Aubreya Adams

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Aubreya Adams

Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Geosciences

Department/Office Information

Earth and Environmental Geoscience


I am a seismologist, specializing in using earthquakes to learn about the tectonics and deep interior of the Earth.

Structures in the deep crust or mantle of the Earth can teach us about the long-term driving forces behind tectonic, volcanic, and seismic features we see at the surface.  Mapping these ultra-deep structures in 3D requires a unique combination of geologic perspectives, computer modeling, high-tech equipment, and some "good old-fashioned” digging (usually in scenic locations!).

Some of my ongoing projects include:

  • Studying the deep under-side of the East African Rift System to see how the rift grows and changes
  • Determining how spatial variability in the mantle leads to different types of earthquakes and volcanoes in Alaska and other subduction systems
  • Figuring out how earthquakes in the Adirondacks line up (or don’t) with ancient tectonic boundaries.

Ph.D. in Geosciences - Pennsylvania State University (2010)

B.S. in Geology - University of Florida (2004)

  • Washington University in Saint Louis - Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • 2014-2015 Research Associate; Lecturer
  • 2012-2014 Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Chevron
  • 2010-2013 Development Geophysicist
  • 2006 Geophysical Intern

I teach classes about geology, natural hazards, plate tectonics, geophysics, the deep-Earth interior, and seismology.  Class I have taught at Colgate are listed below.

  • CORE176 - Natural Disasters: Science, Media, and Movies
  • GEOL105 - Megageology
  • GEOL190 - Evolution of Planet Earth
  • GEOL235 - Tectonics and Earth Structure
  • GEOL311 - Environmental and Exploration Geophysics
  • GEOL370 - Geoinformatice
  • GEOL420 - Solid Earth: Geophysics
  • GEOL420 - Solid Earth: Plumes

My research interests include studying earthquake characteristics and studying the structure of Earth's crust and mantle using seismic waves created by earthquakes.  Much of my published works focus on areas of active deformation and volcanism in eastern and western Africa, as well as the structure of stable cratons in southern Africa. 

My current projects include investigation of African tectonics and volcanism, studies of seismicity and structure in Alaska, imaging subduction near Fiji and Tonga, and characterization of seismicity in the New York.  I am also interested in working with students to investigate the shallow structure and geologic history of the central New York area.

Seismic (ground motion) data is gathered using networks of instruments called seismometers.  Seismometers can measure movements of the ground even smaller than a nanometer, and can detect earthquakes from across the world!  During field work, my students, collaborators, and I bury these sensitive instrument in many locations across the area we are studying.  The seismometers then make continuous records of ground motion for a year or longer.

For my previous projects, I have conducted field work in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Antarctica (South Pole Station and McMurdo Station), the Alaskan Peninsula, Kodiak Island, and the Adirondack Mountains.  Other projects require data collection from the bottom of the ocean, so I have also conducted field work aboard the NSF Research Vessel (RV) Oceanus, and the RV Sikuliak deploying Ocean Bottom Seismometers.  

For details on field seasons, see my C.V.

Barcheck, G., G. Abers, A. Adams, A. Bécel, J. Collins, J. Gaherty, P. Haeussler, Z. Li†, G. Moore†, E. Onyango†, E. Roland, D. Sampson†, S. Schwartz, A. Sheehan, D. Shillington, P. Shore, S. Webb, D. Wiens, and L. Worthington (submitted), The Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment, Seismological Research Letters: Data Mine.

Adams, A., Y. Jin*, M. Dimas*, and I. Dove* (submitted-in review), Leveraging USArray and Regional Networks to Characterize Natural and Mining Seismicity at the Intersection of the Grenville and Taconic Provinces, Seismological Research Letters: Eastern Section.

Abers, G., Adams, A., Haeussler, P., Roland, E. , Shore, P., Wiens, D., Schwartz, S., Sheehan, A., Shillington, D., Webb, S., and Worthington, L. (2019), Examining Alaska’s earthquakes on land and sea, EOS, 100, 10.1029/2019EO117621

A. Adams, J. Miller*, and N. Accardo* (2018), Relationships between lithospheric structures and rifting in the East African Rift System: A Rayleigh wave tomography study, ​Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, Vol. 19, 10, 3793-3810.

Graw, J.*, ​A. Adams​, S. Hansen, D. Wiens, L. Hackworth*, and Y. Park (2016), Upper mantle shear wave velocity structure beneath northern Victoria Land, Antarctica: Volcanism and uplift in the northern Transantarctic Mountains, ​Earth and Planetary Science Letters​, Vol. 449, 48-60.

