Earth and Environmental Sciences Faculty

Mark D. Behn

Associate Professor


My research focuses on active tectonic and magmatic processes in marine and terrestrial environments.  I use a wide range of geophysical techniques to study deformation in rocks and ice, melt generation and extraction, and volcanic processes.  Deformation and mass transport depend critically on the rheologic properties (i.e., strength) of the crust and mantle.  Thus, any quantitative study of active tectonics requires a thorough understanding of the Earth’s rheology.  My research group develops geodynamic models to relate laboratory-based rheologic and petrologic models to the large-scale behavior of the Earth.  We apply these models to a range of problems, including faulting, mantle convection, and melting and melt migration in the Earth’s mantle, as well as to societally-relevant issues, such as the dynamic response of ice sheets to climate change, global geochemical cycling, and hazards associated with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

(Note: the following list includes Ph.D. candidates advised by Prof. Behn at his former institution, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
  • Fiona Clerc (WHOI Program): Predicting global rates and distribution of carbonate melting beneath the ocean basins: Implications for the origin of the Gutenberg discontinuity
  • Joshua Rines: Grain Size Evolution in Ice Sheets
  • William Shinevar (WHOI Program): Orogens and the Evolution of the Continental Lower Crust

(Note: the following list comprises Ph.D. candidates advised by Prof. Behn at his current institution, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
  • Stephanie Brown: Major and trace element modeling of mid-ocean ridge mantle melting from the garnet to the plagioclase stability fields: Generating local and global compositional variability
  • Hannah Mark: Seismic and numerical constraints on the formation and evolution of oceanic lithosphere
  • Jean-Arthur Olive (Ph.D. MIT/WHOI Joint Program): Mechanical and geological controls on the long-term evolution of normal faults 
  • Laura Stevens (Ph.D. MIT/WHOI Joint Program): Influence of meltwater on Greenland ice sheet dynamics


  • Shinevar, W.J., H.F. Mark, F. Clerc, E.A. Codillo, J. Gong, J.-A. Olive, S.M. Brown, P.T. Smalls, Y. Liao, V. Le Roux, and M.D. Behn, 2020, Causes of oceanic crustal thickness oscillations along a 100-Myr Mid-Atlantic Ridge flow line, Geochem., Geophys., Geosys., v. 20, 6123–6139, doi:10.1029/2019GC008711.
  • Clerc, F., B.M. Minchew, and M.D. Behn, 2019, Marine ice cliff instability mitigated by slow removal of ice shelves, Geophys. Res. Lett., v. 46, 12,108–12,116, doi:10.1029/2019GL084183.
  • Howell, S.M., J.-A. Olive, G. Ito, M.D. Behn, J. Escartín, and B. Kaus, 2019, Seafloor expression of oceanic detachment faulting reflects gradients in mid-ocean ridge magma supply, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., v. 516, 176–189, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2019.04.001.
  • Mark, H.F., M.D. Behn, J.-A. Olive, and Y. Liu, 2018, Controls on mid-ocean ridge normal fault seismicity across spreading rates from rate-and-state friction models, J. Geophys. Res. – Solid Earth, v. 123, 6719–6733, doi:10.1029/2018JB015545.
  • Stevens, L.A., I.J. Hewitt, S.B. Das, and M.D. Behn, 2018, Relationship between Greenland Ice Sheet surface speed and modeled effective pressure, J. Geophys. Res. – Earth Surface, v. 123, 2258–2278, doi:10.1029/2017JF004581