Professor Peter Burgess

Personal profile

After developing a child-hood interest in geology, mostly through the medium of dinosaurs and fossils found in the fields around Melton Mowbray, I was initially trained as a geologist at the University of Nottingham. I then moved on to Keele University to do a MSc in computing and geology (my two favourite things apart from wife, cats, books, music etc) followed by a PhD in stratigraphic forward modelling in the University of Oxford working with Phil Allen and Tony Watts. These experiences developed my ongoing interest in quantitative geology, especially the development and application of numerical models.

After my PhD I then went to Los Angeles as a postdoctoral researcher, working in Caltech with Mike Gurnis on mantle convection and cratonic stratigraphy. We used numerical models of mantle convection linked to stratigraphic forward models to show that cratonic strata record a strong tectonic signal despite common assumptions to the contrary. After Caltech I returned to the UK to Liverpool University to do a postdoc with Steve Flint working on the Jurassic strata and petroleum systems of the Neuquen basin, Argentina. Aside from the culture shock moving back from LA to Liverpool, this project provided very useful experience in outcrop work and subsurface data interpretation, as well as sparking an ongoing interest in deep-marine siliciclastic deposystems and the issue of what controls shelf-bypass and sand delivery to deep-marine systems.

I got my first academic teaching positon as a lecturer in the University of Cardiff spent four years teaching and researching in sedimentary geology and tectonics, as well as working in Joe Cartwright’s seismic interpretation lab, where I had my first experience with 3D seismic data. Another pivotal moment in Cardiff was meeting Paul Wright who turned me into a fizzhead fan of carbonate deposystems. We developed some interesting numerical models of carbonate deposystems focussed mainly on mechanisms for development of cyclicity.

At this point I decided more direct industry experience would be useful and I joined Shell in 2002. I spent a two years working on stratigraphic forward modelling tools in the research labs in Rijswijk, before moving to a research team working on plate modelling and regional geology. This included projects on the mega-regional geology of the Circum-Arctic and on methods for identification of isolated carbonate platforms on seismic data. The latter project led to lots work with geoscientists from many different locations in the Shell group to derisk features imaged on seismic that may be carbonate buildups. It also led to many data room visits, mostly to evaluate Russian carbonate oil and gas fields. My final job in Shell was in exploration new ventures working initially on the North Africa and Middle East region, and then as Principle Regional Geologist for Sub-Saharan Africa, working predominantly on the West African margin, mostly in the Equatorial Atlantic margin and north into the Central Atlantic. Non-African activity included a few months devoted to the West Greenland Baffin Bay licence bid round, which was successful and secured Shell two blocks.

I returned to academia for some time in 2008-2009, and then again in 2010, taking up this current position at Royal Holloway where I am pursuing the diverse research interests I have developed over the last 20 years or so, and teaching sedimentary and petroleum geology, as well as some sedimentary basin tectonics. I also teach on field trips to South Devon and the Almeria region of southern Spain.

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