigraphic architecture related to ~100 kyr glacio-eustatic cycles has been established (Collier, 1990; McMurray & Gawthorpe, 2000). But recently acquired LIDAR data will allow high resolution 3D outcrop models to be generated which in turn will allow the position of stratal surfaces related to higher frequency glacio-eustatic variation to be mapped accurately, throughout this 6 km long cross-section. A high resolution age model for this stratigraphy will be established based on dating of corals and by generating a record of palaeomagnetic reversals back into the mid-Pleistocene.
The Canal sections offer a fantastic palaeoseismological “trench” for studying fault offsets of the stratigraphic markers outlined above. The nature, timing and spatial distribution of fault-related deformation, including individual surface-breaking ruptures, will be characterized within this sequence stratigraphic framework. Lessons can therefore be gained on how strain is accommodated in such rift relay zones.
The generation of high resolution sections (based on the LIDAR and photogrammetry) will allow the nature of key stratal surfaces, notably transgressive surfaces, to be characterized as well as the intervening transgressive to regressive sequences (e.g. Zecchin & Catuneanu, 2013). Understanding the origin and geometries of flooding events has implications for the interpretation of subsurface seismic and well log data and also for better prediction of possible future responses to sea-level rise. We now have access to a high resolution record of sedimentation within the Corinth Rift from 3 boreholes drilled in IODP Expedition 381. Transgressive to highstand deposits around the uplifting Isthmus intrabasinal high can therefore now be linked to the deep-water stratigraphy of the rift axis, allowing comparison of nearshore sedimentary process variation and the expression of palaeoenvironmental and glacio-eustatic change in the deep basin. The project will seek to establish observational criteria for achieving high accuracy correlations between shallow marine and deep-water deposits in other modern and ancient basin settings.
Techniques will include 3D outcrop photogrammetry, fault analysis, sedimentary logging, sequence stratigraphic interpretation, and potentially compiling digital databases of shallow marine depositional element geometries (Colombera et al, 2016). The outcrop-generated datasets may then be compared with subsurface analogues to improve depositional interpretations.
Training: This studentship will give exposure to an area which is the focus of international research and will be linked to existing multi-disciplinary projects in the Universities of Leeds and Bergen. You will be expected to submit papers for publication in international journals and to contribute to UK and international conferences. You will be joining a world-renowned research group working on sedimentary environments, processes, and rift structure and basin evolution. You will have an interest in gaining a variety of research skills and exploring tectono-sedimentary interactions, using fieldwork and interdisciplinary approaches.
Collier, R. E. L. 1990. JGeolSoc, 147, 301-314.
Colombera L. et al. 2016. MarPetrolGeol, 75, pp. 83-99
McMurray, L.S. and Gawthorpe, R.L., 2000. GeolSoc London Spec Publ, 172(1), pp.363-377.
Zecchin, M. and Catuneanu, O., 2013. MarPetrolGeol, 39(1), pp.1-25

How good is research at University of Leeds in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 79.20

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