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Eric Kirby

Eric Kirby photo
R.S. Yeats Associate Professor of Earthquake Geology and Active Tectonics

Discipline: Geology and Geophysics
Office: Wilkinson 202D
Phone: 541-737-5169
Vita or Résumé (PDF)

Research Interests

Interplay between surficial and tectonic processes in orogen evolution. 

Current research interests and activities centered on: 1) processes that drive fault system evolution over timescales scales of 104 to 106 yrs (Tibet; Eastern California; Japan); 2) fluvial adjustment to spatial and temporal variations in rock uplift (India/Nepal; California; Japan); 3) growth and evolution of the Tibetan Plateau; 4) transient evolution of topography in mountain ranges during the approach to steady-state (Tien Shan, California, Appalachians, Costa Rica); and 5) coupling among hydrology, soil erosion, and landscape evolution (PA).


B.A. Hamilton College (with honors, Magna Cum Laude), Geology 1992

M.S. University of New Mexico (with distinction), Geology 1994

Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Geology 2001


R.S. Yeats Chair in Earthquake Geology and Active Tectonics, Oregon State University
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
2013 – present

Associate Professor, Oregon State University
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
2013 – present

Guest Professor, China Earthquake Administration
State Key Laboratory of Earthquake Dynamics, Institute of Geology
2014 – present

Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, University of Potsdam, Germany
2010 – 2013

Associate Professor, The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Geosciences
2008 – 2013

Assistant Professor, The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Geosciences
2002 – 2008

NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Santa Barbara
2001 – 2002

Current Professional Activities

Editor, Lithosphere

Associate Editor, Geologic Society of America Bulletin

Co-chair, IRIS Grand Challenge Science Committee: Interactions among climate, hydrology, surface processes and tectonics


(* denotes student author advised by Kirby)

Articles in refereed journals

Aslan, A., Hood, W.C., Karlstrom, K.E., Kirby, E., Granger, D.E., Kelley, S., Crow, R., and Donahue, M.S., in press, Abandonment of Unaweep Canyon (1.4 to 0.8 Ma), western Colorado: Effects of stream capture and anomalously rapid late Quaternary river incision: Geosphere, v. 10 (doi:10.1130/GES00986.1, published online May 13, 2014)

*West, N., Kirby, E., Bierman, P.R., and Clarke, B.A., Aspect-dependent variations in regolith creep revealed by meteoric 10Be: Geology (doi:10.1130/G35357.1, published online April 15, 2014)

Zhang, H., Zhang, P., Champagnac, J.-D., Molnar, P., Anderson, R., Kirby, E., Craddock W., and Liu, S., 2014, Pleistocene drainage reorganization driven by the isostatic response to deep incision into the northeastern Tibetan Plateau: Geology, v. 42, p. 302-306 (doi:10.1130/G35115.1, published online Feb. 24, 2014)

*Rittase, W., Kirby, E., McDonald, E., Walker, J.D., Gosse, J., Spencer, J., and Herrs, A.J., 2014, Temporal variations in Holocene slip rate along the central Garlock fault, Pilot Knob Valley, California: Lithosphere, v. 6, p. 48-58 (doi:10.1130/L286.1, published online Jan. 17, 2014)

*Regalla, C., Fisher, D.M., Kirby, E., and Furlong, K.P., 2013, Relationship between outer forearc subsidence and plate boundary kinematics along the Northeast Japan convergent margin: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 14, p. 5227-5243 (doi:10.1002/2013GC005008, published online Dec. 20, 2013)

Yuan, D.-Y., Ge, W.-P., Chen, Z.-W., Li, C.-Y., Wang, Z.-C., Zhang, H.-P., Zhang, P.-Z., Zheng, D.-W., Zheng, W.-J., Craddock, W.H., Dayem, K.E., Duvall, A.R., Hough, B.G., Lease, R.O., Champagnac, J.-D., Burbank, D.W., Clark, M.K., Farley, K.A., Garzione, C.N., Kirby, E., Molnar, P., and Roe, G.H., 2013, The growth of northeastern Tibet and its relevance to large-scale continental geodynamics: A review of recent studies: Tectonics, v. 32, p. 1358-1370 (doi:10.1002/tect.20081, published online Oct. 3, 2013)

Duvall, A.R., Clark, M.K., Kirby, E., Farley, K.A., Craddock, W.H., Li, C., and Yuan, D.-Y., 2013, Low-temperature thermochronometry along the Kunlun and Haiyuan faults, NE Tibetan Plateau: Evidence for kinematic change during late stage orogenesis: Tectonics, v. 32, p. 1190-1211 (doi:10.1002/tect.20072, published online Oct. 1, 2013)

