Imperial College London


Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Reader in Tectonics



+44 (0)20 7594 0903rebecca.bell




2.37aRoyal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus





My research interests cover a broad range of tectonophysics topics, from fault development and tectonic evolution, to larger scale crustal properties, and seismogenic fault behaviour. I am currently involved in research projects investigating; 1) the tectonic evolution of extensional basins, and; 2) the seismogenic properties of subduction thrust faults.

Tectonic evolution of extensional basins

The large-scale architecture of sedimentary basins is the result of syn-rift active faulting and post-rift thermal subsidence. The geometry of many basins is further complicated by the interaction of multiple extensional events and is influenced by pre-existing weaknesses in the crust.

I am currently working on a project entitled Tectonic Interaction of Multiphase Extension (TIME), funded by Statoil ASA, to investigate the interaction of two phases of rifting in the North Sea, the first thought to have initiated in the Permo-Triassic and the other in the middle-late Jurassic. I am using a combination of seismic reflection, gravity and magnetics data to reveal the structure of the first rift phase and its relationship to the underlying basement properties and Jurassic active faulting.

My PhD project concerned early rift evolution in the Gulf of Corinth, central Greece. This young < 5 million year old rift basin is an important analogue for the first stages of rifting experienced by more mature, hydrocarbon bearing basins like the North Sea. I use seismic reflection data to determine the distribution of syn-rift sediments and use them to determine where faults initiated, how they interact with each other and eventually link.

Seismogenic properties of subduction thrust faults

Subduction zones have produced the largest and some of the most destructive earthquakes in history. Whilst some subduction thrust faults appear to be "locked" and capable of building up large amounts of strain before failing in an earthquake, others are "unlocked" and fail aseismically in what are known as slow slip events that can last for days, weeks or months.

The Hikurangi subduction zone, North Island, New Zealand, experiences a transition from "locked" to "unlocked" behaviour along-strike, making it an ideal location to investigate what physical properties control differences in seismogenesis. I use seismic reflection data to map the geometry of the Hikurangi subduction thrust and its seismic reflection amplitude characteristics. Slow slip events along the Hikurangi margin correlate with locally shallower highly-reflective parts of the subduction interface. We suggest a link between slow slip events and fluid involvement.

Statoil ASA (Norway)

Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund


Gaye Downes, GNS Science, Tsunami Earthquakes and their relationship to subduction margin properties

Dr. Caroline Holden, GNS Science, Tsunami Earthquakes and their relationship to subduction margin properties

Dr. Xiaoming Wang, GNS Science, Tsunami Earthquakes and their relationship to subduction margin properties

Dr. William Power, GNS Science, Tsunami Earthquakes and their relationship to subduction margin properties

Dr. Stuart Henrys, GNS Science, Seismic characteristics of subduction thrust faults

Dr. Rupert Sutherland, GNS Science, Seismic characteristics of subduction thrust faults

Dr. Laura Wallace, GNS Science, Subduction margin properties and their relationship to slow slip event source areas

Dr. Lisa McNeill, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Tectonic Evolution of the Corinth Rift

Prof. Jon Bull, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Tectonic Evolution of the Corinth Rift

Dr. Tim Henstock, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Tectonic Evolution of the Corinth Rift

Dr. Oliver Duffy, Imperial College London

Dr. Chris Jackson, Imperial College London

Dr. Gavin Elliott, LUKOIL Overseas UK Limited, London

Prof. Robert Gawthorpe, University of Bergen

Guest Lectures

Slow tsunami earthquakes and slow slip events…silent assassins or stress relief?, University of Derby, 2014

Next-generation seismic experiments: wide-angle, multi-azimuth, three-dimensional, full-waveform inversion, UTIG, Austin, Texas, 2014

Recovering physical property information from subduction plate boundaries using 3D full-waveform  seismic inversion, GNS Science, Wellington, New Zealand, 2014

Seismic reflection character of the Hikurangi subduction megathrust, North Island, New Zealand, University of Oxford, Oxford, 2011

Research Student Supervision

Alex Hughes,, Active tectonics and earthquake hazards in the western Transverse Ranges of southern California

Ashari,L, Physical properties measurements across subducting and overriding plates, to better understand the generation of earthquakes and tsunami (MSci project 2014)

Barling,T, Linkage of a major normal fault array in the Horda Platorm, North Sea (MSci project 2014)

Bungey,H, Sediment input into the active Gulf of Corinth rift basin, central Greece (MSci project 2012)

Charoenpun,T, Evolution of a major basin boundary fault system in the Stord Basin, northern North Sea

Chua,S-T, Structural style and timing of inversion in the Egersund Basin (MSci project 2011)

Claringbould,J, Structural and Stratigraphic Expression of Multiphase Extension in Rift Basins (PhD)

Fisher,G, Correlating onshore and offshore basement geology between Western Norway and the northern North Sea (MSci project 2014)

Hussain,A, Evolution of the Vette Fault system, Horda Platform, North Sea (MSc project 2011)

Lenhart,A, The Role of Pre-existing Structural Fabrics on the Tectono-Stratigraphic Evolution of Rift Basins (PhD)

Li,X, Drilling a virtual core in the Gulf of Corinth, central Greece (MSci project 2014)

Melissa Gray,, Investigating the Role of Fluids in Regulating Seismic Behaviour at Subduction Zones

Phillips,T, Enriching models of sedimentary basin evolution: the influence of salt, basement composition and multiple tectonic events (PhD)

Reader,D, 3D Finite Element Modelling of Normal Fault Interactions in Multiphase Rift Systems (MSci project 2014)

Reeve,M, Decoding multi-phase tectonic history from sedimentary basins: case study from the NW shelf of Australia (PhD)

Reeve,M, Subsurface investigation of normal fault evolution and interaction on the Maloy Slope, offshore western Norway (MSci project 2013)

Reeve,M, UROP project: Origin and significance of intra-basement seismic reflections offshore western Norway (Undergraduate Research Opportunities project 2012)

Rodriguez,C, Regional structural evolution of a saline giant during passive margin development: the role of stratigraphic heterogeneity (PhD)

Sansom,E, The growth and linkage of normal faults during Late Jurassic rifting in the North Sea (MSci project 2012)

Scaife,J, Subsurface investigation of the pre-Oxfordian tectonic evolution of the Exmouth sub-basin, offshore NW Australia (MSci project 2013)

Stephen Watkins,, Quantifying the Ability of the Sedimentary Record to Document Tectonic and Climatic Events in the Gulf of Corinth

Watkins,S, MSci report 2014