Margaret Boettcher studies the physics of earthquakes and faulting in both oceanic environments and in laboratory fault zones. Together with Tom Jordan, a professor at the University of Southern California, she has performed a global study of seismicity on oceanic transform faults (faults that offset mid-ocean ridge spreading centers). They discovered that the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes on these faults can be predicted based on physical fault parameters, such as length and slip rate. Her study of seismicity raised many additional questions concerning the mechanics of faulting on oceanic transform faults, including identifying the frictional properties of the rocks where earthquakes initiate. Margaret is now performing laboratory experiments at MIT with WHOI scientist, Greg Hirth, in order to investigate the stability of faults at seismogenic pressures and temperatures. Margaret has also conducted laboratory experiments with Penn State professor, Chris Marone on the process of dynamic earthquake triggering, in which one earthquake may trigger another located hundreds or thousands of kilometers away. Through studying earthquake processes from a range of perspectives, Margaret hopes to gain a more complete understanding of how large scale seismic activity is controlled by fault friction and stress transfer.
Last updated: April 4, 2012