Head of the department: RNDr. David Uličný, CSc.
The Department of Geodynamics is comprised of a group of researchers with a broad geoscience background, involved in studies of the principal geodynamic processes within the solid Earth and on its surface, their modelling, and comparisons to the dynamics of other planetary bodies. The staff are geophysicists and geologists who typically employ multi-disciplinary approaches, from field work and laboratory analysis through numerical and analogue modelling to analysis of global geophysical data. This multi-disciplinary aspect is a defining feature of the department which has been successful in attracting prospective graduates interested in opening new directions of research (two department members are have been awarded the ASCR Otto Wichterle Award and one the L´Oréal Award For Women in Science). Currently, the researchers of the department concentrate on several topics that combine high scientific and societal relevance, such as various aspects of volcanic and magmatic processes on Earth and Mars, sedimentary archives of past climate changes, and modelling of the global carbon cycle in greenhouse climates. The research of various aspects of rock physical properties, deformation and microstructure finds use in a broad range of tasks, from studies of the dynamics of continental collision processes to applied research relevant to radioactive waste storage or the hydrocarbon industry. Tilt and gravity / microgravity measurements bring results relevant to geological hazard monitoring and mitigation, civil engineering, or archaeology. All researchers of the department combine their scientific efforts with educational and outreach activities.
Most of us contribute to more than one of the principal topical areas of interest:
(1) Lithosphere dynamics in plate margin, orogenic, and intraplate domains – We acquire new knowledge about the structure of the present-day lithosphere by studying nature and the spatial distribution of earthquakes. We are also interested in the evolution of the lithosphere in the geological past. We study the record of past continental rifting and orogenic events combining geological fieldwork, geophysical and geochemical analysis, and numerical as well as analogue modelling.
(2) Magmatic / volcanic processes and structures – Volcanoes belong to the most significant, and spectacular, natural hazards. They are also of interest to us because they provide a unique insight into the processes occuring deep under the surface of the Earth and other bodies of the Solar system. Present-day volcanism and its relationship with plate tectonics is studied using global seismic databases. We employ a range of analogue models to study processes accompanying the ascent of melts (but also other materials, such as salt) through the Earth’s crust. In studying the processes and products of volcanism on other planets, we use satellite altimetry and other remote-sensing data, as well as numerical models.
(3) Past changes in climate and sea levels in sedimentary archives – Sedimentary rocks, deposited on the ocean floor as well as in sedimentary basins on continents, contain a record of interactions of a multitude of processes on the Earth’s surface: from tectonic processes that govern the formation and filling of a sedimentary basin, through cyclic changes in climate controlled by variations in the Earth’s orbit, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, and other parameters. One of our current research topics is the role that greenhouse gases and the global carbon cycle played in past climatic changes during the Cretaceous period and Cenozoic era.
(4) Recent dynamics of the Earth’s surface studied by gravimetry and geodesy – The surface of our planet is constantly changing under the influence of tectonic stresses in lithospheric plates, heat flow, climate changes, or tidal forces. We study these dynamic changes using gravimetric and geodesic methods. Spatial changes in gravitational acceleration reveal, for instance, subsurface rock bodies of different densities; on a very detailed scale, these methods are successfully employed in archaeology or engineering practice, to localize and measure voids. Tiltmeter data helps, among other applications, to monitor the behaviour of rock bodies under risk of landslides.
(5) Physical properties and microstructure of rocks – The internal fabric of rocks, on a microscopic scale, contains unique information about the processes that the rocks and their constitutive minerals underwent during periods lasting millions of years. Understanding the physical properties of rocks – for instance the density, porosity, seismic velocity, etc., is crucial for correct interpretation of any geophysical measurements, as well as for practical applications (for example, in mining, water resources management, or research of potential radioactive waste repositories).