Researcher Profile

Jackson School of Geosciences

Whitney Behr

Whitney  Behr
Research Affiliate - Research Fellow, Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences

Work: +1 512 232 1941
Office: JGB 3.318
Mailcode: C9000

My research focuses on the mechanics and kinematics of deformation at plate boundaries and spans a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. I examine the geomorphic expression of young, active faults, and I study older remnants of deep-seated ductile shear zones exhumed from greater depth within the lithosphere. I apply a wide range of field, structural/microstructural, geochronologic and analytical methods. For more detail, feel free to check out the Behr Research Group web page.

Areas of Expertise

Mechanics and kinematics of deformation in continental lithosphere, rheology of the crust and upper mantle, mechanisms of strain localization, experimental rock mechanics, tectonic geomorphology and long term slip rates and hazard on large-scale strike-slip faults.

Research Locations

Current Research Programs & Projects

Long term slip-rate of the Banning strand of the southern San Andreas Fault at Devers Hill

Mechanisms and longevity of strain localization during dynamic recrystallization of olivine aggregates

Present-day rheology of the lithospheric mantle beneath the western Mojave from naturally deformed peridotite xenoliths

Structural evolution and geochronology of subduction complexes in the Betic Cordillera of southern Spain.

NSF CAREER Award - National Science Foundation (2016)

Departmental Knebel Outstanding Teach Award, UT Austin - Dept. of Geological Sciences, UT Austin (2016)

GSA Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal) - Geological Society of America (2016)

Jason Morgan Award in Tectonophysics - American Geophysical Union (2016)

Departmental Outstanding Teaching Award - Dept. of Geological Sciences, UT Austin (2015)

Subaru Outstanding Woman in Science Award - Geological Society of America (2013)

Post-doctoral Research Fellowship - Brown University (2011 - 2012)

Exploration Post-Doctoral Fellowship (declined) - Arizona State University (2011)

WISE (Women in Science or Engineering Fellowship) - University of Southern California (2010)

Oakley Fellowship - University of Southern California (2010 - 2011)

Teaching Award, Petrology - University of Southern California (2008)

Keck Fellowship - University of Southern California (2006)

Outstanding Graduating Senior, College of Math and Science - California State University Northridge (2006)

Outstanding Graduating Senior, Geology Department - California State University Northridge (2006)

L.G. Collins Scholarship - California State University Northridge (2005)

Martin Van Couvering Award - AAPG (2004)


Kyle Ashley
Kyle Ashley is a Jackson School of Geosciences Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow working with Prefessor Whitney Behr. Kyle earned his BSc at SUNY Potsdam, his MSc at the University of Vermont, and his PhD at Virginia Tech. His research is focused on the evolution of metamorphic and igneous systems, applying pseudosection analysis, petrographic assessment, geochronology, and conventional and unconventional thermobarometric techniques to unravel changes in a rock’s pressure, temperature, fluid, mineralogy and deformation across time. Lately, Kyle has been studying the theory and application of trace element thermobarometers (e.g. Ti-in-quartz), as well as making advances in utilizing included minerals in rigid hosts for thermobarometry purposes with the application of elastic theory. He is currently studying rocks from Scotland, Himalayan Mountains (India, Nepal, and Bhutan), Greece, northern Appalachians, the Adirondack Mountains, Australia, Colorado, Lesser Antilles (Caribbean), and Madagascar.

Nicholas J Dygert
Nick earned a Bachelor of Science 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. Nick has moved on to a faculty position in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee. To learn more about Nick's research, visit his professional website.

Graduate Students

Rachel Bernard , Ph.D., expected 2018 (Supervisor)
My research, under the guidance of Dr. Whitney 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. I am also very active in outreach and science communication as a student in the [link:]UT Museum Studies Graduate Portfolio Program[/link], and as a participant in the [link:]UT Scientist-in-Residence Program[/link].

