Structural Geology/Lithospheric Geodynamics

Structural Geology and Tectonics draws on all geoscience disciplines to address fundamental questions about plate tectonic and deformation processes. In recent years, there has been an explosion of new technologies which allow scientists to answer questions that were once beyond their reach. This research not only leads to advances in basic research, but is also relevant to society, through the exploration for natural resources and understanding of natural hazards.


Structural Geology and Tectonics research at the Jackson School spans the entire spectrum from continental to oceanic and upper crustal to mantle tectonics. Only a handful of programs in the country cover such a wide range. Researchers investigate processes at all scales using field and marine geophysical-based observations; laboratory-based petrologic, geochronological, structural and geochemical analyses; and theoretical and physical modeling.

Tectonically-focused research addresses processes at active and ancient plate boundaries. At convergent margins, research topics range from subduction zone processes to continental collision, mountain uplift, and basin evolution. Extensional tectonic processes under investigation range from continental extension in the deep to shallow crust to evolution of passive margins, spreading ridges, and oceanic crust. Other research concentrates on the evolution of transitional plate boundaries as well as transform boundaries.

Other major research areas focus on deformation processes including thin-skinned fold and thrust belt processes and associated fluid flow; formation of salients; salt tectonics; and strain partitioning in extensional and contractional shear zones. Another major research focus is on understanding fracturing, fracture processes, fractured reservoirs, and relationships to diagenesis and fluid flow.


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Faculty

Elizabeth J Catlos

Elizabeth J Catlos

Please see https://catloslab.org/
Ian W Dalziel

Ian W Dalziel

Tectonics, geodynamics, geography of ancient times, plate reconstructions, structural geology
Brian K Horton

Brian K Horton

Tectonics of sedimentary basins, evolution of orogenic systems, sediment provenance and routing systems, nonmarine depositional processes.
Luc L Lavier

Luc L Lavier

Tectonics; the structural and geodynamical evolution of continental and oceanic rifts, as well as collisional environments; numerical techniques to model tectonic processes on crustal and lithospheric scales; deformation; subduction
Craig  Martin

Craig Martin

Field-based Structural Geology; Paleomagnetism; Plate Reconstruction; U-Pb Zircon Geochronology; Orogenic Systems; Planetary Geology
Danny  Stockli

Danny Stockli

Thermo-/Geochronology, Tectonics and Structural Geology, Isotopic Provenance Analysis, Archeometry, Geothermal Exploration, and Thermal Maturation

Affiliated Faculty

Claudio  Faccenna

Claudio Faccenna

Topics: subduction tectonic and morphological evolution of convergent margin, evolution of orogenic belt and exhumation of deep metamorphic rocks, dynamic topography, trench migration and back-arc deformation, mantle convection, volcanism and fluid circulation in the crust. Tools: Structural geology and geomorphology, experimental / numerical geodynamic modelling, paleomagnetism, seismic lines interpretation. Field sites: ...

Emeriti

Mark A Helper

Mark A Helper

Dr. Helper is a field geologist, a generalist whose interests span igneous and metamorphic petrology, structural geology, tectonics, mineralogy and planetary field geology. His current research explores geochemical and isotopic similarities of Proterozoic and Archean crust in East Antarctica and the southwestern U.S., the Precambrian geology of Texas, and ...
Lawrence A Lawver

Lawrence A Lawver

Marine geophysics, plate tectonics, magnetics, gravity, heat flow, seismic studies, paleogeographic reconstructions of Gondwana, the Polar Regions, East Asia, and the Western Pacific
Sharon  Mosher

Sharon Mosher

Structural petrology, field-oriented structural geology, the evolution of complexly deformed terranes, strain analysis, deformation mechanisms, the interaction between chemical and physical processes during deformation
Douglas  Smith

Douglas Smith

Research on mantle evolution using tools of mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry.

