Dr Sarah Boulton

Dr Sarah Boulton

Associate Professor in Active Neotectonics

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)


I teach on the following modules:

GEOL1001 - Dynamic Earth

GEOL3005 - Tectonics

Additionally I am the module leader for (and teach on):

GEOL2003 - Geospatial Techniques

GEOL3006 - Geological Remote Sensing and GIS

In addition to these modules, I am involved in fieldwork, including this year:

GEOL2010 - Pembroke
GEOL2003 - Mapping training, Ainsa, Spainish Pyrenees
GEOL3001 - Undergraduate Mapping Project currently Haute Provence, France


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.

01/10/2007-01/04/2007 - Post-graduate certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (University of Plymouth).

01/10/2002-14/10/2005; Ph.D research at the University of Edinburgh.  Thesis title ' Tectonic-Sedimentary evolution of the Cenozoic Hatay Graben, South Central Turkey'.

Graduated 20/06/2006.

1998-2002; M.Sci Geology - 1st Class (honours) from University College, London.

Professional membership

Fellow of the Geological Society of London
Member of the British Geomorphological Research Group
Member of the American Geophysical Union
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Roles on external bodies

I am the current chair of the South West regional group of the Geological Society.

Research interests

My PhD research focussed 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 focusses with ongoing projects in Turkey, Morocco, Italy and the Solomon islands. I continue to collobrate with Dr Alex Whittaker (Imperial College London) to understand the tectonic controls on knickzone formation and retreat (e.g., Whittaker & Boulton, 2012).

I am still interested in the Cenozoic (Miocene to present day) tectonics of the Eastern Mediterranean region especially concerning active faulting, palaeoseismology, tsunamis and geoarcheology.  As well as the geodynamic and palaeogeographic evolution of the area and, in particular, the Messinian Salinity Crisis.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

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

Dr Emhemed Alfandi (2nd S) – Early Mesozoic stratigraphy, sedimentology and structure of the Gharianarea, north-western Libya.  Completed February 2012. 

Dr Sara Hayes (02/09/2011) - Volcanic Risk Assessments: Integrating Hazard and Social Vulnerability Analysis

Grants & contracts

January 2019 - Awarded in-kind funding of £30,197 by NERC for the use of the Cosmogenic Isotope Analysis Facility for the project “The relationship between slip rate, lithology and denudation in the Gediz Graben, Western Turkey”.

March 2018 - Awarded £1000 from the Geological Society of London (PI) for the project 'The role of lithology on catchment average erosion rates in the Gediz Graben, Turkey'.

October 2017 - Awarded (~ £80,000) a NERC EnvEAST CASE PhD studentship (taken up by Joshua Jones) to investigate the role of earthquake preconditioning on landslide occurrence in the Nepal Himalaya.

February 2017 - Awarded 9 tiles of TanDEM-X data (£900) from the DLR for the project (PI) 'Quaternary landscape development in NW Africa: tectonic and climatic controls on landslide and river terrace development'.

March 2016 – Awarded £25780 for a Leverhulme International Fellowship (PI) ‘Bedrock river erosion in the Temperate Zone’ I will spend 4 months (Nov ’16 – Feb’ 17 in New Zealand).

January 2014 – Awarded £6700 from the Royal Geographical Society for the Thesiger-Oman Fellowship as the PI. Project title ‘Palaeo-elevation and uplift of the Moroccan High Atlas.’

June 2012 - Awarded ~ $3000 to attend and participate in MYRES V: The Sedimentary Record of Landscape Dynamics. Salt Lake City (Utah) 8 - 12th August 2012.

May 2012 - Awarded £5000 from the Marine Institute (Plymouth University) as a co-investigator.  Project title 'Quaternary raised beaches of Devon and Cornwall: new data for an old problem'.  Project leader: Matthew Telfer (Plymouth).

September 2010 - Awarded (~ £50,000) a CRES PhD studentship (taken up by Emiko Kent) to investigate active tectonics and knickzone formation in Western Turkey.

March 2010 - Awarded £650 from the Garwood Fund of the Geological Society of London. 

August 2009 - Awarded £1325 from the Experiential Learning CETL (UoP) to attend a professional development course at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (Portland, Oregon, 2009).

July 2009 - Awarded €9000 from the DARIUS programme as a co-investigator. Project title 'Transition from passive margin to collision: Tectonic development of the Arabian continental margin in SE Turkey. Project leader: Prof. Alastair Robertson (University of Edinburgh).

