Earthquakes and fault interaction in western Turkey


Earthquakes and fault interaction in western Turkey


Project Description


Dr Zoë Mildon (University of Plymouth)
Dr Sarah Boulton (University of Plymouth)
Dr Ekbal Hussain (British Geological Survey)
Dr Cengiz Yildirim (Istanbul Technical University)
Dr Ioannis Papanikolaou (Agricultural University of Athens)

Scientific background

Western Turkey and the eastern Aegean Sea is a tectonically active region of north-south orientated extension that forms a series of east-west trending graben structures, with a historical record of large and damaging earthquakes. Seismogenic normal faults are exposed at the surface as post-glacial faults scarps, thus the fault geometry and slip rates can be deduced from field measurements. Although active faults are well-constrained, potential fault interactions and the strain accumulation of the region is poorly quantified at present leading to potential errors in the understanding of the earthquake hazard. This project will address this knowledge gap and provide insights into the earthquake cycle that can be applied to other regions.

Research methodology

The student will use a combination of field mapping and computer-based modelling to understand earthquake interaction and strain accumulation in the region. Fieldwork will be conducted in western Turkey to map the geometry and slip rates of under-studied faults, to complement existing literature. Historical data of shaking and damage will be analysed to determine the location and magnitude of historical earthquakes. Using the field data and historical earthquake data, fault models with representative variable fault geometry will be built. These will be used to calculate static (Coulomb) stress transfer which is used to analyse whether the triggering of earthquakes and fault interaction. This approach will be used to model stress changes associated with historical earthquakes over time to analyse the interaction between faults and the seismic hazard in the region. Strain and therefore stress will accumulate on the faults due to tectonic loading in the time between earthquakes. This will be studied using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and GPS analysis.


The student will gain practical fieldwork skills in an area of active tectonics. Training to use modelling software and in InSAR analysis will be provided by the supervisory team.

Person specification

We are looking for applicants with an undergraduate degree in Geology, Geophysics or Physics and an interest in earthquake hazard and neotectonics, who is willing to undertake fieldwork in Turkey. The student should be numerically literate; experience of using Matlab and familiarity with Linux is  desirable but not essential.


  • Mildon, Z.K., Roberts, G.P., Faure Walker, J.P. and Iezzi, F., 2017. Coulomb stress transfer and fault interaction over millennia on non-planar active normal faults: the Mw 6.5–5.0 seismic sequence of 2016–2017, central Italy. Geophysical Journal International, 210(2), pp.1206-1218.
  • Boulton, S.J. and Whittaker, A.C., 2009. Quantifying the slip rates, spatial distribution and evolution of active normal faults from geomorphic analysis: Field examples from an obliqueextensional graben, southern Turkey. Geomorphology, 104(3-4), pp.299-316.
  • Hussain, E., Wright, T.J., Walters, R.J., Bekaert, D.P., Lloyd, R. and Hooper, A., 2018. Constant strain accumulation rate between major earthquakes on the North Anatolian Fault. Nature communications, 9(1), p.1392.
  • Stein, R.S., 1999. The role of stress transfer in earthquake occurrence. Nature, 402(6762), p.605.
  • ALTUNEL, E., 1998. Evidence for damaging historical earthquakes at Priene, Western Turkey. Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences, 7(1), pp.25-36.

Open for applications

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