Whitney Behr is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at JSG.  Whitney completed her Bachelor’s degree at California State University Northridge in 2006 and her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 2011. She then spent 11 months at Brown University as a Postdoctoral Fellow before joining the Jackson School in August, 2012.  Whitney’s research incorporates a variety of field, analytical and experimental techniques all aimed toward understanding continental deformation in both active and ancient orogenic systems. Whitney welcomes the opportunity to develop new projects and collaborations and is always enthusiastic to talk to prospective students.  Click here to view Whitney’s CV.




Postdoctoral Fellows

IMG_0040.JPGNick Dygert is a Jackson School Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow working with Professors Whitney Behr and Marc Hesse. Nick earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Rochester and his PhD at Brown University. His research focuses on understanding the physical and chemical evolution of the terrestrial and lunar mantles using experiments, numerical models, and field studies. Subjects of active research include an experimental study of the rheology of ilmenite and ilmenite-bearing aggregates, characterization of the thermal history of the upper mantle and the geological processes that affect it, and trace element geochemical investigations into lunar cumulate mantle overturn, melt migration in the mantle, and other dynamic processes in planetary interiors

Current Students

Peter Gold is a Ph.D. Candidate whose research interests include neotectonics and tectonic geomorphology. His M.S. research involved the use of terrestrial lidar and immersive virtual reality visualization and analysis methods to better understand the character of both coseismic and long term fault slip from measurements of recent earthquake ruptures along the Dixie Valley (US) and Borrego (Mexico) faults.  Peter’s research with Dr. Behr at UT Austin focuses on combining 10Be cosmogenic nuclide and pedogenic carbonate geochronology with lidar-based surface analyses of offset alluvial fans in order to quantify fault displacement rates along several strands of the southern San Andreas fault system in both southern California and Baja California, Mexico.




Rachel Bernard is a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. at the Jackson School of Geosciences. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 2009, and then spent two years working for Schlumberger Oilfield Services as a field engineer. Rachel then worked at the National Science Foundation for two years before beginning her graduate studies at UT Austin in August, 2013. Rachel’s research with Dr. Behr focuses on the present-day rheology of the lithospheric mantle beneath the Mojave region and the controls on lattice preferred orientation in natural deformed mantle rocks.


Pamela Speciale is a Ph.D. student whose research interests include paleopiezometry, rock mechanics and strain localization in the lithospheric mantle.  She is examining stress–grainsize relationships in feldspar and orthopyroxene in naturally deformed rocks, in an effort to test experimental extrapolations of these relationships to estimating stress in the lithosphere.  She is also exploring the mechanisms and longevity of strain localization in the lithospheric mantle through experimental deformation of dry olivine aggregates.



Alissa Kotowski is pursuing her Ph.D. at the Jackson School of Geosciences, working with Whitney Behr and Danny Stockli.  Alissa graduated from Boston College in 2014; during her time there she participated in a student exchange program to Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Her broad interests encompass tectonic processes and metamorphic petrology. Alissa’s research will focus on the structural and rheological evolution of high pressure rocks during subduction from Syros, Greece.


Emilie Gentry is an undergraduate in the Jackson School’s Honors Research Program working on a thesis project with Dr. Behr.  Emilie’s research focuses on the diverse habitat and morphologies of pseudotachylites in the Whipple Mountains of southeastern California.  Characterizing the fault rocks near the Whipple detachment fault will allow Emilie to determine whether it and/or other low-angle normal faults within the Whipple system were seismically active.


Taylor Canada is an undergraduate in the Jackson School’s Honors Research Program working on a senior thesis with Whitney Behr.  Taylor is evaluating the application of the titanium-in-quartz (TitaniQ) geothermobarometer to metamorphic rocks in the Santa Rosa Mylonite Zone in southern California. The project will investigate two poorly understood aspects of the technique: the effect of pressure on titanium concentration and how deformation affects titanium re-equilibration. Upon graduation, Taylor plans to pursue a graduate degree in the geosciences.







Former Students

Kory Kirchner completed a Master’s degree under Dr. Behr’s supervision in 2014 on dating high pressure metamorphic rocks exposed in the Betic Cordillera of southern Spain. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University in 2012.  Check out Kory’s blog here.






Aaron Salin recently graduated (2014) from the Jackson School’s Honors Research Program.  Aaron worked with Whitney on a senior thesis project in active tectonics, using a variety of remote sensing data and field structural observations to examine the partitioning of slip along the Mission Creek and Banning strands of the southern San Andreas fault in the Indio Hills in California.  Aaron is now a research intern in Paleoseismology at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.



Colleagues and Collaborators

Jaime Barnes (UT Austin)

Alejandro Hinojosa Corona (CISESE, Ensenada, ME)

John Fletcher (CISESE, Ensenada, ME)

Mark Helper (UT Austin)

Greg Hirth (Brown University)

Rick Hervig (Arizona State University)

Staci Loewy (UT Austin)

John Platt (University of Southern California)

Tom Rockwell (San Diego State University)

Jose Romo (CISESE, Ensenada, ME)

Dylan Rood (Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre)

Warren Sharp (Berkeley Geochronology Center)

Doug Smith (UT Austin)

Danny Stockli (UT Austin)