Our academic staff pursue research as part of the UCL-Birkbeck Research School of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Our team of dedicated staff and technicians also provide excellent support for our students. Our Doctoral Programme is an integral part of our research culture find out more about our PhD Students.

Our PhD Students

Joel Davis

Joel Davis

"Same processes as the Earth, just on Mars"

PhD project title:

Palaeoenvironmental Reconstructions on Mars

Project description:

Broadly speaking, my PhD project concerns the early evolution of the martian surface, when Mars may have had a thicker atmosphere and the conditions were such that liquid water could have existed stably on the surface. I am primarily doing this by examining the geomorphology and sedimentary geology as observed from remote sensing data.

The resolution of satellite images coming back from Mars means that metre-scale features can now be seen. Further, high resolution stereo imaging allows 3D digital terrain models (DTMs) to be constructed, which can give new insights into the structure and stratigraphy of the surface geology at unprecedented detail. As well as for Mars, this technique can also be applied to make DTMs of other bodies in the solar system, such as the Moon, Vesta, Ceres, and various icy satellites.

Specifically, I am interested in ancient martian fluvial, deltaic, and lacustrine systems, and how the stratigraphy derived from remote sensing data can be used to reconstruct the environmental history. I am currently working on mapping the south Melas basin, the site of a Hesperian-aged palaeolake in Valles Marineris, in order to better understand the stratigraphy and place constraints on its aqueous history.

Additionally, much of my project also concerns inverted terrain – features in denudated landscapes that are preserved as positive relief, such as impact craters, river channels, and even lakes. Inverted topography has been observed to occur on both the Earth and Mars. Inverted river channels, in particular, can be useful in reconstructing past drainage patterns. This can then, in turn, be used to infer about how long and how extensive liquid water might have existed for on the surface – two of the major questions about Mars’ history that remain unanswered.

Contact Details:
Supervisors: Peter Grindrod (Birkbeck), Matt Balme (Open University), Sanjeev Gupta (Imperial), Adrian Jones (UCL)