PhD (Geology), Bsc(Hons), FGS

Chair in Geology & Petroleum Geology


Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272606
The University of Aberdeen Geology & Petroleum Geology
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 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 20 PhD students, published more than a hundred papers and edited 5 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.     


Research Interests

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.   

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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Contributions to Journals


  • Rea, BR., Newton, AMW., Lamb, RM., Harding, R., Bigg, GR., Rose, P., Spagnolo, M., Huuse, M., Cater, JML., Archer, S., Buckley, F., Halliyeva, M., Huuse, J., Cornwell, DG., Brocklehurst, SH. & Howell, JA. (2018). 'Extensive marine-terminating ice sheets in Europe from 2.5 million years ago'. Science Advances, vol 4, no. 6, eaar8327.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar8327
    [Online] AURA: Extensive_marine_terminating_ice_sheets_in_Europe_from.pdf
  • Eide, CH., Schofield, N., Lecomte, I., Buckley, SJ. & Howell, JA. (2018). 'Seismic interpretation of sill complexes in sedimentary basins: implications for the sub-sill imaging problem'. Journal of the Geological Society , vol 175, no. 2, pp. 193-209.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1144/jgs2017-096
  • Angkasa, SS., Jerram, DA., Millett, JM., Svensen, HH., Planke, S., Taylor, RA., Schofield, N. & Howell, J. (2017). 'Mafic intrusions, hydrothermal venting and the basalt-sediment transition: Linking onshore and offshore examples from the north atlantic igneous province'. Interpretation, vol 5, no. 3, pp. SK83-SK101.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1190/int-2016-0162.1
  • Kehl, C., Buckley, SJ., Viseur, S., Gawthorpe, RL. & Howell, JA. (2017). 'Automatic Illumination-Invariant Image-to-Geometry Registration in Outdoor Environments'. Photogrammetric Record, vol 32, no. 158, pp. 93-118.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1111/phor.12188
  • Cawood, AJ., Bond, CE., Howell, JA., Butler, RWH. & Totake, Y. (2017). 'LiDAR, UAV or compass-clinometer? Accuracy, coverage and the effects on structural models'. Journal of Structural Geology, vol 98, pp. 67-82.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1016/j.jsg.2017.04.004
    [Online] AURA: LiDAR_UAV_or_compass_clinometer_Accuracy_coverage_and_the_ef...
  • Hampson, GJ. & Howell, JA. (2017). 'Sedimentologic and sequencestratigraphic characteristics of wave-dominated deltas'. AAPG Bulletin, vol 101, no. 4, pp. 441-451.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1306/011817DIG17023
  • Bonaventura, X., Sima, AA., Feixas, M., Buckley, SJ., Sbert, M. & Howell, JA. (2017). 'Information measures for terrain visualization'. Computers & Geosciences, vol 99, pp. 9-18.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1016/j.cageo.2016.10.007
  • Eide, CH., Schofield, N., Jerram, DA. & Howell, JA. (2017). 'Basin-scale architecture of deeply emplaced sill complexes: Jameson Land, East Greenland'. Journal of the Geological Society , vol 174, no. 1, pp. 23-40.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1144/jgs2016-018
    [Online] AURA: basin_scale_architecture_of_deeply_emplaced_sill_complexes.p...
  • Eide, CH., Howell, JA., Buckley, SJ., Martinius, AW., Terje Oftedal, B. & Henstra, GA. (2016). 'Facies model for a coarse-grained, tide-influenced delta: Gule Horn Formation (Early Jurassic), Jameson Land, Greenland'. Sedimentology, vol 63, no. 6, pp. 1474-1506.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1111/sed.12270
    [Online] AURA: Eide_et_al_2016_Sedimentology.pdf
  • Nyberg, B. & Howell, JA. (2016). 'Global distribution of modern shallow marine shorelines. Implications for exploration and reservoir analogue studies'. Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol 71, pp. 83-104.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2015.11.025
    [Online] AURA: Nyberg_Howell_2015.pdf
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