Research Groups

Coast of Malta

Earth-Surface Processes: the study of processes active at and near the earth’s surface include flowing water, glacial ice, wind, waves, human activities, other biosphere impacts, and chemical alteration of earth materials.

Earth-Surface Processes

Earth-surface processes shape the landscape, drive sediment flux, and interact with with global systems such as climate and even tectonics.  These processes act over geological time scales as well as shorter, human time.  Because earth-surface processes intersect the human realm, research in this area often is relevant to society. For example, when rates of surficial processes such as down-slope movement or coastal erosion are rapid, or act episodically, they can become hazards that threaten human life and property. Researchers at UC Davis study a broad array of earth-surface systems, including rivers, oceans and coasts, natural hazards, how tectonics shape landscape, climate change and climate dynamics, earth-life interactions, and other fields.

Sulfur deposits.

Geochemistry: the study of the relative and absolute abundances of the elements and of the atomic species (isotopes) in the earth, and the distribution and migration of the individual elements in the various parts of the earth, and in minerals and rocks.


The Earth and Planetary Sciences department at UC Davis offers interdisciplinary curricula in geochemistry. Tools involve the use of stable isotope and trace element mass spectrometry to address problems in aqueous, marine and environmental geochemistry, and studies applied to sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous systems. Our students are encouraged to design individual academic programs involving both empirical and theoretical approaches. Opportunities exist for students to participate in international field research programs on land and throughout the ocean basins.

Lava flow

Geophysics: the science concerned with all aspects of the physical properties of the Earth and planetary bodies and their interpretation, including, for example, seismology, gravity, magnetism, heat flow, and geochronology.


Geophysicists aim to understand the dynamics of the Earth through research on the physical processes, properties, and structure of the planet on which we live. The Geophysics group at UC Davis is involved in a diverse spectrum of research activities including geodynamics, marine geophysics, seismology, paleomagnetism, geodesy, natural hazards, and tectonics. In their research, faculty and students in geophysics use theoretical modeling, computer simulations, data analyses, laboratory experimentation, and land and marine field observations.

Cross-section of a fossil ammonite shell.

Paleobiologythe study of the history and evolution of life on Earth as revealed by the fossil and rock record.


The field of paleobiology is thriving today, due largely to its fundamentally interdisciplinary focus- the study of the history of life in relation to the history of the Earth. Partnerships with biologists allow paleontologists to investigate questions concerning fossils as once-living organisms - their development and evolution, function and behavior, patterns of genealogical relationships. Partnerships with geologists allow paleontologists to investigate questions about the changing long-term relationships between organisms and their environment - paleoceanography, paleoecology, paleobiogeography, biogeochemistry.


Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironmental Change: a diverse group of scientists brought together by their common interest in the environment, both ancient and modern.

Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironmental Change

The Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironmental Change faculty group is a diverse group of scientists brought together by their common interest in the environment, both ancient and modern. Faculty research interests include: Environmental Geology, Fluvial Geomorphology, Ocean Chemistry (Archean to Modern), Paleoclimatology, Paleomagnetic Studies, Sedimentology, and Stratigraphy.

Magnified thin section.

Petrology: the branch of geology dealing with the origin, occurrence, structure, and history of rocks, especially igneous and metamorphic rocks.

Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

The Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology Group at the University of California, Davis has a wide range of research interests and active research projects. We have a common interest in the petrology of mafic and ultramafic rocks, fluid-rock interactions, and the application of petrology to regional and global scale geologic problems. There is an unusual degree of cooperation among structural geologists and petrologists in our department.

Earth: blue marble

Planetary Science: planetary science focuses on the origin and evolution of planets with an emphasis on understanding the formation of Earth-like planets in our solar system and in extra-solar systems. 

Planetary Science

The Planetary group combines expertise in geochemical studies of extraterrestrial materials, experiments and modeling of major geophysical processes, and developing geobiological approaches to search for life on other planets. Current research includes exploration of ancient environments on Mars, timescales of planet formation, giant impacts and lunar origin, and the formation of the early terrestrial.

fault cross-section

Structural Geology and Tectonics: study of the structural (as opposed to compositional) features of rocks, of the geographic distribution of the features and their causes; and of, pertaining to, or designating the rock structure and external forms resulting from the deformation of the earth’s crust, whether the result of warping or of fracture, or both.

Structural Geology and Tectonics

The program in Structural Geology and Tectonics encompasses a wide variety of subjects, and a wide variety of areas all over the world. The common themes of our research are to understand the deformation of the Earth's crust and to reconstruct its history through geologic time. We approach these studies from many different perspectives, including global synthesis, field studies, materials science, theoretical analysis, and numerical modeling. Research in this group overlaps extensively with geophysics, igneous petrology, and metamorphic petrology, and there is productive interaction with faculty in these other areas.

close-up of crystal crystal structures

NEAT: Nanophases in the Environment, Agriculture, and Technology is a multidisciplinary research and education program which links the fundamental physics, chemistry, and engineering of small particles and nanomaterials to several challenging areas of investigation.

Nanophases in the Environment, Agriculture, and Technology

NEAT (Nanophases in the Environment, Agriculture, and Technology) is a multidisciplinary research and education program which links the fundamental physics, chemistry, and engineering of small particles and nanomaterials to several challenging areas of investigation:

  • applications in ceramic, chemical, electronic, environmental, and agricultural technology
  • environmental transport and transformation and resulting roles in environmental pollution and remediation
  • interactions with the biosphere, especially microorganisms
  • effects on health