Professor John Howell

Professor John Howell
Professor John Howell
Professor John Howell

PhD (Geology), BSc(Hons), FGS

Chair in Virtual Geosciences


School of Geosciences

Meston Building,

Kings College,




Originally from Wales, John did a degree at the University of Cardiff, followed by a PhD at the University of Birmingham. He then spent 10 years in the University of Liverpool as a researcher and junior faculty member working with the StratGroup. He moved to Norway in 2002 and lived in Bergen until 2012. During that time he worked in the Department of Earth Sciences and UniCIPR where he founded the Virtual Outcrop Geology Group. He was also one of the founders of Rocksource ASA an independent Norwegian E&P Company, where he worked in senior managment for 6 years.

Since 2012 he has been a Professor at the University of Aberdeen. His current research focuses on virtual geosciences, including the improved use of analogues for understanding reservoirs. In the past 25 years he has worked on outcrops from all over the World with special focus on the western USA. He has supervised over 50 PhD students, published more than a 150 papers and edited 7 books. He currently runs the SAFARI project, a collaboration between University of Aberdeen and Uni Bergen supported by 13 companies. Over the past 15 years he has pioneered the use of Virtual Outcrops, collected using lidar and more recently UAVs (drones), in the geosciences. 

He is passionate about outreach in the geosciences. He was a co-host on "The Big Monster Dig", a TV series on geology and palaeontology for C4 and Discovery. He also has numerous other TV and radio credits as a scientific expert.     


  • BSc Geology 
    1988 - Cardiff University 
  • PhD Geology 
    1992 - University of Birmingham 
    Sedimentology of the Rotliegend of the UK Southern North Sea

External Memberships

Fellow of the Geological Society of London

International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS) 

Society of Economic Petrologists and Mineralogists (SEPM)

American Association of Petreoleum Geologists (AAPG)

Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain (PESGB)

Prizes and Awards

Perce Allen Award (highest award of BSRG, 2018)

ExxonMobil Young Researcher Award (2000)

Alaister Pilkinton Award for Excellence in Teaching (2000) 


Research Overview

Current research areas include:

  • The developement of digital field methods in the geosciences; especially terrestrial LiDAR, UAVs (drones) and photogrammetry
  • The collection of analogue data for better subsurface models
  • Large scale studies of modern depositional systems as a key to understanding the subsurface
  • Reservoir modelling of geological outcrops
  • The geology of the Colorado Plateau, especially central and southern Utah
  • Sequence stratigraphy.   

Research Areas

Geology and Geophysics


Current Research

Safari Project - Large industry JIP in collaboration with UniCIPR in Bergen. 4 PhD students and several post-doc researchers supported by 14 comapnies and the Research Council of Norway

Aeolian reservoir analogues - JIP with DEA (Germany) working on various aeolian systems in the USA inlcuding the Page Sst in southern Utah/Arizona

Triassic Mudstones - Large JIP looking at the Central North Sea, 3 PhDs 


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Books and Reports

Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Conferences

Contributions to Journals

Contributions to Specialist Publications