Quantitative Clastics Laboratory (QCL)

Mission Statement

The Quantitative Clastics Laboratory (QCL) is a UT-Austin Jackson School industry research collaboration focused on the sedimentology and stratigraphy of clastic depositional systems, with applications in reservoir modeling, uncertainty in subsurface stratigraphic correlation, and source-to-sink predictions for frontier exploration. Researchers use outcrop, subsurface, and Earth-surface data to investigate the processes and products of fluvial, shallow-marine, and deep-water depositional systems, and they aim to determine the impact of realistic modeling of reservoir architecture and facies distribution on reservoir performance of these systems. Researchers also use multi-proxy provenance analysis to understand external drivers and paleogeography of sediment source areas, drainage networks, and depositional systems in order to predict reservoir presence and quality.

Recent QCL News and Events

New techniques for building stratigraphic models of submarine valleys

We have recently implemented new techniques for modeling submarine valleys, with refinements that focus on the timing and scaling of levee deposition relative to channel incision and aggradation. Some of the results were presented last week at the SEPM Deepwater Research Group meeting at the AAPG Annual Convention. Check out one of the models in 3D below. April 6, 2017


The QCL welcomes new Research Scientist Dr. Zoltan Sylvester to start in mid-January! Zoltan is a world-class sedimentologist, stratigrapher, and modeler. Check out Zoltan's website at https://hinderedsettling.com/. Dec. 19, 2016

Abreu NW Shelf

SEPM president Vitor Abreu, Dallas Dunlap, and Xavier Janson (RCRL) initiate regional seismic stratigraphic interpretation of the Carnarvon-Browse basins, NW Shelf, Australia. Dec. 12, 2016


QCL post-doctoral researcher Dr. Glenn Sharman has been chosen as an Exceptional Reviewer for his work this year on Geosphere. Congrats, Glenn!

Jake Covault

QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault and colleagues presented an invited keynote lecture at the workshop 'Source to Sink: A Long Term Perspective of Sediment Budgets and Sources Characterization' at the University of Rennes. Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2016.

Jacob Covault

QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault presented to the Jackson School Geology Foundation Advisory Council. Nov. 10, 2016.

Glenn Sharman presentation

Glenn Sharman recently presented his research on sediment routing evolution to the Gulf of Mexico Wilcox Group to the Austin Chapter of the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists. Nov 4, 2016

QCL core workshop

The QCL hosted a fall sponsor meeting and workshop Oct. 17-19 at the UT-Austin Pickle Research Campus. The meeting included presentations during the mornings and subsurface characterization workshops during the afternoons. More than 40 sponsors attended the event.


Postdoc Glenn Sharman and research scientist Pete Flaig recently returned from field work in Colorado and Wyoming where they were studying Paleocene-Eocene sedimentary rocks. Glenn and Pete examined several stratigraphic sequences that may preserve a record of dramatic global warming that occurred about 56 million years ago. The QCL is interested in how climatic forcings might influence sedimentation patterns, both locally and regionally, and the western U.S. provides a natural laboratory to study this topic.


QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault and colleagues presented a talk at the LSU Geology & Geophysics Lecture Series: "The importance of high-relief drainages in deep-time source-to-sink sediment dispersal." Jacob will present the talk again this Thursday, Oct. 6, from 4-5 pm in the UT-Austin Boyd Auditorium (Link to broadcast: http://mediasite.jsg.utexas.edu/UTMediasite/Catalog/catalogs/deford-lecture-series). Sept. 30, 2016



High relief


Sedimentary Record

QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault and colleagues published an invited research article in The Sedimentary Record "The stratigraphic record of submarine-channel evolution."

Prof. Vitor Abreu discusses possible collaborations

The QCL and the RCRL's Xavier Janson hosted Prof. Vitor Abreu (pictured above, left, with QCL PI Jake Covault) to discuss collaborations on mixed siliciclastic-carbonate sedimentation on the NW Shelf, Australia.


This week Dallas Dunlap chaired a session on 'Gulf of Mexico Depositional Systems' at the GCAGS/GCS-SEPM Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi. The full day session included talks on the Fort Worth Basin, Rio Grande Delta, and the similarities of depositional episodes in the northern and southern Gulf of Mexico. Dallas also participated in the Board of Directors meeting and other committee meetings at the Convention.


Dallas Dunlap GCAGS 2016


QCL scientists are presenting research at the upcoming Annual GSA meeting in Denver, CO, 25-28 September.

