Degree: Ph.D. in Geosciences
Thesis title:“Studies of Upper-Plate Deformation at Subduction Zone Plate Boundaries”
Adviser: Kevin P. Furlong
Kirsty McKenzie came to our graduate program in autumn 2016, after completing her BSc (1st Class Honours) in Geology at the University of St Andrews. She received numerous awards while doing her Ph.D. including the Scholten-Williams-Wright Scholarship in Field Geology, and the Charles E. Knopf Memorial Scholarship. She was an award winner at the PSU Graduate Exhibition, and also won Best Student Presentation Awards at both AGU and GSA national Meetings. Additionally, she received an AGeS2 Geochronology Research Funding Award (NSF/GSA) for research on quantifying differential uplift recorded by marine terraces along the Cascadia margin. She published 4 papers during her Ph.D. studies, with a 5th paper in review. During her Ph.D., she presented invited seminars at USGS National Earthquake Information Center and the Department of Geosciences “Geodynamics Colloquium”, plus 11 presentations at national and international conferences, including an Invited Union Presentation at the 2021 AGU Meeting. Dr. McKenzie also convened a session on Subduction System Processes at the 2021 GSA National Meeting.
In addition to being a Teaching Assistant in several courses including Field Camp, Earth Materials, and Structural Geology, she helped develop and co-teach a new course in Plate Tectonics offered in the Department (Geosc 301). She also twice co-led a Schreyers Honor College Maymester course “Natural Hazards in a Developing Nation”, which included a 3-week field study in Thailand, focused on understanding the hazards and mitigation strategies for natural hazards in Thailand. She additionally co-taught a short course on Lithospheric Geodynamic Modeling at Kasetsart University (Bangkok, Thailand).
Her graduate research focused on defining and determining the underlying processes driving upper-plate deformation in subduction zones, focused on the Cascadia Subduction zone of western North America. She has made key advances in our understanding of the deformational behavior of subduction regimes, including (a) determining the nature of plate driving forces that produce the episodic tremor and slip (ETS) found in many global subduction regimes; and assessing its potential impact for major subduction earthquakes; (b) determining a robust model for plate interface coupling along Cascadia (directly correlated to earthquake potential); and (c) developing a new model for generating permanent upper-plate deformation during the earthquake cycle at subduction zones.
Kirsty is now a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Earth, Marine, and Environmental Sciences, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is working with Prof. Eric Kirby on projects related to linking geodynamic and geomorphic processes.