| Geology@LMU  

Sara Carena

Senior Scientist/Lecturer

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
- Geology -

University of Munich

Luisenstr. 37, 80333 München, Germany

Room A 133

E-Mail: sara.carena *[at]*

+49 (0) 89 2180-6574








2014    Habilitation in Geology, LMU Munich, Germany.

2003    Ph.D. Princeton University, USA.

1995    Laurea (M.Sc.) in Geology, State University of Milano, Italy.


Current projects:

1) Defining the lithospheric structure and the kinematics of the plate boundary near Taiwan by combining geology, earthquake data and crustal tomography. In collaboration with John Suppe (University of Houston),  Yu-Huan Hsieh (University of Houston), Ravi Kanda (Utah State University). DFG project, 2018 - 2022.

2) Source faults of large earthquakes and stress changes in the Turkey-Syria border region in the past 1000 years, in collaboration with Alessandro Verdecchia (Bochum University), and Anke Friedrich, Beth Kahle, Stefanie Rieger, and Simon Kübler (LMU).

3) Long-term vertical displacement rates of Basin and Range faults in collaboration with Anke Friedrich (LMU).

4) Vertical motions of the continental lithosphere, in collaboration with Anke Friedrich (LMU) and Hans-Peter Bunge (LMU).


Past projects:

1) Determining fault strength and crustal strength by developing finite element models of both California and Taiwan, with Christoph Moder. The purpose of this work was to find out what is a realistic range of fault friction in a transform margin setting and in a convergent margin setting. The work is based on a coarse global grid, with local high-resolution representation of actual faults obtained from published 3-D fault maps. We used SKUA-GOCAD to do most of the grid construction and optimization (an example can be found here). By comparing the simulation results with data on fault-slip rates, we were able to determine how faults in the network interact, the role of small faults, and quantify the typical fault strength in each setting. DFG project, 2006 - 2013.

2) Possible structural controls on earthquake nucleation in subduction zones, with particular focus on the south American trench.

3) The July 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake sequence: 3D fault geometry and Coulomb stress modeling, in collaboration with Alessandro Verdecchia (Bochum University) and the computational earthquake physics group of Alice-Agnes Gabriel (LMU/UCSD).   

4) Using earthquake data in 3-D structural model building, with  SKUA-GOCAD as the main fault model building tool. I have modeled fault surfaces in 3-D using the aftershocks from the 1989  Loma Prieta earthquake  and the 1994  Northridge earthquake. The aftershocks allowed me to image in detail not only the faults that generated these two large earthquakes, but also nearby faults. This method is especially useful for imaging the 3-D geometry of blind thrusts, for which there is usually little other information available.

5) Defining the geometry and kinematics of the fault network in northern Owens Valley, California, USA, and Coulomb stress history of Owens Valley and of the western Basin and Range, with Alessandro Verdecchia .

6) Postseismic deformation of the 2013 Minab earthquake (Iran) from satellite interferometry, in collaboration with Stefanie Rieger, Christina Plattner, Amir Abolghasem, Anke Friedrich (LMU), and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).


I have worked on detailed 3D fault models for several regions:

- Taiwan, where the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake produced a large number of aftershocks, making it possible to identify a decollement horizon below the orogen.

- San Gorgonio Pass - San Bernardino Mountains area, southern California, resulting in the definition of the fault geometry in the San Gorgonio Pass region.

- San Andreas fault near Parkfield and other faults in its vicinity.

Follow this link for images and movies


Webinar "Creating 3D Hand Samples" (August 10, 2020)

Webinar hosted by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT).
After clicking on the link, scroll down to find the video.

Virtual field trips (VFT), and virtual outcrop resources

Regional geology:
Field exercises and mapping:

All the VFTs have been built using the same environment: the main difference is that the field trips come with a field trip guide, exercises, and scenes in a specific order, whereas the supplement for the mapping course is meant to be used for exploration and it is unstructured.

All VFTs are free for students and educators to use, but due to bandwidth limitations I cannot give unrestricted access to the web-based versions. Students who register with me for one of the virtual courses will receive the self-contained apps (both Windows and Mac versions are available) and the password to access the online version.
If you are not a student registered for a virtual course, but you would like access to one or more of the apps, please contact me by email to get the standalone app version.
For the samples above, the guide for each trip can be downloaded from within the app.

My sketchfab page with over 800 3D rock sample models and 3D outcrop and terrain models.


Applications for Ph.D. student positions are always welcome. We do not have a formal application process, you simply contact the person you would like to work with.

If you are a foreign student, the best option is for you to first apply for a DAAD scholarship for 6 or 12 months (which you can do only as long as you are still outside of Germany), or for funding to study abroad from the government of your own country. Obtaining a scholarship would increase your chances of being accepted. Our funding is exclusively through research grants and it is difficult to match precisely grant availability with availability of good student candidates.  The DAAD also offers some scholarships specifically to pursue PhD studies.
At the moment, several Bachelor theses are available in mapping and analysis of structures using remote-sensing techniques. I expect all students to be able to efficiently use text editors, spreadsheets and state-of-the-art graphics software. You may have to learn how to use GlobalMapper/ArcGIS/QGIS, SKUA-Gocad, or Coulomb 3.3 for your project (it depends on the exact topic). Basic knowledge of Matlab may turn out to be useful as well.

Former students

Anastasia Aristou, B.Sc. Oct. 2022. Thesis title: Creation of a digital exercise for the practice of rock identification in entry academic level.

Apoorv Avasthy, M.Sc. Oct. 2021.
Thesis title: Virtual Field Trips: An application of photogrammetry and virtual reality in geosciences for teaching purposes.
This originally started out as a Studi_forscht@GEO project. Some products from Apoorv's projects can be found on Apoorv's sketchfab page, and further information is on his Sketchfab Blog. Apoorv is now a Senior Manager at Endure Air (Noida, India), and co-founder and CTO of Geovironment3D (Dehradun, India).

Seulgi Son: M.Sc. Mar. 2020. Thesis title: Tectono-geomorphic study of uplifted marine terraces and Quaternary vertical motion in the coastal Makran, SE Iran.
Now a  Customer Success Manager at UP42 GmbH, Berlin, Germany.

Alessandro Verdecchia, Ph.D. May 2016.
Thesis title:
Earthquakes and Coulomb stress evolution in a diffuse plate boundary: Northern Basin and Range Province, USA).
Now postdoctoral scholar at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, and McGill University, Canada.

Lukas Sundermann, M.Sc. Dec. 2012. Thesis title: Deformation of the 760 ka northern Volcanic Tableland: implications for the kinematic evolution of northern Owens Valley, California, USA.
Now a Senior Product Manager at Swiss Re, Zurich, Switzerland.

Andreas Fina, B.Sc. Nov. 2011.
Thesis title: 3D-imaging of the fault network in northwestern Owens Valley, California.

Christoph Moder, Ph.D. Feb. 2011. Thesis title: From Faults to Plate Boundaries: Insights from Computer Models.

Rainer Wunderlich, B.Sc. Jan. 2011. Thesis title: 3D Fault Plane Modeling of the 1986 Chalfant Valley Earthquake Sequence.
Rainer has gone on to obtain a Master's degree
in Natural Resource Management at James Cook University, Cairns, Australia, and a PhD in Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering at the National Taiwan University in Taipei. He is currently a postdoc at the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE).

last update 30.01.2024   

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