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Dr Neil Davies

Dr Neil  Davies


Climate Change and Earth-Ocean-Atmosphere Systems


Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 333453

Research Interests

Research: Sedimentary Geology and Palaeoenvironments

My work is focussed on the analysis of ancient sedimentary environments, with an emphasis on fieldwork-based research.  My primary interests involve improving our understanding of the interconnections and feedback loops between life and sedimentation as recorded in the sedimentary record.  In modern continental environments the vast majority of the land surface experiences geomorphological change which is in some way related to organisms and a growing wealth of biogeomorphological literature attests to the importance of biotic-abiotic interactions in constructing and refining landforms, sedimentation patterns and physical habitats in active sedimentary systems.  My research aims to assess how such interactions manifest themselves in the Phanerozoic rock record by means of combining analyses of sedimentary facies, stratigraphy, and ichnology. 


Fixed-channel alluvial architecture in the Pennsylvanian Tynemouth Creek Fm, New Brunswick, Canada

Fixed-channel alluvial architecture in the Pennsylvanian Tynemouth Creek Fm, New Brunswick, Canada

The co-evolution of alluvial systems and land plants during the Palaeozoic  

The Palaeozoic greening of the continents was one of the most significant events in the history of the Earth but although its biological and chemical effects are well-documented, the physical effects of introducing plants into alluvial systems (e.g., increasing bed roughness and bank stability, producing woody debris, etc.) have been less so.  On-going research by myself and co-workers in this field is emphasizing how a number of features of “archetypal” alluvial facies had first appearances or increases in abundance in association with evolutionary innovations or adaptations in vegetation.

Non-uniformitarian sedimentary environments

Throughout the Phanerozoic there have been intervals where sedimentary environments have existed which cannot be fully understood with reference to modern analogues.  Detailed analysis of rocks from these intervals can help to isolate specific controls on sedimentation.

The sedimentary record of the terrestrialization process

The progressive colonization of continental sedimentary habitats by animals and plants throughout the Palaeozoic has garnered significant interest from researchers for many years.  Through focused case studiesand the re-investigation of key sites in the history of terrestrialization, field-based sedimentary research has the potential to make significant contributions to the study of this crucial juncture in the history of life on Earth.  Linking with other research strands, investigations into the Silurian through Carboniferous diversification of alluvial sedimentary environments have shown a correlation between sedimentary facies diversity and the fossil record of biodiversity, providing potential insights into the role of plants as ‘ecosystem engineers’ in the terrestrialization process. 

Other research

I also have an interest in the application of sedimentary geological analyses within multidisciplinary projects, collaborating with a number of colleagues in the fields of palaeontology, geochronology, geomorphology, astrobiology and archaeology.

