If I had to summarize my research interests in one succinct phrase, it would be "the physics of geomorphology". I'm fascinated by the processes that drive the evolution of landscapes on Earth, not to mention on other planets and moons.
Over the past twenty years or so we've seen a renaissance in the field of geomorphology as a wealth of digital data has become available, particularly with advent of ubiquitous satellite remote sensing and digital elevation model mapping, along with burgeoning computational capabilities. There has been explosion of activity in surface process research just as public concern over the environment has come to the fore in the political arena. Never before has the study of the "skin of the earth" been so dynamic or so relevant to society.
My main research foci are landslides and mountain rivers, and I blend field observations, data analysis (GIS/RS) and theoretical efforts to the task of understanding them better. I've focused over recent years on Taiwan and Japan as field areas, in part because of the intimate link between river erosion and landsliding that underpins their mountain landscape dynamics, and in part because the rate at which these landscapes evolve is so high and the year-on-year changes are so marked.
I'm currently working on four projects:
- looking for climatic fingerprints in the morphology of bedrock rivers, especially incised meander channels, by establishing linkages with typhoon rainfall, floods and rock strength - the broader aim is to deepen our quantitative understanding of bedrock river erosion and morphodynamics (NSF-EAR funding; collaboration with several colleagues in Taiwan, Japan and the UK)
- researching ways to better express the multi-scale heterogeneity of geomorphic processes in the equations we use to model them - in particular, we are developing methods of fractional calculus to encapsulate better properties of non-locality, scaling, and broad-tailed probability distributions that are so common in natural environments (NSF-EAR/CMG/HYD funding; collaboration with a hydrologist, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, U. Minn. SAFL/NCED, and a mathematician/statistician, Mark Meerschaert, U. Michigan)
- tackling landslide processes on several fronts, both from a stochastic perspective (magnitude-frequency distributions of landslide areas and volumes of mobilized debris) and a continuum-mechanical perspective (supercomputing simulation of elastoplastic failure using CIG code SNAC) (recent NASA/NSF funding; collaborations with Fausto Guzzetti, CNR-IRPI Perugia, and Eunseo Choi, LDEO)
- participating in a large multi-disciplinary project on the geodynamics of the Calabrian Arc ("Calarco"), where my focus is on reconstructing the late Quaternary history of coastal landscape evolution of the Calabrian peninsula using, for example, IRSL (OSL) dating of Gilbert fan deltas and marine terraces (NSF-CD funding; collaboration with many colleagues, in particular Thomas Dewez, BRGM, Sebastien Huot, UQAM, and Nano Seeber, LDEO)