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Departments & Programs


Program Description

Welcome to the Stanford Tectonic Geomorphology Laboratory (STGL), headed by George Hilley. Our research interests focus on understanding topographic construction in the context of geomorphic surface transport processes and tectonic deformation. We use a combination of detailed field studies, analytical and numerical models, and laboratory measurements to understand how landscapes evolve in different tectonic, climatic, and geologic environments. Our research spans a broad range of topics that cover various geographical regions, from studies of deformation and erosion in Tibet and Kurdistan, to detailed landform-scale studies along the San Andreas Fault. Please feel free to visit our list of active projects under the "Research" portion of this website to see the variety and scope of projects in which we are currently engaged.

The STGL offers a program that emphasizes Quaternary geologic mapping skills, laboratory analysis skills that help constrain erosional process rates, and numerical and analytical modeling skills. Specifically, we use observations of tectonic and erosional processes in specific environments to build conceptual models of how these processes operate. Next, by casting these models in a quantitative framework, detailed field and laboratory measurements that constrain the distribution of erosional processes and their rates may be used to test these models. Once these processes are understood, the specific knowledge obtained from detailed studies can then be extrapolated to understand how these processes may be affected by differing tectonic, climatic, and geologic conditions, and how these processes, in turn, shape the topography of tectonically active regions. A staple of our research is the use of Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing applications, and geostatistical methods.

Our graduate program consists of a rigorous curriculum of coursework that will prepare students in field and quantitative methods. Coursework provides students with working knowledge in the fields of geomorphology, hydrogeology, and structural geology. In addition, electives in remote sensing/Geographic Information Systems (GIS), geostatistics, and tectonics ensure breadth of knowledge in the core disciplines of tectonic geomorphology. In addition, students will be exposed to state-of-the-art methods in tectonic geomorphology, including LiDAR Airborne Laser Swath Mapping (ALSM-LiDAR) high-resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) collection and analysis, and cosmogenic radionuclide dating methods. Our facilities include a set of GIS workstations and numerical servers, as well as a cosmogenic radionuclide sample preparation laboratory. Thus, students graduating from our program will be prepared for a wide range of geoscience careers that demand both strong field and quantitative skills.

If you are interested in applying to the Stanford Geological and Environmental Sciences program to work in the STGL, please contact Dr. George Hilley (