GSA meeting

--Miranda Berrocales, V.M., Sharman, G.R., Covault, J.A., and Stockli, D.F., 2016, Detrital Zircon Provenance of the Denver Basin: Evolving Sediment Dispersal Patterns during the Laramide Orogeny: Monday, September 26th, 9:00 AM-6:30 PM (poster)
--Sharman, G.R., Covault, J.A., Stockli, D.F., Wroblewski, A., F.-J., and Bush, M.A., 2016, Early Cenozoic drainage reorganization of the Western U.S. Interior – Gulf of Mexico sediment routing system: Tuesday, September 27th, 10:10 AM (oral)
--Flaig, P.P, Hasiotis, S.T., van der Kolk, D.A., Prather, T.J., Jones, R.H., Ambrose, W.A., and Loucks, R.G., - Combining sedimentology and ichnology to refine paleoenvironmental interpretations in fluvial-deltaic-shallow-marine clastic systems: Tuesday, September 27th, 9:00 AM-6:30 PM (poster)
--Flaig, P.P., Hasiotis, S.T., van der Kolk, D.A., McCarthy, P.J., Fiorillo, A.R., Suarez, C.A., and Jackson, A. - Characteristics and controls on high-latitude sedimentation in the Cretaceous of Alaska and the Permian of Antarctica: Tuesday, September 27th, 2:45 PM (oral)
--Jones, R.H., Flaig, P.P., and Hasiotis, S.T., - Importance of ichnology in defining paleoenvironments along an ancient complex coastline: The Anchor Mine Tongue and upper Sego equivalent of Rangely, Colorado. Tuesday, September 27th, 9:00 AM-6:30 PM (poster)
--Murphy, A.V., and Flaig, P.P., - An integrated high-resolution sedimentologic, ichnologic, and geocellular modelling study of the Sego-Neslen Formation transition, Book Cliffs, Utah: Tuesday, September 27th, 9:00 AM-6:30 PM (poster)
--Sharman, G.R., Schwartz, T.M., Shumaker, L.E., Trigg, C., Nieminski, N., Sickman, Z., Malkowski, M.A., Johnstone, S., Hourigan, J.K., and Graham, S.A., 2016, Submarine mass failure within the deltaic-marginal marine Domengine Formattion (Eocene), San Joaquin Basin, California: Wednesday, September 28th, 9:00 AM-6:30 PM (poster)

Dr. Peter Flaig is chairing two sessions:
--Oral session on Tuesday, September 27th , 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM, T206. The Effects of Discharge Variability on Alluvial Stratigraphy: Toward a New Facies Model
--Poster session on Tuesday, September 27th, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, T186. Combining Sedimentology, Ichnology, and Paleontology to Refine Spatiotemporal (Paleo)Environmental Interpretations and Clarify Salinity-Discharge Fluctuations along Modern and Ancient Complex Coastliness

Dr. Jacob Covault

QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault was notified by SEPM President Dr. Vitor Abreu that he is the recipient of the 2017 James Lee Wilson Award in recognition of "Excellence in Sedimentary Geology by a Young Scientist." Sept 1, 2016

Big Bend fluvial

Ph.D. student Cullen Kortyna, QCL post-doc Dr. Glenn Sharman, and Professor Danny Stockli recently returned from Big Bend National Park where they were studying ancient river and floodplain deposits (about 70 to 50 million years old). These sedimentary rocks may provide important clues into the tectonic development of the southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico, and also preserve a record of evolving climate during a dynamic period of the earth's history. Aug 29, 2016

Jake Covault

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Dr. Zoltan Sylvester and QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault published an article in Geology entitled "Development of cutoff-related knickpoints during early evolution of submarine channels." Check out the supplementary material, including movies of early evolution of submarine channels here. Aug 23, 2016

QCL students

The QCL welcomes six new students to start their graduate studies during the Fall '16! From left to right: Cullen Kortyna (Ph.D.), Graham Soto-Kerans (M.S.), Keri Belcher (M.S.), Paul Morris (Ph.D.), Ningjie Hu (Ph.D.), and Dallas Dunlap (Ph.D.). Keep an eye out for progress updates and project descriptions. Aug 15, 2016

Jake Covault

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QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault gave an invited talk at Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists 53rd Annual Meeting and 2016 Convention on "Paleogeographic reconstruction and application to basin-margin stratigraphic predictions in the Paleogene Wilcox depositional system." Aug 2, 2016

