Sedimentary Systems and Basin Analysis

Research in sedimentary systems and basin analysis in the Department of Geosciences at Western Michigan University encompasses a wide variety of fundamental and applied scientific topics.


David Barnes, William Harrison and Robb Gillespie are co-principal investigators on a major $1.03 million, three-year grant funded by the Department of Energy to evaluate the evolution and distribution of dolomite in the Michigan Basin. The work is significant from the applied aspect because of the the exploration and production of hydrocarbons in the Michigan Basin and around the world. This will also help to understand dolomite formation and its linkage to the structural, sedimentologic and stratigraphic controls.

Enhancing knowledge through field experiences.

Faculty research includes the study of Pennsylvanian-aged fluvial deltaic units in Michigan and phylloid algal reefs in Utah involving:

  • Estimation of third order sea level changes through backstripping.
  • Formation and evolution of dolomite in the Michigan Basin and their relationship to a sequence stratigraphic framework.
  • Paleoceanography of the Michigan Basin, influence on pinnacle reef development and potential as hydrocarbon reservoirs.
  • Quantitative analysis of tectonic plate spreading rates.
  • Study of Michigan Basin geological formations for potential carbon dioxide sequestration.

Student projects include:

  • Paleoceanography of the Michigan Basin utilizing the stable isotopic composition of brachiopod shells.
  • Phylloid algal mounds in the Paradox Basin of Utah.
  • Silurian pinnacle reefs in the Michigan Basin, reservoir architecture and stratigraphic framework.

Students of the Carbonate Sedimentology Laboratory are strongly encouraged to present and publish their research findings.

Outcrop locations visited by students include:

  • Paleozoic mixed carbonate and clastic systems in the Paradox Basin of Utah, the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas and New Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas and Belize.
  • Paleozoic section of the central and northern Appalachians.
  • Perimeter of the Michigan Basin in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

Associated faculty