Research Scientists

Ian J Duncan

Ian J Duncan

Expertise in geomechanic and geochemistry applied to: risks associated with CO2 sequestration; hydraulic fracturing for shale gas production; environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing; and the water-energy nexus. Current research focuses on the scientific, environmental and public policy aspects of unconventional natural gas production, the water-energy nexus, and carbon capture and ...
Kitty L Milliken

Kitty L Milliken

Petrography and geochemistry of siliciclastic rocks; diagenesis; electron microbeam methods: X-ray mapping, cathodoluminescence imaging; micro-scale reservoir characterization

Research Staff

Sara Elliott

Romy D Hanna

Romy D Hanna

carbonaceous chondrites, planetary geology, remote sensing, VISNIR and TIR spectroscopy, X-ray computed tomography (CT), electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), 3D image analysis and processing, scientific software development

Francis Peel

Salt Tectonics Gulf of Mexico Seismic Interpretation Salt Deposition RIsk and probability in exploration Fold and Thrust Belts Deepwater systems
Yujiang  Xie

Yujiang Xie

Christopher K Zahm

Christopher K Zahm

Reservoir characterization, flow modeling in fractured reservoirs, porosity-permeability evolution

Graduate Students

Taufik Al  Amin

Taufik Al Amin

My research work with Reservoir Characterization Research Laboratory (RCRL) - Bureau of Economic Geology, pertains to the examination of facies variability, mechanical stratigraphy, and their implications on the heterogeneity of natural and induced fractures in the upper Wolfcamp formation of mixed carbonate-siliciclastic fans, Permian, Delaware Basin.

William S Bailey

Amanda Z Calle

Amanda Z Calle

My research is focused on the Cenozoic sedimentary, structural and exhumational history of the Eastern Cordillera to modern Chaco foreland basin in southern Bolivia. A multidisciplinary approach of source-to-sink, geochronology, low-temperature thermochronology and structural mapping will be used. Inherited pre-Andean structures and their response to contractional settings will also be ...
Edward  Clennett

Edward Clennett

I am a fourth year PhD candidate in the geodynamics and tectonics group at UT Austin. I am interested in plate tectonic reconstructions, and how we can use geodynamic and geophysical constraints to better model past plate motion and continental deformation. Plate motion and deformation are modelled through time using ...
Ethan M Conrad

Ethan M Conrad

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences (Institute for Geophysics, UTIG & Department of Geological Sciences, DGS) advised by Profs. Claudio Faccenna (Formerly UT & Roma TRE, now GFZ Potsdam & Roma TRE), Thorsten Becker (UT - JSG: DGS & UTIG), and Daniel Stockli (UT - JSG: ...
Max Ehrenfels

Max Ehrenfels

The aim of my research is to improve established methods and develop new methods to extract thermal history information using the (U-Th)/He decay system in zircon. An initial project will produce new mineral standards to overcome analytical shortcomings in the currently used laser ablation (U-Th)/He protocol. This will ...

Ismail H Faruqi

Stephanie R Forstner

Structural geology Fluid inclusion petrography & microthermometry Geochemical fluid-rock interactions Diagenesis
Sarp  Karakaya

Sarp Karakaya

Thesis Project: Constraining and quantifying depositional controls on mixed carbonate & siliciclastic sequence stratigraphy of the Eastern Shelf of the Permian Basin and reservoir modeling using 3D seismic interpretation, well log interpretation, seismic inversion, core analysis, and machine learning applications Tasks: o Interpreted a 3D seismic volume and well logs in ...
Landon  Lockhart

Landon Lockhart

My expertise is in petrophysics and geomechanics, and I have proficiency in log-based petrophysical analysis, in laboratory measurements, and broadly in geomechanics, both in conventional and unconventional reservoirs. A key highlight of my research is the development of a model to predict pore pressure in the Permian Basin. In this ...
Joshua Malone

Joshua Malone

PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying deep-water carbonate depositional systems within the Pennsylvanian Bird Spring Formation in east-central California. My research integrates field-based sedimentologic/stratigraphic observations, 3D outcrop modeling, and provenance datasets (detrital zircon geochronology, petrography, and heavy mineral analysis) in order to understand how external ...

Nicholas J Montiel

Nicholas  Regier

Nicholas Regier

Huiwen  Sun

Huiwen Sun

My research interests lie primarily in the field of active tectonics with a focus on megathrust earthquakes. I seek to integrate geological observations, geodetic measurements, and seismological data into numerical models to better understand the behaviors of megathrust events.