Modelo Fm. Lake Piru

Dr. Jacob Covault and postdoc Glenn Sharman recently returned from southern California where they teamed up with Dr. Zane Jobe (Colorado School of Mines) to study the Modelo Formation (Miocene, ~5 Ma) in the Ventura area. Large mountainside exposures reveal a series of stacked, sandy submarine channel deposits that are inter-bedded with fine-grained, siliceous mudstone. These exposures will provide a glimpse into submarine processes of channel evolution. Jacob and Glenn also spent some time surveying world-famous turbidite outcrops along southern California beaches using a camera-equipped drone. The drone photos will be used to build fully 3D outcrop models of these classic outcrop localities. July 24-29, 2016

CO WY fluvial


Dr. Jacob Covault, QCL post-doc Glenn Sharman, and Dr. Peter Flaig recently returned from Colorado and Wyoming where they were studying several sedimentary basins that formed as the Rocky Mountains grew about 65 to 55 million years ago. They were accompanied by summer intern Viridis Miranda Berrocales and Professor Theresa Schwartz (Allegheny College, PA). The QCL is trying to understand ancient river systems and how they may have connected with the Gulf of Mexico, and also how abrupt climate change can influence the sedimentary record. July 5-15, 2016

Xiaoyong Xu



The QCL welcomes a Visiting Research Scientist from PetroChina, Xiaoyong Xu. Xiaoyong will be working on the controls on stratigraphic architecture of mixed siliciclastic and carbonate depositional systems in the Cenozoic Gippsland Basin, offshore southeast Australia. He will also be working with QCL scientists on the characterization of channelized turbidite reservoirs offshore Africa. Welcome, Xiaoyong! July 1, 2016

Jake Covault
Pete Flaig

QCL researchers and students attended the AAPG ACE in Calgary. QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault and Professor Joris Eggenhuisen convened the SEPM Deepwater Research Group Meeting on the connection between modern process measurements and the sedimentary rock record. [Link: https://www.sepm.org/Deep-Water-Deposition]." Dr. Peter Flaig discussed the integration of sedimentology and ichnology to clarify basin evolution is Permo-Triassic strata of Antarctica. Dr. Dolores van der Kolk summed up her work on river- vs. storm-dominated deltas (Schrader Bluff vs. Blackhawk Fms.), and Tim Prather discussed the significance of a high-diversity ichnologic assemblage in a river-dominated deltaic system (Loyd Fm). June 19-22, 2016

AAPG Calgary


Peter Flaig GeoFORCE

Dr. Peter Flaig recently returned from leading his seventh GeoFORCE 10th Grade Academy trip to the southwestern United States and the Grand Canyon. June 18, 2016

Field camp

Peter Flaig

Dr. Peter Flaig just returned from teaching the sedimentology portion of UT-Austin GEO660 field camp in the Book Cliffs of UT and CO. The focus of the class was to identify deltas and distributary channels in the rock record, and discuss the relative impact of fluvial-floods, waves, and tides on the resultant stratigraphy. June 6, 2016


Ashlyn Murphy
Tim Prather
Katherine Shover

Several QCL students began industry internships today including Ashlyn Murphy (Apache), Tim Prather (Anadarko), and Katherine Shover (Hess). May 14, 2016

Dolores van der Kolk
Tim Prather

Congratulations to two outstanding QCL students on their spring graduation from the Jackson School! Dolores van der Kolk earned a Ph.D. for her investigation into "Marine-continental transitions in a greenhouse world: Reconstructing Late Cretaceous deltas of paleopolar Arctic Alaska and Utah". Tim Prather earned an M.S. for his work on "The combined effects of river-flood and tidal processes on the stratigraphy, ichnology, and stratal architecture of the Cretaceous (Campanian) Loyd Delta near Rangely, Colorado U.S.A.". We wish Dolores and Tim well on their next adventures! May 7, 2016

Ashlyn Murphy

Congratulations to Ashlyn Murphy (M.S.) for her grant writing excellence! Ashlyn has secured over $10,000 in funding for her study entitled "Integrated sedimentology, ichnology, and geocellular modelling of the Sego-Neslen transition, Book Cliffs, Utah". Ashlyn received the ExxonMobil Global Geoscience Recruiting Grant ($5000), the AAPG R. E. McAdams Memorial Grant ($2500), a GSA Research Grant ($1900), and a Jackson School of Geosciences matching grant ($1000). April 30, 2016

