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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

17-3. Earthquake-related land-level changes and their cascading consequences in Cascadia and elsewhere

Within seconds to minutes, megathrust earthquakes may cause land-level changes along hundreds of kilometers of coastline and inundation equivalent to hundreds of years of sea level rise. These perturbed coastal lands will continue to evolve over many decades, while adjusting to coseismic slip, secondary faulting, shallow material responses, and mantle processes. The plate convergence and interface locking that lead to megathrust earthquakes also cause slowly evolving surface uplift and subsidence.  All these often-overlooked land-level changes will affect tidal and tsunami runup, stream and river gradients, surface and groundwater drainage, flooding potential, coastal ecosystems, sedimentation and erosion, and coastal and off-shore infrastructure. 

Research under this Opportunity is expected to provide the input needed to prepare for the hazards and risks associated with earthquake-generated land-level changes and the cascade of phenomena they initiate, described in the USGS’s 2017 “Reducing Risk Where Tectonic Plates Collide – A Plan to Advance Subduction Zone Science” [Gomberg and others, 2017]. This project also advances priorities defined in the “Science for a Risky World: a USGS Plan for Risk Research and Applications” [Ludwig and others, 2018]. One or several of a broad range of questions about earthquake-related land-level changes may be addressed, such as:

Proposals should be relevant to Cascadia and leverage existing computer models of land-level changes and geologic estimates of past earthquakes and related deformation but may consider applicable studies elsewhere. Approaches may involve field studies and/or numerical modeling of ruptures and ground motions, landscape evolution, and hydrodynamics. Existing and/or newly-acquired geologic, archeologic, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and regional digital elevation model (DEM), hydrographic, bathymetric, sediment core, climatic, ecologic or biologic data may be employed.

We seek a Mendenhall Fellow who will expand USGS capabilities to assess and communicate the hazards and risks associated with earthquake land-level changes and their impacts on other natural and built systems.  While the Fellow’s expertise may or may not be focused on earthquake issues, we expect that she/he will work directly with scientists in the Earthquake Science Center (ESC), as well as collaborate with some or all of the other advisors. The expertise of the Research Advisors spans hydrology, coastal and climate change modeling, and ecosystems (Grossman and Jones), earthquake seismology (Gomberg, Wirth, and Frankel), and risk assessment and communication (Ludwig and Wood).  The Fellow will be stationed at the ESC field office at the University of Washington in Seattle, providing access to a rich community of Earth scientists working on different dimensions of the Cascadia and other subduction zones. We strongly encourage potential applicants to contact the advisors below to discuss project ideas.


Gomberg, J.S. and Ludwig, K.A., 2017. Reducing risk where tectonic plates collide. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2017–3024, 4 p.

Ludwig, K.A., Ramsey, D.W., Wood, N.J., Pennaz, A.B., Godt, J.W., Plant, N.G., Luco, N., Koenig, T.A., Hudnut, K.W., Davis, D.K., and Bright, P.R., 2018. Science for a risky world—A U.S. Geological Survey plan for risk research and applications. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1444, 57 p.

Proposed Duty Station: Seattle, WA

Areas of Ph.D.: Geophysics, geology, seismology, hydrology, geomorphology, geotechnical engineering, ecology or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive relevant knowledge and skills may be considered).

Qualifications: Research Geologist; Research Geophysicist; Research Ecologist; Research Hydrologist; Research Social Scientist; Research Wildlife Biologist (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).

Research Advisor(s): Joan Gomberg, (206) 616-5581,; Brian Sherrod, (253) 653-8358,; Erin Wirth, (206) 685-7563,; Art Frankel, (206) 553-0626,; Kris Ludwig, (303) 273-8616,; Krista Jones, (503) 251-3476,; Eric Grossman, (360) 650-4697,; Nate Wood, (503) 251-3291,

Human Resources Office Contact: Yumi Sakakibara,, 916-278-9384

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: Gomberg.htm
Direct inquiries to Cara A. Campbell at
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Last modified: 11:07:40 Fri 08 Feb 2019
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