The Geology faculty at UC Davis seeks to understand and unravel the history of planet Earth through a highly integrative approach. The geology research program represents an array of strengths including in stratigraphy, structure, tectonics, petrology, and geomorphology, linked by the common threads of geologic processes in space and time that have shaped the modern Earth. Current research areas include active tectonics and earthquake geology, deformation within continental plate-boundaries, dynamics of magmatic systems, crustal evolution, sedimentary records of physio-chemical variations on land and in paleo-oceans, river dynamics, and flood hazards. Research approaches combine field data with analytical and experimental data. Cutting edge laboratories such as the experimental petrology laboratory, sedimentary geochemistry laboratory, several isotope geochemistry laboratories, and the electron microprobe laboratory support the research program in geology.


Eliot Atekwana | Professor | 530-752-3690

Eliot Atekwana is a stable isotope geochemist who addresses basic questions in hydrology, carbon cycling, and environmental change, and with teaching interests in environmental geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, and incorporating experiential learning in courses.

Kari Cooper photo portrait

Kari Cooper | Professor | 530-754-8826

Isotope and trace-element geochemistry of volcanic rocks; timescales of magma residence and differentiation; origin and distribution of geochemical heterogeneities within the mantle; timing and geochemical record of hydrothermal alteration of oceanic crust.

Eric Cowgill photo portrait

Eric Cowgill | Professor | 530-754-6574

Structural geology and tectonics; primarily interested in understanding regional deformation within active continental collision zones. Emphasis on the evolution of orogen-scale fault systems and their interactions. Current projects include determining the regional kinematics of active deformation within the Arabia-Eurasia collision zone and the tectonic evolution of the northern Tibetan Plateau.

    Isabel Montañez photo portrait

    Isabel Montañez | Distinguished Professor | 530-754-7823

    Research interests are in the sedimentary and geochemical record of variability in paleo-ocean and global atmospheric compositions, global biogeochemical cycling in marine and terrestrial records, and reconstructing paleo-Earth system processes through  field studies,  geochemical analyses, and numerical and climate modeling. Research in the laboratory broadly focuses on development, evaluation, and application of quantitative paleoclimate proxies and and proxy-model integration with their application to intervals of time characterized by major and/or abrupt climate change and ecosystem disruption.

    Mike Oskin photo portrait

    Michael Oskin | Professor | 530-752-3993

    As a structural geologist and geomorphologist, Oskin specialize in active crustal deformation and its relationships to surface processes and topography. His research program addresses three themes: 1. Deformation rates and their relationship to earthquakes; 2. Constraining the forces and processes that govern continental deformation; 3. Predicting topographic responses to the growth of geologic structures.

    Dave Osleger photo portrait

    David Osleger | Professor of Teaching | 530-754-7824

    Stratigraphy and sedimentology applied to paleoenvironments, paleoceanography and paleolimnology. Research interests include orbital stratigraphy, sea-level history, carbonate platform evolution, petrophysical heterogeneity of hydrocarbon reservoirs, lacustrine sedimentation and paleoclimatology. Current projects include the relationship between Sr isotopic content of the oceans and sea-level chronology, the global climatic significance of episodes of oceanic anoxia recorded in Cretaceous carbonates of northeastern Mexico, and the paleoclimate history of the High Sierra as deduced from Lake Tahoe sediment cores.

    Nicholas Pinter photo portrait

    Nicholas Pinter | Professor | 530-754-1041

    Pinter's research focuses on earth-surface processes (geomorphology) applied to a broad range of problems. Much recent work involves rivers, fluvial geomorphology, flood hydrology, floodplains, and watersheds. His research group applies fluvial geomorphology, hydrologic and statistical tools, hydraulic modeling, and other approaches to assess river dynamics and flood hazards. Although much current research focuses on rivers, he continues to work on a broad range of processes that shape the earth surface and operate, in particular, over anthropogenic time scales.

    Barbara Ratschbacher portrait

    Barbara Ratschbacher | Assistant Professor

    Dr. Ratschbacher’s research focuses on continental crust formation in subduction zones. In particular, she focuses on depth-dependent changes of temporal, chemical and structural crust forming processes operating throughout the arc crust.

