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Brian W. Romans

Professor of Sedimentary Geoscience
Brian Romans 2
2043A Derring Hall

I am a sedimentary geologist interested in reconstructing tectonic evolution, climate change, and fundamental sedimentary processes from the stratigraphic record. Although my focus is in the preserved sedimentary record, I am interested in the coupling of erosional landscapes (where sediment is produced) with depositional segments to gain a comprehensive understanding of Earth surface response to environmental change from centennial to multi-million-year timescales. My graduate school training was in both field and subsurface analysis, including >15 years of outcrop characterization. Since joining the faculty at Virginia Tech in 2011 I have added paleoceangraphy (via scientific ocean drilling) and geomorphology approaches to my overall program. My teaching interests are tightly coupled with my research interests; I teach courses in sedimentology-stratigraphy, sedimentary basin analysis, and related disciplines.


Ph.D., Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, 2008

M.S., Geology, Colorado School of Mines, 2003

B.A., Geology, State University of New York at Buffalo

My group’s research interests are in the broad field of sedimentary systems with specific interests in clastic sedimentology, stratigraphy, tectonics of sedimentary basins, deep-sea sedimentary processes, paleoceanography, and paleoclimatology. We aim to understand the dynamics of sedimentary landscapes across a broad range of spatial and temporal scales using an integrated, source-to-sink approach. My students and I study ancient and modern sedimentary systems using outcrop, subsurface, and Earth-surface data to address geologic problems related to tectonic and/or climatic change as well as the relationship of intrinsic sedimentary dynamics to patterns observed in the stratigraphic record. Much of our research has implications for improving prediction and characterization of subsurface geology. Our current projects include: (1) foreland basin evolution and sedimentary processes from deep-marine slope (turbidite) systems, outcropping strata in southern Chile, (2) response of North Atlantic Ocean abyssal circulation to climate change at the Eocene-Oligocene transition, and (3) sediment flux history from stratigraphy in Pleistocene alluvial-lacustrine deposits, southeastern California.

There are currently four graduate students in the group:

  • Neal Auchter (Ph.D.) Stratigraphic architecture and evolution of deep-marine to shelf/deltaic deposits, Magallanes Basin, Chilean Patagonia, 2012-present
  • Kristin Chilton (M.S.) Response of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation to climate change at the Eocene-Oligocene Transition, Newfoundland Ridge drift complex, 2015-present
  • Sarah Jancuska (M.S.) Sedimentary processes and deposits related to slope system initiation, Magallanes Basin, Chilean Patagonia, 2014-present
  • Cody Mason (Ph.D.) Detecting signals of sediment supply in the stratigraphic architecture of outcropping Pleistocene alluvial deposits, Panamint Range, California, 2012-present

Since 2012, we’ve also had at least one undergraduate researcher working in the group every semester.

