Current Research Projects

1. Paleolandscape-reconstructions of tectonically active regions in Western North America and East Africa with implications for human occupation

Tectonically active landscapes play a key role in understanding the evolution and dispersal of our human ancestors. In Africa, the earliest findings of hominin fossils are associated with the tectonically active sectors of the East African Rift, and the oldest dated human presence in North America is also located in the tectonically active western United States. But the landscapes inhabited by humans have undergone massive changes over time, driven by long-term tectonic, geomorphic and climatic processes. Quantifying styles and rates of such processes and reconstructing their impact on landscape evolution is thus a powerful method to 'wind back the clock' and by this to visualize landscapes as they might have existed at some earlier time.

This project is part of my research fellowship at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at CU Boulder, USA, and funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG, No KU 3512/2-1). My aim is to study the physical landscapes at local-to-regional scales to identify key elements promoting human land use and to quantify rates and processes of landscape evolution. Target areas are the Summer Lake region in Southern Oregon, the Fort Sage Mountains in Northwestern California, as well as the Northern and Central Rift Valley in Kenya. 


Abert Rim_AerialView.jpg

Abert Rim, Oregon, USA


Central Rift Valley, Kenya

2. Edaphics, tectonics and human evolution in the Kenya Rift, East Africa


The project is part of the ESC awarded Advanced Grant DISPERSE: "Dynamic Landscapes, Coastal Environments and Hominin Dispersals" involving collaboration with Geoff Bailey at the University of York and Geoffrey King at the Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris.


The edaphics project aims to reconstructing landscapes associated with active rifting and assess the influence of active faulting and soil properties on patterns of human evolution and dispersal. The research focuses on the southern and central Kenyan Rift. We work in close collaboration with the British Institute of East Africa (BIEA), the National Museums of Kenya and the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institue (KARI).

First results of our work is published in Scientific Reports and OpenQuaternary.



Field work, SIngaraini, S-Kenya

3. Geological context of seismically inactive, but geodetically active regions


The project has been a working package embedded in the HGF Alliance: Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics.


The focus of this project is based on the premise that current seismic hazard models are not successful, because they do not consider potentially active faults with long recurrence intervals. Such faults are often characterised by current seismic inactivity in association with large geological offsets and subdued morphological signatures, and they typically occur in any intraplate region or along major plate boundaries with complex time-space interaction of fault systems. The goal is to provide geological parameters (earthquake recurrence, variability in fault-slip rate over long time scales, switching on and off of faults) needed to better understand the apparently sudden occurrence of earthquakes in regions of present-day seismic quiescence. One target region where this approach  is currently tested is the Canadian Cordillera.

4. Active tectonics and paleoseismicity of the Lower Rhine Graben


DFG-funded project awarded to A.M. Friedrich (FR1693/1-1) and M.R. Strecker (University of Potsdam, Germany) carried out in the Lower Rhine Graben, one of the seismically most active regions of the Central European Rift System. The main focus of the project was to determine whether or not faults in this low-strain intraplate region are capable for producing surface rupturing earthquakes. From September till December 2009 a trenching study was conducted across an active fault segment in the epicentral region of Germany’s largest historical earthquake (ML 6.2 ± 0.2). Results reveal clear signs for repeated coseismic rupture along this portion of the fault. 

Results of this study are published in my PhD-Thesis, as well as publications in IJES and GSL.


Untermaubach trench site, W-Germany