Adams, A., D. Wiens, A. Nyblade, G. Euler, P. Shore, and R. Tibi (2015), Lithospheric instability and the source of the Cameroon Volcanic Line: Evidence from Rayleigh wave phase velocity tomography, Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, Vol. 120, 1708-1727.

O’Donnell, J. P., A. Adams, A. A. Nyblade, G. D. Mulibo*, and F. Tugume* (2013), The uppermost mantle shear wave velocity structure of eastern Africa from Rayleigh wave tomography: constraints of rift evolution, Geophysical Journal International, Vol. 194, iss. 2, 961-978.

Adams, A., Nyblade, A., and D. Weeraratne (2012), Upper mantle shear wave velocity structure beneath the East African Plateau: evidence for a deep, plateau-wide low velocity anomaly, Geophysical Journal International, Vol. 189, 123-142.

Adams, A. and A. Nyblade (2011), Shear wave velocity structure of the southern African upper mantle with implications for the uplift of southern Africa, Geophysical Journal International, Vol. 186, iss. 2, 808-824.
Adams, A., R. Brazier, A. Nyblade, A. Rodgers, and A. Al-Amri (2009), Source Parameters for Moderate Earthquakes in the Zagros Mountains with Implications for the Depth Extent of Seismicity, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 99, 2044-2049.

* indicates an undergraduate or graduate co-author

Adams, A.  RUI: Lithospheric Velocity Structure and Anisotropy of the Alaskan Subduction Margin. Funded by NSF OCE- Marine Geology and Geophysics and NSF EAR-Geophysics, Submitted September 2019, Funded May 2020. [Full Proposal] [Project Summary]

Abers, G., D. Wiens, S. Schwartz, E. Roland, A. Sheehan, A. Adams, D. Shillington, S. Webb, P. Haeussler, and L. Worthington.  Alaska Amphibious Community Experiment Seismic Data Collection, NSF – GeoPRISMS, NSF-Marine Geology and Geophysics, and others, Submitted August 2016, Funded August 2017. [Project Summary]

Adams, A. and M. Long (in press) INVITED: Pairing Community Seismic Experiments with Seismic Community Development, Final GeoPRISMS Newsletter

Adams, A. and S. Webb (2019) Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment Recovery Leg 1 | SKQ201918S R/V Sikuliaq, Cruise Report [here]

Worthington, L., G. Abers, A. Adams, P. Haeussler, E. Roland, S. Schwartz, A. Sheehan, D. Shillington, S. Webb, and D. Wiens, Putting the “Community” in the Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment (AACSE): Alaska Peninsula and Western Gulf of Alaska, Summer 2018, Fall 2018 GeoPRISMS Newsletter. [here]

Abers, G., A. Adams, E. Roland, S. Schwartz, S. Webb, L. Worthington, Amphibious Community Experiments in Alaska and Related Opportunities, GeoPRISMS Workshop Report. [here]

Nyblade, A., R. Brazier, A. Adams, Y. Park, A. Rodgers, A. Al-Amri (2009), Ground Truth, Magnitude Calibration and Regional Phase Propagation and Detection in the Middle East and Horn of Africa, Technical Report UCRL-PROC-232665 [here]

Nyblade, A., A. Adams, R. Brazier, Y. Park, A. Rodgers (2008), Ground Truth, Magnitude Calibration and Regional Phase Propagation and Detection in the Middle East and Horn of Africa, Technical Report in 2008 Monitoring Research Review: Ground-Based Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Technologies [here]


Dave Allen Morning Show WSYR (January 29, 2020) Radio interview about a Caribbean earthquake

Dave Allen Morning Show WSYR (December 19, 2019) Radio interview about recent New York earthquakes

AACSE Undergraduate Short Course Story Map (2019)

Magnetic Fields Interview on WUTR (2019)

Colgate Magazine My freshman seminar FSEM143 was featured under Syllabus (Autumn 2019)

Elbein, Asher (September 30, 2019) Diving for Data (third-party article on my AACSE research), Colgate Research Magazine 

Aderhold, Kasey (2018) Alaska Amphibious Experiment Crosses the Shoreline (third-party article on my AACSE research), EarthScope Summer 2018 Newsletter

Colgate Communications (May 2018) Faculty-student research partners install seismometer in east Africa 

For more information about my work, please see my C.V.