My research interests in Death Valley emphasize the evolution of a few specific extensional fault zones and their tectonic implications. The Black Mountains, on the east side of Death Valley, offer an unparalled opportunity for this work because they contain beautifully exposed zones which have evolved through the brittle-ductile transition. These zones include the three turtleback faults and perhaps parts of the so-called Amargosa fault.
Because of the incredible rock exposures in Death Valley, there are also great opportunities to study fault rocks. Click here to link to information on fault gouge in Death Valley.
I am also trying to understand the pre-extensional history of the Black Mountains. Presently, we can find thrust faults and folds in all the ranges of Death Valley except for the Black Mountains. I think the reason we can't find those structures is because there is very little of the Paleozoic stratigraphy preserved in the Black Mountains. However, Richard Friedman (U of British Columbia) and I recently found evidence for ductile fabrics which probably represent Mesozoic contraction. That article appears in the January, 1999 issue of Geology. Click here to read the abstract.
There is a lot of work that can be done on either extensional or contractional deformation in Death Valley. Not only that, but Death Valley's a great place! I'm always looking for highly motivated students to work on projects at either the MS level.
Click here for some photos of Death Valley.
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