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 geophysicsigneous petrology, and metamorphic petrology, and there is productive interaction with faculty in these other areas.


Magali Billen portrait

Magali I. Billen
GeophysicsStructural Geology and Tectonics
office: 2129 Earth and Physical Sciences
phone: (530) 752-4169

Magali BIllen. Geophysics; subduction zone dynamics; deformation and rheology of the lithosphere and upper mantle; effects of water and melt on viscosity; plate tectonics. Recent projects include the effect of overriding plate structure on slab dip, rifting of volcanic arcs, time-dependent thermal structure of the slab and mantle wedge, effect of phase transitions on slab deformation, subduction of oceanic plateaus, and the relationship between the stress-state in slabs and deep earthquakes.

Eric Cowgill portrait

Eric S. Cowgill
Structural Geology and TectonicsEarth-Surface Processes
office: 3121 Earth and Physical Sciences
phone: (530) 754-6574

Eric Cowgill. Structural geology and tectonics; primarily interested in understanding regional deformation within active continental collision zones. Emphasis on the evolution of orogen-scale fault systems and their interactions. Current projects include determining the regional kinematics of active deformation within the Arabia-Eurasia collision zone and the tectonic evolution of the northern Tibetan Plateau.

Louise Kellogg. Her research group combines geodetic measurements with numerical modeling of deformation in the crust to understand the way faults behave and how they interact. Current focus is on the deformation in Southern California associated with the San Andreas, Garlock and White Wolf faults, and the active tectonics of the Transverse ranges.

Michael Oskin portrait

Michael E. Oskin
Structural Geology and Tectonics; Earth-Surface Processes
office: 3123 Earth and Physical Sciences
phone: (530) 752-3993

Michael Oskin. As a structural geologist and geomorphologist, I specialize in active crustal deformation and its relationships to surface processes and topography. My research program addresses three themes:

  1. Quantifying variation of deformation rates and their relationship to earthquakes.
  2. Constraining the forces and processes that govern continental deformation.
  3. Predicting topographic responses to the growth of geologic structures.

These themes build toward a common framework for understanding active crustal deformation and its expression in landscapes. The first two research themes differ largely by time scale, with the first focused on short-term deformation processes over one or more earthquake cycles, and the second concerned with longer-term accumulated deformation and time-averaged processes. The third theme includes the development of new tools to quantify deformation from topography. I also pursue the inverse problem of quantifying surface processes from geomorphic responses to crustal deformation.

Nicholas Pinter. My research focuses on earth-surface processes (geomorphology) applied to a broad range of problems. Much recent work involves rivers, fluvial geomorphology, flood hydrology, floodplains, and watersheds. My research group applies fluvial geomorphology, hydrologic and statistical tools, hydraulic modeling, and other approaches to assess river dynamics and flood hazards. Although much current research focuses on rivers, I continue to work on a broad range of processes that shape the earth surface and operate, in particular, over anthropogenic time scales (yes, the "Anthropocene"). One pressing human application is for managing risk from natural hazards, and my group has worked extensively on quantifying those risks, guiding mitigation and other solutions, and providing a scientific basis for sound natural-hazards public policy.

Faculty Emeriti

Scientists & Academic Federation Members


Donna Eberhart-Phillips
GeophysicsStructural Geology and Tectonics
office: 2209 Earth and Physical Sciences
phone: (530) 752-0350

Donna Eberhart-Phillips. Modelling of three-dimensional seismic velocity structure and material properties; and seismotectonic analysis of active deformation. Motivated to integrate 3-D velocity and attenuation models with other geophysics and to use 3-D velocity models to understand the effects of heterogeneous material properties, to extend beyond simply interpreting crustal structure. Current research efforts have focused on New Zealand and Alaska, with emphasis on understanding subduction processes and the transition from subduction to collision. Recent work with imaging 3D attenuation structure is valuable for interpreting tectonic processes that involve fluids, and also has application to engineering response spectra.

John Naliboff portrait

John Naliboff
Geophysics; Structural Geology and Tectonics
office: 1227 Mathematical Sciences Building

John Naliboff. Computational geodynamics, geophysics, tectonics and structural geology. My research focuses on determining the relative influence of plate driving forces and lithospheric rheology on tectonic deformation patterns over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. To investigate the origins of observed deformation patterns, I use forward modeling of lithospheric and mantle convection processes to constrain existing or newly obtained structural and geophysical observations. Active projects include investigations of the global lithospheric stress field, outer rise deformation in the Tonga subduction system and continental extension in the North Atlantic and Gulf of California. I am also beginning projects associated with the development and testing of long-term tectonics software capable of simulating high-resolution, 3-D lithospheric deformation processes.

M. Burak Yikilmaz. Assistant Research Scientist. My research interests include fault interaction and crustal deformation using geodetic data and numerical simulations. I am also interested in 2D/3D data visualization and low cost virtual reality systems. I am currently working with informal science education centers on an NSF funded project to improve STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education by providing 3D visualizations of the major lakes and reservoirs of the world to enhance public awareness and increase understanding and stewardship of freshwater lake ecosystems, habitats, and earth science processes.