1st April 2009 - 1st April 2010 - Awarded £11,193 from the National Geographic as a co-investigator. Project title 'Patterns and rates of uplift driven fluvial incision within the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains of NW Africa'. Project leader: Dr Martin Stokes (University of Plymouth).

May 2008 - Awarded £1400 from the Nuffield Foundation (PI) to employ Stefanie Honeywill for 2 months on the project 'Reconstructions of the Palaeoenvironmental changes over the Miocene-Pliocene boundary in the Hatay Graben, Southern Turkey'.

July 2006 - Awarded £4970 from the Royal Society Research Grants Scheme (PI).  Project title 'Timing and Development of the northern Dead Sea Fault Zone (Karasu Rift), Southern Turkey' .

May 2006 - Awarded £200 from the British Geomorphological Research Group (PI).   Project title ' Tectonic geomorphology in an area of active strike-slip faulting: The Hatay Graben, Turkey' .

Research groups

  • Geodynamics and Palaeomagnetism

Key publications are highlighted

Boulton SJ, VanDeVelde JH & Grimes S 2019 'Palaeoenvironmental and tectonic significance of Miocene lacustrine and palustrine carbonates (Ait Kandoula Formation) in the Ouarzazate Foreland Basin, Morocco' Sedimentary Geology 383, 195-195 Publisher Site , DOI PEARL
Boulton SJ & Stokes M 2018 'Which DEM is best for analyzing fluvial landscape development in mountainous terrains?' Geomorphology 310, 168-187 , DOI PEARL
Schneiderwind S, Boulton SJ, Papanikolaou I, Kazmer M & Reicherter K 2017 'Numerical Modelling of Tidal Notch Sequences on Rocky Coasts of the Mediterranean Basin' Journal of Geophysical Research Earth Surface , DOI PEARL
Stokes M, Mather AE, Belfoul M, Faik F, Bouzid S, Geach MR, Cunha PP, Boulton SJ & Thiel C 2017 'Controls on dryland mountain landscape development along the NW Saharan desert margin: Insights from Quaternary river terrace sequences (Dadès River, south-central High Atlas, Morocco)' Quaternary Science Reviews 166, 363-379 , DOI PEARL
Schneiderwind S, Boulton SJ, Papanikolaou I & Reicherter K 2017 'Innovative tidal notch detection using TLS and fuzzy logic: Implications for palaeo-shorelines from compressional (Crete) and extensional (Gulf of Corinth) tectonic settings' Geomorphology 283, 189-200 , DOI PEARL
Kent E, Boulton SJ, Whittaker AC, Stewart IS & Cihat Alçiçek M 2016 'Normal fault growth and linkage in the Gediz (Alaşehir) Graben, Western Turkey, revealed by transient river long-profiles and slope-break knickpoints' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 42, (5) 836-852 , DOI PEARL
Kent E, Boulton SJ, Stewart I, Whittaker AC & Alcicek MC 2016 'Geomorphic and geological constraints on the active normal faulting of the Gediz (Alaşehir) Graben, Western Turkey' Journal of the Geological Society, London , DOI PEARL
Boulton SJ, Smart CW, Consolaro C & Snider A 2016 'The Miocene–Pliocene boundary and the Messinian Salinity Crisis in the easternmost Mediterranean: Insights from the Hatay Graben (Southern Turkey)' Sedimentary Geology 332, 51-67 , DOI PEARL
Robertson AHF, Boulton SJ, Parlak O, Tasli K, Yildiz A & Yildirim N 2016 'Late Cretaceous-Miocene sedimentary development of the Arabian continental margin in SE Turkey (Adıyaman Region): implications for regional palaeogeography and the closure history of Southern Neotethys' Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 115, 571-616 , DOI
Boulton SJ & Stewart IS 2015 'Holocene coastal notches in the Mediterranean region: Indicators of palaeoseismic clustering?' Geomorphology 237, 29-37 , DOI PEARL
Boulton SJ, Stokes M & Mather AE 2014 'Transient fluvial incision as an indicator of active faulting and Plio-Quaternary uplift of the Moroccan High Atlas' TECTONOPHYSICS 633, 16-33 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Whittaker AC & Boulton SJ 2012 'Tectonic and climatic controls on knickpoint retreat rates and landscape response times' JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE 117, Author Site , DOI PEARL
Hart MB, Boulton SJ, Hart, A B & Leighton AD 2011 'Fortescue William Millett (1833-1915): The man and his legacy in South West England' Geoscience in South-West England (12) 295-303
ten Veen JH, Boulton SJ & Alcicek MC 2009 'From palaeotectonics to neotectonics in the Neotethys realm: The importance of kinematic decoupling and inherited structural grain in SW Anatolia (Turkey)' TECTONOPHYSICS 473, (1-2) 261-281 Author Site , DOI
Boulton SJ 2009 'Record of Cenozoic sedimentation from the Amanos Mountains, Southern Turkey: Implications for the inception and evolution of the Arabia–Eurasia continental collision' Sedimentary Geology 216, (1-2) 29-47 , DOI PEARL
Boulton SJ & Whittaker AC 2009 'Quantifying the slip rates, spatial distribution and evolution of active normal faults from geomorphic analysis: Field examples from an oblique-extensional graben, southern Turkey' GEOMORPHOLOGY 104, (3-4) 299-316 Author Site , DOI PEARL
BOULTON SJ & ROBERTSON AHF 2008 'The Neogene–Recent Hatay Graben, South Central Turkey: graben formation in a setting of oblique extension (transtension) related to post-collisional tectonic escape' Geological Magazine 145, (06) , DOI
Boulton 2007 'The Miocene of the Hatay area,S Turkey: Transition from the Arabian passive margin to an underfilled foreland basin related to closure of the Southern Neotethys Ocean' Sedimentary Geology 198 (1-2), 93-124 , DOI
