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21-39. Building a bridge across laboratory and field scales to explore induced seismicity and earthquake physics


Closing Date: November 1, 2022

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.

Please communicate with individual Research Advisor(s) on the right to discuss project ideas and answer specific questions about the Research Opportunity.

How to Apply


Industrial activities that produce or inject fluids into the subsurface such as geothermal energy production, geologic carbon sequestration, oil and gas production, and wastewater disposal can trigger earthquakes by modifying fluid pressures and stresses along pre-existing faults in the subsurface. Recent increases in induced seismicity due to wastewater disposal, the ongoing expansion of enhanced geothermal systems as a source for renewable energy, and the need to capture and store CO2 to address the climate crisis motivate work to determine the factors controlling induced seismicity and potential mitigation measures. Understanding the hazards posed by induced earthquakes is a key component of the Earthquake Hazards Program of the USGS. 

Induced earthquake sequences can be viewed as large-scale experiments that probe the processes responsible for initiation and arrest of earthquake ruptures as well as other phenomena related to earthquake physics. However, it can be difficult to infer the specific conditions and physical processes that control the occurrence and recurrence of induced earthquakes from field-scale data alone. Laboratory experiments that investigate the frictional behavior of faults under a range of conditions provide critical data to address these questions. By combining laboratory studies with field-scale observations of fault deformation and slip, we can better understand the physical conditions that lead to induced seismicity. 

The purpose of this Mendenhall Fellowship Research Opportunity is to advance our understanding of the conditions that control the occurrence (or absence) of induced seismicity, as well as earthquake physics more broadly. With the wealth of data available from existing enhanced geothermal systems, geologic carbon sequestration, and disposal projects, and new opportunities to expand these datasets, we seek a Fellow interested in linking laboratory studies to field-scale seismic and/or geodetic datasets. The candidate could explore a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:  

  • Rates and mechanisms of fault restrengthening 

  • Fluid-rock interactions and the effect of temperature, stress, or fluid and rock composition 

  • Influence of fluid pressure and stress conditions on slip behavior and earthquake source properties (e.g., stress drop, rupture speed, seismic/aseismic slip distribution) 

  • Role of aseismic slip in promoting or discouraging seismicity 

  • Pore pressure and stress change effects that may be observable at field-scales (e.g., wavespeed, attenuation, shear wave splitting)    

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas. 

Proposed Duty Station(s):  Moffett Field, California; Pasadena, California 

Areas of PhD: Geophysics, geology, seismology, civil and mechanical engineering, material sciences, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered). 

Qualifications: Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications:  Research Geologist, Research Geophysicist, Research Hydrologist, Research Petroleum Engineer, Research Physicist, Research Geodesist, Research Engineer, Research Environmental Engineer.  

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact:  Paj Shua Cha, 650-439-2455,

Apply Here