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.
Faculty & Research Scientists
Adjunct/Emeritus Facultyâ€‹ & Research Scientists
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 PLUSGraduate
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
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
General Opportunities in Field and Laboratory Based StudiesGraduate or Undergraduate
My position does not permit sole supervision of graduate student theses, but I co-supervise or serve on graduate student theses committees, particularly those involving aspects of GIS, GPS, structural geology, tectonics and petrology/mineralogy. I have supervised several undergraduate student honors thesis, both lab- and field-based, and look forward to continuing to do so.
Posted by: Mark Helper
High Resolution 3D marine seismic for fluid studiesGraduate
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 apatiteGraduate
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 historiesGraduate
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
Lab AssistantGraduate or Undergraduate
Laboratory Assistants typically work in 3-5 hour blocks, helping researchers collect and process data on all techniques across the lab, as well as occasionally perform some of the few routine lab activities like carbon or gold coating, touch-up polishing, and billing.
Posted by: Phil Orlandini
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.
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.
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.
The George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) is a national, networked, simulation resource that includes geographically-distributed, shared-use, next-generation experimental research Equipment Sites built and operated to advance earthquake engineering research and education through collaborative and integrated experimentation, theory, data archiving, and model-based simulation. The goal of NEES is to accelerate progress in earthquake engineering research and to improve the seismic design and performance of civil and mechanical infrastructure systems through the integration of people, ideas, and tools in a collaboratory environment. Open access to and use of NEES research facilities and data by all elements of the earthquake engineering community, including researchers, educators, students, practitioners, and information technology experts, is a key element of this goal.
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 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.
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.
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.
Affiliated UT Programs & Centers
CFSES is one of only two centers out of 46 EFRCs with focus on subsurface energy. Our goal is a scientific understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological subsurface processes from the very small scale to the very large scale so that we can predict the behavior of CO2 and other byproducts of the energy production that may need to be stored in the subsurface. At this aim, we need to integrate and expand our knowledge of subsurface phenomena across scientific disciplines using both experimental and modeling methodologies to better understand and quantify the behavior at conditions far from equilibrium. The unique aspect of our research is the approach of the uncertainty and of the complexity of the fluids in the geologic media from the molecular scale to the basin scale and their integration in computational tools to better predict the long term behavior of subsurface energy byproduct storage.
Book covers (Laubach)Posted by Stephen E Laubach
Cover art for books
Brittle structures, fluid flow, and diagenesis: Valley of Fire to Moab, October 2014Posted 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.