Paul Zimmer: 2017 Outstanding Thesis Awards

From San Jose State University Commencement 2017:

Paul Zimmer analyzed 27,000 cross-sections derived from Sierra Nevada bedrock valleys in pursuit of his master’s degree in geology- challenging conventional understandings of how glacial erosion modifies the shape of mountain ranges. He developed his master’s thesis, “Assessing Glacial Modification of Bedrock Valleys in the Sierra Nevada, California, Using a Novel Approach,” by creating a new, semi-automated technique for extracting valley cross-sections from digital elevation models using custom scripts written in the programming languages MATLAB and Python. He used this approach to produce an unparalleled dataset and to validate a new method for quantifying the geomorphology of bedrock valleys

Green Ninja Project receives $1.1 million from NSF


genie_slide-10dh9wfDr. Ellen Metzger, professor of Geology and Science Education, is a member of the Green Ninja Project, whose goal is building an understanding of Climate Change through improved science education. Last year, the project received a grant to further the production of the “Green Ninja Film Academy” (GENIE) and was reported first in Academic Spotlight

An interdisciplinary research team from San José State has been awarded $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to design and implement the ‘Green Ninja Film Academy (GENIE),” an intervention that leverages well-established research on motivation to encourage student interest and engagement in the STEM-related field of climate change. The project is aimed at scientifically-undeserved middle school students who will be guided through a structured storytelling and film-making experience that builds competencies in science, engineering design, media technology and communications. During the three-year project, 60 teachers and at least 2,000 students will directly participate in the GENIE project, with additional participation from parents, friends, and teachers who attend the Green Ninja Film Festival. GENIE is also designed around helping teachers prepare to implement the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) using climate change as a context. The project builds on the established Green Ninja Project, and an SJSU initiative that develops media to inspire student interest in science and the environment. The principal investigators of the NSF grant are SJSU professors Eugene Cordero (Meteorology and Climate Science), David Chai (Animation/Illustration), Ellen Metzger (Geology and Science Education), Grinell Smith (Elementary Education) and Elizabeth Walsh (Meteorology and Climate Science and Science Education). More information about the project can be found at


Dr. Kim Blisnuik’s Research Group and the Geology of Earthquakes


Kim Blisniuk

Dr. Kim Blisnuik


From left: Kit Bella-Pratt, Kirby Kiefer, Dr. Kim Blisnuik, Alex Shumurakov, and Jeff Lee

In the Fall 2016 edition of The Scientist, Dr. Kim Blisniuk’s Earthquake Research Group was featured for their work in the field of geochronology and geomorphology.

Dr. Kim Blisniuk’s research group at SJSU combines the interdisciplinary fields of tectonic geomorphology and Quaternary geochronology to better under-
stand how earthquakes and climate change modify the landscape. As a field geologist and geochronologist, she isinterested in landscape evolution, earthquake geology, and tectonic reconstructions of dynamic processes in the upper crust. A particular interest is how crustal deformation at depth and changes in Earth’s climate are archived on Earth’s surface, as this information is critical for understanding regional climate and tectonics. Her research group implements a variety of field and laboratory tools aimed at characterizing and quantifying rates of active landscapes. These tools include geochronology (specifically terrestrial cosmogenic radionuclides and U-series dating), structural and geomorphic mapping, the analysis of high-resolution topography data, GIS, and the application of mechanical models to simulate the behavior of the structures observed in the field.


Dr. Kim Blisniuk introduction in the SJSU Research Foundation Annual Report

Kim Blisniuk

In 2014 – 2015 Dr. Kim Blisniuk made in the news with San Jose State University Research Foundation Annual Report 2014 -2015 published in the article On the Fault Line with Kim Blisniuk.

As a tectonic geo-morphologist and quaternary geochronologist, Kimberly Blisniuk is engaged in examining and dating the Earth’s landforms and alluvial deposits adjacent to the San Andreas Fault. In simpler English, that means she is gathering rocks, soil and sediment along California’s most prominent earthquake fault, then measuring that material’s age and movement over time.

“The goal is to go into the field and look at these land forms with trained eyes so we can  document the progressive movement of the land along the fault,” she explains. “By returning to those same locations and collecting samples on a regular basis, we can also obtain the age of the land forms.”

Measurement of land progression and age is key to estimating earthquake recurrence.

“We are figuring out how fast a fault moves over the most recent geologic time period in earth’s history. Th e rate at which a fault moves plus knowledge of the most recent earthquake’s timing provides us with the recurrence interval of a fault.”

Data from the measurements that Dr. Blisniuk and her students obtain in the field goes into scientific models of earthquake recurrence and seismic hazards. Th e data is also used by the federal government and insurance assessors to figure out where homes are the most vulnerable or least vulnerable to earthquake damage in order to determine earthquake insurance rates.

Dr. Blisniuk’s own educational experiences with geology and field mapping led her to appreciate the value of field studies for students.

“Field work is essential to students. They need to learn the nitty-gritty of collecting and processing samples. One of my undergraduate students has taken samples he collected in the field to a geology lab at Stanford University where I have a working relationship with other researchers. He is getting firsthand experience with bringing what is collected in the field back to the lab for evaluation – exactly what he will be doing in a future career as a scientist.”


Department of Geology, College of Science
Sponsors: U.S. Geological Survey, Earthquake Hazards Program; Southern California Earthquake Center