Graduate and undergraduate research in geologic sequestration of CO2

Graduate
Gulf Coast Carbon Center supports a team of students and post docs working in geologic sequestration (deep subsurface long-duration storage) of the major greenhouse gas CO2, as a method to reduce release to the atmosphere. Student projects are wide ranging, from sedimentology to policy, linked in that they are 1) multidisciplinary and 2) applied to current issues. Students are typically jointly supervised by faculty in geology or petroleum geosystems engineering and staff at the GCCC. A class in geologic sequestration is offered in the fall some years.
Posted by: Susan Hovorka

Innovative Detrital Provenance Studies - Double Dating PLUS

Graduate
A major thrust of my current research the development and application of more comprehensive isotopic detrital provenance tools. U-Pb on zircon is clearly the big work horse, but only goes so far and sometimes yields "no" useful info, e.g., if the source of the sediment is mostly recycled sediment. We have extensively pursued double dating of zircons by U-Pb and He, as zircon He ages yield very interesting insights into the thermal and tectonic history of the source terrane; often yielding very different insights than crystallization ages. The combination is powerful, but I think we can take things so much farther by combining double dating with other constrains. People have tried fission track (not precise enough), Hf/Hf (to get mantle separation model ages), etc., but what we want to do and are working on is really Double Dating ++, combining zircon U-Pb-He dating with a variety of other geochemical aspects to more comprehensive understand detrital provenance and improve paleo-tectonic reconstructions. For example, trace-element thermometry (Ti in zirc), REE on zircon (met vs mag origin), Hf/Hf (see above), oxygen isotopes, etc. and also to develop rutile in an analogous manner (e.g., Zr in rut thermometry, Cr/Nb ratio (mafic vs granulitic), REE, etc.). The sky is the limit and what can learn so much. The issue in part it, how much can a single grain tell us before it's gone? The project sounds very laboratory oriented, but it's really a combination of field and lab work. We have identified a few possible case study areas, e.g., Morocco; great exposures, long-lived and preserved record of basin deposition since the Precambrian. My group is already working on some case studies in NW Himalayas, the N & S Pyrenees, the Sevier FTB, Permian Basin and other foreland basin. New projects include provenance studies along rifted and passive continental margins such the Gulf of Mexico, the central Atlantic Margins in Canada, USA, Portugal, and Morocco.
Posted by: Daniel Stockli

Research in structural geology and diagenesis

Graduate
Fundamental and applied research on fractures, particularly as these studies apply to petroleum reservoirs, is conducted under the auspices of the Fracture Research and Application Consortium at The University of Texas at Austin. The academic program of research, mentoring and teaching is led by staff of the Bureau of Economic Geology, the Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering and the Department of Geological Sciences. Students in the Energy & Earth Resources Graduate Program also participate in FRAC sponsored research projects. For further information on opportunities for fracture studies within the program see the FRAC pages on opportunities in Geology, Petroleum Engineering, Geophysics, and Energy Economics. FRAC welcomes Visiting Scientists from industry and from other academic institutions. Contact Steve Laubach for more information about these opportunities. A key part of the FRAC academic program is the Structural Diagenesis Initiative, a new teaching and mentoring perspective on interacting mechanical and chemical processes at high crustal levels in the Earth. For more information on the initiative see the Structural Diagenesis Initiative web site. If you are a prospective student, please see the admissions information on the Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering or Jackson School of Geosciences web sites.
Posted by: Stephen Laubach

High Resolution 3D marine seismic for fluid studies

Graduate
Opportunities exist to become involved in the design, acquisition, processing, and interpretation of high-resolution 3D marine seismic data. Current applications include characterization for subsurface storage of carbon dioxide and natural fluid migration studies. We anticipate development into imaging modern systems as reservoir analogs.
Posted by: Tip Meckel

Laser ablation (U-Th)/He and 4He/3He dating of zircon and apatite

Graduate
Seeking motivated Ph.D. students interested in noble gas geo-thermochronology and geochemistry to pursue project in method development and application of laser ablation (U-Th)/He dating and depth profile 4He/3He thermochronometry of zircon and apatite. Our laboratory has a dedicated noble gas extraction line with a SFT magnetic sector noble gas mass spectrometer and dedicated Excimer Laser. The lab also houses two Element2 magnetic sector single collector ICP-MS instruments with a second Excimer laser as well as a state-of-the-art Bruker optical interferometric microscope. The project will develop laser ablation methodology to recover detailed thermal histories from apatite and zircon by laser ablation (U-Th)/He and 4He/3He dating as well as comparison to step-heating fractional loss experiments.
Posted by: Daniel Stockli

