Dr Sarah Boulton
Associate Professor in Active Neotectonics
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
- Plate tectonics
- Women in science
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I have been at the University of Plymouth since 2006, as an academic member of staff for the geology programmes. My background is in sedimentology, geomorphology, structural geology and with interests in geochemistry. Please see the research tab for more information regarding recent and ongoing research projects.
My teaching reflects my background and I contribute to a number of modules 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.
01/08/2019 to present: Associate Head of School (Student Recruitment and Marketing), Deputy Head of School since 2020.
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'.
1998-2002; M.Sci Geology - 1st Class (honours) from University College, London.
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 university representative for the South West regional group of the Geological Society.
I am the module leader for (and teach on):
GEOL2003 - Geospatial Techniques
GEOL3006 - Geological Remote Sensing and GIS
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.
I also teach on GEOL3005 - Tectonics.
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.
Staff serving as external examiners
I am the current external examiner for the Geology programmes at the University of Hull (2019 - 2021).
I was previously an external examiner for the Geology programmes at University College London (2014-2017).
My PhD research focused on unraveling 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 with ongoing projects in Turkey, Morocco, Nepal and the Solomon Islands. I continue to collaborate with Dr Alex Whittaker (Imperial College London) to understand the tectonic controls on knickzone formation and retreat (e.g., Whittaker & Boulton, 2012; Kent et al., 2017; 2017; 2021). 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.
Furthermore, 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
Ms Natalia Perez Del Postigo Prieto (2nd supervisor): Tsunami generation by combined fault rupture and landsliding. Awarded MPhil September 2020.
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.
Grants & contracts
October 2020 - Co-I on the SENSUM: Smart SENSing of landscapes Undergoing hazardous hydrogeological Movement NERC funded project.
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. CASE funding provided by AECOM through collaboration with Dr Michael Whitworth.
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’.
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.
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' .
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Reports & invited lectures
1. The Geological Record of Earthquakes (Public Research Seminar), University of Plymouth, 23/05/2019.
2. When did the High Atlas Mountains get high? Herdman Symposium, University of Liverpool 16/02/2019
3. What can fluvial geomorphology tell us about active faulting? University of Leeds 22/11/2018
4. Rivers, faults and landscape change in Western Turkey. University of Manchester 31/10/2018
5. Rivers of New Zealand: The interplay between tectonics, lithology and climate. University of Hull 28/02/2018
6. What can fluvial geomorphology tell us about active faulting? Knickpoints from the Mediterranean. University of East Anglia 21/11/2017
7. The interaction between faulting and rivers in the Taupo Rift, NZ: What I did on my sabbatical. University of Plymouth, 27/09/2017
8. What can fluvial geomorphology tell us about active faulting? Knickpoints from the Mediterranean. Victoria University of Wellington, 10/2/17
9. Plio-Quaternary uplift of the High Atlas Morocco as revealed by river long profiles. Plymouth University, 08/01/14.
10. Tectonics from topography: Using river profiles to investigate active faulting. University of Derby, 15/02/2012
11. Using fluvial geomorphology to constrain rates of active fault motion – Case studies from the Mediterranean. University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 12/11/2010
12. Geology of the Hatay Graben, south central Turkey. University of the 7th of April, Libya 09/11/08
13. Istanbul to Cairo overland: a geological journey. University of Plymouth Geological Society 23/02/07
14. Tectono-sedimentary evolution of the Hatay Graben, south central Turkey. University of Edinburgh 26/10/2006.
Other academic activities
I was the section co-editor for the Paleoseismology section for a new Springer reference work 'Encyclopeadia of Earthquake Engineering' published Winter 2013.