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The Colorado River system and its tributaries serves as a unique opportunity to explore how fluvial erosion and structure interact in an arid environment. Our work focuses on the history of the Colorado Plateau itself as well as how the Plateau can be used as a natural laboratory for understanding the development of drainage networks in bedrock-erosive landscapes. This includes both timing and rates of fluvial incision in addition to the processes which control drainage initiation on dipping surfaces.

Fault scarps – topographic steps created at the Earth’s surface – are evidence of past displacement or aseismic motion along faults. We detect scarps and measure the height and relative ages of scarp-like landforms using a distributed template matching algorithm applied to large digital topographic datasets.

Geologic and geodetic measurements of deformation record the behavior of fault zones in Earth’s crust to far-field loading on vastly different timescales. We hypothesize that differences between geologically and geodetically measured crustal displacements may reflect the constitutive laws in operation over these different timescales. While geodetic measurements capture interseismic elastic bending in response to far-field loading, geologic observations of deformation record the accrued effect of the relaxation of these stresses by yielding.

We are investigating the linkages between lithology, weathering and the form of soil mantled topographies. In particular we seek to understand 1) if lithologic variations are expressed in the form of hillslopes and 2) if weathering of poorly consolidated rocks can increase the erosional resistance of materials exposed at earth’s surface. This study utilizes field observations and measurements, numerical modelling, and high resolution topographic data with a focus on the Gabilan Mesa, a location that previous studies have utilized as an ideal soil mantled landscape.

By pairing geomorphic mapping with topographic analysis in locations with unique or quantifiable tectonic histories we are able to gain insight into the relationships between erosional processes and topographic growth.