Professor Sarah Davies

Pro Vice Chancellor Head of the College of Science and Engineering

School/Department: Geography Geology & The Environment, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 2141



I am a geoscientist with expertise in sedimentology and my research examines the response of palaeoenvironments and ecosystems to perturbations in the Earth system.

I lead a group working for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) as part the ECORD Science Operator (ESO) comprising the British Geological Survey, MARUM University of Bremen and the University of Montpellier. Leicester and Montpellier provide high-level scientific and technical support. We are responsible for the acquisition and interpretation of downhole logging data, core petrophysics data, calibration and quality control, and development of associated research programs for IODP ECORD Mission Specific Platform expeditions.

Between 2017 and 2020 I was the Head of School for Geography Geology and the Environment. I am currently the Pro Vice Chancellor Head of College for Science and Engineering. 


As a clastic sedimentologist I examine the response of palaeoenvironments and ecosystems to perturbations in the Earth system. Through analysis of the temporal and spatial evolution of non-marine and shallow-marine environments I explore the production concentration and distribution of organic matter. I collaborate to link sedimentology with petrophysics to improve understanding of complex solid-fluid chemical systems.

Example funding

NERC/ECORD until 2024: Provision of logging and petrophysical research for the Mission Specific Platforms within the International Ocean Discovery Program.

2012-2017 NERC Consortium Grant: Mid-Palaeozoic biotic crisis: setting the trajectory of tetrapod evolution. Consortium led by Prof Jenny Clack (University Museum of Zoology Cambridge) with Universities of Leicester and Southampton British Geological Survey and National Museum of Scotland (NE/J020729/1)


Emmings, J.F., Poulton, S.W., Vane, C.H., Davies, S.J., Jenkin, G.R.T., Stephenson, M.H., Leng, M.J., Lamb, A.L.  Moss-Hayes, V., 2020. A Mississippian black shale record of redox oscillation in the Craven Basin, UK, Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 538, 10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.10942

Emmings, J.F., Davies, S.J., Vane, C.H., Moss-Hayes, V. & Stephenson, M.H. 2019. From marine bands to hybrid flows: Sedimentology of a Mississippian black shale, Sedimentology. doi: 10.1111/sed.12642

Clack, J.A., Bennett, C.E., Davies, S.J., Scott, A.C., Sherwin, J.E., Smithson, T.R., 2019 A Tournaisian (earliest Carboniferous) conglomerate-preserved non-marine faunal assemblage and its environmental and sedimentological context. PEERJ, 6, e5972, DOI: 10.7717/peerj.5972

Millward, D., Davies, S.J., Williamson, F., Curtis, R., Kearsey, T.I., Marshall, J.E.A, & Browne, M.A.E. 2018 Early Mississippian evaporites of coastal tropical wetlands, Sedimentology

Kearsey T.I., Bennett C.E., Millward D., Davies S.J., Gowing C.J.B., Kemp S.I., Leng M.J., Marshall J.E.A., Browne M.A.E. The terrestrial landscapes of tetrapod evolution in earliest Carboniferous seasonal wetlands of SE Scotland. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 457, 52-69.  doi./10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.05.033

Bennett, C.E., Kearsey, T.I., Davies, S.J., Millward, D., Clack, J.A., Smithson, T.R. and Marshall, J.E.A. 2016. Early Carboniferous sandy siltstones deposited in seasonal flooding episodes preserve rare non-marine fossils. Sedimentology, 63, 1677-1700 doi: 10.1111/sed.12280

Clack, J.A., Bennett, C.E., Carpenter, D.K., Davies, S.J., Fraser, N.C., Kearsey, T.I., Marshall, J.E.A., Millward, D., Otoo, B.K.A., Reeves, E.J., Ross, A. J., Ruta, M., Smithson, K.Z., Smithson, T.R. & Walsh, S. 2016. Phylogenetic and Environmental Context of a Tournaisian Tetrapod Fauna. Nature Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1038/s41559-016-0002

Fitch, P., Lovell, M.A., Davies, S.J., Pritchard, T. & Harvey, P.K., 2015. An integrated and quantitative approach to petrophysical heterogeneity. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 63, 82-96. doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2015.02.014

Tudge, J.T., Lovell, M.A., Davies, S.J. & Millar, M. 2014. A novel integrated approach to estimating hydrocarbon saturation in the presence of pore-lining chlorites. Petroleum Geoscience, 20, 201-209.

Könitzer, S.F., Davies, S.J. & Stephenson, M.H. & Leng, M.J., 2014. Depositional controls on mudstone lithofacies in a basinal setting: implications for the delivery of sedimentary organic matter. Journal of Sedimentary Research, 84, 198-214.



I supervise students in primarily clastic sedimentology and the response of palaeoenvironments and ecosystems to perturbations in the Earth system. I focus on non-marine and shallow-marine environments from the geological record with, for example, the intention of exploring the production concentration and distribution of organic matter and the interactions control carbon cycling between the major carbon reservoirs. I collaborate to link sedimentology with petrophysics to improve understanding of complex solid-fluid chemical systems. Over my career I have supervised 21 PhD students.

Recently completed PhD projects include:

Controls on UK lower Namurian shale gas prospectivity: understanding the temporal and spatial distribution of organic matter in siliciclastic mudstones.

Evaluating 3D sedimentary architecture as a fundamental control on geotechnical and physical properties (Dogger Bank Round 3 Windfarm zone).

Primary biological controls on UK lower Namurian shale gas prospectivity: understanding a major potential UK gas resource.


Throughout my career I have taught a range of modules primarily on sedimentology, stratigraphy and field skills to first- through to fourth-year undergraduate students on our Geology degrees.

I have supervised 28 MGeol students since 2001 on predominantly sedimentological projects. The projects are designed to involve some element of fieldwork or visit to core repositories and interaction (e.g. supervision funding) with external organisations (e.g. British Geological Survey, Cambridge Carbonates, the International Ocean Discovery Program) to provide students with additional ‘real world’ experience of research. My colleague, Dr Carys Bennett, and I enabled more than 30 students to gain research experience and learned valuable transferable skills and experienced working on a recently funded NERC-funded research in the lab and field.

I have been an External Examiner at University College Dublin, University of Cambridge and the Open University 

Press and media

Sedimentology scientific ocean research drilling Carboniferous


2020 British Sedimentological Research Group Perce Allen Award: recognising a substantial body of research in any field of sedimentology

2019 Discovering Excellence Finalist, University of Leicester, Inspiring Leader

2015 Award of the Coke Medal Geological Society of London The award is made to “geoscientists for their contributions to science ….. in addition to significant service to geoscience for example through administrative organisational or promotional activities resulting in benefits to the community”.

2007 British Sedimentological Research Group Award: noteworthy published research in … sedimentology

2007 Award of excellence from American Association of Petroleum Geologists: top 10 poster. at the 2007 Annual Convention. "Geochemical Controls on Petrophysical Responses and Properties S.J. Davies T.S. Brewer J. Macquaker & M. Lovell".

2003 One of three most highly cited articles published in the journal Sedimentology. SJ Davies and MR Gibling. Architecture of coastal and alluvial deposits in an extensional basin: the Carboniferous Joggins Formation of eastern Canada. 

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