Earth and Environmental Sciences Faculty

Mark D. Behn


Director of Graduate Studies


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.

Current Graduate Students and Projects
(Note: the following list includes Ph.D. candidates advised by Prof. Behn at his former institution, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
  • Emma Woodford: Controls on Morphology of Oceanic Transform Faults

Recent Alumni and Projects
(Note: the following list comprises Ph.D. candidates advised by Prof. Behn at his former institution, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
  • Joshua Rines: Grain Size Evolution in Ice Sheets
  • Fiona Clerc (WHOI Program): Deglaciation-enhanced mantle CO2 fluxes at Yellowstone imply positive climate feedback
  • William Shinevar (MIT/WHOI Joint Program)Orogens and the Evolution of the Continental Lower Crust
  • Stephanie Brown Krein (Ph.D. MIT): 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 (Ph.D. MIT/WHOI Joint Program): 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

Recent Publications

  • Urann, B.M., V. Le Roux, O. Jagoutz, O. Müntener, M.D. Behn, and E.J. Chin, 2022, High water content of arc magmas recorded in cumulates from subduction zone lower crust, Nat. Geosci., 15, 501–508, 
  • Olive, J.-A., L.C. Malatesa, M.D. Behn, and W.R. Buck, 2022, Rift tectonics modulated by the efficiency of river erosion, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 119 (13) e2115077119,
  • Klein, B.Z., and M.D. Behn, 2021, On the Evolution and Fate of Subducted Sediment Diapirs, Geochem., Geophys., Geosys., v. 22, e2021GC009873, doi:10.1029/2021GC009873.
  • Behn, M.D., D.L. Goldsby, and G. Hirth, 2021, The role of grain-size evolution in the rheology of ice: Implications for reconciling laboratory creep data and the Glen flow law, The Cryosphere, v. 15, 4589–4605,
  • Lai, C.-Y., L.A. Stevens, D.L. Chase, T.T. Creyts, M.D. Behn, S.B. Das, and H.A. Stone, 2021, Seasonally evolving hydraulic transmissivity beneath Greenland supraglacial lakes, Nature Comm., v. 12, 3955, doi:10.1038/s41467-021-24186-6. 
  • Liu, Y., J.J. McGuire, and M.D. Behn, 2020, Aseismic transient slip on Gofar transform fault, East Pacific Rise, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., v. 117, 10,188–10,194, doi:10.1073/pnas.1913625117.