LA-ICP-MS single-pule U-Pb depth profiling recovery of thermal histories

Graduate
Seeking motivated Ph.D. students interested in in-situ geochronology to pursue project in method development and application of laser ablation continuous mode or single-pulse U-Pb LA-ICP-MS geo-thermochronology as well as trace element speedometry to constrain thermal history or lower and middle crustal rocks. The UTChron Geo- and Thermochronometry laboratory houses two Element2 magnetic sector single collector ICP-MS instruments with a large-volume cell Excimer laser system, ideally suited for depth profiling and U-Pb and trace element split stream analysis. The laboratory also houses a Bruker optical interferometric microscope to control laser ablation rates as well as a Raman system. The focus of applications is on method development and application to the exhumation of middle and lower crustal rocks in rifted margin settings.
Posted by: Daniel Stockli

PhD/MS opportunities

Graduate
My group welcomes new students with strong motivations on understanding how solid Earth and planets operate and its impacts on shaping habitable surface environments. Prospective students are expected to have a STEM background. If these describe you, feel free to contact me through email for position openings in my group.
Posted by: Chenguang Sun

Ph.D. Project Greece - Petrochronology and tectonic evolution of the Cycladic Blueschist Complex (University of Texas at Austin)

Graduate - 4-5 years
Ph.D. project available in the Stockli Research Group and UTChron Laboratory of the Dept of Earth and Planetary Sciences (https://eps.jsg.utexas.edu/) at the Jackson School of Geosciences (https://www.jsg.utexas.edu/) of The University of Texas at Austin. The project focuses on the tectonic and metamorphic evolution of the Cycladic Blueschist Complex in central and northern Greece to constrain the tectonic and metamorphic evolution of one of the world's best-exposed subduction complexes. The project entails field mapping and structural analysis with strong emphasis on accessory mineral (zircon, apatite, titanite) LA-ICP-MS petrochronology, microanalytical mineral imaging and elemental and isotopic mapping, and low-temperature (U-Th)/He thermochronometry of the Cycladic Blueschist Complex in central and north-eastern Greece with the goal of constraining the pre-subduction, subduction, and exhumation history of Cycladic blueschists and understanding subduction underplating within the Hellenic subduction complex. The project is a collaboration with the University of Athens (Prof. Soukis) and we are seek an outstanding, motivated, and independent PhD student with interested in combining field and cutting-edge laboratory work. Interested candidates should contact Dr. Daniel Stockli with any inquiries and questions regarding the project or application procedures. For more information regarding the Stockli Research Group (https://www.jsg.utexas.edu/stockli-group/), the UTChron Laboratory (https://www.jsg.utexas.edu/utchron-lab/) please see these website links. Applications are due January 1, 2024, and information about applying to our program is online using the online application from the Graduate School of the University of Texas at Austin. Applications must be complete in the Graduate and International Admissions Center (GIAC) by the appropriate deadline. ALL ITEMS must be received by the deadline. We no longer require submission of a GRE score for the application for the Fall of 2024, however, international applicants do require submission of TOEFL scores. For general admissions questions, please see https://www.jsg.utexas.edu/education/graduate/admissions/ The University of Texas at Austin is one of the most diverse campuses in the nation. With nearly 52,000 students from all 50 states and 123 countries, we take seriously our motto: What Starts Here Changes the World. We boast 18 colleges and schools with over 300 degree programs, representing a diversity of thought and scholarship that is staggering. The Dept. of Geological Sciences at UT seeks to foster an environment where faculty, students, and staff feel valued and welcome.
Posted by: Daniel Stockli

Graduate opportunities at OCEEMlab

Graduate - Five years
OCEEMlab welcomes future graduate students of high caliber who are passionate about exploring new frontiers in Ocean and Earth science. At OCEEMlab, we study lithosphere-biosphere dynamic processes and complex systems using a combination of fieldwork, advanced computational modeling, and integrative data science. We seek candidates with solid foundations in natural sciences and programming skills. We are especially interested in bringing on board individuals with interdisciplinary knowledge who are highly motivated in weaving disciplines such as geophysics, geology, oceanography, geochemistry, and environmental molecular biology to address contemporary challenging research questions. Most importantly, in the core values of OCEEMlab lies courtesy to one another, encouraging natural curiosity, and cohesive teamwork; As a team, we can achieve far more than individuals. In addition, we firmly believe that groundbreaking discoveries are accomplished by walking on the fringes of science rather than at the center. Thus, we encourage unorthodox genuine thinkers to join our team and help us stretch the envelope of human knowledge a tiny bit further.
Posted by: Eric Attias

