Morell, Kristin

Assistant Professor,


Phone number: (250) 472-4182
Department: Earth and Ocean Sciences

Research description:

-Tectonic geomorphology
-Landscape evolution
-Active tectonics
-Natural hazards
Expertise Profile
Geologist Kristin Morell identifies and studies the tectonic fault lines that are capable of producing some of the most destructive earthquakes on Earth.

Most earthquakes occur at subduction zones--areas where two tectonic plates have collided, forcing one beneath the other. However, shallower faults exist closer to the surface that cut across the Earth's crust. Dr. Morell uses the landscape to look for clues to the location of these "hidden" crustal faults.

"These smaller faults don't rupture very often, so what I look for are features on the surface of the Earth, in the landscape, to find them."

"The landscape can tell us a lot about the location of faults because it accumulates the effects of multiple earthquakes that accrue over thousands of years," she explains. Using landscape records and structural geology, she studies how earthquakes have affected rivers or built mountains. The information she uncovers can reveal what faults can cause earthquakes and to what scale.

Currently, she conducts research in the Himalayas where earthquakes can be especially deadly due to the dense population--the northwest Himalaya region is home to more than 10 million people. In partnership with scientists from Jammia Malia University in Delhi and the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore, she has refined the geometry and location of the fault that could potentially cause 8.0-magnitude earthquakes or higher and could be primed for an earthquake. "Unfortunately, it is a very vulnerable place, so the work is really important," she says.

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