McAullife, L.J., Dolan, J.F., Kirby, E., Rollins, C., Haravitch, B., Alm, S., and Rittenour, T.M., 2013, Paleoseismology of the southern Panamint Valley fault: Implications for regional earthquake occurrence and seismic hazard in southern California: Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth, v. 5126-5146 (doi:10.1002/jgrb.50359, published online Sept. 24, 2013)

*West, N., Kirby E., Bierman, P. Slingerland, R., Ma, L., Rood, D., and Brantley, S., 2013, Regolith evolution in the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, Part 2: Insights from meteoric 10Be: Journal of Geophysical Research, Earth Surface, v. 118, p. 1877-1896 (doi:10.1002/jgrf.20121, published online Sept. 17, 2013)

Allen, G., Barnes, J., Pavelsky, T., and Kirby, E., 2013, Lithologic and tectonic controls on bedrock channel form at the northwest Himalayan front: Journal of Geophysical Research – Earth Surface, v. 118, p. 1806-1825 (doi:10.1002/jgrf.20113, published online Sept. 12, 2013)

Donahue, M. S., Karlstrom, K. E., Aslan, A., Darling, A., Granger, D., Wan, E., Dickinson, W., and Kirby, E, 2013, Incision history of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado, over the past ~1Ma inferred from dating of fluvial gravel deposits: Geosphere, v. 9, p.815-826 (doi:10.1130/GES00847.1, published online July 16, 2013)

Ma, L., Chabaux, F., West, N., Kirby, E., Jin, L., and Brantley, S., 2013, Regolith production and erosion in the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, Part 1: Insights from U-series isotopes: Journal of Geophysical Research, Earth Surface, v. 118, p. 722-740 (doi:10.1002/jgrf.20037, published online May 23, 2013)

Miller, S.R., Sak, P.B., Kirby, E., and Bierman, P.R., 2013, Neogene rejuvenation of central Appalachian topography: Evidence for differential rock uplift from stream profiles and erosion rates: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 369-370, p. 1-12.

*Regalla, C., Kirby, E., Fisher, D., 2013, Active forearc shortening in Tohoku, Japan: Constraints on fault geometry from erosion rates and fluvial longitudinal profiles: Geomorphology, v. 195, p. 84-98 (doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.04.029, published online May 15, 2013)

Kirby, E. and Harkins, N., 2013, Distributed deformation around the eastern tip of the Kunlun fault: International Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 102, p. 1759-1772 (doi:10.1007/s00531-013-0872-x, published online March 7, 2013)

*Wang, W., Kirby, E., Zhang, P., and Zhang, G., 2013, Tertiary basin evolution along the northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau: Evidence for basin formation during Oligocene transtension: GSA Bulletin, v. 125, p. 377-400 (doi:10.1130/B30611.1, published online Nov. 21, 2012).

Darling, A.L., Karlstrom, K.E., Granger, D.E., Aslan, A., Kirby, E., Ouimet, W.B., Lazear, G.D., Coblentz, D.D., Cole, R.D., 2012, New incision rates along the Colorado River system based on cosmogenic burial dating of terraces: implications for regional controls on Quaternary incision: Geosphere, v. 8, p. 1020-1041.

Kirby, E. and Whipple, K. X, 2012, Expression of active tectonics in erosional landscapes: Journal of Structural Geology, v. 44, p. 54-75 [INVITED REVIEW]

Wang, E., Kirby, E., Furlong, K., van Soest, M., Xu, G., Shi, X., Kamp, P., and Hodges, K., 2012, Two-phase growth of high topography in eastern Tibet during the Cenozoic: Nature Geoscience, v. 5, p. 640-645

*Morell, K., Kirby, E., Fisher, D., and van Soest, M., 2012, Geomorphic and exhumational response of the Central American Volcanic Arc to Cocos Ridge subduction: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 117, B04409

Karlstrom, K., Coblentz, D., Deuker, K. Ouimet, W., Kirby, E., van Wijk, J., Schmandt, B., Kelley, S., Lazear, G., Crossey, L. J., Crow, R., Aslan, A., Darling, A., Aster, R., MacCarthy, J., Hansen, S.M., Stachnik, J, Stockli, D.F., Garcia, R.V., Hofman, M., McKeon, R., Feldman, J., Heizler, M., Donahue, M.S., and the CREST working group, 2012, Mantle-driven dynamic uplift of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau and its surface response: Toward a unified hypothesis: Lithosphere, v.4, no. 1, p. 3-22.

