The fabulous faults project gives you the opportunity to dig into the detailed literature and gain deep understanding and insight into a specific fault of your choosing.  You will collect information from the published scientific literature and synthesize it into a clear, properly-cited presentation describing the location, geometry, and tectonic setting and significance of the fault, by description of the geometric, kinematic, and dynamic aspects of the timing and magnitude of deformation accommodated by the fault zone.

Due dates:

October 19th (for Monday lab section) or October 21st (for Wednesday lab section)  Choose a fault and submit a list of 3-5 references (properly formatted) on D2L.

The check-in:  Attend 1 office hour between Oct 19th and November 23rd to ask questions/review content with Amanda, Terrance, or Sebastian.

November 23rd (Monday lab section) or November 25th (Wednesday lab section)  Presentation must be recorded and uploaded to D2L.

Week of November 23rd-30th:  Watch all presentations of your labs section colleagues and prepare 5 questions about your classmates and submit them for your lab assignment for the week. 

Week of November 30th:  Attend the mandatory Q&A session during your lab section this week and ask as many of your questions as you can during the lab session.

Goals: The goals for this project are to gain experience interrogating the scientific literature for necessary information and synthesizing it into an integrated understanding of a fault zone.  Integration of information gained from maps and cross sections, as well as from geophysical, geochemical, and structural analyses into a holistic understanding of the fault will give you a sense of the kind of cross-disciplinary information that goes into characterizing faults, as well as a venue for showing off your new-found understanding of structural geology terminology and concepts.

What makes a fault fabulous?  The faults that you will chose from are regionally significant faults with trace lengths commonly in the range of tens to hundreds of kilometers; such faults form either in response to current plate tectonic forces (in the case of active faults) or past tectonic forces (in the case of inactive faults).  The faults span the range of fault types (strike-slip, oblique, thrust, reverse, normal, detachment), and some may have experienced more than one type of motion over their geologic history due to reactivation in modified plate tectonic conditions.  The current-day exposure of the fault zones ranges from only brittle fabrics to mixed and ductile fabrics, reflecting the degree to which the fault has been exhumed and eroded since it formed. 

Required components for your presentation:

Location map

Geologic column

Geologic map emphasizing major faults, folds, and shear zones

Geologic cross-section

Geometric description

Kinematic description

Dynamic/mechanical description

Plate tectonic framework and significance


References (full references at the end; annotated references within presentation)

Location Map:  A map that makes clear the location of your fault relative to a clearly identified and labeled larger region within which it resides.  Include scale and north arrow.

Geologic Column: This serves as the rock-column and age explanation for the geological map and cross-section. Group mformations together into specific thick assemblages (e.g., Precambrian basement, Paleozoic sedimentary formations, Mesozoic sedimentary formations, Cenozoic sediments and rocks, etc).   Group the formations in ways that relate to tectonic history (e.g., pre-kinematic, syn-kinematic, post-kinematic).  Color coding of the geological column is extended into geologic map and cross-section.

Geologic Map:  This map, and the associated geologic cross-section should be the centerpieces of your presentation.   This structure-tectonic map is to be adapted and re-rendered from published figures and simplified in ways suitable to the objectives of this project.   Include ages and concise descriptions of formations, scale and north arrow.  Major structures should stand out through bold formatting and labeling.  Use complete and appropriate structural symbology in distinguishing types and orientations of faults and folds.

Geologic cross-section: Your geologic cross-section should be re-rendered and presented in ways that strongly underscore the major properties and structural associations of your fault.  End points of the cross-section should be noted on your geologic map (above), and orientation and scale must be indicated on your cross section.  Avoid vertical exaggeration.  As for all figures in your presentation, reference the source study.  Be sure to emphasize and label what is most important in terms of faults and associated structures. If the fault geometry varies along-strike in ways that are critical to explaining the characteristics of the fault, more than one cross section may be necessary to convey your message adequately.

Fault Description:

Through sketches and bullet-points, describe in an organized, logical progression the key geometric, orientation, and scale attributes of your crust-busting fault: shape, length,

breadth, orientation, map pattern, associated structures (e.g., folds and faults), fault rocks (e.g., mylonites), rocks assemblages affected, truncations and offsets, etc. Cite sources for your information and images.


Through sketches and bullet points, describe and explain the type of faults (normal, thrust, strike-slip, oblique), magnitudes of slip, directions of slip, sense of slip, nature of strain, sense-of-slip indicators, rotations (if any), principal stretch directions, etc. Place the kinematics in a time frame: i.e., what happened when? Create diagrams/pictures that show in cross-section or map view the progressive kinematic development. Estimate amounts/percentages of shortening and stretching, as applicable.  For active faults include focal mechanisms and GPS data. Be sure to cite sources of your information.  Many faults have been active during multiple times in the past, sometimes under different circumstances—make sure to include all of them!

Dynamics and mechanics:

Through sketches and bullet points, describe the conditions under which your crust-busting fault evolved, e.g., with respect to depth, confining pressure, temperature, strain rate, fluids, stress orientations, etc.  Be sure to cite sources of your information.

Plate tectonics:

Create a re-rendered plate-tectonic ma and/or cross-sections to frame the inferred origin of your crust-busting fault.  Through bullet points describe origin, evolution, and tectonic significance of your fault. Be sure to cite sources of your information.


Concisely underscore the major ‘takeaway’ learned in the analysis of this crust-busting fault.


Use the Geological Society of America Bulletin as guide to citing references (https://www.geosociety.org/documents/gsa/pubs/GSA_RefGuide_Examples.pdf). Your document should include at least 5 references from the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Do not take all of your information, insights, and maps/sections from just one source.


