Geology and Geological Engineering

Dr. Timothy Masterlark
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Dr. Timothy Masterlark

Ph.D. (2000), University of Wisconsin
Professor and Mickelson Professorship
South Dakota School of Mines
Rapid City, SD 57701

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The Path to Excellence

  • Most choose a path of inaction, because avoiding responsibility is easy.
  • Some choose to look to the past, because it is a safe path where the answers are already known.
  • Few, very few, have the guts and the courage to look forward, take risks, and make an advance in a new direction.

Research synopsis

Fluid-solid coupling drives the dynamic systems of volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Magma-filled dikes propagate within active volcanoes. Megathrust earthquakes shift the seafloor and excite tsunami waves in the overlying ocean. These earthquakes also transfer stress to the surrounding region. Diffusive flow of pore fluids in the crust and viscous flow of the mantle relax these stresses, producing delayed aftershocks. We may extend these principles to energy production and geothermal systems. Hydrofracking propagates fluid-filled fractures that unlock hydrocarbons or supercritical steam. The waste fluids are disposed of via deep injection, from which stress and fluid pressure perturbations trigger seismicity.

My research team is pioneering methods to embed Abaqus-based Finite Element Models in nonlinear inverse analyses of geophysical information to quantify Earth's internal structures, materials, and deformation sources. Example targets span the globe (Aleutians, Cascadia, Ecuador, Chile, Iceland, Japan, Nepal, Papua New Guinea).

In collaboration with Mechanical Engineering, my research team continues to develop Project Firewalker -A system of a 33 tracked rovers for collecting and processing geophysical data streams (cm-scale kGPS positioning; sub-degree orientations; Lidar, 3D optical, and thermal imaging; seismic data). The swarm is designed for both surface and underground operations.

Latest update: September 2017
FEMs of mega-earthquakes: Viscoelastic relaxation translates to postseismic deformation and stress.

FEM of Tungurahua Volcano: This model simulates deformation caused by a pressurized dike embedded in the complex domain of an active volcano.

Hydrofracking simulations: Abaqus XFEM simulates the propagation of a fluid-filled fracture in a 2D domain.
contact: Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, 501 E. Saint Joseph St., SDSMT, Rapid City, SD 57701
phone: (605)394-2461 / fax: (605)394-6703 / email: