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Mark Zellman ’99 Studies Fault’s Earthquake History, Potential

Mark Zellman in trench at Teton fault

From a trench at the Steamboat Mountain study site near the northern end of the Teton fault, Mark Zellman, in the yellow hard hat, and Chris DuRoss of the US Geological Survey talked with students in a 2017 University of Michigan geology field camp about the fault’s earthquake history. Sediment in the trench gives clues about prehistoric movement along the fault. (Courtesy of Mark Zellman)

Mark Zellman ’99 of BGC Engineering is lead author of a new map of the Teton fault, which spans the eastern base of the Teton Range in northwestern Wyoming.

Using a remote sensing method called light detection and ranging (lidar), the authors completed the most detailed mapping yet across the 44-mile length of the fault. The geologic community has praised the map for improving understanding of the fault and its potential for producing earthquakes.

Zellman said the map is one piece of a much larger, multiyear examination of the fault, on which he’s collaborating with the US Geological Survey, Wyoming State Geological Survey, and academic researchers. The study is funded by the National Science Foundation, the University of Wyoming, and other grants.

Zellman’s focus in the project has been mapping and paleoseismology, or the study of the fault’s prehistoric earthquake history. To study those ancient earthquakes, researchers have opened seven trenches across the Teton fault to examine the sediment. In addition to the map, they have several papers soon to appear in peer-reviewed journals and in US Geological Survey communications.

“It’s a big project that’s going to provide a lot of new information about the fault,” Zellman said.

The new map is available through its publisher, Wyoming State Geological Survey.