Researchers in the Planetary Geodynamics Lab investigate problems aimed at understanding the evolution of planets and moons. We tend to focus on two types of topics in Earth and Planetary Science.

Internal evolution – Planetary heat transfer

The type of history of a planetary body experiences is strongly dependent upon the amount of heat it has and how it cools. On Earth, plate tectonics is an efficient process for cooling the planet – Venus, lacks plate tectonics, and this is likely one reason for their differences, despite similar size and composition.

Previously, we have focused on the modeling heat transport of in planets to address basic questions, such as:

(1) Viability of changes in mineralogy as a cause for deep focus earthquakes in subducting slabs on the Earth.

(2) Understand the feedbacks between crustal formation and mantle convection, particularly on Mars and Venus.

(3) Addressing the ability to constrain the thermal history of Mercury using strain recorded in surface tectonic features.

(4) Understand the mechanisms that could drive magnetic fields on icy satellites.


Planetary tectonics

We are interested in applying advanced finite element techniques to understanding the deformation of planetary lithopsheres. Analysis of planetary gravity and topography data in concert with analytical and finite elment techniques are critical approaches for understanding the mechanisms that have resulted in tectonic modification of planetary surfaces.