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, Fisher, Foley, Furlong, Nyblade, Wauthier, Mittal), graduate students and undergraduate researchers working on a broad range of topics, including crustal deformation, plate-boundary processes, earthquake physics, and other exciting projects in areas of active tectonics worldwide.
Geoscience faculty in this area include Anandakrishnan, Ammon, Fisher, Furlong, Marone, Nyblade, Elsworth (Energy and Mineral Engineering). 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 geophysics, geodynamics, earthquake physics, volcanology, and active-source seismology groups, the Penn State seismology group (Ammon, Anandakrishnan, Furlong, Marone, Nyblade, Zhu) performs research on Earth structure and earthquake processes using seismological (seismograms, DAS, infrasound) and related geophysical observations. Our research includes the collection and analysis of large seismic data for investigations of earthquake processes, imaging Earth’s interior. Our faculty and students interact with a broad range of researchers at Penn State and worldwide.
The environmental geophysics research program includes Nyblade, Zhu, and Ammon, who 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.
Learn more about the Zhu’s Environmental Geophysics Group.
Geoscience faculty in this area include Mittal and Wauthier. They are focused on imaging and modeling processes related to magmatism and volcanism, understanding eruptive processes through field volcanology and textural analysis, and using remote sensing techniques to understand submarine eruption and plume dynamics.
Research in volcano science includes using remote-sensing (e.g., Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), thermal/gas emissions) as well as ground based methods to detect volcanic unrest and develop magma reservoir-mush magmatic process models. Ongoing research projects involve working with a wide range of different datasets including ground based measurements, seismic datasets, optical and thermal remote sensing, InSAR to monitor volcanic processes and model these observations in a multidisciplinary physics-based framework. The primary objective of this type of work, focused on volcanoes both on land and underwater, is to provides clues on eruption processes, triggers for eruptions, magma-faulting interactions, and magmatic architecture of volcanic systems.
WHO WE ARE
Learn more about our faculty:
Charles J. Ammon is an earthquake seismologist who investigates earthquake processes and Earth’s Interior using seismic, gravity, and geodetic observations. He and his students focus on large earthquake rupture processes, earthquake locations in remote regions (e.g. mid-ocean ridge systems); imaging Earth’s crust and upper mantle using body and surface waves; imaging the shallow crust using seismic ambient ground motions; analysis of small non-earthquake-generated seismic sources (explosions, blasts, mine tremors and collapses, etc.).
Kevin Furlong works in lithospheric geodynamics - the modern version of Plate Tectonics - and his focus is on processes at active plate boundaries. In particular he investigates deformational, thermal, and earthquake processes that form and define plate boundaries. His research involves some of the major plate boundaries globally, including in New Zealand, Asia and western North America.
Andy Nyblade is an observational earthquake seismologist. His primary research focus is in using seismic and other geophysical methods to address problems in continental tectonics (rifting, volcanism, plateau uplift, mountain building, basin formation), as well as in the structure, composition and evolution of continental crust and upper mantle. He also uses geophysical methods to investigate the structure of the Critical Zone. He has worked extensively in Africa and Antarctica, and to a lesser degree in eastern North America.
Dr. Tushar Mittal is a geophysicist and fluid dynamicist who works on understanding the solid Earth-climate interactions, with a specific focus on the dynamics of magmatic systems both in the present as well as some of the largest volcanic eruptions in Earth history (e.g., continental flood basalts). He and his students focus on developing theoretical models for magma transport processes, doing analog experiments to understand specific magmatic processes (e.g., fracture mechanics, porous media flow in magmatic mushes), analyzing volcanological and rock textural features in the field, and using remote sensing data for monitoring modern day eruptions. He uses a wide diversity of computational and data analysis tools in his research and has worked extensively on basaltic volcanism with a special focus on large igneous provinces.
Dr. Christelle Wauthier is a geodesist who investigates natural hazards processes by means of remote-sensing and geophysical techniques. She and her team from the “InSAR, Geodesy, and Geohazards (IGG)” lab aim to understand how the "volcano factory" works in diverse geodynamic settings including continental rift, subduction arc, and hotspot. An overarching goal of Wauthier’s research group is to reveal the sub-surface dynamics of volcanic systems: i.e., the magma plumbing system, using models of crustal deformation. They use Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) remote-sensing methods to map crustal deformation and then model the sub-surface sources inducing the identified deformation. The volume of magma stored or transported can then be estimated and give insights on future eruption behavior and size. Furthermore, there are strong feedbacks between tectonic, faulting, and magmatic processes. By studying the interactions between those processes using stress analyses, they hope to solve their causality and, even more broadly, better understands what triggers magma intrusions, larger volcano-tectonic earthquakes, volcano landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Wauthier’s research has deep impacts on society as the geophysical signals registered can be used to assess and mitigate volcanic and faulting hazards. Learn more here: http://personal.psu.edu/cuw25/website/index.html#/Home
Dr. Tieyuan Zhu explores diverse geophysics data to quantify the response of Earth’s critical zone and near-surface to the changing climate (short-term weathers and long-term climate). Dr. Zhu also investigates the seismic response of geological CO2 sequestration and geothermal exploration for long-term storage and net zero emissions, seismic wave propagation in pores and fractures, geohazards monitoring in urban areas, and planetary geophysics.