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Mountains to Basins: Evolution of structure and sedimentary architectures within an actively deforming foreland basin

Project Description

The aim of this project is to map the Pisuerga-Carrion Foreland Basin to understand the interplay between tectonic deformation and sedimentation.

Orogenic belts are host to a rich-variety of deformation styles and generate accommodation in the form of foreland basins. Sedimentation within foreland basins record the rise and demise of the orogeny; capturing evolving drainage patterns and local climatic changes along the belt. However, syn-tectonic sedimentation during the life of these basins drives major changes to facies and sedimentary architectures from carbonates to turbidites, and produces large-scale slope instabilities that result in the catastrophic emplacement of olistostromes. Unpicking this complex stratigraphic record of active deformation, slope failure and sedimentary response is a first order challenge for geologists working in mountain belts, and an important approach for interpreting basin evolution and mountain building across a range of timescales.

This PhD aims to examine the structural and stratigraphic evolution of the poorly studied Pisuerga-Carrion Foreland Basin within the spectacular Cantabrian Mountains. The project will be strongly focused on fieldwork, requiring detailed geological mapping of the basin structures and sedimentology. Once the broad relationships between structure and strata are established from mapping the student will examine the sediments in more detail, with particular attention towards large-scale olistostrome deposits that are superbly exposed across the basin. Complementing the fieldwork, the student will work in Liverpool’s rock deformation and sedimentology labs to develop novel experiments exploring the nature of slope failures and their deposits in these dynamic basin environments. The student will have multidisciplinary training in field techniques and state-of-the-art laboratory modelling techniques in both rock mechanics and fluid dynamics. As such, this PhD provides a host of transferable skills suited to both academia and industry. Candidates should have a 2.1/1 BSc degree or Masters in a related discipline (e.g. geology, physical geography), with strong interests in structural geology and sedimentology. Ideally you will enjoy traditional geology fieldwork, and working within a multidisciplinary team.

To apply for this opportunity please visit: and click the ‘Apply online’ button.

Funding Notes

Full funding (fees, stipend, research support budget) is provided by the University of Liverpool for 3.5 years for UK or EU citizens. Formal training is offered through partnership between the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester. Our training programme will provide all PhD students with an opportunity to collaborate with an academic or non-academic partner and participate in placements.


Sinclair, H. D. (1997). Tectonostratigraphic model for underfilled peripheral foreland basins: An Alpine perspective. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 109(3), 0324.;2

Medialdea, T., Vegas, R., Somoza, L., Vázquez, J. T., Maldonado, A., Dı́az-del-Rı́o, V., Fernández-Puga, M. C. (2004). Structure and evolution of the “Olistostrome” complex of the Gibraltar Arc in the Gulf of Cádiz (eastern Central Atlantic): evidence from two long seismic cross-sections. Marine Geology, 209(1–4), 173–198.

Puigdefàbregas, C., & Souquet, P. (1986). Tecto-sedimentary cycles and depositional sequences of the Mesozoic and Tertiary from the Pyrenees. Tectonophysics, 129(1–4), 173–203.

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