Dr Joyce Neilson

Dr Joyce Neilson
Dr Joyce Neilson
Dr Joyce Neilson

Senior Lecturer

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 273457
Office Address

School of Geosciences King's College University of Aberdeen Aberdeen AB24 3UE United Kingdom

School of Geosciences


My interests in Geology focus on carbonate systems – depositional and diagenetic.  Over the years, I have applied this to the exploration for and production of hydrocarbon reservoir systems.  An understanding of these reservoirs will also be key for subsurface sequestration and storage of carbon dioxide and hydrogen.   Carbonates however also tell us a lot about ancient depositional environments and ocean chemistry and in recent years, my personal research has focused more on these issues.  My publication list can be found on this webpage and Research Gate.


Following completion of a B.Sc. at the University of Aberdeen in 1984, I studied for a Ph.D. at Imperial College, London, completing in 1987.  After this I worked for BP Research for 5 years which took me across the globe, before becoming an independent consultant.  During this time, I also began teaching at the University of Aberdeen, a role which increased rapidly.  I eventually joined the staff in 2005 in a part-time role (0.4/0.6 FTE).


During the course of my career in Geology, I have seen a huge increase in the role of women in both industry and academia.  Early summer placements with Shell saw me spending time offshore as the only woman on the rigs I visited and work roles in the Middle East with BP again saw me operating as the only woman in many male teams.  Later, I served on the Geological Society of London’s Petroleum Group which include appointment as Treasurer and Secretary, the first woman to have office bearing roles in that group.  All of this has helped open pathways for women in Geoscience.


  • B.Sc. Geology and Mineralogy 
    1984 - University of Aberdeen 
  • Ph.D. Geology 
    1988 - Imperial College London 

    Watt, Joyce, E., An experimental investigation of controls on carbonate diagenetic textures and mineralogy.

External Memberships

  • Secretary, Petroleum Group, Geological Society of London (2013-15)
  • Treasurer, Petroleum Group, Geological Society of London  (2010-13)
  • Associate Editor AAPGB (2010-2016)
  • Fellow Geological Society of London
  • Member GESGB



Research Overview

My research has focused mainly on the capacity and quality of subsurface reservoirs, predominantly for the hydrocarbon industry but the outcomes are equally applicable to other subsurface applications in carbonate rocks (e.g. carbon dioxide sequestration, hydrogen storage and nuclear waste disposal in tight carbonates).


Much of my research has focused on the effect that burial fluids and petroleum filling has on carbonate diagenetic reactions. This not only involves carbonate sedimentology and diagenesis but also structural geology (e.g. large scale tectonic movement, faults, fractures and stylolitisation).  The data collected and studied has ranged from sedimentology, geochemistry, structural geology, geophysics and petrophysics.  Several Ph.D. students have been involved with this research, in areas such as the Middle East and Mediterranean, the results of which have been published and widely disseminated.


Recent research has also included the investigation of ocean chemistry in deep time (late Cambrian) in Newfoundland and Oman through study of the marine carbonates precipitated at the time using isotopic and elemental analysis.  This has given new insights into global ocean chemistry around a major faunal extinction (the SPICE). Other recent research has looked at how archaeologists can be supported through use of traditional petrographic techniques.  See recent publications for all results.


Current Ph.D. students are also working these topics.  Thomas Houghton is looking at Permian Zechstein rocks in the Central North Sea and their potential as reservoirs or for subsurface storage.  This study is funded by the NERC GNZ scheme.  Another student, Cian Mcauley, is looking at the effect that early land plants had on the growth and development of corals and is funded by the NERC Quadrat scheme.


Current global research partners include collaboration with staff at the University of Barcelona and UFRGS/PURCS, Porto Alegre, Brazil.


Ph.D. student Elliot Humphrey (2022).  Determining the main controls on fault-associated dolomitisation and their influence on reservoir quality distribution.  Funded by NERC CDT/Equinor.  Completed.

Ph.D. student Ebrahim Heydari (2020).  Residual oil below the OWC in the Mishrif, Persian Gulf - an intergrated sedimentological and petrophysical study.  Part funding from Talisman-Sinopec, Helix-RDS, AFES.  Completed

Ph.D. student Rosalia Barili da Cunha (2019, UK Supervisor, UFRGS, Brazil).  Stratigraphy, Sedimentology, Petrology and Geochemistry of the Port Au Port Group (Cambrian) in Newfoundland (Canada).  Funded by Shell Brazil.  Completed.

Ph.D. student Tom Haines (2015).  The Influence of Carbonate Depositional and Diagenetic Textures on Faulting in Carbonates.  Funded by: UoA COPS Studentship, Total and BG).  Completed.

Ph.D. student Emma Michie (2015).  Influence of Damage on the Petrophysical Properties of Carbonate Hosted Fault Zones.  Funded by Total and BG.  Completed.  

Ph.D. student Salmeen Al Marjibi (2011).  Unravelling the depositional environments within the lower Andan Group (Al Bashir Fm., Late Cambrian) of north-central Oman.  Funded by PDO.  Completed.

Ph.D. student Nicholas Fretwell (1991).  Microporosity in carbonates.  University of Cambridge.  Funded by BP Research. Completed.


Funding and Grants

  • NERC GNZ Ph.D. funding.
  • NERC CDT Ph.D. funding.
  • Equinor Ph.D. funding.
  • Shell-Brazil fieldwork funding Newfoundland.
  • Petrophysics of Fractured Carbonates - Total E&P UK and BG International, brokered by ITF
  • Equipment Grants (AFES)

Teaching Responsibilities

Over the years, I have had a significant role in teaching at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels.  I started teaching Carbonate Sedimentology, Diagenesis and Reservoir Quality to M.Sc. students in 1993 and continue to do so.  Through the years this has included M.Sc. courses such as IPG, OGEM and going forwards, the new Sustainable Energy Geoscience course.

Undergraduate B.Sc. courses have included GL 3018 (Introduction to Petroleum Geology) which I co-ordinated from 2006 – 2022), Carbonate Sedimentology at Level 2 (GL 2015, until 2022) and Level 3 (GL 3521, ongoing).  I am also responsible for supervising some undergraduate Geoscience Research Projects.

In the past, I have also participated in undergraduate and post-graduate field work.


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