Two Fully Funded Ph.D. Positions in Active Tectonics
and Earthquake Geology

Do you want to do field work in beautiful mountain and desert scenery? Do you love tectonics and structural geology, but crave working on structures that might generate a large-magnitude earthquake sometime next Tuesday? Interested in understanding how faults work and how plates really move past each other in time and space, and what all of that means? Then have I got a Ph.D. project for you!

Actually, I have two fully funded, field-based Ph.D. positions in Active Tectonics-Earthquake Geology available at the University of Southern California. Both of these doctoral positions are focused on generating incremental fault slip rates and paleo-earthquake age and displacement data as part of a long-term effort to understand how relative plate motion is accommodated on complex plate-boundary fault systems at scales from individual earthquakes to a few hundreds of meters of relative plate motion. The research is inherently multidisciplinary, involving everything from hard-core, boots-on-the-ground field work, to analysis of lidar data and optical image correlation studies, to collecting and preparing a variety of different types geochonologic samples, to structural geology, tectonic geomorphology, paleoseismology, fluvial and alluvial sedimentology, seismic hazard analysis, and geodynamics at scales ranging from decadal GPS to million-year plate motions constrained by paleomagnetic data. Specific topics include the past behavior of the Kekerengu-Jordan fault system, which generated most of the seismic moment released in the 2016 Mw=7.8 Kaikoura, New Zealand earthquake (Google "Seaward Kaikoura Range" for pics of your prospective field area, and yes, it really does look like that!), and the incremental behavior of the Garlock fault in southern California's Mojave Desert and interactions between the Garlock and the mechanically complementary San Andreas fault and the faults of the eastern California shear zone-Walker Lane Belt.

Earthquake Geology is fun, but it's the big picture that matters. Underlying everything my group does are twin foci - improving our ability to forecast seismic hazards, and generating the data necessary to develop a fuller understanding of how plates actually move, specifically trying to move beyond simplistic models that rely on notions of spatially and temporally constant strain accumulation and release.

I'm looking for bright, highly motivated students with excellent field and computer skills, a firm grounding in both structural geology and sedimentology/stratigraphy, and (this is exceedingly important) a good sense of humor. By that I mean someone who thinks my jokes are funny. My basic philosophy is that there's no point in doing anything unless it is scientifically interesting, societally important, and fun. Check out my personal website for more information (

If all that sounds good, I'm looking forward to hearing from you. The application deadline is January 1, 2019 for the Fall 2019 semester. However, an early start is possible if you're interested (possibly as early as Spring 2019), so please contact me as early in the process as you can.

James Dolan
Professor of Earth Sciences
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089

published: 23 October 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.