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Geodynamics and Geophysics



The Geodynamics Research Group takes an interdisciplinary approach to attacking research problems in Tectonics, Seismology, Lithospheric Deformation and Dynamics, and Plate Tectonics.

The group includes faculty (Ammon, Engelder, Fisher, Furlong, LaFemina, Nyblade, Saffer & Richardson), graduate students and undergraduate researchers working on a broad range of topics, including crustal deformation in Northern California, migration of the Mendocino Triple Junction, fault creep, subduction zone processes earthquake locations, and other exciting projects in areas of active tectonics worldwide.

Learn more about the Geodynamics Research Group

Earthquake Physics and Fault Mechanics

Geoscience faculty in this area include Anandakrishnan, Ammon, Bice, Fisher, Furlong, LaFemina, Marone, Nyblade, Saffer, Elsworth (Energy and Mineral Engineering), & Richardson. They are focused on the physics of earthquakes and faulting, tectonic models for fault interaction, and the mechanics of frictional sliding.

Activities include laboratory experiments, analysis of field data, and numerical studies of faulting and dynamic rupture. Laboratory work is focused on frictional and rheologic properties of brittle materials. The goal of this work is to develop a set of friction constitutive laws to describe the rheology of brittle deformation. A key part of the laboratory work has been identifying and documenting the effects of dilatancy and shear localization on second order variations in friction that dictate the mode of frictional sliding.

Faculty and students in this area also devote significant effort to the scaling problems inherent in applying laboratory data to seismogenic faults. Connecting laboratory observations to field data and theoretical studies is a critical part of modern experimental studies.

Learn more about the Penn State Rock and Sediment Mechanics Lab


In concert with the Department's geodynamics, earthquake mechanics, volcanology, and active-source seismology groups, the Penn State seismology group (Ammon, Furlong, Marone, Nyblade & Richardson) performs research on Earth structure and earthquake processes.

Research includes the analysis and collection of large data sets for investigations of seismological imaging methods, earthquake physics, and lithospheric evolution. Faculty and graduate students interact with a wide range of researchers at Penn State and worldwide.

Environmental Geophysics

Environmental Geophysics

The environmental geophysics research program includes Nyblade and Saffer. They use geophysical observations of the shallow subsurface to address environmental and engineering problems, particularly those related to physical, chemical, and biological processes. Research projects can be lab, field, or theoretically based.

Research in environmental geophysics involves studying the links between measured geophysical properties and the hydrologic parameters of interest as well as investigating innovative ways to integrate geophysical data with models of groundwater flow and contaminant transport. Projects in environmental geophysics are tightly coupled with research projects in hydrogeology.