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Phaedra Upton

Faculty Associate

Ph.D., Otago University, New ZealandPhaedra Upton

School of Earth and Climate Sciences
5790 Bryand Global Sciences Center
Room 225
University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469-5790
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I am now based at GNS Science , Dunedin, New Zealand but plan to return to UMaine now and then.  When in Orono I can be found in the Geodynamic modelling laboratory.

My research focuses on process and mechanics.  I am interested in the geodynamic responses of collisional orogens to far field tectonic boundary conditions, surface boundary conditions and the extent to which rheological parameters can influence that response.  I also study crustal fluid flow, heat transfer and the coupling between these and deformation.

Some of the projects I’m working on are:

  • STEEP (ST Elias Erosion/Tectonics Project) – a multi-disciplinary study to address the evolution of St Elias Range.  Peter Koons, Ben Hooks and Adam Baker and I have been developing 3D mechanical models to unravel the complex mechanical interactions that occur at a corner such as this.  Our models place constraints on the relative importance of tectonic and surface boundary conditions.
  • Comparing the Taconic slate belt and the Hsuehshan Range of Taiwan.  I am collaborating with Tim Byrne, Jean Crispi (University of Connecticut) and Jon Lewis (Indiana University of Pennsylvania).  My models are designed to answer the question – have both regions developed their characteristic structural features as a result of deformation over an oblique ramp?
  • Developing realistic models of fluid flow in the upper crust.  In particular, what are realistic permeability structures and can we quantify the transfer of heat through the upper levels of the crust that results from fluid flow?  This is particularly relevant to the Alpine Fault of New Zealand.
  • Developing a 3D modelling scheme that will allow us to couple large scale tectonic deformation experiments with realistic surface process models.  This is ongoing work with Prof Peter Koons, Prof Greg Tucker and the CSDMS centre, Boulder Co.

I approach these questions using three-dimensional numerical modelling, constrained by geophysical, geochemical, and field observations.  It is important to ground models in the physical world and so I try to get out into the field with my colleagues whenever possible.

Currently I have projects based in the New Zealand (Southern Alps, Hikurangi Margin and the Waipaoa sedimentary system), South East Alaska and Taiwan.  All regions of active deformation which are also subjected to vigorous surface processes.

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