Professor Cédric John

Head of Data Science for the Environment and Sustainability at DERI


Research Interests

My main interest resides at the intersection of machine learning, deep-learning and geosciences. Specifically, my team and I work extensively on computer vision applied to the interpretation of cores, logs, and satellite imagery. This can be in the context of interpreting the environment of deposition of carbonate and clastic rocks, monitoring the health of coral reefs via satellite images, or interpreting the landforms of other planets, such as Mars.

I am also very interested in Natural Language Processing (NLP), in particular with respect to field-specific lexus. For instance, can we use deep-learning NLP to augmente the description of cores, or help with automated interpretation and classification of a large corpus of documents.

Deep-learning and statistical machine learning can also be applied to the interpretation and prediction of climate change and meteorological processes. I am passionate about ocean science and climate change, and applying deep-learning to these worthwile problems is one of my research goals.

In terms of more traditional geoscience, my interest lie in neritic and pelagic carbonates, what they tell us about the history of climate and paleo-fluid flow, and what controls the architecture of carbonate platforms. I am notably keen on applying novel isotopic techniques to carbonate material in order to extract relevant proxy data. During my time at Imperial College London, I built a world-leading lab to perform  clumped isotope paleothermometry. This new paleotemperature proxy is very promising, tricky to master, and (let’s admit it) was fun to work with. We applied this approach to both environmental paleo-temperatures, and to understand the diagenesis of carbonate rocks in the subsurface. Now that I have moved to DERI, I focus more on the AI and digital geosciences and environmental research components of my research porfolio.

Short biography

My undergraduate thesis (obtained in 1999) was centred on understanding the genesis of phosphatic hardgrounds in the Monterey formation of California, and relate this to organic matter content and the so-called “Monterey hypothesis” of Vincent and Berger (1985). I worked under the guidance of Prof. Karl Föllmi, and we demonstrated that organic  matter and phosphorus (an important nutrient) were still abundant in late Miocene rocks, i.e. later than predicted by the Monterey hypothesis.

My PhD (obtained in 2003) was done under the guidance of Prof. Maria Mutti from the University of Potsdam, Germany. I worked on understanding the impact of middle Miocene climate on carbonate systems in the Mediterranean (Malta) and Australia (the Marion Plateau, ODP Leg 194. The photo on the right is of Gregor EberliGarry Karner, and myself during Leg 194). I co-authored several papers based on my thesis and related to eustasy, paleoceanography and paleoclimate. After my PhD I moved to the U.S. to work as a post doctoral assistant with Prof. Jim Zachos. From 2004 to 2006 I concentrated my research on the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, and what the shallow-water continental margin records of North America were indicating in terms of paleoclimate and surface runoff.

In 2006, I became staff scientist with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) in College Station, TX. My job was on the one hand to facilitate the organisation and execution of scientific cruises, and on the other hand to pursue my personal research. The IODP years have been extremely formative in a number of ways. I became involved with large, multi-disciplinary projects on paleoclimate, but I was also exposed to projects well outside my direct expertise, such as hydrological flow experiments in overpressured sediments in the Gulf of Mexico (IODP Expedition 308) or on the various Nankai Trough Seismogenic experiments (NanTroSeize) implemented by our partners in Japan (CDEX). I also learned something about drilling, and all the caveats associated with working with cores and subsurface data.

In 2008, I moved to the U.K. to take on a Lecturer (equivalent to an assistant professor) at Imperial College London, where I was subsequently promoted to Senior Lecturer (2013) and then Reader in Earth-Centric AI (2018). During my time at Imperial College London, I fullfilled the following duties:

Finally, after nearly 16 years at Imperial College London, In January 2024 I took on my current role of Professor and head of Data Science for the Environment and Sustainability at the Digital Environment Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London. In this post, I lead the “Data Science for the Environment and Sustainability” research platform for the University.

Teaching Experience

I have designed and taught the following courses. All can also be delivered as consultancy work:

  • 2021-2024: Data science and machine learning – an intermediate to advanced-level two weeks block course on statistical machine learning and data science taught to master students.
  • 2020-2024: Machine learning for geoscientists – an introductory course on the topic of data science and machine learning taught to our undergraduate students.
  • 2017-2023: Stratigraphy – an introductory course on stratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy taught to undegraduate students.
  • 2009-2020: Carbonate systems – an intermediate to advanced level course on carbonate sedimentology, diagenesis and sequence stratigraphy taught to master students
  • 2018-2020: Field course on carbonate systems of Oman – an intermediate level field course based on the deposition and diagenesis of outcrops from the Neoproterozoic to Recent in the Sultanate of Oman
  • 2009-2016: Field course on the Permian carbonate systems of Texas and New Mexico – an intermediate to advanced level course on the carbonate succession from the Guadalupian of North America