*Craddock, W., Kirby, E., and Zhang, H., 2011, Late Miocene – Pliocene range growth in the interior of the northeastern Tibetan Plateau: Lithosphere, v. 3, no. 6, p. 420-438.

*Hu, X., Kirby, E., Pan, B., Granger, D., and Su, H., 2011, Cosmogenic burial ages reveal sediment reservoir dynamics along the Yellow River, China: Geology, v. 39, no. 9, p. 839-842.

*Wang, W., Zhang, P., Kirby, E., Wang, L., Zhang, G., Zheng, D., and Chai, C., 2011, A revised chronology for Tertiary sedimentation in the Sikouzi basin: Implications for tectonic evolution of the northeastern corner of the Tibetan Plateau: Tectonophysics, v. 505, p. 100-114.

*Craddock, W., Kirby, E., Zheng, D., 2011, Tectonic setting of Cretaceous basins on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau: Insights from the Jungong Basin: Basin Research, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2117.2011.00515.x

Zhang, H., Zhang, P., Kirby, E., Yin, J., Liu, C., and Yu, G., 2011, Along-strike topographic variation of the Longmen Shan and its significance for landscape evolution along the eastern Tibetan Plateau: Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, v. 40, p. 855-864.

*Hu, X., Pan, B., Kirby, E., Li, Q., Geng, H., and Chen J., 2010, Spatial differences in rock uplift rates inferred from channel steepness indices along the north flank of the Qilian Mountains, northeast Tibet Plateau: Chinese Science Bulletin, v. 55, p. 3205 – 3214.

*Harkins, N.W., Kirby, E., Shi, X., Wang, E., Burbank, D., and Chun, F., 2010, Millennial slip-rates along the eastern Kunlun fault: Implications for the dynamics of intracontinental deformation in Asia: Lithosphere, v.2, p. 247-266., doi: 10.1130/L85.1.

*Craddock, W., Kirby, E., Harkins, N., Zhang, H., and Shi, X., 2010, Rapid fluvial incision along the Yellow River during headward basin integration: Nature Geoscience, v. 3, p. 209-213, doi:10.1038/ngeo777.

*Regalla, C., Fisher, D., and Kirby, E., 2010, Timing and magnitude of shortening within the inner fore arc of the Japan Trench: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, doi:10.1029/2009JB006603.

Pan, B., Su, H., Hu, Z., Hu, X., Gao, H., Li, J., and Kirby, E., 2009, Evaluating the role of climate and tectonics during non-steady incision of the Yellow River: evidence from a 1.24 Ma terrace record near Lanzhou, China: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 28, p. 3281-3290.

Johnson, C. B., Furlong, K.P., and Kirby, E., 2009, Integrated geomorphic and geodynamic modeling of a potential blind thrust in the San Francisco Bay area, California: Tectonophysics, v. 471, p. 319-328.

Parsons, T., Ji, C., and Kirby, E., 2008, Stress changes from the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and increased hazard in the Sichuan basin: Nature, v. 454, doi: 10.1038/nature07177

Burchfiel, B.C., Royden, L.H., van der Hilst, R.D., Chen, Z., King, R.W., Li, C., Lu, J., Yao, H., and Kirby, E., 2008, A geological and geophysical context for the Wenchuan earthquake of 12 May 2008, Sichuan, People’s Republic of China: GSA Today, v. 18, no. 7, doi: 10.1130/GSATG18A.1

*Harkins, N. and Kirby, E., 2008, Fluvial terrace riser degradation and determination of slip rates on strike-slip faults: An example from the Kunlun fault, China: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 35,  L05406, doi:10.1029/2007GL033073.

Kirby, E., Anadakrishnan, S., Phillips, F., Marrero, S., 2008, Late Pleistocene slip rate along the Owens Valley fault, eastern California: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 35, L01304, doi: 10.1029/2007GL031970.

Frankel, K.L., Glazner, A.F., Kirby, E., Monastero, F.C., Strane, M.D., Oskin, M.E., Unruh, J.R., Walker, J.D., Anandakrishnan, S., Bartley, J.M., Coleman, D.S., Dolan, J.F., Finkel, R.C., Greene, D., Kylander-Clark, A., Marrero, S., Owen, L.A., and Phillips, F., 2008, Active tectonics of the eastern California shear zone, in Duebendorfer, E.M., and Smith, E.I., eds., Field Guide to Plutons, Volcanoes, Faults, Reefs, Dinosaurs, and Possible Glaciation in Selected Areas of Arizona, California, and Nevada: Geological Society of America Field Guide 11, p. 43–81, doi: 10.1130/2008.fl d011(03).