Key Publications

Recent publications can be found in the publications database here

Publications since 2006

  • Corenblit, D., Davies, N.S., Steiger, J., Gibling, M.R., Bornette, G.R., 2014 In Press, Considering river structure and function in the light of evolution: feedbacks between riparian vegetation and evolution.  Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.
  • Davies, N.S., Gosse, J.C., Rybczynski, N., 2014, Cross-bedded woody debris from a Pliocene forested river system in the High Arctic: Beaufort Formation, Meighen Island, Canada.  Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 84, p. 19-25.
  • Fairen, A.G., Stokes, C., Davies, N.S., et al., 2014, A cold hydrological system in Gale Crater, Mars.  Planetary and Space Science, v. 93-94, p. 101-118.
  • Gibling, M.R., Davies, N.S., Falcon-Lang, H.J., Bashforth, A.R., DiMichele, W.A., Rygel, M.S., Ielpi, A., 2014 In Press, Palaeozoic co-evolution of rivers and vegetation: a synthesis of current knowledge.  Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.
  • Davies, N.S., Gibling, M.R., 2013, The sedimentary record of Carboniferous rivers: Continuing influence of land plant evolution on alluvial processes and Palaeozoic ecosystems.  Earth-Science Reviews, v. 120, p. 40-79
  • Crombé, P., De Smedt, P., Davies, N.S.,  et al., 2013, Hunter-Gatherer Responses to the Changing Environment of the Moervaart Palaeolake (NW Belgium) during the Late Glacial and Early Holocene.  Quaternary International, v. 308-309, p. 162-177.
  • De Smedt, P., Van Meirvenne, M.,  Davies, N.S., et al.,  2013, A multidisciplinary approach for reconstructing Late Glacial and Early Holocene landscapes. Journal of Archaeological Science, v. 40, p. 1260-1267.
  • Fairén, A.G., Davies, N.S., Squyres, S.W., 2013, Equatorial Ground Ice and Meandering Rivers on Mars. LPI Contributions, v. 1719, p. 2148.
  • Davies, N.S., Gibling, M.R., 2012, Forum Comment: Early Cambrian metazoans in fluvial environments, evidence of the non-marine Cambrian radiation.  Geology, v. 40, p. e270.
  • Sansom, I.J., Davies, N.S., Coates, M.I., Nicoll, R.S., Ritchie, A., 2012, Chondrichthyan-like scales from the Middle Ordovician of Australia.  Palaeontology, v. 55, p. 243-247.
  • Gibling, M.R., Davies, N.S., 2012, Palaeozoic landscapes shaped by plant evolution.  Nature Geoscience, v. 5, p. 99-105.
  • Davies, N.S., Gibling, M.R., 2011, Evolution of fixed-channel alluvial plains in response to Carboniferous vegetation.  Nature Geoscience, v. 4, p. 629-633.
  • Davies, N.S., Gibling, M.R., Rygel, M.C., 2011, Alluvial facies during the Palaeozoic greening of the land: case studies, conceptual models and modern analogues. Sedimentology (Special Decadal Issue), v. 58, p. 220-258.                           
  • Davies, N.S., Rygel, M.C., Gibling, M.R., 2011, Reply: Marine influence in the Upper Ordovician Juniata Formation (Potters Mills, Pennsylvania): implications for the history of life on land: Palaios, v. 25, no. 8, p. 527-539, 2010.  Palaios, v. 26, p. 674-676.
  • Davies, N.S., Sansom, I.J., Nicoll, R.S., Ritchie, A., 2011, Ichnology of the fish-fossil beds of the Stairway Sandstone (Middle Ordovician, central Australia).   Alcheringa, v. 35, p. 553-569.
  • Davies, N.S., Rygel, M.C., Gibling, M.R., 2010, Marine influence in the Upper Ordovician Juniata Formation (Potters Mills, Pennsylvania): implications for the history of life on land.  Palaios, v. 25, p. 527-539.
  • Davies, N.S., Gibling, M.R., 2010, Cambrian to Devonian evolution of alluvial systems: the sedimentological impact of the earliest land plants.  Earth-Science Reviews, v. 98, p. 171-200. 
  • Davies, N.S., Gibling, M.R., 2010, Paleozoic Vegetation and the Siluro-Devonian Rise of Fluvial Lateral Accretion Sets.  Geology, v. 38, p. 51-54.
  • Davies, N.S., Sansom, I.J., 2009, Ordovician Vertebrate Habitats: A Gondwanan Perspective. Palaios, v. 24, p. 717-722.
  • Sansom, I.J., Miller, C.G., Heward, A., Davies, N.S., Fortey, R., Paris, F., 2009, Ordovician vertebrates from the Arabian Peninsula, Palaeontology, v. 52, 337-342.
  • Davies, N.S., Herringshaw, L.G., Raine, R.J., 2009, Controls on trace fossil diversity in an Early Cambrian epeiric sea: new perspectives from northwest Scotland.  Lethaia, v. 42, p. 17-30.
  • Herringshaw, L.G., Davies, N.S., 2008, Bioturbation levels during the end-Ordovician extinction event: a case study of shallow marine strata from the Welsh Basin.  Aquatic Biology, v. 2, p. 279-287.
  • Davies, N.S., Sansom, I.J., Albanesi, G.L., Cespedes, R., 2007, Ichnology, palaeoecology and taphonomy of an Ordovician vertebrate habitat: the Anzaldo Formation, central Bolivia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 249, p. 18-35.
  • Davies, N.S., Sansom, I.J., Turner, P., 2006, Trace Fossils and Paleoenvironments of a Late Silurian Marginal Marine/Alluvial System: the Ringerike Group (Lower Old Red Sandstone), Oslo Region, Norway. Palaios, v. 21, p. 46-62.
  • Davies, N.S., Sambrook Smith, G.H., 2006, Signatures of Quaternary Fluvial Response, Upper River Trent, Staffordshire, UK: A Synthesis of Outcrop, Documentary, and GPR Data. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, v. 50, p. 347-374.
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