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Sara Carena

Senior Scientist/Lecturer

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
- Geology -

University of Munich

Luisenstr. 37, 80333 München, Germany

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

+49 (0) 89 2180-6574
Fax: +49 (0) 89 2180-99 6513








2014    Habilitation in Geology, LMU Munich

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, Yih-Min Wu, Ravi Kanda, and Kamil Ustaszewski.

2) Coulomb stress history in the western Basin and Range, USA.

3) Long-term vertical displacement rates of Basin and Range faults.

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 is 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 use 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 can determine how faults in the network interact, the role of small faults, and quantify the typical fault strength in each setting.

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  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..

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. Pages move around and change host from time to time. Searching for pages on the internet may result in you hitting an old, cached copy. Students who fail to recognize obsolete cached copies are well on their way to failing the course. If there is no link on this page, it means that the course page is not active yet, or the link has been deactivated because the course is over.

- P1.1 Field Seminar, and P1.2 Field Mapping and Exploration
- P14.1 Scientific Writing; P14.2 Scientific Presentations
- P6.0.3 Advanced Active Tectonics 1, and P12.0.3 Advanced Active Tectonics 3

- P4.0.1 / WP7.0.3 Modern Active Tectonics
- WP9.0.5 / WP4.0.4 Geological Computer Modeling

Past classes & field exercises

If you have questions about missing grades or signatures for any of the courses below, please contact me directly. Material for past courses will not be made available online.

WS 2014-2015 - P1.1 Field Seminar (Master's)
WS 2014-2015 - P6.0.3 Advanced Active Tectonics 1, and P12.0.3 Advanced Active Tectonics 3 (Master's)
WS 2014-2015 - P4.0.1 / WP 7.0.3 Modern Active Tectonics (Master's)
SS 2014 - Field Exercise Berliner Huette, Kurs B (Bachelor's)
SS 201
4 - WP9.0.5 / WP4.0.4 Geological Computer Modeling: Gocad Workshop (Master's)
SS 2014 - Mapping course Spain (Master's)
WS 2013-2014 - P4.0.1 Modern Active Tectonics (Master's)
SS 2013 - Gocad Workshop  (Master's)
SS 2013 - Field exercise Berliner Huette, Kurs B (Bachelor's)
SS 2013 - Mapping course Spain, Kurs A (Bachelor's)
WS 2012-2013 -
Physics of Geological Processes (Active Tectonics) (Master's)
SS 2012 - Field exercise Berliner Huette, Kurs A, B (Bachelor's)
SS 2012 - Tektonik Uebung (Structural Geology Lab), Kurs A1, A2 (Bachelor's)
WS 2011-2012 - Mapping course Spain, Kurs A
WS 2011-2012 - Physics of Geological Processes (Active Tectonics) (Master's)
WS 2011-2012 - Tektonik
Vorlesung (Structural Geology) (Bachelor's)
SS 2011 - Field exercise Berliner Huette (Bachelor's)
SS 2011 - Bachelor's Seminar
SS 2011 - Tektonik Uebung (Structural Geology Lab), Kurs A1 (Bachelor's)
WS 2010-2011 - Tektonik Vorlesung (Structural Geology) (Bachelor's)
SS 2010 - Tektonik Uebung (Structural Geology Lab), Kurs A2 (Bachelor's)
WS 2009-2010 - Seminar: Geology and Tectonics of Taiwan (Master's)
SS 2009 - Block course "Introduction to Gocad"
SS 2009 - Field exercise Berliner Huette
SS 2008 - Block course "Introduction to Gocad"
SS 2008 - Excursion W USA
WS 2006-2007 - Tektonik II Vorlesung (Diplom)
WS 2006-2007 - Tektonik II Uebung (Diplom)


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 (or the Geology Chair if you have no idea with whom you would like to work).

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). 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 and basically stick around earlier on, 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), and one or two letters of recommendation sent directly to my email address by the person/s writing them. At this stage your documents can be in any of the following languages: English, Italian, Spanish, French, German. However, if you are admitted, the LMU administration will only accept official documents in German or English. So be prepared to get certified copies and translations in paper form.
I only accept students who have a good 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. Master theses instead need to be discussed on a case-by-case basis, though these will also be carried out mainly with remote sensing or computer modeling techniques.
I expect all students to be able to efficiently use text editors, spreadsheets and state-of-the-art graphics software without any help from me. 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). If you have not had a class in any of these, and have never used them on your own either, attempting to do so while working on the thesis is not a good idea. 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. I do not hand out field-only theses, though your own project may contain field work as an element. Field work is therefore more likely for M.Sc. theses, as B.Sc. thesis periods are too short to combine different methods.

Current students

Former students

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 student at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany.

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 working 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. He is now a PhD student in Biodiversity at the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei.

last updated 30.06.2017