    Dawn Sumner photo portrait

    Dawn Sumner| Professor | 530-752-5353

    Dr. Sumner reconstructs ancient environments across Earth history and on Mars.  Her lab group uses stratigraphic, sedimentological, and petrographic studies of carbonate sequences to reconstruct ancient environments and ocean chemistry to better understand microbial life on Earth.  They use the Mars Science Laboratory to develop environmental and stratigraphic models for strata in Gale Crater, Mars, to understand its past habitability.  In addition, the group applies diverse techniques to understand the effects of recent climate change on photosynthetic microbial communities growing in ice-covered Antarctic lakes.

    Cathy Busby photo portrait

    Cathy J. Busby | Professor Emerita

    Busby's current research is on late Cenozoic transtensional rift tectonics and volcanology of the Sierra Nevada/Walker Lane and the Gulf of California, as well as an accreted oceanic arc terrane in Baja California, with comparisons to modern oceanic arcs. Cathy’s research is based on detailed geologic mapping of volcanic terranes, supported by petrographic, geochemical, geochronological, paleomagnetic and mineral chemistry data.

    Graham Fogg photo portrait

    Graham Fogg | Professor Emeritus | 530-752-6810

    Groundwater contaminant transport; groundwater basin characterization and management; geologic/geostatistical characterization of subsurface heterogeneity for improved pollutant transport modeling; numerical modeling of groundwater flow and contaminant transport; role of molecular diffusion in contaminant transport and remediation; long-term sustainability of regional groundwater quality; vulnerability of aquifers to non-point-source groundwater.

    Chip Lesher photo portrait

    Charles Lesher | Professor Emeritus | 530-752-9779

    Experimental igneous petrology and geochemistry; phase equilibria and kinetics of silicate systems at elevated pressure and temperature; mantle and crustal properties. Recent projects include (a) Laboratory: low to high pressure phase equilibria studies of basaltic systems; trace element partitioning; chemical and self diffusion studies of silicate melts; solution properties of silicate liquids from thermal diffusion. (b) Field: magmatic evolution of the North Atlantic Ocean basin and the evolution of the Iceland hot spot; petrologic studies of early Tertiary volcanic and plutonic rocks of East Greenland.

    Alexandra Navrotsky photo portrait

    Alexandra Navrotsky | Professor Emerita | 530-752-3292

    Research relates microscopic features of structure and bonding to macroscopic thermodynamic behavior in minerals, ceramics, and other complex materials. She has published over 500 scientific papers.

    Sarah Roeske photo portrait

    Sarah M. Roeske | Research Geologist Emerita | 530-752-4933

    Structural geology and metamorphic petrology. Combine detailed macrostructural analysis in the field with microstructural studies, metamorphic petrology, and geochronology, in order to solve tectonic problems. Current research topics include the tectonic evolution of convergent margins in Alaska and Argentina, with a focus on determining type, age and relative significance of different periods of fault movements. Related problems include uplift of high P/low T metamorphic rocks and role of strike-slip faults at convergent margins.

    Ken Verosub photo portrait

    Kenneth L. Verosub | Professor Emeritus | 530-752-6911

    For much of his career, Ken Verosub has used the magnetic properties of rocks, sediments and soils to determine the behavior of the Earth's magnetic field, the ages of sedimentary sequences, the motions of tectonic plates, and the history of the Earth's climate during the past 40 million years. In addition to on-going paleomagnetic and environmental magnetic studies, he is working on volcanic eruptions that have caused global cooling, seismic risk and subsidence problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the identification of deep groundwater aquifers and the determination of river flows directly from geospatial imagery.

    Rob Zierenberg photo portrait

    Robert A. Zierenberg | Professor Emeritus | 530-752-1863

    Aqueous geochemistry; stable isotope geochemistry; economic geology. Research has focused on water/rock interaction in active and ancient hydrothermal systems, including the "black smokers" on the mid-ocean ridges. Research topics include the geology and geochemistry of sulfide deposits and hydrothermal alteration in seafloor hydrothermal systems and on-land analogs.