Jake Covault
Zane Jobe

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QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault hosted new Chevron Center of Research Excellence at the Colorado School of Mines Director Dr. Zane Jobe on April 14. Dr. Jobe presented on stratigraphic architecture of deep-water channel deposits and discussed collaboration with the QCL.  Apr 20, 2016

QCL students

The QCL welcomes five new students to start their graduate studies during the summer and fall '16! From left to right: Keri Belcher (M.S.), Graham Soto-Kerans (M.S.), Ningjie Hu (Ph.D.), Paul Morris (Ph.D.), and Dallas Dunlap (Ph.D.). Keep an eye out for progress updates and project descriptions in the next weeks and months! Apr 20, 2016

Jake Covault
Stanford alum

QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault chaired the 2016 meeting of the Stanford School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences Alumni Council on April 6. The council is tasked with advising the dean on the school's alumni programs and services. Dr. Covault also gave a talk to the Stanford Department of Geological Sciences entitled "Cyclic steps as signals of submarine-fan growth and flow transformation, Western North America." Apr 20, 2016

glenn Sharman
Jake Covault
Logan West

QCL post-doc Dr. Glenn Sharman, PI Dr. Jacob Covault, and Ph.D. student Logan West traveled to southern California to study outcrops within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park during 23–31 March. Exceptional exposures of deep-marine sedimentary rocks (about 5 million years old) provide a natural laboratory to study processes of ocean basin sedimentation, including energetic sediment gravity flows and catastrophic landslide deposits.  Apr 20, 2016

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Glenn So Cal
Fold So Cal

Carla Sanchez Phelps

The QCL welcomes BEG Research Fellow Dr. Carla Sanchez Phelps! Dr. Sanchez Phelps received a Ph.D. from UT-Austin and worked at ConocoPhillips Subsurface Technology for four years. Dr. Sanchez Phelps specializes in play, prospect, and reservoir-scale stratigraphic analysis. At the QCL, she has initiated a project mapping the Eocene-Miocene succession in the Browse basin, Northwest Shelf of Australia. Preliminary results are exciting and suggest tectonic controls on mixed carbonate-siliciclastic shelf-margin stratigraphic architecture. Results also demonstrate significant along-strike variability in contemporaneous depositional systems. Stay tuned for more results, which will be deployed to sponsors during the QCL fall meeting. Apr 20, 2016

Glenn Sharman

The QCL welcomes new post-doctoral researcher Dr. Glenn Sharman! Glenn is an expert in deep-water depositional systems and basin analysis. Glenn earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and worked for ConocoPhillips for almost two years before joining the QCL. [Link to Glenn's GoogleScholar profile] Apr 20, 2016

Jake Covault
Pyrcz BCPG

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QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault and colleagues published an article in the Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology entitled "Stratigraphic rule-based reservoir modeling." [Abstract linkApr 20, 2016

Jake Covault

QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault gave an invited talk at the Tulane University Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences Seminar on March 11, on submarine-fan morphodynamics and flow transformation, examples in Western North America. Dr. Covault also received the 2015 New Orleans Geological Society Best Paper Award for the presentation "Predictive Organization of Deep-Water Lobes." Apr 20, 2016

Jake Covault

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QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault hosted Dr. Vitor Abreu on February 4. Dr. Abreu presented a simplified guide to sequence stratigraphy and discussed collaboration with the QCL. We are in the process of securing data to collaborate on contrasting delta-fed and canyon-fed deep-water reservoirs.  [Abstract linkApr 20, 2016

Peter Flaig
Dolores van der Kolk

Peter Flaig and Dolores van der Kolk are presenting papers this week at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists International Conference and Exhibition (April 3–6) to be held in Barcelona, Spain. Peter is giving a talk entitled "Comparative analysis of ancient mouth bars and subaqueous terminal distributary channels in three deltas: The Permian Mackellar Formation of Antarctica, the Cretaceous Schrader Bluff Formation of Arctic Alaska, and the Cretaceous Loyd Formation of Colorado." Dolores is giving a poster on her Ph.D. work entitled "Stratigraphic evolution of a paleopolar topset-clinoform system: Upper Cretaceous Schrader Bluff-Prince Creek formations, Arctic Alaska, U.S.A." Dolores is also chairing a poster session on "Unconventional Resources" which she is familiar with from her Master's work on the Pebble Shale Unit of northern Alaska. [Event web page] Mar 28, 2016

Ice 2016

Ashlyn Murphy

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Peter Flaig Just returned from a 5-day reconnaissance trip to Utah and Colorado. The purpose of the trip was to reconnoiter the study area for QCL graduate student Ashlyn Murphy's Master's work, and reinvestigate and reconnoiter select outcrops near Rangely, Colorado. Ashlyn will begin a project focused on a detailed facies and architectural analysis of the transition from the shallow marine deposits of the Upper Sego Formation into the fluvial-distributary deposits of the basal Neslen Formation. Ashlyn's goal is to quantify sandbody and shale geometries in a 2.5×2.5-mile area in order to develop both a paleoenvironmental reconstruction and a Petrel geocellular reservoir model of her field area. Mar 10, 2016.

