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Fluvio-lacustrine system response to rift- and intermontane-basin evolution: quantitative models and sedimentary architecture

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  • Full or part time
    Dr N Mountney
    Dr L Colombera
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Background. Active fluvial systems and associated lacustrine environments are known to respond in a complex yet predictable manner to rift- and intermontane-basin initiation, interaction and linkage. Tectono-sedimentary evolution of such systems typically culminates in the development of axially-directed rivers flowing through connected sub-basins in the through-going fault stage at the time of rift climax and death (Gawthorpe et al., 1994; Leeder and Gawthorpe, 1987; Gawthorpe and Leeder 2000). Fluvial system response to on-going rift development can take many forms, including: (i) down-cutting of rivers in response to uplift of growing footwalls; (ii) active accumulation in subsiding hangingwall segments where accommodation is being generated; (iii) drainage diversion in areas of local gradient change in response to on-going basin evolution; (iv) drainage reversal in places where older fluvial systems can no longer keep pace with rift shoulder uplift; (v) exploitation of relay ramp systems by fluvial systems seeking to pass between adjoining tilt-blocks; (vi) the interaction of axial fluvial systems with basin-margin alluvial fans sourced either from footwall scarps or from oversteepened hangingwall slopes; (vii) the systematic migration of axial fluvial systems towards the locus of subsidence where the rate of accommodation generation will be at a maximum (typically adjacent to master bounding faults in tilt-blocks); (viii) the temporal and spatial transition of fluvial systems into lacustrine and related environments in progressively deepening basin depocentres.
Aim and objectives. The aim of this PhD research project is to devise a series of quantitative tectono-stratigraphic models with which to account for complex fluvial and lacustrine system response to various stages of rift- and intermontane-basin evolution from initiation through to climax and death. Specific objectives of this project are as follows: (i) to generate a series of 4D regional-scale tectono-stratigraphic models that describe spatio-temporal variations in the style of fluvio-lacustrine sedimentation in fault-bounded tilt-block basins and intermontane basins; (ii) to generate a series of detailed regional palaeogeographic maps that encapsulate complexity in fluvial flow pathways and the interaction of fluvial systems with coeval marginal alluvial fan, fan-delta and lacustrine environments for a series of time steps that reflect phases of tectonic evolution (e.g. from pre-rift, through early initiation and linkage, to climax and death); (iii) to examine the complex spatio-temporal change in fluvial style within a single fault-bounded tilt-block or intermontane basin, and to account for changes in fluvial stacking pattern, inferred avulsion frequency, and fluvial channel pattern (e.g., braided versus meandering) in response to changes in accommodation space setting and sediment supply; (iv) to devise models to account for the style of stacking of individual sand-prone channel and barform elements within larger-scale channel-belt compound architectural elements; and (v) to explain the controls on the distribution of channel-belt elements with respect to changing accommodation setting.

Funding Notes

This is an industrially funded 3.5 years award which will pay tuition fees (£4,100 for 2015/16), tax-free stipend (£14,057 for 2015/16), and research costs. This will fully-fund a PhD for a UK or an EU national. Those who are liable to pay tuition fees at the ‘international’ rate (£18,000 for 2015/16) are eligible to apply, however, will need to provide evidence that they are able to meet the difference between the UK/EU and the international rate of tuition fees for up to 3.5 years (£13,900pa for 2015/16 and around £50,000 for 3.5 years).


 Gawthorpe, R.L., Fraser, A.J. and Collier, R.E.L., 1994. Sequence stratigraphy in active extensional basins: implications for the interpretation of ancient basin-fills. Marine and Petroleum Geoscience, 11, 642-658.
 Gawthorpe, R.L. and Leeder, M.R., 2000. Tectono-sedimentary evolution of active extensional basins. Basin Research, 12, 195-218.
 Leeder, M.R. and Gawthorpe, R.L., 1987. Sedimentary models for extensional tilt-block/half-graben basins. In: Coward, M.P., Dewey, J.F. and Hancock, P.L. (Eds.), Continental Extensional Tectonics. Geological Society of London Special Publication, 28, 139-152.
 Çiftçi, N.B., and Bozkurt, E., 2009. Evolution of the Miocene sedimentary fill of the Gediz Graben, SW Turkey. Sedimentary Geology, 216, 49-79.

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