Department of Earth SciencesWestern Science

Tectonic Processes and Natural Hazards

Research in Tectonic Processes and Natural Hazards focuses on integrating field investigations, laboratory analysis, and computational modeling to tackle the problem of deformation and change in the continental lithosphere on time scales ranging from short-term earthquake events to long-term tectonic deformation processes, and for spatial scales ranging from microstructures, visible under electronic microscopes, to the tectonic, continental scales.

Primary faculty: Atkinson, Jiang, Molnar, Shcherbakov, and Tiampo

Earthquake Hazards and Ground Motions

Dr. Gail Atkinson (Research Webpage)

Gail Atkinson faults

Dr. Atkinson’s research group examines earthquake hazards and ground motions, with special emphasis on seismicity and ground motions in Eastern North America, and in the Cascadia subduction zone of British Columbia. Her Engineering Seismology Toolbox Laboratory, funded by the Canadian Foundation of Innovation, contains six SUN workstations hosting seismic data analysis software and the laboratory website, The group interacts with earthquake engineers through the NSERC-funded Canadian Seismic Risk Network. This strategic network includes dozens of researchers in earth sciences and civil engineering at universities across Canada, working towards the common goal of assessing and mitigating earthquake hazards and risk.

Dr. Atkinson also leads the POLARIS (Portable Observatories for Lithospheric Analysis and Research Investigating Seismicity) consortium, which hosts remote seismological and MT observatories throughout Canada ( Dr. Atkinson’s current research projects include: the assessment of seismic hazards and site response for Canadian cities; comparative studies of ground motions in different tectonic environments; development of ground-motion prediction equations for various regions; methods of developing earthquake time histories for use in engineering analyses; scenario ShakeMaps for emergency planning and response purposes; and investigation of induced seismicity, using a new regional monitoring network in Alberta.


Laboratory for Deformation Structures

Dr. Dazhi Jiang (Research Webpage)

We use deformation structures and fabrics preserved in rocks to unravel the tectonic evolution of orogenic belts and to constrain the long-term rheology of the continental crust. Field mapping of critical areas are combined with laboratory microstructural analysis and numerical modeling to understand the kinematics and mechanics of natural rock deformation. The Laboratory is equipped with the latest, top-end equipment for this integrated research endeavour including: