Philip Allen is a process-oriented Earth scientist with particular interests in the interactions and feedbacks between the solid Earth and its 'exosphere' through the critical interface of the Earth's surface. His research projects include topics in sedimentology, geomorphology and tectonics, using theory, laboratory analysis, field studies and numerical modelling.
Philip Allen's current research interests are primarily in the functioning of sediment routing systems, particularly in regions of active tectonics. Landscapes are the changing geometrical form of a critical interface between two interacting systems: an internal system driven essentially by tectonic fluxes of rock, and an external system dominated by the effects of climate. These two interacting systems each operate at a range of temporal and spatial scales. We can think of landscapes as being perturbed by variations in both internal and external mechanisms. The results of these perturbations can potentially be seen as changes in the morphometric properties of the critical interface or as changes in the mass fluxes of rock, particulate sediment or solutes through and over it. Sediment routing systems, representing the integration of erosional, transportational and depositional processes over a landscape, are therefore highly sensitive to both tectonic and climatic forcing as well as internal dynamics. The focus on sediment routing systems embraces a wide range of sub-disciplines including geomorphology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, neotectonics, remote sensing and dating methods such as thermochronology and cosmogenic nuclide dating.
My sediment routing systems research is based on numerical modelling, the development of theory, and the collection of observational data from field studies and analytical data. These studies seek to understand the release of sediment from mountain catchments and the downsystem dispersal of particulate sediment to build stratigraphy. Field studies are currently based in the south-central Pyrenees, Spain, where middle Eocene to Oligocene coarse-grained feeder systems suppling downstream alluvial belts can be investigated.
Running and Recently Completed Research Projects
Integrated Sediment Routing Systems Research, the Qs Problem. Funded by Statoil (2007-2011).
The Sediment Routing System programme is an integrated research project aimed at better understanding the impact of the sediment supply on downsystem stratigraphy using a number of different approaches:
(1) an evaluation of the changing sediment characetristics supplied to basins in response to climatic and tectonic forcing, in collaboration with Dr Alex Whittaker and Dr John Armitage
(2) the development of a quantitative model for the downstream fining of a gravel supply in relation to different spatial patterns of tectonic subsidence, volumetric sediment supply, and grain-size characeristics in the supply. This work has been driven by Dr Rob Duller and has benefited greatly from collaboration with Professors Chris Paola and Juan Jose Fedele.
(3) the use of the south-central Pyrenees as a field site to test the possible coupling between tectonic deformational history, exhumation of source regions and the evolution of sediment routing systems. Selected sites have been used to successfully test the downstream fining model by selective deposition. Thermochronological and stratigraphic research was carried out by Dr Amy Whitchurch with the analyitcal support of Dr Andrew Carter (Birkbeck), whereas downstream fining research was carried out by Drs Rob Duller and Alex Whittaker. Nikolas Michael (PhD) has carried out a sediment budget exercise for the mid-upper Eocene Escanilla paleo-sediment routing system
(4) we have a continuing interest in the impact of lithospheric deformation and mantle dynamics on the topography of continents, and on the erosion and routing of sediment to the ocean at long spatial and temporal scales.
Mikolas Michael obtained his PhD in 2013, with a thesis entitled 'The functioning of an ancient sediment routing system: the Escanilla Formation, South-Central Pyrenees'
Future research is aimed at producing a sediment routing system map of an entire continent through a plate tectonic cycle.
Dr Sebastien Castelltort, ETH-Zurich, Earth surface processes and Pyrenean geology
Professor Fritz Schlunegger, University of Bern, Earth surface processes and Alpine geology
Dr Alex Densmore, Durham University, Tectonic geomorphology
Dr Hugh Sinclair, Edinburgh University, Mountain belt thermochronology, tectonics and sedimentation
Dr Juan Jose Fedele, University of St Cloud State Mineesota, Downstream fining model, hydrology
Professor Chris Paola, University of Minnesota, Quantitative modelling of surface processes
Dr Ruth Robinson, St Andrew's University, Earth surface processes and basin analysis
Dr Andy Carter, University College London, Thermochronology and geochronology
Dr Jaume Verges, Barcelona University, Stratigraphy, tectonics and Pyrenean geology
Dr Sanjeev Gupta, Imperial College London, Sedimentology and stratigraphy
Dr Guy Simpson, University of Geneva, Numerical modelling of the coupling between deformation and surface processes
Research Student Supervision
Michael,N, The Sis-Escanilla Eocene-early Oligocene sediment routing system of the Spanish Pyrenees