Research

Earthquakes are a ubiquitous natural hazard and occur in fault zones all across the world. While areas near tectonic plate boundaries are often the most seismically active, earthquakes have long been known to occur in nominally stable continental interiors. The State of Texas has a long and rich history of earthquake occurrence, both in naturally occurring events and in earthquakes thought to be triggered by human activity like oil and gas operations. Since the mid 2000s, earthquake activity in Texas has sharply risen as unconventional hydrocarbon production techniques have proliferated.

In the Earthquake Science Lab, our research is broad in scope but focuses in particular on developing and applying new techniques to analyze large seismic datasets in order to better understand earthquake rupture processes and their links to earthquake hazards. As a group, we are broadly interested in leveraging concepts from big data and scientific machine learning to advance earthquake science. We also work alongside our colleagues at the Texas Seismological Network (TexNet) to study earthquake activity in the State of Texas.

Topics of particular interest to our group include:

  • Earthquake source properties. How do the details of the rupture process vary from earthquake to earthquake? What drives this variability, and what are the implications for hazard?
  • Earthquake nucleation and rupture dynamics. How do earthquakes get started and what causes them to arrest?
  • Stress transfer and earthquake triggering. How do earthquakes trigger one another during extended earthquake sequences? How does the build up and release of stress in the Earth’s crust influence earthquake processes?
  • Induced seismicity and hazard mitigation. How does human activity affect earthquake processes? Are there differences between natural and human induced earthquakes? What mitigation steps can be taken to limit damage potential in the surrounding communities?
  • Earthquake early warning. Can we incorporate the best available scientific knowledge to improve real-time alert systems and better serve the general public?
  • Ground motion prediction. When an earthquake occurs in a given region, how large should we expect ground motions to be? Does this depend on the details of the rupture properties, or on the fine scale Earth structure through which seismic waves are transmitted? How can new scientific insights be applied in hazard analyses?
  • Forensic seismology and nuclear monitoring. Can we use ideas and insights from seismic data analysis to study other problems of societal relevance, like monitoring for illicit activity?

Sound like fun? [It is!] If you are interested in joining our research team, prospective graduate students can find out more about the admissions process here.