Thrust fault and Reverse faults systems:

Inactive faults/fault systems:

Bighorn Thrust, Wyoming

Butte Fault, Arizona

Keystone Thrust, California

Muddy Mountains thrust, Nevada

Champlain Thrust, Appalachians

Pine Mountain Thrust, Appalachians

Stanton-Pulaski Thrust, Appalachians

Glarus Thrust, Switzerland

Moine Thrust, Scotland

Hebrides Thrust, Scotland

Lewis Thrust, Montana/Alberta CA

McConnell Thrust, Alberta, Canada

Active faults/fault systems:

Longmen Shan Fault, Sichuan, China

Chelungpu Fault, Taiwan

Main Central Thrust, Himalayas

Main Frontal Thrust, Himalayas

Oak Ridge Fault System, California 

Oceanside/Thirtymile Bank Thrusts, California

                Pico Fault (Northridge Earthquake), California

Puente Hills Thrust System, Los Angeles, California

Palos Verdes Fault, Los Angeles, California

Ventura Avenue Anticline, Ventura, California

Seattle Fault, Washington

Reelfoot Fault/New Madrid Fault System, MO/AR/TN/KY

Normal fault systems:

Inactive faults/fault systems:

Catalina-Rincon Detachment Fault, Arizona

Pirate Fault, Arizona

South Mountain Fault, Arizona

Whipple Detachment fault, California

Moab Fault, Utah

Lisbon Valley Fault, Utah

Badwater/Copper Canyon/Mosaic Canyon Detachment Fault Systems, California

Cuu Long/Nam Con Son Basin Faults, Vietnam

Active faults/fault systems:

Teton Fault, Wyoming

Long Point-Eureka Heights fault system, Texas

Rio Grande Rift system, New Mexico

Wasatch Fault, Utah

Death Valley Fault Zone, California

Red Sea Rift, Arabia/East Africa

Alta Tiberina Fault, Italy

Rhine Graben Rift System, Germany

Hurricane fault, Utah

Lost River Fault/Borah Peak Earthquake, Idaho

East African rift system (can choose an individual fault within)

Shanxi rift system, Northern China (can choose an individual fault within)

Bohai Bay fault system, China

Icelandic rift system

Strike-slip fault systems:

Inactive faults/fault systems:

                Great Glen Fault, Scotland

                Aspy Fault, Nova Scotia

Atacama Fault, Chile

Punchbowl Fault, California

Active faults/fault systems:

San Andreas Fault, California (northern segment)

San Andreas Fault, California (central segment)

San Andreas Fault, California (southern segment)

Rose Canyon Fault, California

Hayward Fault, California

Owens Valley fault, California 

Garlock Fault, California

Denali Fault, Alaska

Alpine fault, New Zealand 

Christchurch Fault, New Zealand

Marlborough Fault System, New Zealand

Chixoy-Polochic Fault, Guatemala

Montagua Fault, Guatemala

Dead Sea Transform, Sinai Peninsula

East Anatolian Fault Zone, Turkey

North Anatolian Fault Zone, Turkey

Sumatran Fault, Sumatra, Indonesia

Altyn Tagh Fault, China 

Kunlun Fault, Tibet

Red River fault, Vietnam

Faults associated with volcanic systems:

Heart Mountain Detachment, Wyoming

Ruby Mountain Thrust, Utah

Hilina Pali, Hawaii


While it is difficult to assign specific point values to every component of a presentation, due to the natural variability of what is required for a successful description of a natural fault system for which varying amount of detail is available or needed in order to be complete, the following describes the general criteria I will be looking for in your presentations:

Overall presentation: Solid grasp of the material?  Effectiveness of communication? Overall quality of the presentation based upon comprehensiveness, appearance, attention to detail, depth and sophistication of interpretation?

Location of study Area: Clear identification of the location of the study area and the trace of the cross section across the study area?

Stratigraphic Column: Clear identification of names and ages and thicknesses of formations? Proper labeling of ages, older at bottom?  Nice brief summaries of rock type and competence?  Wise decisions in lumping formations into larger lithotectonic units?  Attention to detail and success in transforming the journal-published stratigraphy into an attractive and useful rendition?

Geologic Cross-Section: Capture lithotectonic units in ways that conform to stratigraphic column, including color coding?  Effective line boldness in distinguishing most important faults from lesser faults?  All faults and folds either named or labeled in ways that conform to identifiers in legend? Attention to detail and success in transforming the journal-published geological cross section into an attractive and useful rendition?

System of Structures: Is this a well written and efficient word picture of the cross-section?  Employment of precise and sophisticated structural geological language used in descriptive analysis?  Orientation information for faulting and folding contained in the language?

Fault and Fold Tables:  Well organized?  Complete, comprehensive? Accurate orientations and measurements? Proper choice of descriptive language?

Kinematics: Measurements and numbers describing translation, rotation, and strain accompanying fold and faulting?  Clarity on types of faulting and mechanisms of folding?  Determination of % shortening and/or % stretching? Orientation and shape of strain ellipse that captures regional strain?

Dynamics/Mechanics: Principal stress directions responsible for faulting and/or folding? Depth of deformation and rheological response of material? Deformation mechanisms?

Plate Tectonics: Correct identification of plate tectonic setting within which structures formed? Effective diagrams showing the plate configuration? Quantitative information re/ plate directions and plate velocities, and timing/duration of tectonic loading?

Conclusions:  Grasp of subject? Understanding of specific data underpinning knowledge of the age/duration/magnitude of slip on the fault? If fault has multiple episodes of deformation, were all included?

References: Accuracy?  Proper format? Correctly cited within presentation?

Participation:  Grades will also be assigned for enthusiastic and thoughtful participation in the Q&A session.

Much credit goes to George Davis, the originator of a similar project from which this is slightly adapted.

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