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

  • Supervisors: Dr Chris Stevenson, University of Liverpool
    Prof. Dan Faulkner, University of Liverpool

  • External Supervisors:

  • Contact:

    Dr Chris Stevenson, University of Liverpool,

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Application deadline: 10 January 2020


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.

Project Summary:

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. 


Sinclair, H. D. (1997). Tectonostratigraphic model for underfilled peripheral foreland basins: An Alpine perspective. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 109(3), 0324.<0324:TMFUPF>2.3.CO;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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