Darrel Cowan's research program in structure & tectonics at the University of Washington

For several years, my research has focused on gently dipping normal faults—detachment faults—on the east side of Death Valley, California. Early work, with postdoctoral associates Julia Morgan and Trenton Cladouhos, and graduate students Nick Hayman and Eliza Nemser, investigated the origin of fault rocks and established that slip on the faults had occurred while they were gently dipping in late Quaternary time.

My recent NSF-funded project with UW professor Paul Bodin is designed to test the hypothesis that the detachment faults are active and capable of generating microearthquakes. Click on the sub-page below for more information about this current research.

The top photo shows the sharp, remarkably planar Mormon Point detachment; there are barely visible UW students at the bottom of the cliff for scale. I am looking north; the floor of Death Valley lies about 100 m to the west. Here the fault dips 19° west. The footwall comprises Proterozoic marble and gneiss. The hanging wall consists of upper Quaternary debris-flow and alluvial fanglomerates. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Charles Johnson [UW, 2013] took the bottom photo in March 2013. Every Winter Quarter I take my senior-level class in Structure & Tectonics to the Death Valley region for four days of field excursions. Charles's photo shows part of the class on the footwall of the Badwater turtleback detachment fault. The view is northwest , across the playa toward the Panamint Mountains.

March 2021