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Sara Carena

Senior Scientist/Lecturer

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
- Geology -

University of Munich

Luisenstr. 37, 80333 M√ľnchen, Germany

Room A 133

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

+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 - ongoing.

2) The July 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake sequence: 3D fault geometry and Coulomb stress modeling, in collaboration with Alessandro Verdecchia (McGill University) and the computational earthquake physics group of Alice-Agnes Gabriel (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, with a focus on Africa, in collaboration with Anke Friedrich (LMU) and Hans-Peter Bunge (LMU).

5) Postseismic deformation of the 2013 Minab earthquake (Iran) from satellite interferometryin collaboration with Stefanie Rieger, Christina Plattner, Amir AbolghasemAnke Friedrich, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

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) 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.

4) 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.

I have also worked on structural models for several other 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


Current classes & field exercises

Follow the links below to get information and to download material for class. Always enter class pages from the main links here, and access my homepage by using the link I have given you, or by coming from the main Geology pages. If there is no link on this page, it means that the course page is not active, or the link has been deactivated because the course is over.

Virtual field trips (VFT), and virtual outcrop resources - NEW, 2020-2021

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.

Students who register with me for one of the virtual courses will receive the self-contained apps (both Windows and Mac versions are available) after registration.
If you are not a student registered for the virtual course, but you would like one or more of the apps, please contact me by email.

My sketchfab page with over 600 3D rock sample models and 3D outcrop and terrain models.

Past classes & field exercises

If you have questions about missing grades or signatures for any of the courses below, please contact me directly.


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. If you can manage to have your own funding for 6 to 12 months, that makes it easier to match you (rather than another random person who happens to email us at the right time) to the next available grant. The DAAD also offers some scholarships specifically to pursue PhD studies.
Regardless of whether you get DAAD or other funding, if you apply for a Ph.D. student position with me you should always send by email your CV, statement of purpose, pdf of your Master's thesis, copy of your M.Sc. Degree and transcripts (with grading scale clearly defined somewhere). I only accept students who have an excellent command of English, both written and spoken. Knowledge of German is not necessary for Ph.D. work in Geosciences, though you may want to learn some to get around in stores and offices.

I also usually have Bachelor's and Master's thesis topics available for students in the respective programs at LMU. 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, 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.
If you like to play with computers, especially graphics, you will likely do ok on any project. If you hate touching a keyboard, or cannot tell valleys from mountains on a topo map, none of my projects is for you.

Current students

Apoorv Avasthy, master student. Thesis topic (and originally a Studi_forscht@GEO project): Applications of virtual technology in geosciences teaching, from drone scanning to 3D outcrop models to virtual field trips and field exercises. Some preliminary products from Apoorv's projects can be found on Apoorv's sketchfab page, and further information is on his Sketchfab Blog.

Former students

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 Customer Support Engineer 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 posdtoctoral 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 at 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). Now researcher and microkernel developer at Genua GmbH, Munich, Germany.

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. He is currently a PhD student in Biodiversity at the National Taiwan University in Taipei.

last updated 29.05.2021

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