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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

17-7. Cascadia subduction zone coseismic landslide investigations

Recent large-magnitude subduction zone earthquakes in Sumatra (M9.1, 2004), Chile (M8.8, 2010), and Japan (M9.0, 2011), have drawn increased public attention to the inevitability of a similar event in the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) of the Pacific Northwest US (e.g., Schulz, 2015). Given the potential for such large-magnitude earthquakes to generate significant losses due to shaking and a cascade of related coseismic hazards, particularly widespread landslides and powerful tsunamis, the USGS has initiated a multidisciplinary effort to advance subduction zone science and hazard modeling (Gomberg et al., 2017). This opportunity focuses on the advancement of coseismic landslide science in subduction zones to better understand the patterns and causes of paleo-landslide triggering during great CSZ earthquakes and improve hazard estimates for future earthquakes.

Coseismic landslides play an important role as both a primary hazard to infrastructure and individuals and as a driver of secondary hazards (e.g., landslide dammed rivers and subsequent outburst floods and landslide-triggered tsunamis). Although recent work has made significant progress in documenting the timing of landslides in parts of the Pacific Northwest and developing methods to infer landslide age from surface morphology (e.g., LaHusen et al., 2016; Booth et al., 2017; Perkins et al., 2018), these studies are geographically sparse and associated landslides have not been linked to CSZ earthquake triggering. Site conditions often preclude extending these methods beyond the Holocene, or differentiate between rainfall-induced, coseismic, or other types of landslides. Moreover, what parameters exist and which are most useful for hazard forecasting and mitigation of subduction zone coseismic landslides remain poorly understood. Postdoctoral researchers are invited to use one or more of the following techniques — fieldwork, geochronology, topographic analysis, geophysics, and/or landscape process models — to address issues related to the record of coseismic landslides in the CSZ region to inform the understanding of frequency, magnitude, and geologic and geographic controls on landslide distribution.

Possible areas of focus could include, but are not limited to:


Booth, A.M., LaHusen, S.R., Duvall, A.R., and Montgomery, D.R., 2017, Holocene history of deep-seated landsliding in the North Fork Stillaguamish River Valley from surface roughness analysis, radiocarbon dating, and numerical landscape evolution modeling: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, v. 112, p. 456-472, doi: 10.1002/2016JF003934.

Gomberg, J.S., Ludwig, K.A., Bekins, B.A., Brocher, T.M., Brock, J.C., Brothers, Daniel, Chaytor, J.D., Frankel, A.D., Geist, E.L., Haney, Matthew, Hickman, S.H., Leith, W.S., Roeloffs, E.A., Schulz, W.H., Sisson, T.W., Wallace, Kristi, Watt, J.T., Wein, Anne, 2017, Reducing risk where tectonic plates collide—U.S. Geological Survey subduction zone science plan: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1428, 45 p., https:

LaHusen, S.R., Duvall, A.R., Booth, A.M., and Montgomery, D.R., 2016, Surface roughness dating of long-runout landslides near Oso, Washington, USA, reveals persistent postglacial hillslope instability: Geology, v. 44, p. 111-114, doi: 10.1130/G37267.1.

Perkins, J. P., J. J. Roering, W. J. Burns, W. Struble, B. A. Black, K. M. Schmidt, A. Duvall, and N. Calhoun, 2018, Hunting for landslides from Cascadia’s great earthquakes, Eos, 99,

Schulz, K., 2015, The really big one: The New Yorker, July 20, 2015 issue, 13 p.

The anticipated outcome of the proposed research activity should include the creation of new knowledge and understanding of the signal of paleo-earthquakes in the landslide record of the CSZ relevant to future coseismic landslide hazard. Due to the collaborative nature of this proposal, interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the advisors below early in the application process to discuss project ideas and how they fit into the larger Cascadia research framework.

Proposed Duty Station: Menlo Park, CA

Areas of Ph.D.: Geology, geomorphology, geochronology, geotechnical engineering, near surface geophysics, 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).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: Research Geologist, Research Geophysicist,  Research Engineer. (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): Andrew Cyr, (650) 329-4820,; Jonathan Perkins, (650) 329-4828,; Corina Cerovski-Darriau, (650) 329-4143,; Brian Sherrod, (253) 653-8358,; Kevin Schmidt, (650) 329-5302,; Alex Grant, (650) 329-5205,

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

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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