Sarah Boulton

Academic profile

Dr Sarah Boulton

Deputy Head of School and Associate Head of School - Marketing and Recruitment
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

The Global Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Sarah's work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

Goal 04: SDG 4 - Quality EducationGoal 07: SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean EnergyGoal 09: SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and InfrastructureGoal 11: SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGoal 14: SDG 14 - Life Below Water

About Sarah


My background is in sedimentology, geomorphology and structural geology and how these fields are applied to the understanding of geological hazards. My teaching reflects my background in Earth Sciences and I contribute to a number of modules on the geology programmes but my focus is on developing the Geographical Information Systems/Science (GIS) expertise of the students.
In recent years I have also taken a lead on student recruitment for the geology programmes and was the undergraduate admissions tutor until September 2019. This experience gave me the expertise to become the current Associate Head of School for student recruitment and marketing for the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and subsequently, the Deputy Head of the school.
In addition, I am a passionate advocate for increasing diversity within STEM subjects and co-founded the successful and award winning (Geological Society RH Worth Award) Girls into Geoscience programme.

Research Interests

My PhD research focused on unravelling the tectono-stratigraphic development of the Hatay Graben in southern Turkey, an actively deforming plate boundary zone between the Arabian, African and Anatolian Plates, working in collaboration with Turkish colleagues and my PhD supervisor Prof Alastair Robertson (Edinburgh University). A multi-disciplinary approach lead to significant contributions including the first models for the tectono-sedimentary evolution of a Neogene Graben in southern Turkey (Boulton et al., 2006; 2007; Boulton & Robertson, 2008) with implications for present day regional plate tectonic configurations as well as the closure of the Neotethys during the Oligocene (Boulton & Robertson, 2007; Boulton, 2009).
One novel aspect of my PhD was understanding the tectonic geomorphology and influence of active faulting on the river long profiles crossing the graben bounding active faults. This led to the development a new method for calculating fault-slip rate of normal faults based upon river geomorphology (Boulton & Whittaker, 2009). Subsequently, understanding the role of uplift and active faulting on river systems and how we can extract 'tectonics from topography' has become one of my main research focuses (e.g., Whittaker & Boulton, 2012; Kent et al., 2017; 2017; 2021) as this work has implications for the understanding of seismic hazard along active faults. I have also become interested in the connectivity between river channels and the adjacent hillslopes, and in particular the role that landsliding has in landscape evolution both as a result of earthquake events but also on longer timescales. This research feeds into my broader interests and expertise in geological hazards, which additionally includes work on tsunamis.
Career History
01/08/2019 to present: Associate Head of School (Student Recruitment and Marketing), Deputy Head of School since 2020.
01/08/2018 to present: Associate Professor of Active and Neotectonics, University of Plymouth
01/01/2006 to 31/07/2018: Lecturer in Neotectonics, University of Plymouth. 

Supervised Research Degrees

Mr Storm Roberts (DoS): Assessing past storm and tsunami events with coastal boulder deposits: implications for offshore and coastal renewable energy infrastructure. Current student.

Dr Manuel Diercks: Fault interaction and seismic hazard in Western Turkey, completed June 2024.

Mr Cagatay Cal: Tectonic geomorphology and transient landscape response of the Sparta Fault (Greece). ResM; completed January 2023.

Dr Joshua Jones: Earthquake preconditioning in the Nepal Himalayas, implications for landslide susceptibility modelling. Completed February 2022.

Dr Jesse Zondervan: Tectonic and climatic controls on Quaternary fluvial landscape development in NW Africa. Completed March 2021.

Ms Natalia Perez Del Postigo Prieto: Tsunami generation by combined fault rupture and landsliding. Awarded MPhil September 2020.

Dr Emiko Kent: The relationship between active faulting and fluvial geomorphology: A case study in the Gediz Graben, Turkey. Completed November 2015.

Dr Emhemed Alfandi: Early Mesozoic stratigraphy, sedimentology and structure of the Gharian area, north-western Libya. Completed February 2012.

Dr Sara Hayes: Volcanic Risk Assessments: Integrating Hazard and Social Vulnerability Analysis. Completed September 2011.


I am the module leader for:
GEOL1008 - Sustainable Geoscience

In addition I teach on GEOL2014 - The Earth Surface and Critical Zone.

These modules build the confidence and skills of the students in geological mapping and spatial analyses, and in the use of advanced software such as ESRIs ArcGIS Pro.

In addition to these modules, I am involved in fieldwork, which would normally consist of:
GEOL1010 Climate, Tectonics and Hazards (Italy field trip) and mulitple day trips.