Geophysics & Tectonics

The U of T played a key role in the incubation of modern plate tectonic theory and the development of geophysical techniques for mineral exploration. The implications of these advances remain the subject of intense study. Today, our faculty are using novel computational techniques, machine learning, and both field- and satellite-based geophysical studies to explore-for and manage our sub-surface natural resources, investigate environmental problems, and unravel the complex evolution of Earth’s crust and mantle.

a photo of the south Atlantic highlighting tectonic plate boundaries, layers of the earth, a seismograph, and a ground penetrating radar equipment showing the breadth of geophysics and tectonics

  • How are climate and tectonics intertwined, and what are the implications?
  • What are the characteristics of natural and induced seismic source regions?
  • How can geophysics be used for geothermal & critical mineral resource exploration and management?
  • How does global warming impact the cryosphere (e.g., permafrost, freshwater ice, snow)?
  • What causes tectonic activity away from plate boundaries?
  • How can we better image the subsurface based on seismic wave propagation through the Earth?
  • How do we ensure the longevity of geological carbon storage?
  • How do changes in the cryosphere affect the climate, ecosystems, and human populations?
  • How can we advance the computational modelling of geodynamic processes?
  • Can we accurately simulate the dynamic process of earthquakes and long-term earthquake cycles?
  • How can machine learning & geophysics be combined to improve decision making in resource exploration and management?
  • How do supercontinents form and break apart?
  • What are the surface effects of deep-seated Earth processes?
  • How does Earth’s rotation affect large-scale flows such as turbidity currents?
  • How can geophysical methods be applied to estimate environmental parameters that are critical to improve climate change projections?


Faculty Areas of Interest
Charly (Carl-Georg) Bank near-surface geophysics for forensic/environmental/archaeological investigations; geoscience education
Xu Chu metamorphism and magmatism; experimental petrology; geochemistry
Phil Heron plate tectonics, supercontinent formation and dispersal, numerical modelling, mantle lithosphere dynamics
Qinya Liu seismology, geophysics
Semechah Lui seismology and earthquake physics
Russ Pysklywec geodynamics and tectonics
Rodrigo Rangel Environmental geophysics, cryosphere geophysics, hydrogeophysics
Tasca Santimano tectonics, geoscience pedagogy
Lindsay Schoenbohm neotectonics, tectonic geomorphology, landscape evolution
Andrei Swidinsky exploration geophysics