Making a CASE for academic-industry collaboration

James Spray, Postgraduate Research Student, University of Southampton

Thanks to my CASE funded partnership between the UK IODP and Neftex, I was able to accompany Neftex staff on an educational field trip in Dorset and Devon last summer. We explored many different outcrops across the Wessex Basin, building an understanding of how the basin formed and developed through the Mesozoic. In detail we explored how facies respond to changes in sea level and how this can be used to identify sequence stratigraphic surfaces. The culmination of the trip was to bring all of our observations together to understand the petroleum potential of the basin.

After travelling to Neftex, I met the employees who would be my company for the next three days. They were incredibly welcoming and as many of them were graduates of a similar age to myself, it was very enlightening to chat with them and explore the different ways in which we had progressed, and to learn the differences between industry and academia. I was impressed in particular with the extensive opportunities for in-house training available in addition to the field trip itself, both in practical and theoretical aspects.

During the trip we had the opportunity to visit some of Southern England’s most iconic outcrops along the Jurassic Coast, exploring offshore, nearshore and non-marine successions and identifying key diagnostic characteristics like sedimentary structures, grain size changes, fossil assemblages and ichnofabrics. I was taught how to use these characteristics to interpret depositional environments and then as a group we were able to use the information we collected to build up a bigger picture of the facies and depositional environments changes through time.

A particular highlight for me was a visit to Lyme Regis, with its stunning ammonite beds and the distinctive Blue Lias Formation, source of the hydrocarbons in the nearby Wytch Farm oilfield. We also visited an outcrop of Portland Stone, a Jurassic limestone that features in some of England’s most famous buildings, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Going forwards, the experience and knowledge I gained from the field trip has helped me to think about my own work documenting changes in the lithic fraction of deep marine sediments (IODP Expedition 342, Site U1411) and how these might be affected by sea level change. I was also able to compare the different ichnofabrics I observed on the trip with the sedimentary structures present in my own cores.

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