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S63. Advancing understanding of plate-boundary processes using high resolution imagery and topographic analyses

We are seeking a Mendenhall Fellow to advance our ability to use high resolution topographic data, with emphasis on optical imagery, to increase understanding of natural hazards. Closing Date - April 17, 2023.

Description of the Research Opportunity

High resolution topographic data has led to advances in understanding of fault zones, earthquakes, land surface change, and crustal deformation at increasing spatial and temporal resolution. Optical imagery complements, and has potential to improve on, insights gained from repeat lidar and SAR analyses. Imagery data from QUAKES-I, Planet, Maxar, Blacksky, and small uncrewed aerial system (sUAS) deployments are now available for use in the development of tools and technology designed to fully realize the potential of these data. QUAKES-I is an airborne stereophotogrammetric imager designed to fly on NASA Gulfstream aircraft. The system consists of an 8-camera nadir array and a SAR-Fusion instrument consisting of 2 visible and 2 SWIR side-looking cameras. They are designed to co-fly with UAVSAR, and to image the same swath. The commercial satellite imagery available to federal researchers via the newly announced National Reconnaissance Office contract marks a dramatic expansion of data availability for hazard research.

We seek a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow to advance our ability to use high resolution topographic data, with emphasis on optical imagery, to increase understanding of natural hazards. The fellow’s project emphasis may involve various aspects of the full scope of the research cycle from sensor design/deployment to data processing to hypothesis-driven scientific research. For example, a fellow may work with collaborators on processing workflows for the QUAKES-I data to evaluate data usability, and to iteratively help establish best practices for mission and instrument specifications. Alternatively, or additionally, a fellow may focus on development of new derivative products and quantitative analyses to better understand plate boundary processes with an emphasis on landscape changes through time from high-resolution topographic data. Further, a project could include a significant component of open-source workflow development for a range of optical data to improve products that drive scientific discovery.

This fellow will be able to interact with personnel from NASA-JPL interested in sensor design, data processing, and applications, and researchers from the USGS and Arizona State University interested in operationalizing imagery data processing for hazard response and performing basic and applied research aimed and reducing uncertainty in hazard assessments and developing new understanding of earthquakes and other hazards. These possible emphases address three objectives shared by the science advisors in a recently funded NASA Decadal Survey Incubation Program: Science and Technology project which provides partial support for the Mendenhall fellow: 1) Improving processing speed and algorithms for stereophotogrammetric products, in particular those derived from QUAKES-I and follow-on systems, 2) Quantifying uncertainty and improve accuracy of the data products, and 3) developing tools to compute geomorphic metrics, detect change, and carry out science analyses using stereophotogrammetric products.

Science objectives that the Fellow might work towards include development of new understanding of fault creep, the distribution of slip during earthquakes, rates and pattern of post-seismic slip, the patterns of distributed deformation associated with earthquakes, and the geomorphic processes that occur during and following earthquakes. These analyses may lead to new understanding of fault rupture from inverse methods, new understanding of the role of fault creep in moment release with direct bearing on hazard model development, or other new understanding of tectonic and related geomorphic process.

A successful applicant should have the background and interest in some of the following: tectonic geomorphology, earthquake geology, structure-from-motion photogrammetry, sub-pixel cross correlation, analysis of high-resolution topographic data, computer vision, or open-source workflow and software development. Experience with Ames Stereo Pipeline, HPC, and Python or other code development will benefit applicants. The fellow will perform research activities in collaboration with a multi-institution advisor team and is expected to generate peer-reviewed scientific or technical publications and products. Initial funding is for two years with potential for a third year pending satisfactory progress.

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


Possible Duty Station(s)

Moffett Field, California

Pasadena, California

Golden, Colorado

Mounds View, Minnesota


Areas of PhD

Geology, geophysics, computer science, engineering, mathematics, 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).



Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications:  Research Geologist, Research Geophysicist, Research Computer Engineer, Research Computer Scientist, Research Geodesist, Research Mathematician.

(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.)