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GEOFLUIDS RESEARCH AT PENN STATE

Much of my research lies at the exciting crossroads between geohydrology, active tectonics, fault mechanics, and structural geology. My group’s research focuses on quantifying the relationships between fluid flow, mechanics and deformation, solute transport, and heat transport in a range of geologic settings.

Specifically, my group's work centers on two basic themes: (1) understanding factors that control the distribution and magnitude of fluid pressure, particularly at active plate boundaries, and (2) constraining the flow pathways and fluid budgets in these dynamic hydrologic and tectonic settings. Our studies address fundamental problems in the geosciences, such as understanding the role of fluids in earthquakes, faulting, and heat transport, and quantifying the nature and timing of fluid flow, which ultimately affects processes ranging from fault healing between earthquakes to the sustenance of biological communities at the seafloor. This research presents a unique opportunity to integrate field data collection, laboratory experiments, and computer modeling, and for exciting collaboration with colleagues in the fields of geochemistry, structural geology, tectonics, and hydrology. Some of the best natural laboratories for this work are subduction zones and transform systems like the San Andreas Fault.

As part of my research, I have also been heavily involved in the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) – now known as the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). I am currently part of the leadership team for NanTroSEIZE, a series of drilling expeditions aimed at understanding subduction earthquakes and tectonics offshore SW Japan through sampling materials from within and surrounding major fault zones, making direct measurements of in situ conditions, and installing long-term observatories to record hydrologic and seismological processes. This ambitious program will drill several boreholes penetrating the plate boundary fault system at several depths, including a deep borehole to sample and instrument the subduction megathrust at a depth of 6.2 km.

We have several funded projects for research on the general topics listed below. Click the links to learn more about our work and about opportunities to join our group.

 

 

Subduction Zone Tectonics & Fault Mechanics

Our studies of subduction zone tectonics, faulting, and earthquake behavior include numerical modeling studies of fluid flow, participation in NanTroSEIZE (a major scientific Ocean Drilling field Program), work on a 3-D seismic reflection survey, and laboratory experiments to measure permeability and geotechnical properties of sediment.

Fluids and the San Andreas Fault

Our work on the San Andreas Fault system focuses on three main topics. First, we are using a combination of numerical modeling and analysis of heat flow data to understand the thermal state of the crust and to constrain mechanisms of heat transport in the vicinity of the fault. Second, we are investigating hypothesized mechanisms for generation of elevated fluid pressures within the fault zone and surrounding crust, as one possible explanation for a mechanically weak fault. Third, we are conducting a suite of laboratory measurements to characterize the frictional and hydrologic properties of material sampled from outcrop and the SAFOD borehole. Lower panel after Guzofski & Furlong (2002).

Regional Hydrogeology

Our studies of regional hydrogeology include investigating the fate and transport of waters co-produced with coal bed methane, detailed study of hydraulic properties and recharge in a fractured regional aquifer system, and laboratory measurements of permeability reduction caused by deformation bands in porous sandstone aquifers and reservoirs.

Rock & Sediment Mechanics Lab

As part of our research, we maintain a state-of-the-art sediment mechanics laboratory, which hosts several high-pressure consolidation and triaxial testing systems equipped for permeability and deformation studies. This facility is an integral part of our work on subduction zone systems, the San Andreas fault, and aquifer characterization.

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