Boulton SJ, Robertson AHF, Ellam RM, Safak U & Unlugenc UC 2007 'Strontium isotopic and micropalaeontological dating used to help redefine the stratigraphy of the neotectonic Hatay Graben, southern Turkey' TURKISH JOURNAL OF EARTH SCIENCES 16, (2) 141-178 Author Site
Boulton SJ & Robertson AHF 2007 'The Miocene of the Hatay area, S Turkey: Transition from the Arabian passive margin to an underfilled foreland basin related to closure of the Southern Neotethys Ocean' SEDIMENTARY GEOLOGY 198, (1-2) 93-124 Author Site , DOI
Alçiçek MC, Mayda S, ten Veen JH, Boulton SJ, Alçiçek H, Tesakov AS, Saraç G, Hakyemez HY, Göktas F 0 'Reconciling the stratigraphy and depositional history of the Lycian orogen-top basins, SW Anatolia' Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments , DOI PEARL
Boulton SJ & Whitworth MRZ 2018 'Block and boulder accumulations on the southern coast of Crete (Greece): evidence for the 365 CE tsunami in the Eastern Mediterranean' in Scourse EM; Chapman NA; Tappin DR; Wallis SR Tsunamis: Geology, Hazards and Risks The Geological Society 105-126 , DOI PEARL
Boulton SJ 2013 'Paleoseismology' in Beer M; Patelli E; Kougioumtzoglou I; Au I Encyclopedia of Earthquake Engineering Heidelberg Springer , DOI
Boulton SJ 2013 'Tectonic development of the southern Karasu Valley, Turkey: successive structural events during basin formation' 531-546 Author Site , DOI
Boulton SJ, Robertson AHF & Unlugenc UC 2006 'Tectonic and sedimentary evolution of the Cenozoic Hatay Graben, Southern Turkey: a two-phase model for graben formation' in Robertson AHF; Mountrakis D Tectonic Development of the Eastern Mediterranean Region The Geological Society, London 613-634
Conference Papers
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW 2018 'Palaeo river long profile reconstruction in a fold-and-thrust belt: river terraces as archives of Quaternary incision and aggradation in the Atlas Mountains' FLAG 2018 Liege, Belgium 03/09/2018 07/09/2018 Publisher Site
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW 2018 'Catchment changes in response to tectonics and climate: using river terraces and DEM data in the southern High Atlas Mountains (Morocco)' 4th Meeting of the Working Group on Sediment Generation, Dublin PEARL
Perez del Postigo Prieto N, Raby A, Boulton SJ & Whittaker C 2018 'Tsunami Generation by Combined Fault Rupture and Landsliding' COASTLAB 2018 Santander 22/05/2018 26/05/2018
Boulton SJ & Norton KP 2017 'Quantifying the Erosional Response to Tectonic Forcing: Be10 Catchment Average Erosion Rates from the Taupo Rift, New Zealand' American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting New Orleans 11/12/2017 15/12/2017
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Mather AE & Boulton SJ 2017 'Fluvial archives of NW African climate and tectonic evolution, Atlas Mountains, central Morocco' Earth Sciences Research Conference, Plymouth University PEARL
Whittaker A, Boulton S, Kent E, Zondervan J, Hann M, Watkins S, Bell R & Brooke S 2017 'Evaluating the competing effects of lithology and sediment supply on the erosional dynamics of rivers crossing active faults' 19th EGU General Assembly Vienna 11779-11779 Publisher Site
Boulton SJ, Stokes M, Vandevelde J & Mather AE 2016 'When did the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains get high? Constraints on neo- and active tectonics from fluvial geomorphology and palaeoaltimetry' 7th International INQUA Meeting on Paleoseismology, Active Tectonics and Archeoseismology Crestone, CO 81131 USA 29/05/2016 03/06/2016 , DOI PEARL
Boulton SJ & Stewart IS 2011 'Holocene Coastal Notches in the Mediterranean: Palaeoseismic or Palaeoclimatic indicators?' 2nd INQUA/IGCP 567 International workshop on Active tectonics, Earthquake Geology, Archaeology and Engineering Corinth, Greece 19/09/2011 24/09/2011
Boulton SJ, Stokes M, Mather A, Belfoul A & Faik F 2011 'Fluvial geomorphology of the Dades River, Morocco: Implications for fault activity along the Southern Atlas Fault' European Geosciences Union AGM 2011 Vienna
Whittaker AC & Boulton SJ 2011 'How fast do landscapes respond to active faulting?' European Geosciences Union AGM 2011 Vienna
Whittaker AC, Boulton SJ & Attal M 2010 'How fast do landscapes respond to active faulting?' American Geophysical Fall Meeting 2010 San Francisco 13/12/2010 17/12/2010
Boulton SJ & Whittaker AC 2009 'Quantifying the slip-rates, spatial distribution and evolution of active normal faults from geomorphic analysis: Field examples from an oblique-extensional graben, Southern Turkey' European Geosciences Union AGM 2009 Vienna 3647-3647
Boulton SJ 2009 'Record of Cenozoic sedimentation from the Amanos Mountains, Southern Turkey: implications for the inception and evolution of the Arabia-Eurasia continental collision' European Geosciences Union AGM 2009 Vienna 5675-5675
Boulton SJ 2008 'Miocene to recent sedimentary and structural evolution of the southern Karasu Rift (northern Dead Sea Fault), Southern Turkey' European Geosciences Union AGM 2008 Vienna 00194-00194
Boulton SJ 2007 'New insights into the northern Dead Sea Fault Zone (Karasu Rift and Hatay Graben), Southern Turkey’ Eos Transactions' American Geophysical Fall Meeting 2007 San Francisco T42B-02
ten Veen JH, Alcicek MC, Boulton SJ & Ozkul M 2007 'The role of the Fethiye-Burdur fault zone in the neotectonic evolution of SW Turkey – a combined geological / geoarcheological approach. Geophysical Research Abstracts,' European Geosciences Union AGM 2007 Vienna 01711-01711

