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Penn State faculty have ongoing research along active plate boundaries around the world including:

  • India-Asia collision (Furlong)
  • Sumatra (Fisher, Ammon)
  • Japan (Furlong, Fisher, Saffer)
  • Central America (Fisher, LaFemina, Saffer)
  • New Zealand (Furlong)
  • Taiwan (Fisher)
  • Iceland (LaFemina)
  • East African Rift (Nyblade)
  • San Andreas Fault (Furlong)

Research is focused on understanding the mechanics, thermal history, fluid flow, structural history, seismicity, crustal/mantle structure, and landscape evolution associated with plate boundary deformation.

Our studies are inherently multidisciplinary, with integration of observations that characterize deformation at a range of temporal and spatial scales relevant to both the earthquake cycle and the long-term motions of plates.


Penn State has a group of faculty (Engelder, Fisher, Furlong & LaFemina) who use field observations of structures to evaluate the kinematics and dynamics of rock deformation in mountain belts, along plate boundaries, and within sedimentary basins.

One area of study, based in fracture mechanics, involves characterization of the orientation, distribution, and morphology of fractures, and the relationship between fractures and the earth's stress field. We also use field observations to determine the kinematics, slip rates, and seismic potential of regional faults.

Finally, our group uses field studies of structures, strain histories, deformation fabrics, and the GPS velocity field to evaluate the kinematics, deformation mechanisms, and rheology in subduction zones and collisional mountain belts.