Our research in the area of microbial sedimentology focuses on two pure-theoretical and applied areas: (1) clarifying the controls on development of various microbialite fabrics and (2) physical characterization and visualization of microbial reef petroleum reservoirs.

It has been established that microbialite morphology is a potential "dipstick" for local, regional and global environmental conditions (Grotzinger and Knoll 1999). However, to what degree macro- (mm-cm) and meso- (dm-m) scale morphologies are controlled by environment rather than microbial type remains unclear. Microbial fabrics at the meso- and macro-scale form in a variety of ways that involve the interaction of mechanical, biological and chemical processes. Sorting out how these fabrics were generated in ancient and modern deposits has application to astrobiology and early life studies. It also has immediate economic application in the search for hydrocarbon deposits and for carbon sequestration.

We use a combination of sedimentologic, petrographic and geochemical methods to examine development of ancient microbial reefs in time and space. Projects include investigations of microbial reef reservoir architecture and their petroleum reservoir quality, constructing models of microbial growth, and identifying petroleum reserve growth potential.

Research projects:

  • Microbial fabrics and development in the Lower Ordovician Arbuckle Group, Missouri and Kansas
  • Microbial development in the Middle Jurassic in Wyoming and Montana
  • Reservoir characterization of Upper Jurassic Smackover Formation, Alabama
  • Characterization of Jurassic microbialite in Western Europe (France, England, Spain, Portugal)


Outcrop Analogs for Microbial Reef Reservoirs

  • Parcell, W.C., 2009, Outcrops from Central Missouri as Analogs for Microbialite Facies in the Cambro-Ordovician Arbuckle Group of Kansas: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Rocky Mountain Section Meeting Abstract Volume.
  • Mancini, E.A., Parcell, W.C., 2009, Outcrop Analogs from Western Europe for Reservoir Characterization and Modeling of Upper Jurassic Microbialite and Associated Higher Energy Lithofacies in the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain, USA: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Rocky Mountain Section Meeting Abstract Volume.

Computer Modeling Carbonate and Reef Development

  • Parcell, W.C., 2003, Evaluating the development of Upper Jurassic reefs in the Smackover Formation, Eastern Gulf Coast, U.S.A. through fuzzy logic computer modeling: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 73, p. 498-515.
  • Parcell, W.C., 2000, 3D computer simulation of carbonate depositional facies distribution and productivity rates using continuous set theory to mimic geologists' reasoning: Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions, v. 50, p. 439-450. [won Thomas A. Philpott Excellence of Presentation]

Subsurface Analysis of Microbial Reef Reservoirs

  • *Koralegedara, G., Parcell, W.C., 2008, Depositional Fabrics and Dolomitization In Microbial Reef Reservoirs at Little Cedar Creek Field, Conecuh County, Alabama: Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Abstracts with Programs.
  • Mancini, E.A., Parcell, W.C., and Ahr, W.M., 2006, Upper Jurassic Smackover thrombolite buildups and associated nearshore facies, Southwest Alabama: Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions, v. 56.
  • Mancini, E.A., Llinas, J.C., Parcell, W.C., Aurell, M., Badenas, B., Leinfelder, R.R., and Benson, D.J., 2004, Upper Jurassic thrombolite reservoir play, northeastern Gulf of Mexico: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, v. 88, n. 11, p. 1573-1602
  • Parcell, W.C., 2002, Sequence stratigraphic controls on the development of microbial fabrics and growth forms: implications for reservoir quality distribution in the Upper Jurassic (Oxfordian) Smackover Formation, Eastern Gulf Coast, U.S.A.: Carbonates and Evaporites, v. 17, p. 166-181.
  • Mancini, E.A., and Parcell, W.C., 2001, Outcrop analogs for reservoir characterization and modeling of Smackover microbial reefs in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico area: Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions, v. 51, p. 207-228. [won Grover E. Murray Best Published Paper Award].