Megan E Flansburg , M.S., expected 2018 (Committee Member)
I am currently pursuing my M.S. with Dr. Daniel Stockli (UT) with committee members Dr. Konstantinos Soukis (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens) and Dr. Whitney Behr (UT). My research aims to determine the structural history of Ios Island in the southern Greek Cyclades. The southern Cyclades can provide key information to understanding the development of the Aegean microplate during Cenozoic subduction of the African slab. With geo- and low-temperature thermochronometric techniques and detailed structural field observation, I will constrain the development of the Ios metamorphic core complex, namely by: 1. determining whether the initial contact between the Cycladic Basement and the structurally overlying Cycladic Blueschist Unit (CBU) was originally a thrust or if the units were juxtaposed only during Miocene low-angle normal faulting (understanding the role inherited subduction fabrics play in the initiation of low-angle normal faults) 2. placing absolute ages on the various Cycladic Basement lithologies to understand the pre-CBU and pre-Cenozoic subduction history of the southern Cyclades 3. determining the maximum depositional age of the CBU together with (2), above, to determine older over younger relationships (or vice versa) I received my B.S. from the College of William & Mary in 2015. My B.S. honors thesis was focused on the geochemical and petrographic characteristics of mafic lava flows and magmatic enclaves associated with the 18.8 Ma supereruption of the Peach Spring Tuff in northwestern Arizona. I was advised by Dr. Calvin Miller (Vanderbilt University) and Dr. Christopher Bailey (W&M).

Peter O Gold , Ph.D., expected 2017 (Supervisor)
Two primary goals motive my dissertation research. The first is to measure rates of slip and earthquake recurrence on faults within the southern San Andreas Fault system in southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico. The value of these measurements is both academic and practical – determining how slip is partitioned between multiple parallel or overlapping faults is critical for understanding strain accommodation though complex fault systems, which is in turn necessary for making well informed estimates of regional earthquake hazard. The second goal of my dissertation research concerns the interpretation of arid-region alluvial and fluvial surface ages from Quaternary geochronologic dating techniques that are critical for measuring fault slip rates. By comparing the results of independent geochronometers applied to the same surface, the potential accuracy and reliability of slip rates calculated using dates collected with only a single geochronometer can be evaluated.

Nikki M Seymour (Committee Member)
I am a structural field geologist with a particular interest in large-scale tectonics. My research uses geo- and thermochronology to understand the thermal structure and temporal evolution of rifting at magma-poor margins to answer an unresolved question in plate tectonics -- How do you break a continent?

Alissa J Kotowski (Co-supervisor)
I'm pursuing my Ph.D. at the Jackson School of Geosciences, working with Whitney Behr and Danny Stockli. I graduated from Boston College in 2014, where my undergraduate research background focused on Earthquake Migration along the North Anatolian and Alpine Faults with links to regional tectonics and structure. My broad interests encompass tectonic processes, structural geology and metamorphic petrology. My research at UT focuses on the structural and rheological evolution of high-pressure metamorphic rocks during subduction and exhumation from Syros, Greece. More broadly, I'm interested in large-scale geodynamic processes, coupling petrology and (micro) structure to understand the evolution of plate boundary systems, and the links between rock rheology and seismic processes in subduction zones.

Pamela Speciale (Supervisor)
My research interests include paleopiezometry, rock mechanics and strain localization in the lithospheric mantle. I am 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. I am also exploring the mechanisms and longevity of strain localization in the lithospheric mantle through experimental deformation of dry olivine aggregates.

Owen A Callahan (Committee Member)
I investigate fluid flow in faults and fractures, specifically the interplay between hydrothermal alteration, mechanical deformation, and conduit evolution in high temperature hydrothermal systems, using field observation, petrographic characterization, and experimental rock mechanics.

Travis Clow (Supervisor)

Juan Munoz (Supervisor)

Carolyn Tewksbury Christle (Supervisor)


2018Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2018Spring GEO 381K Tectonic Problems
2017Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2017Fall GEO 271C Conference Course
2017Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2017Spring GEO 391 Neotectonics
2016Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2016Spring GEO 394 Rsch Struct Geo/Rock Rheology
2016Spring GEO 391 Microstructures/Rock Rheology
2016Spring GEO 381K Tectonic Problems
2015Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2015Fall GEO 428 Structural Geology
2015Spring GEO 394 Rsch Struct Geo/Rock Rheology
2015Spring GEO 193 Technical Sessions
2015Spring GEO 391 Neotectonics
2014Fall GEO 394 Rsch Struct Geo/Rock Rheology
2014Fall GEO 193 Technical Sessions
2014Fall GEO 428 Structural Geology
2014Summer GEO f660B Field Geo-Tx/Nm/Co/Wy/Mt/Id/Ut
2014Spring GEO 394 Rsch Struct Geo/Rock Rheology
2014Spring GEO 391 Microstructures/Rock Rheology
2014Spring GEO 381K Tectonic Problems