Kirby, E., Harkins, N., Wang, E., and Burbank, D., 2007, Slip rate gradients on the eastern Kunlun Fault: Tectonics, 26, TC2010, doi:10.1029/2006TC002033.

Kirby, E., Johnson, C., Furlong, K., and Heimsath, A., 2007, Transient channel incision along Bolinas Ridge, California: Evidence for differential rock uplift adjacent to the San Andreas fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, Earth Surface, 112, F03S07, doi: 10.1029/2006JF000559.

*Harkins, N., Kirby, E., Heimsath, A., Robinson, R., and Reiser, U., Transient fluvial incision in the headwaters of the Yellow River, northeastern Tibet, China: Journal of Geophysical Research, Earth Surface, 112, F03S04, doi:10.1029/2006JF000570.

*Numelin, T., Kirby, E., Walker, J.D., and Didericksen, B., Late Pleistocene slip on a low-angle normal fault, Searles Valley, California: Geosphere, 3, pg. 163-176, doi: 10.1130/GES00052.1.

*Numelin, T., Marone, C., and Kirby, E., 2007, Frictional properties of natural fault gouge from a low-angle normal fault, Panamint Valley, California: Tectonics, v. 26, TC2004, doi:10.1029/2005TC001916.

*Miller, S.R., Slingerland, R.L., and Kirby, E., 2007, Characteristics of steady-state fluvial topography above fault-bend folds: Journal of Geophysical Research, Earth Surface, 112, F04004, doi:10.1029/2007JF000772

Kirby E., Burbank, D., Phillips, F., and Reheis, M., 2006, Temporal variations in slip rate of the White Mountain Fault Zone, eastern California: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 248, p. 168-185.

Walker, J.D., Kirby, E., and Andrew, J.A., 2005, Strain transfer and partitioning between the Panamint Valley, Searles Valley, and Ash Hill fault systems, California: Geosphere, v. 1, no. 3; doi: 10.1130/GES00014.1

*Duvall, A., Kirby, E., and Burbank, D., Tectonic and lithologic controls on channel profiles and processes in coastal California: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, v. 109, F03002, doi:10.1029/2003JF000086

Kirby, E., Whipple, K.X., Tang, W., and Chen, Z., 2003, Distribution of active rock uplift along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau: Inferences from bedrock river profiles: Journal of Geophysical Research, v.108, 2217, doi:10.1029/2001JB000861, 2003.

Kirby, E., Reiners, P.W., Krol, M.A., Hodges, K.V., Whipple, K.X., Farley, K.A., Chen, Z., and Tang, W., 2002, Late Cenozoic evolution of the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau: Inferences from 40Ar/39Ar and (U-Th)/He thermochronology, Tectonics, v. 21, 1001, doi:10.1029/2000TC001246, 2002.

Kirby, E. and Whipple, K.X., 2001, Quantifying differential rock-uplift rates via stream profile analysis: Geology, v. 29, pp. 415-418.

Kirby, E., Burchfiel, B.C., Whipple, K.X., Tang, W., Berger, G., Sun, Z., and Chen, Z., 2000, Neotectonics of the Min Shan, China: Implications for mechanisms driving Quaternary deformation along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau: GSA Bulletin, v. 112, pp. 375-393.

Whipple, K.X., Kirby, E. and Brocklehurst, S.H., 1999, Geomorphic limits to climatically induced increases in topographic relief: Nature, v. 401, pp. 39-43.

Kirby, E., Karlstrom, K.E., Andronicos, C.L., and Dallmeyer, R.D., 1994, Tectonic setting of the Sandia pluton: an orogenic 1.4 Ga granite in New Mexico: Tectonics, v. 14, pp. 185-201.

Nyman, M.W., Karlstrom, K.E., Kirby, E., and Graubard, C., 1994, 1.4 Ga contractional orogeny in western North America: evidence from ca. 1.4 Ga plutons: Geology, v. 22, pp. 901-904.

Book Chapters

Kirby, E. and Ouimet, W., 2011, Tectonic geomorphology along the eastern margin of Tibet: Insights into the pattern and processes of active deformation adjacent to the Sichuan Basin, in, Gloaguen, R. and Ratschbacher, L., eds., Growth and Collapse of the Tibetan Plateau: Geological Society, London, Special Publications, v. 353, p. 165-168. doi: 10.1144/SP353.9.

