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Rocco Malservisi

Rocco Malservisi

Rocco Malservisi

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I became involved in geodynamics research as part of my degree in physics at the University of Bologna, working with Roberto Sabadini and Giorgio Spada on the influence of mantle mass anomalies on the observed geoid and Earth rotation. In 1997, I began my PhD with Kevin Furlong at Penn State on lithospheric geodynamics, with emphasis on numerical modeling of complex plate boundaries. As part of my post-doctoral work, I am developing and adapting numerical models of lithospheric deformation to improve our modeling of geodetic data.

A primary aspect of this research is the study of processes that can lead to strain partitioning and localization on a lithospheric scale. In particular, I am interested in analyzing the dynamics of plate boundaries to understand how observed surface characteristics of the boundaries reflects the lithospheric scale plate interaction. I focus on a variety of plate boundaries in different regimes at different scales in order to separate the key processes. Some of the projects are described in the research link.

In the study of geodynamic processes, numerical modeling is an important tool that allows us to test a wide range of assumptions and processes including the effects of rheology, earthquake cycle and/or fault geometry and interaction with the surrounding lithosphere. In my current research, I am focusing on how processes affect and constrain tectonic interpretations from geodetic observations. I am using finite-element modeling approach to analyze geodetic data, including the transient effects of earthquakes. In this way, it is possible to impose robust constraints on the parameters and processes that influence plate boundary kinematics and improve our abilities to image plate boundary deformation.

I think that in geodynamic modeling it is important to utilize observations both to constrain the models and to validate the results. Thus, I value collaboration among different disciplines and with different scientists. The Wasatch and Baja California studies are good examples of the value of integrating different observations to understand complex behavior. I also think we benefit from international collaborations. During my time at Penn State I have been fortunate to work with people from different institutions and backgrounds. For the modeling part of my research, for example, I work with Rob Govers (Utrecht University, NL), for the Fiordland project I work with different collegues from New Zealand (Helen Anderson (MORST, New Zealand), Tim Stern and Martha Savage (Victoria University Wellington), while for the geodetic work I closely interact with the University of Miami Geodesy Group (Tim Dixon, Giovanni Sella, Pete La Femina, Shimon Wdowinski). I am currently working with different collegues from CICESE, MX (John Fletcher, Pancho Suarez-Vidal) to collect data in Baja California and across the Gulf of California.

Although research has been so far my main focus, I am an advocate of the benefits of combining educational and research activity in advancing science. During my graduate studies, although I could always be supported by research assistantships, I asked to be involved as a teaching assistant in classes related to geodynamics. I had the pleasure to work with two professors actively involved in education (K.P. Furlong and C.J. Marone) who considered the teaching assistantship position not merely as a helper but also as a development opportunity for the TA. With these two professors, I have been involved in curriculum design including new labs. I also had the opportunity to give several lectures in each class. I have also been involved in different outreach program of Penn State and I have been involved in the advising of students.

Here in Munich I teaching a class of tectonics where I am using geodesy, in particular GPS, to analyze different aspects of plate tectonics and the deformations at plate margins. I also teach a class about earth system and natural hazards (for diploma students) and a reading class about lithospheric dynamics. I am also involved with the TUM MSc ESPACE where I am teaching the introductory class of Earth System.

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Printed 22. Feb 2020 11:57