Other academic activities

I am the university representative for the Geological Society, London.

I am the section co-editor for the Paleoseismology section for a new Springer reference work 'Encyclopeadia of Earthquake Engineering' due to be published Winter 2013.

Invited Lectures: 

  • University of Leeds 22/11/2018
  • University of Manchester 31/10/2018
  • Rivers of New Zealand: The interplay between tectonics, lithology and climate. University of Hull 28/02/2018
  • What can fluvial geomorphology tell us about active faulting? Knickpoints from the Mediterranean. University of East Anglia 21/11/2017
  • The interaction between faulting and rivers in the Taupo Rift, NZ: What I did on my sabbatical. University of Plymouth, 27/09/2017
  • What can fluvial geomorphology tell us about active faulting? Victoria University of Wellington, NZ 10/2/17
  • Tectonics from topography: Using river profiles to investigate active faulting.  University of Derby, 15/02/2012 
  • Using fluvial geomorphology to constrain rates of active fault motion – Case studies from the Mediterranean. University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 12/11/2010
  • Geology of the Hatay Graben, south central Turkey. University of the 7th of April, Libya 09/11/08
  • Istanbul to Cairo overland: a geological journey. University of Plymouth Geological Society 23/02/07
  • Tectono-sedimentary evolution of the Hatay Graben, south central Turkey.  University of Edinburgh 26/10/2006