Koons, P. and Kirby, E., 2007, Topography, Denudation, and Deformation: The role of surface processes in fault evolution, in, Handy, M.R., Hirth, G., and Hovius, N., eds., Tectonic Faults: Agents of Change on a Dynamic Earth, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA., pg. 205-230.

Buck, W.R., Densmore, A.L., Fredrich, A.F., Hovius, N., Kirby, E., Koons, P.O., Nagel, T., Schlunegger, F., Strecker, M., anc von Blanckenburg, F., 2007, Environmental Effects of Faulting, in, Handy, M.R., Hirth, G., and Hovius, N., eds., Tectonic Faults: Agents of Change on a Dynamic Earth, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA., p. 273-294.

Wobus, C., Whipple, K., Kirby, E., Snyder, N., Johnson, J., Spyropolou, K., Crosby, B., Sheehan, D., 2006, Tectonics from Topography: Procedures, promise, and pitfalls, in, Willett, S.D., Hovius, N., Brandon, M.T., and Fisher, D., eds., Tectonics, Climate, and Landscape Evolution: Geologic Society of America Special Paper 398, p. 55-74, doi:10.1130/2006.2398(04).

Clift, P.D., Carter, A., Krol, M., and Kirby, E., 2002, Constraints on India-Eurasia collision in the Arabian Sea region taken from the Indus Group, Ladakh Himalaya, India, in, Clift, P.D., Kroon, D., Gaedicke, C. and Craig, J., eds., The Tectonic and Climatic Evolution of the Arabian Sea Region: Geological Society, London, Special Publications, v. 195, p. 97-116.

Other Articles and Maps

Karlstrom, K.E., Darling, A., Crow, R., Lazear, G., Aslan, A., Granger, D., Kirby, E., Crossey, L. and Whipple, K., 2013, Colorado River chronostratigraphy at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, and the Colorado Plateau bull’s-eye of incision (COMMENT): Geology, e303 (doi:10.1130/G34550C.1)

Kirby, E., 2012, Tectonically twisted rivers: Nature Geoscience, v. 5, p. 688-698.

*West, N., Kirby, E., Bierman, P., and Rood, D., 2011, Preliminary estimates of regolith generation and mobility in the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, PA, using meteoric 10Be: Applied Geochemistry (extended abstract associated with 9th International Symposium on Geochemistry of the Earth Surface).

Kirby, E., Whipple, K.X., and Harkins, N., 2008, Topography reveals seismic hazard: Nature Geoscience, v. 1, p. 485-487, doi: 10.1038/ngeo265.

Duvall, A., Kirby, E., and Burbank, D.W., 2004, Discussion of bedrock channels with the Santa Ynez Mountains: El Capitan Canyon: 2004 Friends of the Pleistocene Guidebook: Santa Barbara Fold Belt and Beyond, eds., Gurrola, L. and Keller, E., 12p.

Niemann, J.D. and Kirby, E., 2003, Geomorphology: Geotimes Annual Highlights Issue, v. 48, no. 7, p. 14-15.

Kirby, E., Karlstrom, K.E., and Andronicos, C.L., 1995, Structural and thermal setting during emplacement of the Sandia pluton: New Mexico Geological Society Guidebook 46, pp. 219-225.

Karlstrom, K.E., Kirby, E., Connell, S., Read, A.S., Ferguson, C., Osburn, G.R., Ilg, B., Abbott, J., Hitchcock, C., Kelson, K., Noller, J., Sawyer, T., Bauer, P., Ralser, S., Love, D., and Nyman, M., 1994 (latest revision: 22, September, 1999), Geology of the Tijeras 7.5-min quadrangle, Bernalillo County, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Open-file Digital Geologic Map OF-DGM 4, scale 1:24,000.

Read, A.S., Connell, S., Karlstrom, K.E., Kirby, E., Ferguson, C., Ilg, B., Pazzaglia, F., Osburn, G.R., Van Hart, D., 1995 (latest revision: 20 September, 1999) Geology of the Sandia Crest quadrangle, Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties, New Mexico, Open-file Digital Geologic Map OF-DGM 6: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, scale 1:24,000.

Timmons, J.M., Karlstrom, K.E., and Kirby, E., 1995, Geology of the Monte Largo Hills area, New Mexico: Structural and metamorphic study of the eastern aureole of the Sandia pluton: New Mexico Geological Society Guidebook 46, p. 227-232.