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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis focuses on the use of scaled physical experiments to better understand the development and long-term evolution of fault systems that are otherwise impossible to observe directly. The document is divided into three chapters. The first chapter documents the implementation of an inexpensive stereo vision method for acquiring high resolution three-dimensional strain data for table-top experiments. The second chapter applies the stereo vision method to a tectonic problem—the development of slip partitioning in obliquely loaded crustal systems. Slip partitioned fault systems accommodate oblique convergence with different slip rake on two or more faults and are well documented in the crust. In this chapter, we simulate oblique convergence using blocks with 30° dipping contacts under wet kaolin clay. The experiments reveal three styles of slip partitioning development—contingent upon convergence angle and the presence or absence of a pre-existing vertical fault. Across all experiments, the slip rates along slip-partitioned faults vary temporally suggesting that the faults continuously adjust to conditions produced by the other fault. The lack of steady state in the experiments suggests that slip-partitioned crustal systems may also evolve with oscillating behavior rather than developing a single efficient active fault structure to accommodate oblique convergence. The third chapter documents rheological tests of wet kaolin for applications to crustal deformation experiments. This chapter investigates thixotropy in the clay as well as the role of grain size distribution and water content on its shear strength.


First Advisor

Michele L. Cooke