Postdocs opportunities at OCEEMlab

Graduate - Two years
OCEEMlab welcomes applicants via UTIG's Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellows Program. At OCEEMlab, we study lithosphere-biosphere dynamic processes and complex systems using a combination of fieldwork, advanced computational modeling, and integrative data science. We are especially interested in bringing on board individuals with interdisciplinary knowledge who are highly motivated in weaving disciplines such as geophysics, geology, oceanography, geochemistry, and environmental molecular biology to address contemporary challenging research questions. Contact Dr. Attias for further information.
Posted by: Eric Attias

Geomechanics and Geofluids Research Jobs for Undergrads

Undergraduate
Do you want to study the Earth while learning the ins-and-outs of cutting-edge laboratory equipment, from maintenance to experiment design? UT GeoMechanics and GeoFluids investigates fluid flow and deformation in Earth materials using lab experiments, field work, and computer modeling. We seek hard-working and detail-oriented students with a passion for learning. You will assist with ongoing projects: offshoots could lead to your senior thesis. Tasks will include everything from the routine to the experimentally complex. You will work independently or with staff and researchers on experimental setup, equipment maintenance, laboratory clean up, sample preparation, data analysis, and a host of other tasks. For more information contact Josh O'Connell. Learn more about our research projects at UT GeoMechanics and GeoFluids.
Posted by: Peter Flemings

Mantle and Fault System Dynamics Graduate Research

Graduate
The UT Geodynamics Team is always looking for motivated graduate and undergraduate students. The University of Texas at Austin hosts an exciting and diverse community of researchers at the Jackson School of Geoscience, which includes the UTIG and DGS units with which I am affiliated. At UT, we are colocated and collaborate with a number of others, including at the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. We are always looking for motivated students with a keen interest and solid background in the Earth sciences, physics, engineering, or computer science. Please take a look at some of our recent publications to give you an idea of current projects, but I like to work with students who think and work independently and challenge and extend my expertise and interests. Please consider applying for our program should you be interested in pursuing a PhD in my research group, and see the JSG pages for admission procedures. The (important) Fellowship deadline is December 1 each year. If you think this could be a match, please do reach out by email.
Posted by: Thorsten Becker

Center for Planetary Systems Habitability

The Center for Planetary Systems Habitability is an interdisciplinary research center at UT and is the result of a partnership between the Jackson School, the College of Natural Sciences, and the Cockrell School of Engineering. The center advances our ability to search for life on other planets by collaborating on research that helps better understand where habitable zones develop and how they evolve within planetary systems.

Fracture Research and Application Consortium

The Fracture Research and Application Consortium (FRAC) is an alliance of scientists from the Bureau and the departments of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and Geological Sciences that seeks fundamental understanding of fractures and fracture processes dedicated to conquering the challenges of reservoir fractures.

High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility

The High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility at The University of Texas at Austin (UTCT) is a national shared multi-user facility supported by the Instrumentation and Facilities Program of NSF's Earth Sciences (EAR) directorate. UTCT offers scientific researchers across the earth, biological and engineering sciences access to a completely nondestructive technique for visualizing features in the interior of opaque solid objects, and for obtaining digital information on their 3D geometries and properties.

PLATES

A program of research into plate tectonics and geologic reconstructions, the PLATES Project is supported by an industry consortium. Our primary objectives are to model past and present plate movement, compile comprehensive databases, develop plate motion computer software and apply plate motion models.

Structural Diagenesis Initiative

Structural diagenesis is a new perspective on interaction of mechanical and chemical processes at high crustal levels in the Earth. SDI promotes the growth of this new discipline.

Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology

The mission of the Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology is to address the most important and challenging research problems in computational geophysics as experienced by the energy industry while educating the next generation of research geophysicists and computational scientists.

TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program

In the 84th Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature tasked us with helping to locate and determine the origins of earthquakes in our State, and, where they may have been caused by human activity, helping to prevent them from occurring in the future. We have established the TexNet earthquake monitoring program to accomplish these goals, and we plan to place earthquake monitoring stations across Texas to gather information about and study these events as they occur. We want to help inform Texas citizens so that they can keep their property safe from the impact of earthquakes.

Research Groups

Structural Diagenesis Initiative

Posted by Stephen E Laubach
Cover art for books Posted by Peter Eichhubl
Field trip to Valley of Fire (NV), San Rafael Swell (UT), and Moab (UT) in October 2014, sponsored by a grant by the GDL Foundation. Team: Peter Eichhubl (instructor), Jon Major (co-leader), Sara Elliott (co-leader), Andras Fall, Chris Landry, Zhiqiang Fan, Nike Tokan-Laval, Casey O'Brien, Erick Wright, Mint Doungkaew, Peter Laciano.