Neil is a marine earth scientist. He gained his D.Phil. from Oxford University in 1989 for his work on the tectonic evolution of the Indian Ocean Triple Junction based on GLORIA long-range sidescan sonar. Since then, he has broadened his interests to address a variety of problems concerning the creation of oceanic crust at ridges and subsequent modification by faulting, sedimentation, erosion and growth of volcanic structures as well as coastal geology. The work is based largely on multibeam and sidescan sonar and supported by technical work on sonar data processing and analysis.
Subsequent to gaining his D.Phil. Neil spent two years at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, New York (1990-1991), where he worked on quantifying sidescan sonar and seabed penetration by these instruments, with funding from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. In 1993, following a year working for a company surveying routes for submarine telecommunications cables, he developed seabed classification methods based on multibeam sonar data at the University of New Brunswick. Later in 1993, he returned to the UK to take up a NERC Research Fellowship at Durham University, where he pursued ideas on quantifying sediment accumulation on young oceanic crust, numerical modelling of the Equatorial Pacific sediment deposits and other projects on mid-ocean ridges and triple junctions. In 1996, Neil dived on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in Nautile, the French submersible, as part of a project aimed at understanding how major faults develop at the ridge.
Neil moved to Oxford University and Wolfson College in 1997 to take up a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. There, he worked on a number of problems quantifying ocean floor structures, including the spatial distribution of lithologies at mid-ocean ridges, the geomorphology of rock escarpments and the morphology of volcanic seamounts and islands, including the recently discovered giant landslides of the Canary Islands.
In Cardiff, Neil worked with PhD student Thierry Schmitt on coastal sand banks, as well as on the quantifying the geomorphology of continental slopes and volcanic islands. His teaching included coastal processes and geomorphology as well as hydrographic surveying. Neil also served on the NERC peer review committee for Earth Sciences (2001-2004) and took part in the Royal Society's scheme pairing research fellows with members of parliament, for which Neil worked with Julie Morgan, MP for Cardiff North.
In Manchester, Neil is pursuing a range of research on quantifying and modelling seabed morphology in a variety of settings including continental margins, the Red Sea and around volcanic islands, in particular, the Azores.