  • Auchter, N.C. [graduate student advisee], Romans, B.W., and Hubbard, S.M., submitted, Influence of deposit architecture on occurrence and style of intrastratal deformation, slope deposits of Tres Pasos Formation, Chile: Sedimentary Geology
  • Reimchen, A., Hubbard, S.M., Stright, L., and Romans, B.W., submitted, Using seafloor morphometrics to constrain stratigraphic models of sinuous submarine channel systems: Marine & Petroleum Geology Eriksson, K.A. and Romans, B.W., in press, Denudation rates of a subequatorial orogenic belt based on estimates of sediment yields: Evidence from the Paleozoic Appalachian Basin, USA:Basin Research, doi: 10.1111/bre.12162
  • Pemberton, E.A.L., Hubbard, S.M., Fildani, A., Romans, B.W., and Stright, L., 2016, The stratigraphic expression of decreasing confinement along a deep-water sediment routing system: Outcrop example from southern Chile: Geosphere, 12, 114-134, doi: 10.1130/GEOS01233.1
  • Romans, B.W., Castelltort, S., Covault, J.A., Fildani, A., and Walsh, J.P., Environmental signal propagation in sedimentary systems across timescales: Earth-Science Reviews, doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.07.012
  • Fosdick, J.C., Grove, M., Graham, S.A., Hourigan, J.K., Lovera, O., and Romans, B.W., 2015, Detrital thermochronologic record of burial heating and sediment recycling in the Magallanes foreland basin, Patagonian Andes: Basin Research, 27, 546-572, doi: 10.1111/bre.12088
  • Hubbard, S.M., Covault, J.A., Fildani, A., and Romans, B.W., 2014, Sediment transfer and deposition in slope channels: Deciphering the record of enigmatic deep-sea processes from outcrop: Geological Society of American Bulletin,doi: 10.1130/B30996.1
  • Fildani, A., Hubbard, S.M., Covault, J.A., Maier, K.L., Romans, B.W., Traer, M., and Rowland, J.C., 2013, Erosion at inception of deep-sea channels: Marine and Petroleum Geology, 41, 48-61, 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2012.03.006
  • Romans, B.W. and Graham, S.A., 2013, A deep-time perspective of land-ocean linkages in the sedimentary record: Annual Reviews of Marine Science, 5, 69-94, 10.1146/annurev-marine-121211-172426
  • Covault, J.A., Craddock, W.H., Romans, B.W., Fildani, A., and Gosai, M., 2013, Spatial and temporal variations in landscape evolution: Historic and longer-term sediment flux through global catchments: The Journal of Geology, 121, 35-56, 10.1086/668680
  • Covault, J.A., Shelef, E., Traer, M., Hubbard, S.M., Romans, B.W., and Fildani, A., 2012, Deep-water channel run-out length: Insights from seafloor geomorphology: Journal of Sedimentary Research, 82, 25-40, 10.2110/jsr.2012.2
  • Fosdick, J.C., Romans, B.W., Fildani, A., Bernhardt, A., Calderon, M., and Graham, S.A., 2011, Kinematic history of the Cretaceous-Neogene Patagonian fold-thrust belt and Magallanes foreland basin, Chile and Argentina (51 30’S): Geological Society of America Bulletin, 123, 1679-1698, 10.1130/B30242.1
  • Covault, J.A., Romans, B.W., Graham, S.A., Fildani, A., and Hilley, G.E., 2011, Terrestrial source to deep-sea sink sediment budgets at high and low sea levels: Insights from tectonically active southern California: Geology, 39, 619-622, 10.1130/G31801.1
  • Romans, B.W., Fildani, A., Hubbard, S.M. Covault, J.A., Fosdick, J.C., and Graham, S.A., 2011, Evolution of deep-water stratigraphic architecture, Magallanes Basin, Chile: Marine and Petroleum Geology, 28, 612-628, 10.1016/j.marpetgeo/2010.05.002
  • Covault, J.A., Fildani, A., Romans, B.W., and McHargue, T.R., 2011, The natural range of submarine canyon-and-channel longitudinal profiles: Geosphere, 7, 313-332, 10.1130/GES00610.1
  • McHargue, T.R., Pyrcz, M.J., Sullivan, M.D., Clark, J., Fildani, A., Romans, B.W., Covault, J.A., Levy, M., Posamentier, H., and Drinkwater, N., 2011 , Architecture of turbidite channel systems on the continental slope: Patterns and predictions: Marine and Petroleum Geology, 28, 728-743, 10.1016/j.marpetgeo/2010.07.008
  • Romans, B.W., Fildani, A., Graham, S.A., Hubbard, S.M., and Covault, J.A., 2010, Importance of predecessor basin history on sedimentary fill of a retroarc foreland basin: Provenance analysis of the Cretaceous Magallanes basin, Chile (50S-52S): Basin Research, 22, 640-658, 10.1111/j.1365-2117.2009.00443.x
  • Hubbard, S.M., Fildani, A., Romans, B.W., Covault, J.A., and McHargue, T.R., 2010, High-relief slope clinoform development: Insights from outcrop, Magallanes Basin, Chile: Journal of Sedimentary Research, 80, 357-375, 10.2110/jsr.2010.042
  • Covault, J.A., Romans, B.W., Fildani, A., McGann, M.M., and Graham, S.A., 2010, Rapid climatic signal propagation from source to sink in a southern California sediment routing system: The Journal of Geology, 118, 247-259, 10.1086/651539
  • Romans, B.W., Normark, W.R., McGann, M.M., Covault, J.A., and Graham, S.A., 2009, Coarse-grained sediment delivery and distribution in the Holocene Santa Monica Basin, California: Implications for evaluating source-to-sink flux at millennial time scales: GSA Bulletin, 121, 1394-1408, 10.1130/B26393.1
  • Covault, J.A. and Romans, B.W., 2009, Growth patterns of deep-sea fans revisited: Turbidite system morphology in confined basins of the Quaternary California Borderland: Marine Geology, 265, 51-66, 10.1016/j.margeo.2009.06.016
  • Covault, J.A., Romans, B.W., and Graham, S.A., 2009, Outcrop expression of a continental-margin-scale shelf-edge delta from the Cretaceous Magallanes Basin, southern Chile: Journal of Sedimentary Research, 79, 523-539, 10.2110./jsr.2009.053
  • Armitage, D.A., Romans, B.W., Covault, J.A., and Graham, S.A., 2009, The influence of mass transport deposit surface topography on the evolution of turbidite architecture: The Sierra Contreras, Tres Pasos Formation (Cretaceous), southern Chile: Journal of Sedimentary Research, 79, 287-301, 10.2110/jsr.2009.035
  • Romans, B.W., Hubbard, S.M., and Graham, S.A., 2009, Stratigraphic evolution of an outcropping continental slope system, Tres Pasos Formation at Cerro Divisadero, Chile: Sedimentology, 56, 737-764, 10.1111/j/1365-3091.2008.00995.x
  • Normark, W.R., Piper, D.J.W., Romans, B.W., Covault J.A., and Dartnell, P., 2009, Submarine canyon and fan systems of the California Continental Borderland: in H. Lee and W.R. Normark, eds., Earth Science in the Urban Ocean: The Southern California Continental Borderland: Geological Society of America Special Paper 454, 141-168
  • Hubbard, S.M., Romans, B.W., and Graham, S.A., 2008, Deep-water foreland basin deposits of the Cerro Toro Formation, Magallanes basin, Chile: Architectural elements of a sinuous basin axial channel belt: Sedimentology, 55, 1333-1359, 10.1111/j/1365-3091.2007.00948
  • Hubbard, S.M., Romans, B.W., and Graham, S.A., 2007, An outcrop example of large-scale conglomeratic intrusions sourced from deep-water channel deposits, Cerro Toro Formation, Magallanes Basin, Southern Chile: in A. Hurst and J. Cartwright, eds., Sand Injectites: Implications for Hydrocarbon Exploration and Production: AAPG Memoir 87, 199-207
  • Covault, J.A., Normark, W.R., Romans, B.W., and Graham, S.A., 2007, Highstand fans of the California Borderland: The overlooked deep-water depositional system: Geology, 35, 783-786, 10.1130/G23800A.1

I teach courses in sedimentology-stratigraphy, sedimentary basin analysis, and related disciplines for both undergraduates and graduate students in geosciences. I strive to develop and teach courses that combine fundamental concepts and theory with hands-on experience working with sedimentary data of various types. Much of the content and exercises in my courses are relevant to the application of sedimentary geoscience to society, including energy exploration/production and Earth system response to environmental change.

  • James Lee Wilson Award for Excellence in Sedimentary Geology by a Young Scientist, Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM), 2014