Graduate Study Opportunites: Crustal Deformation

Would you like to work in this field area?

Opportunities are now available for graduate study in the new and growing field of crustal deformation. Our group uses precise geodetic and other techniques to study the motions and deformation of the solid earth: plate motions, deformation due to active faulting and earthquakes, and deformation associated with active volcanoes. Opportunities are available for one or more new graduate students for admission in or prior to Fall 1997, and more opportunities will be open in the future.

What kind of work do we do?
Current Projects
What is it like to live in Fairbanks, Alaska?
Application information
How to contact me

What kind of work do we do?

The earth's crust is constantly in motion. My research focuses on making measurements of active motions and deformations of the crust, and in relating those measurements to their source processes. We use geodetic techniques for this work, mainly a satellite-based positioning system called the Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS is an amazing tool which lets us study all sorts of tectonic processes ranging from global plate motions to deformation associated with individual fault zones. In essence, we measure crustal motion by making ver precise measurements of the positions of sites, and then repeating those measurements over a period of years. When we start to study a new area where no data was ever taken before, we get a hint of what is going on after one year, a fairly good idea after two, and a really precise measurement after 3-4 years. How soon results are significant depends on the rate of the process we are trying to measure. Also, in quite a few places there is some pre-exisiting data which allows us to get interestig results without waiting for years.

We do a lot of fieldwork. Every summer there will be opportunities to travel to various parts of Alaska and other places with a GPS receiver. Although we always work hard in the field, there is always some time to enjoy the places and the scenery. In addition to fieldwork there is data analysis and modeling in the office. GPS data analysis is getting easier all the time, and students here get plenty of expert guidance to help them learn.

We also are starting to work with another new technique, Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (INSAR). INSAR uses multiple passes of a satellite-borne radar to measure topography and deformation. This technique has a lot of promise, especially for measuring deformation which occurs rapidly, due to earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. It is less clear whether it will be useful in general for slow deformation of the earth, but in certain enviroments (deserts, for example) it has already been used to measure such motions.

The scientific payoff comes in using these measurements to learn something about processes going on in the earth. We are studying faults which are capable of causing major earthquakes, such as the San Andreas fault in northern California. We are also studying various parts of the Pacific-North America plate boundary zone in Alaska, the India-Eurasia plate boundary zone in Tibet and nearby parts of China, and the Nazca-South America-Caribbean plate boundary zone in Colombia and Ecuador.

Another emerging use of GPS is for sensing atmospheric water vapor.

Current Projects

A brief list of our active and proposed projects is given below. The hyperlinks will take you to pages which describe the projects in more detail. These should give you a feel for the kind of work we do. Please note that several of these pages are most definitely under construction. Please feel free to contact me directly if a project seems interesting but the details on the Web are skimpy.

What is it like to live in Fairbanks, Alaska?

I grew up in southern California, and have lived in California, Hawaii and South Carolina. All of those places have something in common: they are hot places! Alaska is not, so how do I like it? Well, I have found it surprisingly nice. When I came up here, I knew I would like my job but I didn't know if I would like Alaska, but I found that this is a really nice place to live. I have found that I like it, and don't really mind the winter. There is a LOT of outdoors in Alaska, and wilderness is not far from your home. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound, plus hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, etc.

Fairbanks is a small town, with a nominal population of 40,000 or so, and maybe 75,000 in the area (within say 1 hour's drive). The population is an interesting mix of University, military, government employees, and bush rats. Plus a few drunks (we just voted to move the bar closing hours up to 3:30 am from 5:00 am). We have all of the major elements of American civilization, and if you want to see a city, Anchorage is just a 45 minute flight or 7 hour drive away (or 12 hours on the Alaska Railroad through Denali National Park and other scenic spots).

Summers are short and frenzied. It never gets dark between May and August, and you can find some kind of outdoor activity almost 24 hours a day. Yes, we have some bugs, but they are usually tolerable ("Off!" is the official perfume of Alaska). Spring and Fall are the most beautiful times, featuring an incredible burst of plant growth and stunning golden colors respectively. Winter is about half the year, but most people view it as an opportunity to slide around and have some fun. There are about 2 months where only the hardcore skiers will be out, but the rest of the time is great for winter sports. We have excellent cross-country skiing and a couple of downhill runs. Plus snowmachining, dog mushing, etc.

In short, if you like to be outdoors, it is hard to imagine a better place.

Application information

To apply for graduate school at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, you will need to contact the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Application information and many of the necessary application forms are available on their Web page. You can also contact the Department through their web page to request an application packet.

If you do apply for admission, please send me an email message so that I will know you saw this page, and so that I will be alerted to take special notice of your application.

How to contact me

Feel free to contact me for more information. Click on my name below to go to my personal web page, or on my email address to send me email.

Dr. Jeffrey T. Freymueller
Assistant Research Professor of Geophysics
Geophysical Institute
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320
Phone 907-474-7286
Fax 907-474-5618
Office 307C Elvey