QCL logo

The QCL was involved in Prospective Student Weekend 2016. Prospective Student Weekend is a 3-day event during which potential graduate students (M.S. and Ph.D.) from universities outside of Austin are invited to visit the Jackson School of Geosciences, the Bureau of Economic Geology, and the UT-Austin campus. Students meet with faculty, researchers, current UT graduate students, and other prospective students to get a sense of what the University of Texas has to offer graduate students. Peter Flaig ran the field trip for prospective graduate students associated with the Energy Theme and Bureau of Economic Geology. The entire QCL group met with prospective students for lunch during the prospective student activities. Feb 22, 2016


Dolores van der Kolk

Dolores van der Kolk presented the bulk of her Ph.D. work at the Jackson School of Geosciences Soft Rock Seminar on the 22nd of February. Dolores' talk was entitled "Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction of Late Cretaceous Deltaic Systems in Arctic Alaska and Utah." The talk was given during Prospective Student Weekend and was well attended by faculty, researchers, students, and prospective students. Feb 22, 2016


Soft Rock Seminar

Jake Covault
Feb 19

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QCL PI Dr. Jacob Covault gave an invited talk at the UTIG Seminar Series on January 29, on the morphodynamics of submarine fans in Western North America. Morphodynamics is the study of the adjustment of topography to overriding flows. Dr. Covault also gave a talk at the BEG Friday Seminar Series on February 12 on deepwater channel compartmentalization. Feb 19, 2016

Jake Covault
Indus Canyon

During the week of January 18–22, Dr. Jacob Covault gave two invited talks at the HGS International Dinner and HGS Northsiders' Luncheon in the Houston area of Texas. The presentations were on deepwater channel compartmentalization and early evolution. [Event web page] Jan 22, 2016

Peter Flaig
article Paleo

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Paleo logo

Dr. Peter Flaig is the lead author or a co-author on four manuscripts published in the January issue of Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. This publication is a special issue containing selected papers based on 2013 Geological Society of America, Annual Meeting, Theme Session 241: Ancient Polar Ecosystems and Climate History in Deep Time. The manuscripts include Pete's work both in Alaska and in Antarctica.

The publications include:

Flaig, P. P., Hasiotis, S.T., and Jackson, A.M., 2016, An Early Permian, paleopolar, postglacial, river-dominated deltaic succession in the Mackellar–Fairchild formations at Turnabout Ridge, Central Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 441, no. 2, p. 241–265,http://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.08.004.

Jackson, A.M., Hasiotis, S.T., and Flaig, P. P., 2016, Ichnology of a paleopolar, river-dominated, shallow marine deltaic succession in the Mackellar Sea: the Mackellar Formation (Lower Permian), Central Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 441, p. 266–291,http://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.07.010.

Suarez, C. A., Flaig, P. P., Ludvigson, G. A., Gonzalez, L. A., Tian, R., Zhou, H., McCarthy, P. J., van der Kolk, D. A., and Fiorillo, A. R., 2016, Reconstructing the paleohydrology of a Cretaceous Alaskan paleopolar coastal plain from stable isotopes of bivalves: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 441, no. 2, p. 339–351,http://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.07.025

Fiorillo, A.R., McCarthy, P.P., and Flaig, P. P., 2016, A multi-disciplinary perspective on habitat preferences among dinosaurs in a Cretaceous Arctic greenhouse world, North Slope, Alaska (Prince Creek Formation: lower Maastrichtian): Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 441, no. 2, p. 377–389, http://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.07.024. Jan 15, 2016

Jake Covault
Feb 19

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During the week of December 14–18, Dr. Jacob Covault gave two invited talks at the AGU 2015 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA, USA. One presentation was on "Supercritical Submarine Channel Morphodynamics from Western North America," and another was on "Source-to-sink sediment budget variability in Southern California." Later in the week, modified versions of these talks were presented at an Aera Energy Lunch-and-Learn Technical Talk in Bakersfield, CA, USA. Jan 4, 2016

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