Ailsa Quirie

Geology and Petroleum Geology, Aberdeen

Tenure since 2015

Before the Oil: the Volcanoes of the North Sea Ailsa Death Valley

The highly prospective Central North Sea continues to play an essential role in shaping the economy of Scotland and the rest of the UK. Its initial formation during the Jurassic era, some 150 million years ago, was associated with a series of major volcanic eruptions, leading to the deposition of the Rattray and Ron Volcanics. The series reaches up to 1.5km thick, mainly consisting of basaltic lava flows.

Previous work conducted on these volcanics in the 1990s was restricted to 2D seismic data or spatially restricted datasets. Since this time the study of volcanism in sedimentary basins has advanced enormously. The Central North Sea has also seen a vast increase in regional 3D seismic survey coverage, which, when combined with around 150 well penetrations of the Rattray and Ron series from hydrocarbon exploration, provides a wide variety of data coverage across the volcanics.

The aim of this project is to map in 3D the complete volcanic sequence to build up a full view of the eruption history of the Rattray and Ron Volcanics. It will integrate various datasets including regional 3D seismic interpretation, well analysis, geochemistry and biostratigraphy, and link the Rattray and Ron Volcanics to the evolution of basin rifting, establishing their relationship to the formation of the North Sea.


Ailsa completed her BSc Earth Science at the University of Glasgow in 2014, having developed a keen interest in both volcanology and petroleum geology. She then studied for an MSc in Integrated Petroleum Geoscience at the University of Aberdeen, undertaking her thesis as an intern with Shell UK. Ailsa gained valuable experience in studying the geology of the North Sea using industry techniques. Her PhD project brings together the areas of geology in which she is most interested, and allows the application of skills gained during her MSc and internship. Ailsa is fortunate to part of a dynamic research group that looks at the interaction between ancient volcanic systems and hydrocarbon exploration. 

Current Carnegie-Caledonian Scholars

The full list of current Carnegie-Caledonian scholars is available here.

Carnegie PhD Scholarships

The next deadline for applications is 28th February 2017.

To learn more about this scheme and how to apply, please visit Carnegie PhD Scholarships.