My Ph.D. research at Stanford University primarily investigates the late Cenozoic evolution of sedimentary transport systems in the Taranaki Basin on the North Island of New Zealand. I benefit from a rich history of Stanford students working in the area under the SPODDS program, and from generous input and assistance from members of GNS in New Zealand.

One project investigates the initiation and evolution of upper slope gullies in the Pliocene-Pleistocene Giant Foresets Formation. 3D seismic reflection data in the central Taranaki Basin yield spectacular imagery of gullies and channels over a ~3 myr period, during which time the continental margin prograded rapidly across the basin. By documenting gully geometries in context of the clinoform sequence, I am testing a number of hypotheses regarding gully formation and evolution, as well as generating a dataset by which gullies can be uniquely defined and contrasted against other channelized features in submarine settings. I am also working to generate a large dataset of modern gullies across the globe, to assess controls and relationships among gully spacing, slope gradient, and other properties.

In a second project, I use detailed sedimentological investigation of coastal outcrops in the Waikato region to investigate the influence of subaqueous volcanism on deep-water sedimentation and basin evolution in the north-eastern Taranaki Basin. This research focuses on the Mohakatino Formation, a coarse clastic submarine fan unit that was sourced almost entirely from an offshore andesitic arc.

For my third project, I am using detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology to investigate provenance patterns in the Taranaki, King Country, and Wanganui Basins from Late Miocene to Pliocene time. This work will illuminate regional-scale patterns in drainage systems and assess the connectivity of these basins during the evolution of the Hikurangi subduction zone and Alpine Fault.

Taranaki Basin, New Zealand

photos copyright Lauren Shumaker, 2014