Sedimentology

cross bedding in red sandstone, Scotland

Sedimentary rocks are formed from particles eroded from older rocks, from minerals precipitated from water and/or from biogenic materials, such as shell fragments. They cover over 70% of the surface of the earth, and may host significant resources such as hydrocarbons, minerals and water.  Our research aims to develop new insight into the dynamics of sedimentary environments, how surficial sediments become incorporated into the rock record and how applied and industrial workflows can be informed by fundamental research. 

We are active across seven continents, looking at modern and ancient environments and working on deserts, rivers, shallow seas and deep-marine settings. Our research embraces fieldwork and associated laboratory studies, experimental modelling and associated analysis, numerical modelling, subsurface analysis and metadata studies.  We commonly collaborate with colleagues in geophysics, structural geology, geochemistry and other disciplines.

Our research themes include: clastic sediment transport, including eolian, shear flow and gravity current processes and post depositional re-mobilisation; volcaniclastic systems; tectonics and sedimentation; carbonate environments.

We work in the Sorby Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, a NERC-recognised facility. We are affiliated with Petroleum Leeds and Energy Leeds.

Current areas of research

  • Modern and ancient eolian, fluvial, coastal, shallow- and deep-marine clastic systems (processes, facies, architecture; system transitions)
  • Carbonate platforms and ramps
  • Shear flows, debris flows, turbidity currents, hybrid flows, lahars and tsunami; sediment fluidisation and injection; bedform development
  • Tectonics and sedimentation
  • Architectural and diagenetic controls on reservoir quality
  • Palaeoenvironmental controls on source to sink transfer
  • Sequence stratigraphic methods
  • Planetary sedimentology
  • Source rock characterisation
  • Placer mineral deposition
  • Commercial and industrial applications (e.g., drag reduction in swimwear; nuclear waste remediation)

Much of our research is conducted via Joint Industry Projects, which are industry-funded research consortia.

Current sedimentology projects funded by industry:

Further information

View all members of our research group and our recent projects and publications.

PhD projects

We have opportunities for prospective postgraduate researchers. Find out more.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss an area of research in more detail please contact the Research Group Lead: Professor Bill McCaffrey and Dr Adam McArthur