Vertical Plate Motions in the West Siberian Basin as a Signal of the Underlying Pressure-driven Mantle Flow.
Field of study:
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich.
Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Novosibirsk State University, Russia, and Master’s degree in Geophysics from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich, Germany
Kalkulo is a company with a dedicated focus on providing tailored geoscientific solutions to the energy industry. Kalkulo specialises in offering analysis and software that makes data come alive through highly intuitive and dynamic visualisations.
What is your project about?
Sedimentary basins are important storage spaces for oil, gas, hydrothermal energy and groundwater. These basins are formed as a result of relative downward motion of the Earth’s crust and subsequent infilling of sediments. The forces controlling these vertical movements have been associated with plate tectonics, such as the buckling of the crust or the rifting between continents. Yet, for some basins significant vertical motions appear far away from tectonic margins and the forces behind them are unclear. One suggestion is that these motions are caused by movements of the Earth’s mantle, deep below the crust. The West Siberian Basin is the world’s largest petroleum basin in area and its sedimentary cover records the basin’s tectonic history for the last 250 million years. In our project, we use this detailed sedimentary record to study whether the processes in the mantle drive intraplate vertical motions and play a role in basin formation.
You are currently an Industrial Ph.D. candidate at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich (LMU), in Germany. Why did you choose a university abroad, and why this specific university?
LMU has a reputation of being one of the best universities in Europe with strong connections in international academia. In particular, the geodynamics group at LMU is world-leading in global simulations of the Earth’s mantle.
You have previously studied in your native country Russia, and in Germany, while your master’s degree is from Norway. Have you noticed any big cultural differences between being a student in Russia and Germany, versus being a student in Norway?
I did my Master’s in collaboration project between LMU, the Technical University of Munich and Simula Research Laboratory in Oslo. In my opinion, in Norway the gap between students and professors is very small, compared to Russia and Germany. In my home country, as well as in Germany, there is a very strict etiquette for students, while the Norwegian academic environment is more relaxed.
What is it about your project that fascinates and excites you, both on a personal and on an academic level?
At times it might seem that major discoveries within Earth science have already been made and that we know a lot about the world around us. However, it turns out that the mechanisms behind many physical processes are not well understood. Vertical motions of the Earth’s surface is one of these. Why were some continental areas covered by the sea in the past (as was the case with Siberia for millions of years) while some were elevated above sea level, such as much of Norway? Nobody knows for sure yet. I find it extremely exciting to work on this big puzzle.
How will the project strengthen Kalkulo in terms of the way the company does business, its services/products, knowledge etc.?
The petroleum industry is looking for ways to make explorations safer and more profitable. Kalkulo’s role is to aid industry to be smarter at using the massive amounts of available data by bringing together a team of computer scientists, mathematicians and geophysicists to analyse and visualise the data in the best possible ways. My project aims at looking at sedimentary data to understand the mantle. Once we have made the correct link, the potential exists to turn the situation around and use our understanding of the mantle to make better predictions about the sediments.
And finally, do you have any advice for future or current Ph.D. candidates?
At some moment your project tends to split into numerous smaller, but still complex technical tasks and the final aim of the project itself might become blurry. Most Ph.D. candidates experience frustration and lack of motivation when they experience this. I found a way out of this situation by presenting my project to the general public who are more curious about the core of the problem and less focused on technical details, for example undergraduate students or even family and friends. This helped me to stay focused on the impact of my project.