Surface Processes in Geology

The study of the surface morphology and rock records of terrestrial planets thrives at Caltech because of strong research programs across a broad range of topics and because of a distinctive tradition of collaboration among disciplines.  Core faculty investigate active tectonics, tectonic geomorphology, remote sensing of surface deformation, process geomorphology, cosmogenic exposure dating, stratigraphy and sedimentology of Mars and other terrestrial planets, rivers and lakes of Titan, Earth history, petrologic and volcanic processes, mineralogy, paleomagnetism, and other fields. Close interaction between specialists in these various areas is common and often enables new avenues of inquiry.

Surface Processes - Core Faculty

Jean-Philippe Avouac: Tectonics and tectonic geomorphology

Active tectonics, geomorphic record of crustal deformation, measurement of crustal deformation from satellite imagery, investigation and modeling of orogenic processes and the seismic cycle, with a focus on the Himalayas.

Bethany Ehlmann: Planetary geology and remote sensing

Spectroscopic analyses of planetary surface composition, chemical and physical weathering, environmental change on Earth and Mars, rock-microbe interactions, biomarker preservation, environmental science and policy.

Ken Farley: Noble gas geochemistry and cosmogenic dating

Rare gas composition of terrestrial materials, chemical evolution of the Earth's mantle and atmosphere, petrogenesis of oceanic lavas, low temperature thermochronometry, geologic record of interplanetary dust flux.

Woodward Fischer: Earth history

Evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis and the rise of atmospheric oxygen, origin of Archean and proterozoic iron formation, distribution and evolution of lipid biomarker synthesis, coupled behavior of redox and acid-base processes at critical transitions in Earth history.

John Grotzinger: Sedimentology and stratigraphy on Earth and Mars

Sedimentology, stratigraphy, geobiology, ancient surface processes on Earth and Mars, field-based investigations of depositional systems for the analysis of past processes, interactions between life and environment, and tectonic and climatic regimes.

Michael Lamb: Geomorphology and process sedimentology

Surface processes of Earth, Mars, and Titan including geomorphology, sedimentology, and fluvial morphodynamics.

Brian Wernicke: Tectonic evolution of the continental lithosphere

Tectonic evolution of the continental lithosphere through judicious combination of field observation and geophysical and geochemical methods, physical processes governing the large-scale structural evolution of mountain belts, especially extension of the continental crust and processes in the deep lithosphere, GPS geodesy and neotectonics, especially earthquakes and slow episodic deformations revealed through comparison of geodetic and geologic measurements.


Surface Processes - Associated Faculty

Mark Simons: Geophysics and geodynamics

Theoretical and observational geodynamics, especially crustal deformation and mantle convection, radar interferometry, gravity field analysis, modeling of materials with complex rheologies.

Victor Tsai: Mathematical geophysics and geomechanics

Solid earth geophysics, solid-fluid interactions, glacier physics, earthquake dynamics, imaging techniques, and wave propogation.